Sunday, June 4, 2017

A High Level Wast Water Circuit and Bivvy Camp

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.

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
 Despite having 'rested legs' the remaining ascent of Middle Fell was far from easy. The pathless steep rocky terrain, poor visibility and a number a false summits made for slow progress. Eventually, the summit was reached and I couldn't see a thing. My abiding thought was that I must climb this fell again on a cool, clear day with a light day pack and then thoroughly explore the extensive crags and rocky summit plateau.  

Middle Fell summit with nowt to see today
 A faint path leads northwards towards Seatallan. I briefly dropped below the cloud base at the col between the 2 fells but was soon in the clag again on the steep ascent up onto Seatallan's broad summit plateau.

Seatallan's trig point and summit shelter 
 I finally got back below the cloud on the gentle descent to Buckbarrow and was rewarded with some hazy views over Wast Water to the Screes.

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.

Kit List

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)
Trail Shoes: Meindl Respond GTX (820g pair)

Total weight excluding water = 8kg

Saturday, May 27, 2017

6 Soggy Wainwright's around Bleaberry Fell

Date: 19th May 2017
Start/Finish: Ashness Bridge, Derwent Water
Wainwrights: Walla Crag, Bleaberry Fell, High Seat, Raven Crag, Armboth Fell, High Tove
Distance: 12 miles
Height Gained: 3222 feet
Time Taken: 7 hours with plenty of brew stops

The Route: Clockwise from Ashness Bridge car park

This walk is really best done after a long hot summer. Or you might enjoy bog snorkelling, in which case you will be fine at any time of year. I thought I might risk it after the recent spell of dry weather but I was wrong. The whole of the Ullscarf plateau is like a giant sponge of sphagnum moss, peat hags and saturated grass tussocks ... which doesn't make for pleasant walking. I don't mind having wet feet but it is hard work to continually pull your feet out of a gloop that doesn't want to let go. I exaggerate a little. It's not like this all the way round. Indeed my feet were 'mostly' dry up until the area around Armboth Fell. Its just unfortunate that this is large area.

I set off at 6 am, mindful of the forecast which basically said 'great til early afternoon, then rain and possibly thunder'. It's a pleasant stroll from the car park at Ashness Bridge up to Walla Crag. The views over Derwent Water are lovely, and keep improving with height until the best view is reserved for the summit .... which is just how it should be.

Ashness Bridge

Cat Bells over Derwent Water

Walla Crag summit

Walla Crag views over Derwent Water ...

... and over Keswick to Skiddaw

Bleaberry Fell dominates the onward view southwards and its a good path for most of the way. 

Bleaberry Fell

Bleaberry Fell views over to Skiddaw and Blencathra ...

... and over to Cat Bell & Maiden Moor

It's a straight-ish path to High Seat which did involve some acrobatic peat hag hopping in an attempt to keep dry feet.
Being pretty close to the most central area of Lakeland, and being fairly lofty, the views from the summit are extensive. You can see nearly all of the high fells laid out in a sweeping 360 degree panorama.


Views to the Scafell range

Now you could just take the straight path to High Tove and then call it a day but I really wanted to bag Raven Crag and Armboth Fell, as they are temptingly close. So I headed eastwards from High Seat through the progressively squelchy tussocks until joining the land rover track towards Raven Crag. The forestry commission have been busy here and have laid down an extensive wooden path all the way up to the summit. There are signs warning of the dangers of leaving their path due to logging activity, but there wasn't a sniff of anything going on today.

Raven Crag

The Forestry Commissions' 'decking' 

Raven Crag summit 'platform'

Summit views of Thirlmere Dam


Rather than re-tread my route along the 'decking' back down Raven Crag I rebelliously ignored the warning signs and went 'off path', heading through the pine glade back down the fell. Having survived this perilous ordeal I rejoined the land rover track heading south. From the moment a faint path leaves the land rover tracks to head for Amboth Fell, the terrain becomes increasingly soggy. 

My initial tactic was to stand on the tussocks and hop over the wet moss in an effort to keep my feet dry but before long, first one, then the other foot had sunk above ankle height and my trail shoe shod feet were soaked. At that point the tactic changed to marching purposefully through the sodden terrain and then even taking pleasure in deliberately stepping through the deepest bogs. I know, rebellious eh! Two kilometres of saturated drudgery later, I arrived on Armboth Fell summit which is mercifully a dry raised rocky platform and therefore the ideal place to sit down and have a brew, as unfortunately, there is more splashing and sploshing to be endured on the 'path' up to High Tove.

Armboth Fell summit looking towards High Tove (left) and High Seat (right) ...

... and back over the 'sponge' to Raven Crag

High Tove summit

High Tove views to Ullscarf

Watendlath Tarn

The viewpoint at Ashness Wood

Panoramic view of Derwent Water

So that's 6 more Wainwrights to take the total to 166. I still need to climb Ullscarf and the surrounding fells but I think I will reserve that until the end of our long hot summer. I'm an eternal optimist.