A Lakeland Round (2011): Day 4 – Thursday 7 July

A circuit of Crummock Water

Today didn’t turn out as planned, but could prove to be one of the best days of the trip. An overnight weather forecast for strong winds, risk of lightning and the chance of solid rain didn’t bode well on the day that I had my longest walk planned.By the time I’d had breakfast it was 8:30 and as I looked out of the window I saw it brightening up over my target fells. I was out and walking for 8:45, but after yesterday, and despite being in light mode today, I was crawling along.

Mellbreak and Crummock Water
Mellbreak and Crummock Water

A stony and squelchy tramp up to Scale Force did nothing to help me build pace and arriving at the waterfall, I took a break to do some photography and some filming.

Scale Force
Scale Force

It was at this point that I sensed I had neither the energy nor the desire for my planned 17 mile peakbag. As I dropped down from the waterfall to cross Scale Beck and continue with the path on the other side, Mellbreak seemed to be inviting me. Although around 250m above my position, it didn’t look too bad, so I headed up the fell, detouring to Scale Knott on the way.

A pause on Scale Knott
A pause on Scale Knott

It was a bit of a trudge but I made it to the summit, looked at the view back along Buttermere, and then started the walk down and along the ridge to the slightly lower north top.

Looking back towards Buttermere
Looking back towards Buttermere

Now I could get a better look at my day’s walking and make some choices.
I’d already subconsciously dumped Gavel Fell, Blake Fell, Burnbank Fell and the host of lesser Birkett tops along the way. But Hen Comb was still viable – at least until I saw the descent was pretty much to the valley floor. Also, as I took coffee and looked at the map, it made sense to leave a circular walk of Gavel, Blake, Burnbank and Hen Comb – I could do that from Loweswater.
Ok, so what about Low Fell and Fellbarrow straight ahead. They weren’t much ascent – maybe I could do those. No, they’d work well with the Blake, Gavel etc walk as a 2 day walk-in and out.

Loweswater from Mellbreak
Loweswater from Mellbreak

My plan formed itself, really. A lengthy coffee stop and catch up on emails, tweets etc, and enjoying the increasingly sunny weather, and all I wanted to do was do a circuit of Crummock Water, which meant I could also mop up Rannerdale Knotts – that would be worth the struggle as it would finish the NW fells, one of my targets for the trip which I all but gave up on yesterday.
I headed down towards Loweswater.

The North Face of Mellbreak
The North Face of Mellbreak

Now I can see why Wainwright said to climb Mellbreak from Loweswater and descend to Buttermere – not the other way around as I was doing. It’s steep and after some rain, I had wet scree to contend with. It’s the sort of slope best done in ascent, although AW’s main reason for the recommendation was aesthetic. Flashbacks to my nightmare descent of Fleetwith Pike, but it wasn’t actually raining this time and I could at least stand up in the wind. The main danger this time was my feet, and in places I departed from the 3 points of contact rule and went with 5.
But I made it down and soon walked through the lanes to cross the River Cocker and begin the lakeside walk along Crummock Water, with a few view stops along the way. A handy bench on the lakeshore was too good to miss and were it not for the breeze I’d have lingered longer.

Crummock Water and Rannerdale Knotts
Crummock Water and Rannerdale Knotts

Today was a good day for the paintbox, which was, of course, sitting under my bed in the hostel. So I moved on instead. A short spell along the road before I got to the path climbing Rannerdale Knotts and then I puffed uphill once more. About 200m up I turned left to follow a sheep track, completely failing to spot the wide stone staircase in front. Before I knew it I was on a steep grassy slope with a scramble up the nose of the fell the only way to continue. I retraced my steps and found the steps, which took me to the summit plateau. Then moments later I was at the top and I’d completed the North Western Fells.

The descent along the ridge towards Buttermere seemed to involve a bit more ascent than I liked, but this was made up for at the end of the ridge where I swept down grassy lanes through the bracken to join with yesterday’s path just above the first houses of Buttermere.

Back at the hostel for 4:30 and in the pub by 5:15. I took my painting stuff but it was either baking hot sunshine or too cold in the breeze in any spot with a view, so I retreated to the hostel after dinner. Sadly the pie I had in the Bridge, although good, wasn’t a patch on the one I had there in 2008.

Today in figures

Distance: 11.13 miles / 17.91km
Ascent: 817m
Descent: 817m
Time: 6 hours 1min
Speed: 1.85mph / 2.98kph
FES: 2.76mph / 4.43kph
Wainwrights: 2, subtotal now 12
Marilyns: 1, subtotal now 3
Birketts: 4, subtotal now 22
Points: 11 subtotal 62

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