Sunday, 28 October 2018

Wainwright's - Sca Fell and Slight Side From Wasdale Head

Sca Fell, the second highest mountain in the Lake District is often overlooked by the masses in order to tick off its near namesake Scafell Pike.  The latter may be the highest mountain in the Lakes, but for me it is Sca Fell, or perhaps more accurately its North Face that has always held my interest.  As I write my mind wanders to those long walk in’s and the occasional camp, all of which were followed by summer and winter climbs on classics routes such as Moss Ghyll, Moss Ghyll Grooves and Botterill’s Slabs.  Wonderful memories shared with some great pals and all still clearly etched in my mind despite the passage of time.

I can also remember the descent down Broad Stand too, as it was invariably wet and greasy and often felt a great deal more dangerous than the actual graded climbs we had just done.  I mention the latter as the Wasdale Team had just rescued two people from there just before we arrived at the National Trust campsite.  Given the publicity this spot has received due to the injuries and indeed deaths that have occurred here it amazes me that none climbers still continue to attempt it.

In reminiscing over those climbs I did wonder if I had climbed Sca Fell before, however a look at the map suggested I had probably only been on the summit of Symonds Knott a few hundred metres to the north of the true summit.

A little further south is another Wainwright, namely Slight Side, so a plan was hatched to take in both.  

Looking up from the National Trust’s Wasdale Head campsite we could see a few of the higher tops were covered in cloud, but most were clear.  With a forecast suggested an improving day with sunny spells we set off a little later than normal to give the higher hills time to clear.

Wast Water from near Brackenclose, Wasdale Head. 

As a result it was just after 9.30am when the four of us (Moira, Graham and Sandra) set off along the old Wasdale to Eskdale corpse road.  This was followed to the far end of Fence Wood, where we left the main track and headed up the bridleway towards Burnmoor Tarn. 

It was very boggy underfoot and by the time we reached Maiden Castle, a Bronze Age burial mound, I was already bleating about having damp feet - I really must get some new boots!

Rather than continue on the path to the tarn where it looked even boggier we headed diagonally up the fell towards Slight Side.  While working out way around the numerous boggy sections we lost the main path.  Rather than try to relocate the main path we crossed Hard Rigg Gill lower down and began following various sheep trod's which led in the general direction of Slight Side.

Hard Rigg Gill

Hard Rigg Gill below with the mountain of Illgill Head behind

On the final approach just below the summit crags we came across the remains of two Hurricane aircraft that had crashed here in 1941.  Sadly neither of the Polish pilots survived.  The nearby memorial to the airmen looks out over this lonely fell side and as the cloud came in it created a poignant if somewhat eerie reminder of the price paid by people who were not just from the UK, but also from other European countries as well.  Sadly this is just one of number of crash sites in the Lake District.

The memorial with Burnmoor Tarn below

The remains of the Hurricane Engine

     The memorial plaque to Polish pilots P/O Zygmund Hohne and Sgt Stanislaw Karubin who lost their lives here on the 12th August 1941.

I did a bit of research later and found out that Sgt Karubin had fought in Poland and after escaping the Germans he went on to fight in the battle for France. Later he fought in the Battle of Britain and was awarded the Distinguished Flying Medal.

Above us the cloud came and went over the summit, but the way up was clear.

The summit of Slight Side viewed from the memorial

In the clag we were unsure which of the two rocky lumps was the true summit Slight Side so climbed them both anyway.

The summit of Slight Side

Moving on towards the summit of Sca Fell the visibility was down to a few metres so it was just a case of making our way over rocky ground until we hit the highest point.

The summit of Sca Fell

Just after reaching the summit it started to rain. Just a shower we thought but by the time we had dropped under the cloud it was pouring down - so much for the good forecast.

79 Wainwrights left to go

Wednesday, 17 October 2018

Wainwright’s- Birkhouse Moor, Catstye Cam, Helvellyn and White Side.

Moira and I have walked over the top of Birkhouse Moor on many occasions when climbing Helvellyn, but that said neither of us could visualise having ever been on the summit. The only way to resolve this was to revisit the location and perhaps also have a wander over to enjoy the view from its north top as well.  Catstye Cam on the other hand had definitely been climbed by me, but not by Moira.  To address this we devised a walk onto Helvellyn that would also give us a little bit of adventure in the form of the fine little arĂȘte of Swirral Edge as a bonus.

Accompanied by our friends G&S we left the Gillside campsite and made our way up via the Mires Beck track.

Ullswater and Glenridding

There were lots of people about on the main track, but as soon as we left it to walk the few hundred metres to Birkhouse Moor’s north top we lost the crowds.
The north top of Birkhouse Moor.

Returning to the main track we joined the crowds again as we walked onto and over the true summit of Birkhouse Moor. Once there we realised we had done it many times before, still at least we could be sure and tick it off our list now.  Despite being keen to stop for a few minutes the arrival of a noisy group of walkers heading towards Striding Edge pushed us on. 

Fortunately things became a lot quieter as we left the main path to make our way towards Catstye Cam and by the time we reached its east ridge, there were only two people and a dog ahead of us.

Helvellyn ahead and Catstye Cam on the right

Up until now it had been cloudy, cold and windy, but as we made the steep pull up the ridge and onto the summit, the sun came out. 

Summit with the view over Greenside to Ullswater

Helvellyn and Swirral Edge from the summit of Catstye Cam

Heading off we made our way down to the start of Swirral Edge
.  Following its crest we had an enjoyable scramble onto Helvellyn.

As expected it was pretty busy on the summit, but certainly nowhere near as busy as Striding Edge was. Here we counted over 70 people on the final section before the headwall. 

Summit from the trig point

A busy Striding Edge with St Sunday Crag beyond.

Despite the crowds it was heartening to see very little in the way of litter. Whether the relatively litter free summit was down to people having carried out a litter pick recently, or whether it was down to people respecting the hills I don’t know – I do hope it is the latter though.

Returning over the summit we headed to Lower Man before trending right to White Side (already bagged before so no extra tick today). 

The path towards Lower Man

Skiddaw from White Side

From here we descended into Keppel Cove and then followed the track down through Greenside, stopping off on the way for a pint of Helvellyn Gold at the Youth Hostel.

A perfect pint to end the walk

All in all it was a grand wander that gave us 4 Wainwrights in total, but only 2 new ones to tick off. That leaves us 81 Wainwrights left to go.  Wasdale area next I think.

Friday, 5 October 2018

Wainwright's - Steel Fell, Calf Crag, Gibson's Knott and Helm Crag.

Above the village of Grasmere the prominent outline of Helm Crag dominates the view to the north.  When viewed from the A591 road two pinnacles on its craggy summit attract the eye. The Howitzer, the tallest of the two, leans out over the east face and is the true summit.  A little climbing skill and a certain amount of nerve is required for the walker to stand on the rocky top and as a result many walkers are happy just to touch the base of the pinnacle and declare the fell achieved.  For the Wainwright bagger it probably doesn't really matter if you climb those last few feet to the top or not, as Wainwright himself never managed to do it either.  A little further to the south and just a little lower is another craggy outcrop known as the Lion and the lamb. This is a much easier and safer proposition, yet at the same time has plenty of exposure on its eastern side for those who would like to experience it.

Running north from here a broad ridge containing 2 other Wainwright’s - Gibson’s Knott and Calf Crag.  These can be linked via a certain amount of boggy walking to the higher Wainwright of Steel Fell to form a nice 4 top circular walk from Grasmere.   

Incidentally it doesn’t particularly matter which way you do this round, but we chose to climb the highest Steel Fell first and complete the round in an anticlockwise direction starting from the A591 a little south of Mill Bridge. Our reasoning behind the decision was nothing more than to have a pub at the end in Grasmere and to do the highest hill first.

Helm Crag (left) Steel Fell (right) from the A591
It was pretty cloudy when we set off, but a few breaks soon appeared and we were treated to some beautiful crepuscular rays sweeping along the valley.

As we gained height the views opened out towards Helm Crag and beyond.

The top of Helm Crag with the craggy outline of the Howitzer and the Lion and Lamb. The ridge leading right towards Gibson's Knott is our route back.

From the summit we enjoyed some good views down Thirlmere while we had a break in the lee of some rocks.  Despite the fact we had been down to T-shirts on the way up a nithering wind from the northeast meant we did not hang around too long.

The summit of Steel Fell (Dead Pike) and the view towards the Langdale Hills

Thirlmere Reservoir with Blencathra ahead

Moving on from Steel Fell we then tackled the undulating but very boggy ground which follows the remains of the boundary fence west to Calf Crag.

The summit view west to the col between High Raise and Ullscarf

The view southwest over Tarn Crag towards Langdale, with Harrison Stickle and Pavey Ark th etwo craggy bumps on the horizon -  I think?

It was very windy and cold here so we tucked ourselves behind one of the many rocky knolls and had a break. Wrapped up as we were against a cold wind we were surprised to see quite a few folk up here just wearing shorts, although to be fair they did look rather cold.

From here we struck south east over the undulating ground, taking in the top of Pike of Carrs to Gibson’s Knott. There was little wind here and it was really hot.  No wonder those in shorts got a cold surprise on Calf Crag.  It also shows just how localised the weather can be too.

A Happy Moira on Gibson's Knott Summit

From Gibson’s Knott it was mostly downhill to Bracken Hause, before another up took us onto Helm Crag.  The scramble up onto the Howitzer was fairly easy via its right-hand side, but the scramble down was a bit tricky.  

The Howitzer and higest point of Helm Crag

We then moved on to the Lion and the Lamb to enjoy the view from there as well.

The Lion and the Lamb

The path back down to Grasmere through the woods was quite a sociable affair with plenty of people still heading up the steep path and keen for an excuse to stop and have a chat. 

Back in Grasmere and having built ourselves up for a nice pint, we were left disappointed  to discover that neither of the 2 pubs we tried had any ale on tap left. 

83 Wainwright’s left.