Ennerdale to Wasdale
Just as I thought I’d gained some fitness, it all seemed to desert me today. Or maybe I overdid it yesterday. Or could it have been being woken by a Hungarian at 4:48 this morning ?It took me nearly an hour to get back to sleep and then I struggled to get up for breakfast. I’ve been yawning all day, including when I was checking in at the hostel tonight – they must have thought I’m a real lightweight.
One of my earliest thoughts about today was that I didn’t want it to be a late one and I wanted to get to the hostel as soon after it opened (5pm) as possible. So as early a start as possible – aiming for 9.
In the end I managed to get away for just after 9, but 3 minutes into the walk I had my first break. Having had no mobile phone signal for 2 days and with the hostel’s phone broken, I hadn’t phoned home, but I found one “next door”. So I called home. Then got going again.
I retraced my steps from the previous day to get me across the Liza, and I was soon heading up the valley on the other side, trying to spot the footpath. Eventually I found it immediately after a bridge.
My experience of Ennerdale’s paths warned me not to expect a nice easy disdtinct path, and this one didn’t buck the trend. A narrow, windy, stony path up through the plantation, and again sweat was being shed in large quantities. After a while, I went through a boggy patch where the path veered left and shortly became a track. Something wasn’t right as I was now heading along the valley and not climbing. Seeing a group of mountain rescue vehicles parked helped confirm that I was on the wrong track. I retraced my steps and found the correct path at the boggy patch. I headed on upwards and a short while later emerged from the trees.
Now I could see the ridge, of which Steeple is the apex, and ahead of me 3 figures, who I reasoned were the teenagers I met at the hostel last night, as they were doing Steeple today.
It was a long trudge up the ridge and the altitude was gained painfully slowly, and at points I was pausing after only 5m of ascent. The day I walked from Buttermere to Ennerdale was a bit like this, and simple perseverence would do the trick, eventually. I went through the 600m level, and things got easier. The gradient and path quality were better, and psychologically, I was now less than 200m from the top, an amount of ascent that I was used to late in the day as I dipped down and upwards moving from peak to peak. Except then I wasn’t carrying such a big load.
I grinded out the ascent, with things getting easier when I could see the summit, and I arrived there about 3 hours after starting out, having done 700m of ascent. At the summit, the boys were just finishing a brew. They’d jumped ahead of me by choosing to wade the Liza. I sat near the summit for my main coffee break, caught up with the outside world and looked at the view of Ennerdale.
About half an hour later I got going again and within 10 minutes was at the next cairn on Scoat Fell. Feeling a bit better now, I set off for Haycock, a horrible painful crawl uphill. But at the top I met a couple of guys from the night before last at the hostel who I thought I’d might see as they returned on the second leg of their Ennerdale-Wasdale-Ennerdale walk.
Little Gowder Crag next. A Nuttall, but surely only just in terms of reascent. I made it about 8m, which was polished off pretty quickly.
I stood at the top and looked towards Seatallan – a monstrous grassy hill which was going to need 200m of re-ascent to conquer. My legs really weren’t up to doing all 3 of the planned remaining fells – Seatallan, Middle Fell and Buckbarrow. The 3 of these would make a reasonable circular walk from Wasdale, and I didn’t want to leave an odd one out. So it was do them all or do none.
I chose none, and instead decided to head down to Wasdale via Greendale Tarn, nestling between Seatallan and Middle Fell. That would also give me a chance to reconnoitre the fells for another day. I had vague notions of getting to Wastwater early and doing some painting, and also wanted to save my legs for tomorrow – as these are the only time I’m walking with full pack two days running.
Angling down across the back of Haycock wasn’t easy because of rocks strewn about, and I was flagging a lot by the time I got to Pots of Ashness. It was now I realised that I was going to have to climb over the side of Seatallan to get into Greendale. I spied a sheep track above me at what looked to be about the right height, and set off up the main path onto Seatallan, turning onto the sheep track at the appropriate point. This brought me around Seatallan but I realised I was too high and would need to drop a bit to pass under the crags. Bugger, I never like unnecessary climbing, especially today.
I made it around under the crags and squelched my way across the depression between Middle Fell and Seatallan, then picked way down through rocks and bog to the tarn. Now which side to go – the left which would mean clambering over boulders, or the right which was essentially a bog. I nearly chose the bog, but sense prevailed and I picked my way down the left of the tarn, which became a proper footpath after a while.
Any hope of a decent footpath to get me down to Wasdale quickly was shortlived, as the path undulated alongside Greendale Gill through rocks, mud and uneven grass. Eventually I reached the bottom and collapsed on the grass as I studied the map to work out the best route to the hostel – eventually opting for the straightforward road walk. I slogged my way along the roads, arriving. At the hostel pretty much dead on 5.
I’ve stayed here before, but it was one of the first I ever stayed in, before I discovered the joys of the more remote and intimate hostels. I’m in a dorm that I think has 14 beds. That’s far too many. But I did get a bed by the window. At least the drying room seems pretty fierce, as my wet things from yesterday never dried at Ennerdale, so I currently have no dry base layers and no clean underwear for tomorrow.
It came to me whilst I was toiling down from Haycock to Wasdale, that I’ve never walked at this intensity for so many days on the trot. Most mountain trips are less than a week, and the only other time I did something like this, it was a failure and the weather intervened to prevent me walking. And the Cumbria Way doesn’t count as each day’s walk was less strenuous than these walks. If I didn’t have to get to Keswick tomorrow, I’d probably take an easy day doing some painting. But that’s not really an option – I could fit it in if I make good strong progress, which if that were likely to be the case I wouldn’t be having these thoughts.
Having walked almost 90 miles, plus nearly 4 miles skywards, I’m definitely feeling it.
Now the plan for tomorrow. I don’t think I’m going to have the legs to do an extended walk, so I’m looking at just the core bit over Lingmell and down the Corridor Route to Sty Head. Or I could just go straight from here over Sty Head Pass. I’ve promised myself a curry tomorrow, so I suppose I’d better earn it and go over Lingmell.
Distance: 11.41 miles / 18.36km
Walk time: 6 hrs 44 mins
Speed: 1.69mph / 2.73kph (very slow)
FES: 2.59mph / 4.17kph
Wainwrights (subtotal): 2(23)
Nuttalls: 3 (10)
Hewitts: 1 (7)
Marilyns: 0 (4)
Trail 100s: 0 (1)
Birketts: 3 (40)
Points: 18 (137)