Next time I comment a hill is really steep, I am going to stop and think about what I am actually saying...
Last week, swung my rucksack on my back and decided to take my first trip out to the Lake District. My plan was to do Scafell Pike Englands highest mountain. Alas it wasnt to be, as I was tied by the Knotts of the tongue (pictured right), about 3 miles away and a 125 metres away from the top.
This is the first time in many years that I have actually had full kit so to speak. I purchased the bulk last year when I did a trip to Hadrian's Wall and this year finished it off with the addition of a tent, sleeping bag and other bits and pieces. At the moment, its not the lightest, but its complete and I now intend to start slowly replacing bits and pieces to lighten it. First to go will definitely be my waterproofs, they weigh a ton for what they are!
Also, as it was the first outing so to speak, I was a little overloaded as I wanted to see what I used and didn't used, and in hindsight, a lot could of been stripped down. Mainly small things, Like I took a complete box of hexi cubes, when I only used five. I took the box of water purification tablets, instead of taking just a strip of them. All small things, but I am sure could of easily lost at least a couple of Kilo's off the total from doing that. The Total was around 20 Kilos including the rucksack and water and I didn't find the weight too bad at all.
I spent some condsiderable time in the week before hand reading up on approaches to Scafell Pike. The easiest route from Wasdale did not appeal at all as I wanted to make a whole day of it and there was a second route form Eskdale doing Scafell before Scafell Pike which looked appealing, but enquiring to a friend about Foxes tarn with is the route between the two, he mentioned it was a bit of an effort. Now, this was from someone who runs up mountains before breakfast, so for him to say it was an effort, I read that as being gruelling for myself so that route was out. There are a few more routes out there, but a lot seemed to involve scrambling which I was more in a rambling sort of mood, so in the end I decided to go for this one, making a variation that from Scafell Pike, I would take go down to Wasdale where I planned to spend my second night.
Next thing was to book the rail tickets, its a four and a half hour journey to get to Ravenglass from Leeds, Changing at Carlise or, as I did on the way back, two changes via Cairnforth and Barrow-In-Furness which is quicker at just under four hours. The trip cost me just under fifty quid for a one month open return.
RavenGlass to Eskdale
I left just before ten from Leeds and arrive at twenty past two in Ravenglass where I then caught a steam train on the RavenGlass to Eskdale line to take us into the valley, which was all rather fun. When I got off the station at the other end, there was a group of old people trying to push past as I left the station, especially one old lady who was determined to push by my right as I tried to swing my rucksack on - there was a whole path to the left. As I came out of the station, it was something like a horror film, as in every direction there were hordes of old people taking up the entire width of paths and roads. Before I had time to check my map, I quickly took the first path with no old people, and walked up to Boot where I obtained water from the local post office and then decided to see how well packed my kit was and get a feel for the terrain by taking a relative short walk up to Eel Tarn.
Certainly not packed ideal, as my tent was on the outside and I found that was giving quite a pull as I ascended and descended.
From there, I then made my way to the campsite where I was to stay for the first night and pitched up, before heading to the Brook House Inn for a couple of pints of beers from the Hawkshead brewery which were really nice. I also enjoyed some of the inns home made pate. I then took a bottle of beer back to the campsite and chilled out watching the moon before retiring.
I was up at 4.30 am the next morning and straight on with a brew. I repacked my entire backpack and found I could get my tent in the main compartment and that certainly made a great difference. After breakfast, I was on the road by about quarter to six.
Hardknott Roman Fort
I had ummed and urred whether I would take a walk up to Hardknott pass to the Roman fort but as I found it coming into view, the sun was begining to break the top and it was illuminated by rays of sunshine and I found my feet automatically taking us there. The route to it was up a twisting turning road which is a one in three! There are quite a few videos on you tube of people going up this road in various vehicles such as this one and walking it, certantly gave the calves a good excericise
The fort itself must have been a miserable posting, you either really really wanted to be in the roman army or you must have really have pissed soemone off to end up there. From what information I can find, it seems to have been stationed by five hundred calvary from the Dalmation coast. After a short reconnoitre around the fort, I began my descent into the Esk valley to run alongside the river. Occasionally shouting "Centurion!" at passing sheep - yes, I'll grow up one of these days.
I was making extremely good time at this point and decided to take bit of a break at Lingcove bridge. It was, after checking for dead sheep a good place to refill waterbottles from the waterfall and lighten my rucksack off a few rations.
Lingcove moss is at 170 metres and Great Moss is up to 380 metres which is reached via a path that runs up the east side bank of the river Eskdale passing Green Cragg. The path hasn't had much use by the looks of things and in the long foliage it was easy to loose it in places. Oddly I saw several pairs of discarded shoes along my walk. At first I believed these to be from walkers lighting their load. But I am now convinced that they are in fact tactfully left behind by sheep, who then put them on and stomp away from paths to confuse you.
I did like the scenery around here, especially the small turn before you get to the Moss at Scar lathing and it was most rewarding after making the ascent.
Moving across the Great Moss, I was again making good time and stopped near Cam Spout to just take in the view. This was also where I saw someone else for the first time all day. We had a good chat and I soon resumed crossing the Great Moss
Now this is where it started to go wrong, I started making my way up the tongue. The path, in places had recently been recut and there were a lot of loose rocks making it somewhat of an effort. My earlier speed had now been lost. Also, remember those sheeps with the shoes ? They were in full flight here, and with the new cut path, the overgrown old path, it was becoming an effort to check that I was still on the right track. To taunt me, the sheep also refused to budge from some parts of the path.
I had ascended up to about 700 metres, when the path becomes more river as in the photo at the very start of this blog. I decided then, to take off my rucksack and do a reconnoiter further up the gorge. This image here gives you my approximate location, there came a point only a short distance away from where I dropped my rucksack which I could not see a way through. Note the underlined I, as I'm sure to many people who know it, are probably thinking "what do you mean, thats dead easy". I can't be more honest and say, that I just did not feel comfortable or confident in passing this section. There was a steep bank of very loose stones to one side, then about two foot of fast flowing water and slimey rocks on the other. The thought of pulling myself over that with my rucksack on did not appeal.
Returning to my bag and leaving it there, I then decided to go up onto the tongue itself to see if I could get a better view of a way through by the river, or If I could actually get to where I wanted by crossing the tongue itself to get to Esk Hause.
And I got on the tongue and my visibility was like this
Four minutes later it was this and it started to rain.
Don't me get wrong, I love the mist and if this was Dartmoor, which I know well, I would have been over like a shot. But as this was the first time in the lakes, I don't know the terrain or what the weather does. It was a tough decision to make, as literally a couple of football pitch lengths away from Esk Hause, but the fact that I was on my own, I had only passed one person all day, I did not feel confident going up by the river which was now getting more wetter I decided to turn back. I came to the lakes for some fun, and at this point I was not having any.
As mentioned, I liked the area around Scar Lathing, so I thought I would head back there and do what all good Englishmen do in times of defeat and make a brew which I did. Nearly losing a shoe in the process as I saw a nice rock which looked perfect for setting up the hexi burner on and decided to take a short cut. Next thing I knew, my right shoe was ripped off my foot and sitting under the mud.
Making my way back down the Eskdale valley was pretty non eventful, until I heard in the distance a fair amount of mooing and I watched, as up from the right bank crossed several cows who then moved up to the path in front of me and I was presented with this.
This is the second time I have come across a group of cows, the first was along Hadrians Wall, which was a bit more scarier as they were with young calves, but after that did do some reading up on what to do. They say the first thing, is not to show fear, so I made sure I was very discrete in blowing off and procedeed to walk towards them. They moved across from the stream and formed themselves into a wide line. I don't know whether it was the wind of the way they were formed up, but I was instantly reminded of the WWII fighter Ace Douglas Bader. If I was going to get past these cows, then I would need to outflank them. As in the diagram below, as we both approached, I then made a sharp turn up the bank and the enemy took the bait as they followed me up. I then made a sharp counter turn and cut past their left flank, coming dangerously close to their wing guard and the moment of truth.
I glanced over my shoulder and noticed they did not begin to turn, back on the path and some distance gained between me and the foe, I proceeded safely across the crossing and glancing back, I noticed they still hadn't turned. I imagine their group leader will be giving their spotters a bit of a bollocking to allow themselves to be outflanked that easy.
As I had been unable to get pass Knotts of the tongue, my original planned campsite for Wednesday night in Wasdale valley was not now realistically possible.So I popped in to the Woolpack in to see if they had a room, which they did. By now was also beginning to feel it in my legs a bit, and the temptation of ordering a large steak was too much to resist. Sadly I didn't get that steak, as after a shower and a couple of pints I found myself beginning to switch off.
Back to Ravenglass
Again catching the steam train, it was back to Ravenglass where I decided to have bit of a walk around and see the old roman baths and had lunch at the Ratty Arms (Beef sandwich -naturally) and then it was the train back to civilization.
The decision I made to turn back plagued us a bit not just the morning, but the night before at the WoolPack Inn. Had I given in to easily ? and even writing this, it is still niggling. But I believed I made the right decision, If I hadn't been on my own then I'm sure would have got over it, but not having that confidence to proceed on my own, I think if i pushed myself then that was a risk. I am starting a new job in a week (new career in fact), and the prospect of a broken ankle to start wasn't appealing.
All in all I think what I saw of the lakes was very pretty, but it felt a little bit too pretty for my liking. I didn't get that wilderness feeling which I was after. I do want to go back, and do Scafell Pike - this time from the Wasdale side without the slog, but its not a place I want to swing a rucksack on again, it didn't hold that appeal unlike the aforementioned Dartmoor.
Plenty of other places to go to first.
More photos here
Mount Norfolk - If you fancy a bit of fiction after this