As I passed Lining Crag, two guys came towards me, clearly heading down to Stonethwaite. We stood and exchanged a few words as the wind drove rain in our faces and challenged the waterproofness of our outer layers. They’d come from Sergeant’s Crag and before that, Eagle Crag, but were now calling it a day due to the conditions. Unfortunately, I wasn’t as my route would take me over Greenup Edge and an aborted attempt on Ullscarf before descending to Grasmere.
As I trudged up through the wind, rain and low cloud, I reflected on what the guys had told me. I was aware of the two fells, but to say I knew any more than their names and approximate stature would be a lie. But clearly these two guys, when they could have been snug in a cosy pub, had chosen to go out in this weather and climb them. And they seemed perfectly happy with their choice. So maybe there was something worth investigating…?
Two years later in 2009, and having researched both fells more thoroughly, I was back. A much nicer June day than that horrible late April nightmare of wind, rain and leaking boots. I strolled out from Stonethwaite where the bus had set me down, initially following the Cumbria Way before it branched off to the right to head up Langstrath and Stake Pass.
Eagle Crag rose ahead to the right, presenting its fiercest side to me. But I knew there was a way up the steeply inclined side and up through the apparently impregnable crags. At least there was if I could piece together Wainwright’s route.
I crossed the beck and walls and found myself at the foot of the bracken-covered eastern flank of Eagle Crag. Turning right to follow a wall up and across the nose of the fell, I gained height fairly quickly although not without a few rest stops. Arriving above the “bracken line”, I followed AW’s directions to cross the fences under the rim of the crags and to contour around the fell to find the point of attack for the summit.
Half walking and half scrambling I made it up through the rocky collar of the fell onto the summit and took in the views. It had been a magical ascent which involved a little bit of work to deter the lazy visitor, followed by a magical view of Borrowdale, and for my first time, Langstrath, with Glaramara rising on the other side.
I lingered as long as was decent given the comings and goings of various others who also wanted summit time, and then headed for Sergeant’s Crag. Really enjoying the day now, I climbed up to High Raise, seeing a wild deer just below the summit. It then promptly disappeared seemingly into thin air. My descent back to Borrowdale that day was via Ullscarf, successfully this time, and through the woods below Great Crag.
Although I’d taken my revenge on Ullscarf, the highlight of the day came right at the start with Eagle Crag. The ascent had just the right balance of intrepidness and easiness to make for a short but enjoyable climb.
Later on, I came to appreciate the aesthetics of Eagle Crag even more. My highly successful trip in August 2010 saw me return to Borrowdale to knock-off Grange Fell and Great Crag in light rain that didn’t wet me nearly half as much as the wet bracken that covered the first of those fells. In the conditions, that was a short, wet but enjoyable walk, and as I came down from Great Crag, the view south to Eagle Crag opened up. Eagle looked much greyer that day than when I’d visited in person, but still the same was its jaunty appearance with sloping crags across the top of its face, giving it a kind of actual face looking north into Borrowdale. This sight just confirmed what I already knew deep down – that Eagle Crag was one of my favourite fells.
And Eagle Crag played a part in my very next visit to the Lake District. Day 4 of my Cumbria Way saw me fight my way in high winds from Langdale up over Stake Pass and along Langstrath to Borrowdale. As I started to descend from Stake Pass into Langstrath, a patch of sunlight appeared at the far end of the valley over – yes, you guessed it – Eagle Crag. I found myself a spot below the path and sat down to watch the sun creeping its way along the Eagle Crag-Sergeant’s Crag ridge as the sky above turned blue. Later, after proving that the “Lang” (meaning ‘long”) part of Langstrath was very appropriate, I emerged tired by Eagle Crag and crossed the streams to follow the path I already knew alongside Stonethwaite Beck. But not before turning to look back at Eagle Crag which a combination of the recent rains and the spreading sunlight had coloured in vivid reds, yellows, greens and browns. Later on in that trip when I was confined indoors for a day, Eagle Crag’s colours were translated into siennas and umbers with the small bag of watercolour materials I’d brought with me.
It may not be the highest fell, or the most popular, but Eagle Crag is one of the Lake District’s hidden gems and I consider it a very special place indeed. I can fully understand now why those two guys chose it over staying in the pub that wet and windy day in April 2007.