Sunday, March 25, 2012

Scafell Solo Wild Camp

Date : 24th & 25th March 2012
Route : From Hardknott pass along the Eskdale valley to Scafell and back via Burnmoor tarn
Wild Camp : Scafell summit
Wainwrights : Scafell
Distance : 17.8 km (11.1 miles)
Height Gained : 1032 m (3388 feet)


 Well this was it. My first ever solo wild camp. After hiking in the lakes for many years and reading about the merits of wild camping in magazines and blogs I had finally decided to bite the bullet and give it a go. I too wanted to experience the tranquility, the glorious sunsets, the star studded skies and to be up there to watch the sunrise. I wanted to have a high summit all to myself for a night and appreciate the fells from a different perspective. It all sounded perfect. I had been researching the necessary kit for the past few months. The tent had finally arrived and been pitched in the garden a few times. The many mat and down bag options had finally been whittled down. The multitude of stove & pan options had been considered, reconsidered and finally purchased. All the kit was ready and I had a planned date and route. It was now just a case of nervously watching the weather forecast. I had planned to climb Scafell for the first time and camp on the summit. I had climbed Scafell Pike, Crinkle Crags & Bow Fell many times and glimpsed over at Scafell longingly. I also wanted to climb it from Eskdale which was another region unfamiliar to me. As Friday approached, the forecast was good so I packed my rucksack and headed off.

The Route - anticlockwise from Eskdale

 I parked near Jubilee bridge at the bottom of the Hardknott pass and set off along the river Esk. This is great walkers territory; expansive views, high fells all round and a real feeling of solitude. The path followed the river until Lingcove bridge where it is joined by Lingcove beck. I crossed the bridge to continue following the course of the Esk up a steep path by waterfalls.

Looking up the Esk valley

The river Esk with Bow Fell at the head of the valley

Deep clear pools along the Esk

Lingcove Bridge

Waterfalls by Throstle Garth

A nice place to refill the water bottle

A first view of Scafell Pike at the foot of Throstlehow Crag
 As the path emerges from the steep gully under Throstlehow crag you are rewarded with the first views of the Scafell range. Beyond the crag the landscape opens up into the wide expanse of Great Moss, a large area of flat grassland near the headwaters of the river Esk. The ground is quite boggy underfoot and criss-crossed by many small streams. There is a real feeling of wilderness here. Despite nestling in a hollow surrounded by many of the highest and most magnificent fells in the region, Great Moss is a remote area and I didn't see another soul as I picked my way across the plateau towards Camspout gully & my path upwards.

Scar Lathing, a large crag guarding Great Moss

Looking over Great Moss to the Scafell range

Camspout gully leading up to Scafell Pike

Looking back over Great Moss and upper Eskdale from the top of Camspout gully

Looking up to Mickeldore

 From the top of Camspout gully the path continues upwards but before reaching Mickeldore I bared left and climbed the boulder strewn Fox's Tarn gully, one of the classic routes between Scafell Pike and Scafell.  

Fox's tarn gully

Fox's Tarn

 At Fox's Tarn (which was more of a puddle than a tarn today), the path turns right and winds up a steep section of loose rock and Scree before emerging on the summit ridge.

Scafell summit cairn bathed in evening sunlight

Scafell Pike from Scafell summit

Scafell summit panorama east

Scafell summit panorama west over Wast Water

 I found a flat grassy area about 30 meters west from the summit and made camp. Having carried the Scarps cross-poles I decided to use them (newbie's piece of mind) but of course they were not needed. My first wild camping meal was a peppered sirloin steak & mushrooms fried in olive oil and served with a tomato salad, eaten while sat watching the sun setting over Wast Water. This was exactly how I imagined it would be. I was so pleased with everything so far, I forgot to take the obligatory sunset picture.

My view over Wast Water from camp

 I didn't sleep too well, mainly because I was still buzzing at having 'popped my wild camping cherry', the relief of having been lucky with the weather and the anticipation of tomorrows exploits. As soon as it was light I brewed up, made some breakfast and walked up to the summit to watch the sun rising over Bow Fell. This time I remembered the camera.

Sunrise over Bow Fell & the Crinkles

The morning panorama east

.... and west

 After breaking camp I headed down to Burnmoor tarn and then along to Eel tarn. It wasn't until I was nearly back on the road that I saw the first people since leaving the car yesterday. This is truly an area of wilderness. 

Burnmoor tarn

Burnmoor tarn

Looking back to Scafell from Burnmoor tarn

Eel tarn

 The wild camping bug was now well and truly bitten. While plodding along the road back to to the car I was busy pondering the next trip.  


Kit List
Tent : Tarptent Scarp 1 (1.36kg) Mat : Thermarest Prolite plus regular (620g) Sleeping Bag : Rab Alpine 400 (970g) and Rab silk liner (132g)   Stove : High Gear Blaze titanium stove (48g)  + Primus 100g Gas Cart   Pans : Evernew Solo-set (250g) and Titanium frying pan (138g)
Rucksack : Osprey Atmos 35 (1.3kg) Fluid : 2 x 1 litre Sigg Bottles (147g each empty) + Drinksafe systems travel tap (165g), 200 mls milk, coffee Food : Sirloin steak, Mushrooms, Olive oil, tomato's, salad,  Buttered Bread, Supernoodles,various sugary snacks
Bits & Bobs : headtorch and spare batteries, Iphone + Anker 5800mHh battery, tent light,  victorinox knife, map & compass, basic first aid kit and Petzl e-lite, spork, various fold dry bags, flint & steel, plastic trowel Camera : Sony DSC-HX5 & lowepro case Clothes : ME Astron Hooded jacket (400g), Ron Hill wicking T-Shirt, TNF Meridian Cargo Shorts (190g), ME beany, Rab phantom grip gloves, sunglasses, Buff. Montane prism 2 jacket (423g) and Montane Superfly Jacket (500g) both not used Boots : Merrell Moab Mid (1020g pair)

Friday, February 3, 2012

The Fairfield Horseshoe in Winter

Date : 3rd February 2012  
Start/Finish : Ambleside
Wainwrights : Low Pike, High Pike, Dove Crag, Hart Crag,  
  Fairfield, Great Rigg, Heron Pike, Nab Scar   
Distance : 11 Miles 
Height Gained : 3523 feet

The route : anticlockwise from Ambleside

 Horseshoe routes are always an attractive proposition. You walk along a ridge to a summit at the head of a valley and then return via the ridge on the opposite side. They are usually easy to navigate and are a good way of stringing a few fell tops together while spending most of the walk high up and enjoying the views. The Fairfield horseshoe perfectly defines all the characteristics of a great horseshoe route. Fairfield itself is the highest summit of the walk and stands majestically at the head of the Rydal valley around which which the walk circumvents. It is a classic Lakeland walk taking in 8 Wainwright fells and is enjoyed by many thousands of folk from Ambleside every year. It's also a popular route in winter due to its fairly gentle gradient and its wide ridges with good paths throughout. Today was clear & calm but with plenty of snow visible on the higher fells. Perfect weather to tackle this classic walk in winter.

I decided to take the anticlockwise option for the walk today. It doesn't really matter which way round you go but the views of Grasmere and Rydal Water on the way back are a great tonic for tired legs.   

Approaching High Sweden Bridge

How does it not fall down ?

Views over Rydal Water towards the snowy Coniston Fells

Looking back to Windermere in the early morning mist

Looking over the other side of the valley to Heron Pike and Great Rigg

First fell of the day : Low Pike

 For the first half of the walk you are accompanied by a wall which stubbornly follows the high ground along the whole ridge.

Low Pike summit panorama west

Low Pike summit panorama east
The snow line was reached at High Pike and became deeper with height. Thankfully the gradient is easy and the snow was fairly compact.

The onwards route from High Pike

Views eastwards over the Scandale valley
Dove Crag summit panorama west

Dove Crag summit panorama east

Looking back from Dove Crag

Hart Crag panorama south over the whole horseshoe

Hart Crag summit views east along the Dovedale valley

Link Cove looking over to St Sunday Crag & Helvellyn beyond

Striding Edge & Helvellyn from Hart Crag

Views back to Windermere
 Fairfield is the apex of the walk but its wide summit plateau tends to dilute the otherwise impressive views. A wander over to the eastern edge is recommended for great views along the Deepdale valley. 

Fairfield summit

Fairfield summit view east

St Sunday Crag and the Deepdale valley from Fairfield summit

The route back looking down to Great Rigg & Heron Pike

Views over to Seat Sandal, Grisedale Tarn & Helvellyn

Great Rigg summit panorama west

Great Rigg summit panorama east over to the route already trodden

Rydal Beck snaking its way towards Windermere

Crepuscular Rays over Grasmere

In was at this point that the decision to walk the route anti-clockwise was vindicated as the views down to Grasmere in the low sunlight were really quite something. Unfortunately my little pocket camera struggled to capture the dramatic light but perhaps the picture above gives some idea of the stunning scenery which kept me company all the way back down.

Looking back up the Horseshoe from Heron Pike

Heron Pike summit panorama across the whole horseshoe

Past Heron Pike the snow thinned and at Nab Scar had virtually all gone, which was just as well as from here the descent path is quite steep in comparison to rest of the walk.

Nab Scar view of Grasmere

Nab Scar view of Rydal Water and Windermere

Rydal Beck at Rydal Hall