About this blog

Just having a bit of fun here, posting about walks and other stuff. I need to get out more.

Sunday, 22 July 2012

Eastern Fells Overnighter.

Managed to take advantage of a rare decent weather forecast last weekend and nipped up to the Lakes to combine a Wainwright bagging outing with a first overnight stay in my brand new Scarp1 tent.
I returned to the Eastern Fells with a plan to take in a circuit including the Dodds from Dockray, with a high camp somewhere on the route.
I had actually attempted this as a day walk a couple of weeks ago, walking clockwise over the Birketts of Common Fell, Swineside Knott and the Brown Hills up onto Hart Side. The weather beat me on that occasion and I made it only as far as Swineside Knott before returning to the car defeated, dishevelled and demoralised.
The weather did improve later in the day allowing a nice walk on Gowbarrow Fell but this was scant consolation for the high route I had planned.

This time around the weather was more kind and I managed to fit in a couple of bonus hills, Little Mell Fell and Great Mell Fell on the way to Dockray.
Happy to be back on the Fell, any Fell would do.

Blencathra from Great Mell Fell
Both Little and Great Mell Fells are much maligned and I have to admit that the former is a bit of a non-event. Up and down and back at the car within half an hour before driving along the minor roads to begin the walk onto Great Mell Fell.
I enjoyed this one, a nice, fairly dry path leads up through pleasant woodland to the small cairn where great views open up of Blencathra and the Vale of Keswick.
It's just a short drive into the lovely village of Dockray and the Royal Hotel public bar. I had a bit of time to spare and spent an hour over a couple of extortionately priced pints of Guinness.
I used my dubious charms to sweet talk the barmaid into letting me leave my car on the hotel car park overnight before eventually setting off again at 4pm.
I had studied the map in the bar and decided to reverse my aborted route of a couple of weeks ago. On that walk, I had identified some potential great camp sites on Swineside Knott overlooking Ullswater and the surrounding fells. I wasn't sure if I could complete the round before darkness fell, but I was fairly certain I would find somewhere on Hart Side if push came to shove.
The lane walk up beside Aira Beck was a pleasant affair, views down to Dowthwaite Head opened up and soon enough the stile which signifies the start of the Old Coach Road was scaled.
Great Mell Fell from the Old Coach Road
The weather was holding out as forecast and the walk along the Old Coach Road was a fine one.
Setting out late in the afternoon had ensured I had the track to myself. Blencathra came into view and my eyes were drawn like magnets towards the elegant ridge lines of this beautiful hill as I made my way along the track below Wolf Crags to eventually head off upwards on a steep pathless ascent to White Pike and Clough Head.

Skiddaw and Blencathra from Clough Head
It was great to be up here alone and I was in my element as I strode out on a surprisingly dry path to the Birkett of Calfhow Pike and its rocky summit with fine views down to Thirlmere.
I spent a while here picking out the fells I have walked and the one's I have yet have the pleasure of doing so in my quest to complete the Wainwrights.
Great Dodd was next on the agenda, the highest point of the afternoon at 856m.
The Helvellyn massif from Great Dodd
The hard work was done for the day now and with very little effort I walked out to Watson's Dodd to take a moody photograph of the darkening sky out to the west. It looked like the weather was closing in quickly from that direction and I wondered how much further I could walk before the dark clouds enveloped these hills.
Spotlight on Keswick
I put a spurt on over Stybarrow Dodd and out along the broad ridge to Hart Side, missing out the Birkett of Green Side with all thoughts now focussed on finding a nice sheltered spot to pitch the tent.
The cloud had now dropped and it had started raining, the wind freshened considerably as I reached the top of Hart Side.
I estimated I had about half an hour of daylight left in which to get the tent up, so pushed on to Birkett Fell and descended beside a wall onto Brown Hills where I found a suitable flat spot overlooking Ullswater and set about putting up the tent.

Pitching a new tent in the back garden on a fine day with the instructions to hand is one thing, pitching one in the fading light, in the pissing rain and with a strong wind to contend with is a different proposition. Fortunately, there were no observers of my comical performance over the following 10 minutes or so.
I eventually managed to get the Scarp looking something like a tent and crawled inside to start emptying the pack. The rain was hammering it down outside and drips of water were coming through and forming a small puddle on the floor of the inner. First thoughts were that my DIY seam sealing efforts had been a failure but on closer inspection I realised that the tent wasn't tensioned correctly and the water ingress was due to contact between the outer and inner skins of the tent. Out I went again to apply further tension to the corners and readjust the positions of the pegs. Much faffing ensued before I finally settled down for the night.
It had turned into a pretty rough night, the wind and rain were providing a stern test for the Scarp, my old Laser would have been complaining loudly in these conditions but the Scarp stood up manfully to all that the elements could muster.

Sleep was interrupted at 03:50 for a call of nature and I emerged to a pre-dawn vista of incredible beauty.
The Sun was just about to rise and the horizon was lit up with a marvellous orange band of light for as far as the eye could see. The crescent Moon, Jupiter and Venus were in close proximity just above the horizon. There was not a breath of wind now and this moment gave me a surreal experience that will live long in the memory. It''s just a pity the camera wasn't capable of capturing the intensity and beauty of the moment.
View east at 03:50. The Moon, Venus and Jupiter above the emerging Sunrise
I drifted back off to sleep for a few hours and emerged from the tent at 07:30 to enjoy the wonderful views of Ullswater and the surrounding fells.
A nice place to wake up
The walk back down to the car was a short but sweet amble over Swineside Fell and Common Fell offering lovely views all around

Dowthwaite Head from Common Fell
This was an all too brief outing. 7 Wainwrights were ticked off though and I enjoyed a fine first night out in the new tent.
I still have a further 80 Wainwrights to bag and I feel that backpacking is the best way to link up the remaining unconquered fells. The Scarp passed this first test with flying colours and apart from a few niggles I am delighted with my new acquisition. Here's to many more such outings.