22nd April 2020
It's been funny year. I had planned to complete the Wainwrights before turning 50 in June. I'd booked off a number of days in March and April, plus a week at Easter and another in late May. That should have been plenty of time to climb the remaining 35, especially as most of them are clumped together in the Northern Fells. That was the idea anyway. Unfortunately though, a particularly stubborn virus with grand ideas of world domination has interfered with my carefully laid plans. And to add insult to injury, the recent weather has been glorious. We are now 4 weeks, or is it 5, into the Covid-19 lockdown. I lose count. Being an NHS key worker has thankfully spared me from the boredom of weekday 9-5 lockdown but there was no escape from my planned Easter week off. So having completed my list of garden chores I thought it would be a good time to update my old tarp pitching video on YouTube from 2015. Since then, nearly all my wild camps have been under a tarp and I've become much more adept at pitching them. I've learnt which shelters work well in the Cumbrian fells, particularly on windy summits where I seem to find myself more often than not. So here is my updated video showing, in my humble opinion, the best 5 tarp configurations using 2 trekking poles and my 9x5 foot silnylon tarp (the solo tarp, £55 from https://www.backpackinglight.co.uk/).
The A-Frame and the Cave are probably the least useful for my needs, the former being only suitable for really calm weather and the latter as a 'hunker down in a storm' shelter. Others may find them helpful though. The A-Frame would be the best option for a sheltered woodland camp and can be pitched between 2 trees instead of trekking poles. The Cave would be much more useful with a bigger tarp, but that's not really my thing.
The other 3 shelters (the lean-to, the 'closed end' lean-to and the Flying-V) are my favourites and ones I use most. They can all stave off the wind which is usually my primary objective, and they all represent what wild camping with a tarp is all about for me. Wide open vistas, a real feeling of space and an open view of the sky. One of the best things about the tarp and/or bivvy is being able to lie supine in the comfort of a down bag and slowly allow your night vision to soak up the celestial arena. To fall asleep under a pitch black sky studded with countless stars and bisected by a glowing milky way that is hardly ever seen in 'urbandom'. To have wandering satellites, distant galaxies and streaking meteors for company. You just don't get that experience in a tent. Of course its not always like that and I've had plenty of camps where the weather has unexpectedly turned for the worse. Where wind and rain have rattled the tarp and sleep has been sporadic, but even those experiences are special. Yep … I must admit that I've really fallen for the tarp.
Thursday, April 23, 2020
Sunday, June 4, 2017
Date: 31st May-1st June 2017
Start/Finish: Cinderdale Bridge, Nether Wasdale
Wainwrights: Whin Rigg, Illgill Head, Middle Fell, Seatallan, Buckbarrow
Wild Camp: Middle Fell
Distance: 16.3 miles
Height Gained: 5607 feet
Time Taken: Day 1 = 7 hours. Day 2 = 4 hours
Social Hiking route link
|The route: Anti-clockwise from Nether Wasdale|
A Video of the Hike
This was a route planned a good while ago and was just waiting for a favourable forecast over 2 days which coincided with my being off work. According to MWIS there was 0 % chance of rain so I opted for a bivvy & simple tarp to keep weight down. There was over 5,000 feet of ascent on this route and so I really didn't want to carry anything unnecessary.
After a painfully slow (Bank Holiday week in the Lakes!) drive across the Wrynose and Hardknott passes, I parked by Cinderdale Bridge, Nether Wasdale and was underway by 1pm, hoping to get to Middle Fell with plenty of daylight to spare.
|Views of the route ahead, over the Wasdale Screes|
|Looking down the Wasdale valley towards Great Gable|
|Looking over to Buckbarrow, Seatallan and Middle Fell - tomorrows route|
|Glimpses of Wast Water down Greathall Gill|
It is a mercifully gentle gradient up onto Irton Fell and then along to ridge to Whin Rigg. From here the views down to Wast Water begin to open up and indeed were truly breath-taking from certain vantage points along the way to Illgill Head.
|Wast Water from near Whin Rigg|
|Looking onwards to Illgill Head|
|Views over to Buckbarrow and Middle Fell|
From Illgill Head summit I wandered a little further northwards and found a nice secluded spot with stunning views down to Wast Water far below. An ideal spot for a bite to eat and to just sit and soak up the majestic scenery.
|Illgill Head summit views towards Scafell, Lingmell, Great Gable and Kirk Fell ...|
|... over Wast Water to Middle Fell, Haycock and Yewbarrow ...|
|... and looking down on Wasdale Head.|
From here, I headed down towards Lingmell Gill, after a brief diversion eastwards for a glimpse of Burnmoor Tarn.
|Lingmell Beck with Kirk Fell and Great Gable as the backdrop|
Once back down to 'lake level' there was a brief rest-bite of level walking along the road until its time to gird up the loins again in preparation for further ascent. Middle Fell looks fairly innocent when looked down on from the screes opposite but now, from Nether Beck at the shore of Wast Water, it looked ferocious. There is no marked path from this side of Middle Fell on the OS map and so I spent some time just staring up at the steep crags trying to find a line of ascent. Finally, after some internal debate about the most plausible route, I headed up.
It was indeed hard work. 'Middle Fell' sounds like such a bland and innocuous proposition but this couldn't be further from the truth. A more appropriate name would be 'torment fell' or 'morale sapping fell'. Unfortunately I forgot to take a photo of the ascent but that was probably because I didn't have the nerve to prise my hands off the rock for long enough to press the shutter.
Eventually I accepted defeat and convinced myself that discretion was indeed the best part of valour. I found a nice flat grassy ledge about 2/3 of the way up, with lovely views of Wast Water, and set up camp. The unfinished business with Middle Fell would have to wait until the following day when my weary legs had recovered.
|Looking back over to Illgill Head|
|Yewbarrow from the foot of Middle Fell|
|Views back to Lingmell and the Scafells|
|Camp spot on a ledge 2/3 of the way up Middle Fell|
|Nice views of the Scafells|
Shortly after setting up camp it started raining. This wasn't forecast! A light drizzle persisted for 30 mins before the mist rolled in and the wind got up. I very nearly didn't take the tarp as the forecast was so benign but I was very glad of the wind protection it provided through the night. By sun-up the clag looked fairly persistent. I was camped just below the cloud base and so had hazy views down to Wast Water but visibility quickly deteriorated as soon as I gained height.
|Morning views from my camp|
|Middle Fell summit with nowt to see today|
|Seatallan's trig point and summit shelter|
|Buckbarrow summit views. Middle Fell, far left, still under cloud|
|Looking back up to Buckbarrow|
|The Wasdale Screes and yesterdays route from Nether Wasdale|
And there ended a cracking 2 days in the fells. This really is a great route which could be managed by a fit walker in a single day over 8-10 hours. Indeed, with a light day pack, the steep ascents up Middle Fell and Seatallan would be much more enjoyable.
Shelter: Backpackinglight solo tarp (278g), 6x 8 inch Easton pegs, 6x 6inch titanium skewers, 2 x 3 foot bamboo canes (tarp lifters), 6 x 5 foot lengths 2mm Dyneema cord.
Sleeping System: As Tucas custom down quilt (519g), Mountain Laurel Designs Superlight Bivvy Silnylon Large (190g), Tyvek solo ground sheet (100g), Exped SynMat7 UL LW (595g), 3 strips of anti-slip matting (50g).
Stove: High Gear Blaze titanium stove (48g) + Primus 100g Gas Cart
Pans: Evernew Solo-set (250g)
Rucksack: Osprey Talon 44 (1.18kg)
Hydration: Deuter Streamer 2lt Bladder (185g) and 600ml Sigg bottle (100g empty) + Sawyer Squeeze filter (84g).
Food: Fuizion Chiken Tikka Masala, tortilla's, Supernoodles,various sugary snacks.
Bits & Bobs: headtorch and spare batteries, Iphone + Anker 5800mHh battery, victorinox knife, map & compass, basic first aid kit and Petzl e-lite, spork, various fold dry bags, flint & steel, plastic trowel, smidge & sun screen.
Camera: Panasonic DMC-LX7 & lowepro case. Go-Pro Hero 5 and spare battery.
Clothes: Rab interval long sleeved T (135g), Rab 100 wt fleece (250g), Montane Lightspeed windproof jacket (147g), TNF Meridian Cargo Shorts (190g), Tilley Hemp Hat, ME beany, TNF E-Tip gloves, sunglasses, Buff, Innov8 short socks. PHD wafer down jacket (about 200g), Rohan Ultra Silver long sleeved top (95g) and leggings (80g) used as pyjamas (instead of a liner - which doesn't really work in a quilt).
Poles : Black Diamond Trail Compact (488g pair)
Total weight excluding water = 8kg
Friday, August 7, 2015
Date: 30th & 31st July 2015
Start/Finish: Jubilee Bridge, Eskdale
Wainwrights: Scafell Pike, Lingmell, Scafell, Slight Side
Height Gained: 4551 feet
Distance: 13.8 Miles
|The Route: anticlockwise form Jubilee Bridge (bottom right)|
Wandering around upper Eskdale is a humbling experience. This area, more than any other in the Lake District has a feeling of true wilderness, making you feel small and insignificant amongst the giants of the Cumbrian fells.
Adding to the sense of isolation is the fact that this is also one of the least visited areas of Lakeland. I only saw one small group of people from a distance in 4 hours of wandering around the Eskdale valley which was in stark contrast to when finally emerging from little narrowcove onto the main ridge to Scafell Pike summit. Talk about one extreme to the other!
|The lower Eskdale valley|
|Bowfell standing guard at the head of the valley|
|The River Esk|
From here the route crosses the old Lingcove packhorse bridge before climbing up beside the Esk waterfalls and emerging into upper Eskdale and the vast basin of Great Moss.
|Nearing the top of the Esk waterfalls and Scafell Pike comes into view for the first time|
|Scafell Pike and Ill Crag|
|The upper section of the River Esk guarded by the crags of Scar Lathing|
There are paths to the left and right of Scar Lathing into Great Moss but taking the left path brings you up close and personal to the huge crags of Scafell.
|The crags of Scafell|
|Great Moss with Scafell Pike, Ill Crag and Esk Hause at the head of the valley|
Great Moss is a hazardous place as your gaze is constantly drawn upwards to the majestic scenery rather than watching where you are treading! A twisted ankle awaits the unwary as the terrain is a large flat peaty area criss-crossed with many little streams. Getting through with dry feet is a challenge in itself.
|Cam Spout Gully leading up to Scafell|
|Looking back over Great Moss|
There are route choices to get up onto Scafell PIke from Great Moss. 1) Camspout gully (but I have done that route before to get to Scafell) 2) Up to Esk Hause and then along the main ridge (done that route too but from Bowfell) or 3) via the steep gully of Little Narrowcove (which I haven't been up before). That settled, I headed up the gully which follows the course of a tumbling gill eventually emerging onto the main ridge leading to Scafell Pike summit. This is where I joined the hoards of other folk all wearily plodding the last few hundred feet up onto England's highest ground.
|At the bottom of Little Narrowcove ...|
|... and the top|
|Looking back down the Little Narrowcove gully over Pen|
|First view of Lingmell & Great Gable from the main ridge|
|Broad Crag and Ill Crag|
|Scafell Pike summit|
A video of the summit view from Scafell Pike with all the main fells in view labelled
|Scafell (where I camped later on) from Scafell Pike|
|Following the path down to Lingmell ...|
|... and then up to Lingmell|
|Lingmell summit with the Scafells behind|
|Broad Crag & Scafell Pike|
|Looking over Piers Gill towards Great End|
|Taking the path towards Mickledore|
|Scafell Pike from near Lords Rake|
So what can I say about Lords Rake. It's steep. It's hard work. It's an exhilarating way up onto Scafell as it traverses its most impressive rock scenery. If you have a spare 5 minutes you can watch this abridged video of me struggling up it.
NB. The famous chockstone at the top of the rake finally collapsed on 31st July 2016. May it rest in 'pieces'.
|Looking up Lords Rake|
|Looking back from the top of the 2nd Col on Lords Rake|
|Scafell summit views North ...|
|... and west over Wast Water|
|Looking back to Scafell Pike from Scafell|
|Tonight's luxurious accommodation|
|Drying socks out|
It was a comfortable camp until the rain came in the early hours (which wasn't forecast!). While the tarp sheltered me from most of the wind driven stuff I had to seek refuge within the bivvy to keep dry. By morning there no sign of it letting up so I begrudgingly packed up in the rain and trudged back up to the summit before heading down the Slight Side ridge and back to Eskdale. It rained for most of the way. The visibility was about 100 yards. My trail shoes made a surprising variety of different squelching sounds to keep me entertained on the long descent.
|Slight Side summit in the clag|
|Getting back below the cloud base|
|Nearly back to the road|
Below is a 10 minute video highlighting the best bits of the walk, and the process of making camp on Scafell summit.
Shelter : Backpackinglight solo tarp (278g) & Integral Designs solo ground sheet (140g)
Mat : Exped SynMat7 UL LW (595g)
Sleeping Bag : Sleeping quilt actually, the As Tucas custom down quilt (519 grams)
Stove : High Gear Blaze titanium stove (48g) + Primus 100g Gas Cart
Pans : Evernew Solo-set (250g)
Rucksack : Osprey Talon 44 (1.18kg)
Fluid : Deuter Streamer 2lt Bladder (185g) and 600ml Sigg bottle (100g empty) + Sawyer Squeeze filter (84g).
Food : Fuizion Beef Stew, Buttered Bread, Supernoodles,various sugary snacks.
Bits & Bobs : headtorch and spare batteries, Iphone + Anker 5800mHh battery, victorinox knife, map & compass, basic first aid kit and Petzl e-lite, spork, various fold dry bags, flint & steel, plastic trowel.
Camera : Panasonic DMC-LX7 & lowepro case. Go-Pro Hero 4 Silver and spare batteries.
Clothes : Ron Hill wicking T-Shirt, Rab 100 wt fleece (250g), True Mountain Ultralight windproof jacket (100g), TNF Meridian Cargo Shorts (190g), ME beany, TNF E-Tip gloves, sunglasses, Buff, Innov8 short socks. PHD wafer down jacket (about 200g).
Trail Shoes : Solomon Speedcross (310g)
Total weight excluding water = 8kg