TR: a very quiet fiftieth in Wasdale

Discussion in 'General Fitness' started by Mark Manning, Jan 23, 2006.

  1. Mark Manning

    Mark Manning Guest

    Where better to spend a birthday ending in a zero than in the hills?
    Despite road closures, I finally got to Wasdale for a long weekend; though
    the first day wasn't in Wasdale; the road was shut until 1500!

    Thursday
    ========

    I'd left Cambridge about 0330, and was parked at Wha House and
    heading into Upper Eskdale at 0945. There were several possibilities:
    Scafell (weather permitting); Esk Pike (but the round trip was probably
    too far on a short winter day); or head up from the River Esk near Little
    Narrowcove to Pike de Bield and back down the other side of the ridge.
    It was a bit of a drizzly day, off and on, and the cloud never left the
    valley; I was in mist from the top of Brock Crag (well before Upper
    Eskdale itself) until I was very close to Lingcove Bridge on the way out.
    No-one around at all, either in the valley or on the Eskdale road. Mind
    you, I could have had a (quiet) coach party within 200m of me and not have
    noticed at all, such was the visibility!

    The paths in Upper Eskdale are quite sketchy, but I found following
    them surprisingly easy. The panoramas are normally so breathtaking that I
    lose the paths whilst studying the views. Today, there was no distant
    view to distract my attention! Had lunch (as always) at the Cam Spout
    waterfall. The entire area was drenched after heavy rain; I have never
    seen the Esk, or Cam Spout, so full. Most of the becks had burst their
    banks, and there were lots of streams running happily that I'd never seen
    before.

    Followed the path on to Little Narrowcove, and then down to the Esk
    to cross it and head up to Pike de Bield. No joy here; the river was so
    full that it would have been a tricky crossing even if I'd waded. So I
    found myself heading uphill to Esk Hause; there was still time to retrace
    my steps if I needed. But in fact the ascent was easy (I was only
    carrying a daypack, rather than the usual wildcamping backpack, so it
    should have been!). Esk Hause was deserted, as was the top of Esk Pike.
    There was a strong south-westerly, as forecast, so rather than head down
    the south ridge into its teeth, I took the path to Ore Gap and down beside
    Lingcove Beck. There was a fairly clear path, but in any case paths in
    this part of Eskdale are free of precipices! Then down to Lingcove
    Bridge, Brotherilkeld, and the road back to Wha House. This is my
    favourite walk in the District, and it was an astonishing surprise to find
    that I'd had the time to do it after all, on a short winter day in pretty
    poor conditions. A very nice birthday present from the hills!

    Friday
    ======

    Mickledore... almost! A drier, colder and windier day. Decided to
    try for Scafell (not the Pike) none the less. Climbed Brown Tongue with
    Dave (who was also staying at Wasdale Head); he went off towards the Pike,
    I went off towards Mickledore. I thought I could just about see Scafell
    Crag in the mist, but of course this was wishful thinking; I was looking
    at a crag a little lower down. Scafell Crag is a cathedral 500 feet high,
    but there was no sign of it in today's thick mist. Found myself finally
    in a scree gully which reminded me rather of Lord's Rake; according to my
    GPS, it certainly wasn't. But by now the wind was howling, a heavy hail
    shower had started, and I didn't want to find myself climbing a gully
    somewhere on the crag. I knew I wasn't far from Mickledore, but I don't
    know the Wasdale side well (I normally climb the Scafells from Eskdale).
    So I had what Dave (who also turned back) called "an attack of pragmatism"
    and went back down. No sooner had I got back to the Inn than it started
    raining pretty heavily. Disappointing, but then it's January after all!
    I saw no-one (apart from Dave, of course) all day.

    Saturday
    ========

    A magnificent day: dry with light winds, mostly high cloud, and a
    little sun. Took the valley route (which was pretty gloppy) up to Sty
    Head, and then started on the Gable Traverse; my first attempt at this.
    A bit of an epic in places, but I was delighted to have been able to do
    it. It also did wonders for my ability to cope with scree! I thought the
    trickiest bit was the field of huge boulders below Kern Knotts; I
    descended to take an easier path below. I was passed by a group of
    climbers, happily jumping obstacles in the way that climbers do, but also
    complaining about how greasy the rock was. They were right. I'd been
    worried about crossing the scree shoots, but they were easy (apart from
    Little Hell Gate; do try to find the track here if you possibly can!).

    The North Traverse was quite hard to find. The cairns in AW's book
    are still there, but the main path has moved away from them; if you're
    ascending from Beck Head, keep well to the left to find them. The
    Traverse itself is now intersected by paths going down to Moses' Trod from
    the Beck Head path; nothing wrong with this, of course, but these paths
    (which are well-worn) are now clearer than the Traverse (which is a grassy
    trod). The thing to remember is that the Traverse is pretty level, apart
    from when it toes around the buttress nearest Windy Gap. Magnificent
    views of Wasdale from the South Traverse; even better views of Gable Crag
    from the North Traverse, the Crag seeming like a vast cathedral soaring
    vertically into the sky.

    Once at Windy Gap, it seemed a shame to miss the summit; so I popped
    up there (I was now adept at handling rocky surfaces of all sorts) and
    down again. Then down Aaron Slack to Sty Head, and the valley route back
    to the hotel. Stopped for a dip in Spouthead Gill; this was *seriously*
    cold! A great day in the hills, and I felt very thankful.

    Sunday
    ======

    Visited a friend in the valley for a cup of tea; pondered doing
    Middle Fell. But in the end I treated myself in a different way, and
    headed home early so I could do the drive in daylight (if you live as far
    from the hills as I do, a break from night driving is welcome). A good
    long weekend, and a great way to spend a significant birthday!

    Mark
    --
    Mark Manning [email protected]
     
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  2. The Reid

    The Reid Guest

    Following up to Mark Manning

    >Despite road closures, I finally got to Wasdale for a long weekend; though
    >the first day wasn't in Wasdale; the road was shut until 1500!


    at least you got there in the end! sounds like some good lively
    walking.
    --
    Mike Reid
    Wasdale picture gallery
    "http://www.fellwalk.co.uk/waspics.htm"
    (see website for email)
     
  3. theo

    theo Guest

    "Mark Manning" <[email protected]> schreef in bericht
    news:[email protected]

    snip
    ..
    > Had lunch (as always) at the Cam Spout
    > waterfall. The entire area was drenched after heavy rain; I have never
    > seen the Esk, or Cam Spout, so full. Most of the becks had burst their
    > banks, and there were lots of streams running happily that I'd never seen
    > before.


    Can you imagine spending the night close to Cam Spout in such conditions ?
    Very noisy

    snip
    ..
    > A magnificent day: dry with light winds, mostly high cloud, and a
    > little sun. Took the valley route (which was pretty gloppy) up to Sty
    > Head, and then started on the Gable Traverse; my first attempt at this.
    > A bit of an epic in places, but I was delighted to have been able to do
    > it. It also did wonders for my ability to cope with scree! I thought the
    > trickiest bit was the field of huge boulders below Kern Knotts; I
    > descended to take an easier path below. I was passed by a group of
    > climbers, happily jumping obstacles in the way that climbers do, but also
    > complaining about how greasy the rock was. They were right. I'd been
    > worried about crossing the scree shoots, but they were easy (apart from
    > Little Hell Gate; do try to find the track here if you possibly can!).


    In dry conditions boulderhopping below Kern Knotts is really fun.
    We didn't have any problems crossing the two Gates. Perhaps the heavy rain
    from the previous day made it difficult to spot the path across the scree of
    Little Hell Gate.

    You had a good time. Happy birthday, Mark.

    --
    "Beannachd leibh"

    Theo
    www.theosphotos.fotopic.net
     
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