TR: fine winter walking round Haweswater

Discussion in 'General Fitness' started by Mark Manning, Feb 24, 2006.

  1. Mark Manning

    Mark Manning Guest

    (This is a TR from last weekend; a magnificent Saturday, and a
    still-not-bad Sunday made for a great round. GeoffC posted a fine TR
    here; I did a walk covering much of the ground he did, but on different
    days. There are fine pictures of his at

    Left the car at the junction of the Manchester Corporation private
    road near NY 528 157, and headed down the road towards Burn Banks. Last
    time I was here, the village looked a little dowdy; new building has given
    it an air of life again. Then on to the common behind the village and the
    long but easy ascent to Wether Hill through an area of hillocks. A fine
    day was in prospect; there was some sun, plenty of broken cloud to keep
    changing the light on the hills, and no wind to speak of at all. It
    looked as if there was no more than a light dusting of snow on the tops,
    and I regretted toting my ice axe. The last time I'd been here there were
    gales on the tops; when I reached the ridge, there was no more than a
    gentle breeze. The tussocky grass held patches of snow. It was here that
    I met my first fellow-walkers of the day.

    I searched half-heartedly for Wether Hill's top (not easy to locate
    on a pretty flat plateau), but gave up and headed towards High Raise.
    On the way, the snow started to deepen, and there were one or two areas
    where I reached playfully for my axe; it wasn't really needed (and indeed
    I could easily have skirted any deep snow), but it was nice actually to
    use the axe for the first (and probably only) time this winter, and to
    hear the crunch of a boot in icy snow. Met a couple of cycle parties
    during the day, heading along to Wether Hill; I think we were all a little
    surprised by the conditions, as there hadn't appeared to be this much snow
    when viewed from the valley. Very fine views west to the Helvellyn range;
    I could see why the Lake District Weatherline was recommending full winter
    kit there. Then a stop for lunch on Rampsgill Head, enjoying the views
    and the sunshine. The sun was surprisingly warm (in the absence of any
    real wind), and a number of people were walking in T-shirts; unusual when
    there's snow on the ground!

    I walked on the east of the wall heading to High Street, above the
    Straits of Riggindale. The precipice comes close to the wall in places,
    but this wasn't a serious worry, even under these conditions. Plenty of
    people at the top of High Street, as always. I needed some water by now,
    so I headed along the escarpment to Mardale Ill Bell (a little gingerly in
    places), stopping to collect water from the feeder stream for Blea Water.
    I'd originally intended to camp above Blea Water, but there was still
    quite a bit of daylight left, so I headed down to the Nan Bield Pass and
    up the other side to Harter Fell. Almost everyone had left the hills now,
    to be able to get down in the light (or to get to a pint or a tea-shop, I
    assume), so I had the top to myself. The breeze, whilst still quite
    light, was quite cool.

    I camped close to AW's "third cairn" with its fine view over
    Haweswater. The first time I'd camped on a fell top, but well worth it
    for the view. Cooked dinner by natural light, and then settled down for
    the night. I didn't seem to be worried by the prospect of a cold night,
    and indeed I didn't need to be: although my bag was only rated as -5
    Celsius, I was so seriously snug wearing a couple of fleeces that I took
    one off about midnight to insulate the water bottle from the ground.
    Just as well I did this! The trick was getting a Z-lite in addition to my
    Thermarest; the extra insulation from the frozen ground made all the
    difference. I slept very well; but then I always do in the hills.

    Opened the tent to a land covered with hoar-frost, but the sky was
    clear. There was a thin coating of ice on the inside of my inner tent, so
    it had been a cold night (I'd estimate about -7 Celsius). I was on my way
    again by about 0900, and headed down towards Gatescarth Pass. I was
    originally going to go over Branstree to Tarn Crag, but spotted that it
    would be possible to contour from Gatescarth Pass to the Mosedale col.
    This wasn't quite easy, as there was a lot of boggy ground; fortunately a
    sheep track provided an easy route above it. I kept to the Mosedale side
    of the fence in the ascent, which was a mistake, as there's a fair path on
    the Longsleddale side. And the tussocky grass made the ascent hard work!
    Then the easy descent and reascent (less than 60m) to Grey Crag. I'd
    actually thought of doing the approaches from the A6 to this hill over the
    weekend, and it was good finally to see the four ridges displayed with the
    Pennines beyond. But they don't really seem very interesting hills. As
    AW says, "this is fine open country, but it is not Lakeland".

    Then back over Tarn Crag and up steepish slope to the top of
    Branstree. Had lunch near Artlecrag Pike, which is when the snow hit;
    fortunately it was just fine particles, and there were no problems with
    the visibility. Stopped at Selside Pike for a last look at the hills, and
    then followed mini-tractor tracks down. This proved a good move; the
    tracks were easy to spot and follow, and it was straightforward to head in
    the right direction. (I have navigated this section more formally before,
    but the ground was less even, and of course more brainwork was involved!)
    Finally got to the car about 1515. I had been wrong about having a "final
    look at the hills" from Selside Pike; I could still see its cairn from the
    car! A fine weekend, with a perfect winter Saturday, and a well
    worthwhile Sunday.

    Mark Manning [email protected]