Saturday, April 18, 2015

An Eskdale Wander and Wildcamp

Date : 17th & 18th April 2015
Start/Finish : Jubilee Bridge, Brotherikeld, Eskdale.
Wainwrights : Green Crag, Harter Fell, Hard Knott
Distance : 13.3 miles
Height Gained : 3455 feet
Social Hiking Interactive Map : Click Here

The route: Anti-clockwise from the cross-hairs

I knew this was going to be a great little trip. The omens were good as I drove over the Wrynose and Hardknott passes without even seeing another car. One of life's little pleasures. 

So I set off from near Jubilee Bridge heading for Green Crag. Perusing the map, the Birker Force waterfall looked like it might worth a detour and there did seem to be a vague path of sorts which climbed up along it. I soon found the waterfalls and the path which was indeed vague and required the use of hands and feet at some points.

Penny Hill Farm ... complete with spring lamb and mum

Old Lower Birker Farm ... being renovated into a rather nice pad 

Quintessential Lake District -  A moss covered dry stone wall

Views towards Scafell

Birker Force

Views from the top of Birker Force

 From the top of the falls it's an easy ramble along boggy ground towards the crags. There are many crags around this area, with Green Crag being the highest and so I decided to visit a few of them along the way.

Low Birker Tarn

Crook Crags (left) and Green Crag (right)

Views over the Eskdale valley from Crook Crags

Green Crag from Pike Crag

Green Crag summit view back towards Eskdale and Harter Fell

From Green Crag I headed for Harter Fell but took a minor detour over Dow Crag (no not the Coniston one - that would be a detour!). The ground is really wet in places around here. I had, until now, managed to keep my trail shoes dry ... but no longer. I finally succumbed to wet feet.

Next stop ... Harter Fell

The lovely Eskdale valley from Dow Crag

A local on Harter Fell

Harter Fell summit

From Harter Fell I made a bee line for Hard Knott just pausing to collect water from Hardknott Gill along the way. The wind was quite a bit stronger than the insignificant wafts that were forecast so I looked for a sheltered spot and managed to find one with good views of both the sunset and the Scafells. Like I said, the omens were good for this trip :-)

Hard Knott from Harter Fell

Pitched up on Hard Knott with views of the Scafells

The eagle eyed among you will note the deliberate mistake that I have pitched the tarp 'inside out'. This is because I wasn't using the 2 lifter points in the middle of the tarp (I forgot to bring 2 short bamboo canes for this) and so instead used them on the inside to attach my little tent light.  

The rudimentary tarp pitching video

A nice view of the sunset

 It was a cold clear night. I spent a long time just watching the night sky which was pitch black and bursting with stars. I watched the space station pass over, saw many satellites and a few shooting stars. It was a mesmerising scene from the comfort of my sleeping bag. This is the great selling point for tarps but of course, being a certified wimp, had there been a hint of rain forecast or indeed any other such inclement weather then I would have brought the tent or the trailstar instead. Tonight though, it was perfect for a 'roofless' night under the stars. I forgot the bivvy bag (schoolboy error!) and so needed to wear my down jacket and insulated trousers to stay warm as the temperature got down to just below zero.

Apart from a bit of wind (the weather that is, not the effects of my delicious Fuzion chicken tikka masala) it was a quiet night. I woke to frosty surroundings and a crispy tarp. I was up and away by 6am and onto Hard Knott summit to watch the sun rising over Cold Pike. All along the ridge towards Lingcove Beck are stunning views of upper Eskdale and the Scafells. It was a joy to watch the sun first touch Scafell summit and then move its way slowly down to illuminate the whole huge massif in an orange glow. My futile efforts with the camera really didn't do justice to this majestic scene.

Sunrise over Cold Pike from Hard Knott summit

Hard Knott summit view back to Harter Fell ...

... and over to the Scafells

Scafell and Scafell Pike
  At the end of the Hard Knott ridge I followed the path down along the gorges and waterfalls of Lingcove Beck. 


 It always amazes me how the old Lingcove packhorse bridge stays up. I have no idea when it was built and a quick google search was unrewarding but it looks like it has seen a good few decades and will likely see many more.

Lingcove Bridge

... defying gravity

 From here its a lovely quiet walk following the course of the River Esk back to Jubilee bridge. Only here did I see another person since leaving the car the day before.

Back to the road and the start of the Hardknott Pass

Kit List

Shelter : Backpackinglight solo tarp (278g) & Integral Designs solo ground sheet (140g) 
Mat : Exped SynMat7 UL LW (595g) 
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)

Rucksack : Osprey Talon 44 (1.18kg) 
Fluid : Deuter Streamer 2lt Bladder (185g) and 600ml Sigg bottle (100g empty) + Sawyer Squeeze filter (84g), 100 mls milk, coffee  
Food : Fuizion Chicken Tikka Masala & Rice, 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.  

Clothes : Ron Hill wicking T-Shirt, Rab 100 wt fleece (250g), Montane lightspeed jacket (160g), TNF Meridian Cargo Shorts (190g), ME beany, Rab phantom grip gloves, sunglasses, Buff, Innov8 short socks. PHD wafer down jacket (about 200g). Montane Prism insulated pants (295g).
Trail Shoes : Merrell Moab Ventilator (680g pair)

Total weight excluding water = 8.5kg


If you've made it this far then how about some summit panorama video's from Harter Fell and Hard Knott.



Ok thats it. Shows over. Move on now.

Monday, April 6, 2015

A Langdale Pikes Easter Bimble

Here are a few pictures from a day hike up the Langdale Pikes over the Easter weekend. I took the boy with me. It was to be his 4th and 5th Wainwright fells and a good deal more height than his previous forays. We set off into thick cloud but with hope that the forecast would be right and we would emerge above the cloud base into clear blue skies. Thankfully, they were spot on. 

The route is the classic tourist path from New Dungeon Ghyll up to Stickle Tarn and then up onto Pavey Ark and Harrison Stickle. 

Click here for the Social Hiking Map

Ascending into the cloud

Glimpses of blue sky

The boy 'Scrambling'

Getting up above the cloud: Views over to Lingmoor Fell & Wetherlam

Low cloud clearing but still evident over Windermere and beyond

Pavey Ark in warm sunshine

Harrison Stickle

Pavey Ark over Stickle Tarn

Jacks Rake climbing diagonally left on Pavey Ark

Stickle Tarn

Lots of folk climbing up Pavey Ark today. Note the snow at the top of the gully ...

... which the boy had great fun jumping into ...

... and then trying unsuccessfully to build a snowman

Views from Pavey Ark over to Fairfield

A busy Harrison Stickle summit

The triumphant duo

Views over to High Raise

Views down the Great Langdale valley towards Windermere

Views over towards Blea Tarn

A majestic panorama

Cooling off at the bottom of Dungeon Ghyll

Back at the Car Park surveying a good days work

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Helm Crag (the Lion and the Lamb) - A Walkers Guide

Start/Finish : Grasmere Village
Wainwrights : Helm Crag (1329 feet / 405 meters)
Distance : 3 miles
Time : 2-3 hours

The Route

I wrote this guide for a friend but thought it worth publishing on the blog as others may find it useful. This is the classic day hike up and down Helm Crag which, for good reason, is trodden by many thousands of people every year. It is particularly suited to those making their first foray into fell walking as it has all the virtues of a perfect Lakeland hike, but in miniature. Wainwright described it as "a brief essay in real mountaineering". 

   3D Fly-Through of the Route + 5 Descent Options

It is an easy climb which offers fantastic views over to neighbouring fells and down to the lake of Grasmere. It also has one of the best summits in all the Lake District with an abundance of interesting rocky scenery. My son managed it easily when aged 4 and I have seen folk in their 90's enjoying this climb. It really is a family fell and a great introduction to hiking. Cumbria Tourism produced an excellent free 'Wainwright Audio Guide' podcast intended to be used while on the walk and I have linked to this here (to download the free 15 minute mp3 file right click on the link and select 'save link as'), or you can listen via the embedded player below. Narrated by Wainwright impersonator Nik Wood-Jones, this is closest you can get to walking in the company of the great man himself. 

The walk starts in Grasmere village where there are numerous public car parks. Helm Crag is clearly visible from the Grasmere area and the 'lion & lamb' summit rock formations can be seen clearly from most vantage points. 

An autumnal Helm Crag over Grasmere
Helm Crag and Gibson Knott from the north - over the Greenburn valley
Helm Crag from the south in mid summer
Zoomed in on the 'Lion and the Lamb' summit profile from Grasmere

Head off up Easedale Road (opposite the famous Sam Read bookshop), walking towards Helm Crag which is visible for most of the way. After about 1/2 mile the road passes through a gate and enters a meadow in the grounds of Lancrigg. Continue along the road until it reaches the start of the footpath between some cottages. Take the right fork up a cobbled path through some woodland and then another right at the T-junction following signs for Helm Crag. After a short distance take the obvious leftwards path up to some wooden fencing and then follow the dry stone wall up a steepish section until the wall end. At this point the path turns leftwards (west) and continues to rise less steeply. Don't forget to glance backwards at Grasmere and over to the far left as Easedale Tarn comes into view. 

Looking down on a frozen Grasmere during a winter ascent ...

... and over to Easedale Tarn in the summer

The path soon climbs up onto a rocky outcrop (Jackdaw Crag) which is a great spot to sit and rest for 10 minutes while admiring lovely views over the Easedale valley. 

Having recharged the batteries, rejoin the path which soon turns eastwards onto more grassy terrain, eventually emerging onto a wide plateau where the view opens up to reveal much higher neighbouring mountains over Dunmail Raise. The large fells which dominate the scene are Seat Sandal, Fairfield & Great Rigg which should whet the appetite as objectives for another day. 

Views over to Seat Sandal and Fairfield

 From here the summit is just a short climb away and once there, a leisurely exploration is well worthwhile. The first set of rocky protuberances are the 'lion & lamb' formations seen from Grasmere. 

The 'Lion and the Lamb' from the other side

From here follow the wide summit plateau along to the other striking rocky feature, the 'Howitzer', at the northern end. So named as it appears as if a giant artillery gun is pointing skywards. The top of the Howitzer represents the true summit but does require some 'rock climbing' to get there. Those of a nervous disposition would be best avoiding this little challenge and be comforted in the knowledge that Alfred Wainwright himself never managed to reach the true top.

The 'Howitzer'

To get to the true summit requires some scrambling

Helm Crag summit plateau panorama looking north ...

... and south

         Fully Labelled Summit View Video

From here most folk will return to Grasmere via the same route and be content with their 2-3 hours effort. However, if you have surplus time and energy then a number of routes are available to extend the walk. An additional 2 hours will take you northwards along the ridge to Gibson Knott and Calf Crag from where you can return to Grasmere via the far Easedale valley. That route is described here

Alternatively, from Calf Crag you could return via the lovely & quiet Greenburn valley, or extend the walk over to Steel Fell (see the video at the top of the page for 3D Fly-Through route guides).

Fit and experienced walkers could go on up to High Raise and then return via Sergeant Man and Easedale Tarn, or via the Blea Rigg to Silver How ridge. There are many options, but while other nearby fells may offer better views and more challenging walking, none have a summit to compete with Helm Crag itself.