There are few things more annoying than busting a gut to meet a deadline, successfully meeting it, and then finding the deadline moved earlier and no one told you. That’s what happened today.It started ok, though, and because I couldn’t start walking until quite late, I took it easy with breakfast and didn’t do any of my evening routine things the night before.
Massive queues that merged into each other at the bus station, but the 77 arrived on time at 10:20 and deposited me at Whinlatter 15 minutes later.
I used a couple of forest tracks to zigzag up the hill and gain some relatively easy height, to add to the 200m or so head start I had from starting at the top of the pass.
Emerging from the forest I found a tiny gate onto the open fell and the path climbed right straight upwards next to the fence. Cresting a ridge, I turned left into a strong breeze and some spitting rain and worked my way over the various hillocks until I got to the summit of Whinlatter. Then I moved onto the secondary summit, which is the one Wainwright went for.
Still no weather to hang around, so I descended slightly and contoured round below the summits to get back to the fence and swing round onto Tarbarrel Moss. Then through the woods and hope the forest tracks were not too confusing, which they weren’t, and a short while later I was on Ullister Hill.
Now I could see Barf sitting below Lord’s Seat, like a dog at its master’s feet. I cut down to the gap in the trees and followed a stony track until the ground began to rise again at which point I took a small path that contoured around to the right towards Barf, meeting a more defined track later on.
Soon I was on Barf, and as I stepped up on to the summit rocks, I felt the breeze full-on in my face, too strong for a comfortable lunch spot overlooking Bassenthwaite Lake and Keswick. So I retreated down a few metres in the lee of the hill and found a comfortable grassy spot.
I took my time – it was comfortable and not too windy, and I could see down to the lake. But after about half an hour I got going again and began the ascent to Lord’s Seat, diverting over a grassy knoll which I couldn’t remember whether it was a Birkett or not (it wasn’t). This became a pattern of the afternoon as after leaving Lord’s Seat and heading down over Broom Fell, there were a number of grassy knolls just off the path and I was sure at least some of them were Birketts. Having forgotten which ones were and weren’t, I didn’t want to pass within a few metres and miss them. As it turned out none of these bumps were.
From Broom Fell, Graystones seems a long way down and round to the left, but the going was easy as I followed the edge of a plantation. At the corner I headed up alongside the fence but when I could see it starting to dip downwards again, I could see I was in danger of missing the summit. So I crossed the ruined wall and found a spot where the fence didn’t seem that high, and crossed over. Then I headed uphill back to my left until I reached the first, lower, summit. The true summit followed a couple of minutes later, before I struck westwards for a lower summit, Kirk Fell.
Now I looked north with Ling Fell on the left, Sale Fell straight ahead and a small bump in front. That was Burthwaite Heights, my next target. The end of a ridge coming down from Broom Fell, Burthwaite Heights rose slightly above the direct route across Wythop Moss. So I aimed to maintain height as far as possible and so took a gradually descending line across the bottom of Broom Fell, striking left for the knoll at the last minute. Another fence to cross. The top was quickly achieved, and there I paused and took stock. It was 4:15 and buses were at 51 minutes past the hour. Did I have enough time to get the 16:51 and be back in Keswick for the early evening cinema – The King’s Speech, which I’d never got around to seeing. No probably not. So the 17:51 then. Not fancying along wait, I descended towards Ling Fell, climbed another fence near the red gate, and climbed up through the heather that gives the fell its name. A bit of a slog for late in the day, but ok. A quick look around at the top and then a descent in the direction of the bus stop and Sale Fell.
At the road, another look at the watch. It was now 17:10 and although I could easily have simply walked out to Embleton to get the bus, that would have left me 1 odd one out fell. So I opted to continue and get the next bus. Setting myself a target of 17:40 to be at the top, I slogged up alongside the fence below Dodd Crag. A 200m end of day ascent was the last thing I wanted and so I was really slow and stopped often. But somehow once I gained the ridge and the path became more gently sloping I picked up speed and was only 5 minutes late at the summit.
Now I could see the rest of the walk laid out before me – a descent to Rivings then strike left for Lothwaite and down through the woods. Giving myself 10 minutes for each, I actually beat this and was by the wood before 6. I cut down the hillside to the marked public footpath, on the basis that this was probably more dependable for navigation down through the wood. It was and I was soon zigzagging down stony tracks to the bottom. But it took a long time and the zigzags were long. And I still wasn’t 100% confident about where I was at any point, forest tracks having an uncanny ability to not quite exist how they are marked on the map. In the end was my altimeter which gave me the best judge of where I was, as so often.
I emerged at the road and walked past the Pheasant Inn towards the A66. Seeing a bus stop ahead I quickened my pace and was there for 18:42, so with 9 minutes to spare. But it never turned up and at 19:15 I reasoned it couldn’t be that late, so must have been early. I’d got it into my head that this was the last bus and so at this point I was annoyed, mentally drafting the complaint to Stagecoach along with the demand for reimbursement of the taxi fare.
But I had no taxi number on me, I had no phone signal and the call box next to the bus stop was totally devoid of those little cards you sometimes get advertising taxi firms, and other “services”. Not a huge problem, I could walk back to the pub. But first I thought I’d just look at the bus timetable I had in my rucksack. A bus at 19:51 meant I waited some more, but if this didn’t turn up then the complaint letter was going to be wrapped around a brick. It did turn up, and I was back in Keswick for 20:15. As I couldn’t face eating out so late, dinner tonight was a sausage role and a bottle of Bluebird in my room.
Today in figures
Distance: 15.11 miles / 24.31 km (v planned 13.09 miles)
Duration: 7 hrs 5 mins
Average speed: 2.13mph / 3.43kph
Flat-equivalent speed: 2.97mph / 4.77kph
Wainwrights: 7, trip total 8, grand total 137
Nuttalls: 0, trip total 0
Trail 100: 0, trip total 0
Marilyns: 1, trip total 1
Birketts: 14, trip total 15
Points: 38, trip total 41