Monday, 26 September 2011

Up, down and around.

I know I should probably have posted this a few days back but at least I made it in the end.  We've had a busy few days, first of all hiking up and down Skiddaw and then completing a lap of Wast Water, though not all on the same day.  After that we headed home nursing sore legs and faced a mountain of washing, frankly I preferred Skiddaw.

As you know it was always our intention to tackle the northern fells last week and Skiddaw seemed as good a place to start as any.  We started off in the Gale Road car park which felt like a bit of a cheat as it's about halfway up the fell but, as we were doing a circular route, we figured it wasn't cheating really as we'd have to climb back up to the car park at the end of the day.  I have to be 100% honest here and say that we found the route up really rather boring - it's very wide and easy to follow but really busy and certainly not an escape from the world.  We saw 3 different people all chattering away on their mobile phones and that just seemed so wrong, are we the only people who climb the fells to escape? No chance of enjoying the peace and quiet when someone is bellowing "I'm on the mountain!" Dom Joly style, into their mobile phone as they slither down the path back to the car park.

Skiddaw & Skiddaw Mini Me

The views from the path are gorgeous though, down over Keswick to Derwent Water in one direction and away up over Bassenthwaite Lake in the other.  Bassenthwaite - the only actual "lake" in the Lake District, all the others are Tarns, Waters, Meres or Reservoirs.  As you hike up Skiddaw it's very easy to be fooled into thinking you're nearly at the top when you've still actually got a long way to go.  This is because of Skiddaw Little Man which sits in front of Skiddaw when approaching from this direction.  To be honest I think they should change the name to Skiddaw Mini Me as that's exactly what it looks like - it has the same profile as Skiddaw, just slightly smaller and lower.  We made it up onto the Little Man and were almost swept back off it again by the spectacular wind which was causing any hiker daft enough to venture up there to walk at a 45 degree angle to the ground in order to avoid being whisked over the edge.  I'm not sure waterproofs help in this situation as they tend to act very much like sails, great at protecting you from the wind but can increase your aerodynamic rating alarmingly.

Eventually we made it to the summit staying just long enough for a quick sarnie and a drink before getting down again and out of the wind.  Our route down was via Carl Side and it started off as bit of a freefall down a massive scree slope and continued its slippy slidey routine the entire route down.  It's nice not to see all the fells sanitised with steps everywhere, though I do completely understand that they're put there to help prevent the erosion from the millions of pairs of walking boots that tramp up and down them each year - talking of which, my boot/ sock combo are still doing marvellously, though they did very much appreciate a dry walk for a change.

Wast Water Screes

Skiddaw struck me as a no-nonsense proper northern fell, there's a route up, a route down and no fancy stuff in the middle.  No pretty tarns or sharp ridges to distract you, just a big brute of a fell which does exactly what it says on the map; get's you to 931 metres and back down again.

And so to Wast Water the day after.  After the big hike up Skidder we'd decided to stay low so thought an "easy" stroll around Wast Water would do the trick.  Ha!  Easy!  If the rain isn't out to get you then the scree slopes are.  We parked the car at the Gosforth end of the lake and headed off towards Wasdale Head, nothing too troubling so far, an easy walk along the road next to the lake.  Then we headed back along the other side and, as the clouds were still on top of the fells, we decided to stick to the lower path which took us through The Screes.  From the Wasdale Head direction it has a Ravel's Bolero feel to it, starting off gently and gradually building to an almighty boulder field at the end with no discernible path through.  It's really good fun but a tough challenge so don't underestimate it, and I'd be a bit worried about tackling it in very wet weather too.

Britain's Favourite View. Well, most of it.
Our reward at the end of the lake was "Britain's Favourite View", well most of it anyway.  The clouds were obscuring the tops of all the fells so the view was rather like the one you might get if you let your elderly mother loose with a camera, lovely photos but all the heads are missing.  Never mind, we plan to return later in the year so hopefully they'll have their heads back out of the clouds by then.

So that's it, a quick adventure in the northern fells over, but not for long.  If the weather reports are to be believed we're headed for an Indian Summer so we're planning to make the most of the good weather and are aiming to tackle Blencathra via sharp edge.  Here's hoping that "some sunshine" is as plentiful as "some precipitation".

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