Mission Complete

I woke to sunlight infiltrating the tent, which made a nice change from gloom and rain. Above my head a 3 inch long jet black slug was slowly making its way along the outer seam of my tent’s inner and I lay there for a few minutes fascinated by it, but at the same time hoping it would bugger off before the time came to strike camp.I peered out of the tent and in the distance over Windermere, saw the valley filled with white stuff. Holy cow, a decent sunset and a cloud inversion. Out I got and started snapping pictures, enjoying the early morning warmth and the promise of an even better day to come.

Morning at Camp 4
The cloud inversion over Windermere

Arguably, this had been the best camp of the trip, and pretty close to the de facto benchmark for a wild camp that seems to have been established by others – deserted hillside, check; sunset, check; long distance view of lights of civilisation, check; cloud inversion in the morning, check.

A pleasant morning on Shipman Knotts

Whilst I’d been laying there watching the slug, I’d also made  my mind up about the plan for today. Booked on a 5pm train out of Penrith, but with flexibility to go earlier or, indeed, the next day, the key decision was a logistical one. I could do another full day’s walking, but after being away for 5 days there was something to be said for getting home to the family and having the sunday there. And I’d done everything, pretty much, that I’d intended for this trip. On the other hand, I could head back up and try to reduce my outstanding Wainwrights even further, grabbing some bonus points if you like, and see where that left me for the journey home. And it looked like I’d have the weather for it, if that’s what I did.

I’d really pushed it yesterday with a 25km walk and a further 1km of asecnt, and in the late afternoon had drawn on some hidden reserves of fortitude to up my pace significantly so that I made my planned camp. But it had taken its toll. Last night I peeled off my boots and socks to reveal feet that had effectively been in a bath for several hours and consequently were about as smooth as Freddy Kruger’s face. They needed a good service. And lying in bed, my right ankle inexplicably started hurting, although I’d felt nothing during the walk.

I opted to stick with my travel arrangements, and return home on a positive note, quitting whilst I was ahead. As long as I walked out to the A592 Windermere to Penrith road for a bus to Penrith, then I had some flexibility as to how I achieved that. I decided to descend to Kentmere and make it up as I went along, seeing how my ankle responded.

I packed up, the tent still not fully dry from the previous nights, and the morning sunshine insufficient to complete the evaporation process in the time I needed it to. I picked my way down enjoying the views over Kentmere, Longsleddale and ahead to Hollow Moor, an Outlying Wainwright. Down to Kentmere where I ambled along the lanes in the morning sunshine, enjoying the warmth of the day and exchanging pleasantries with the cyclists and early walkers.

The Kentmere valley

To be frank, I was enjoying my ambling progress at valley level, and decided not to do the climb over the Garburn Pass, that would have either lined me up for an early bus or given me a shot at Troutbeck Tongue, which was still outstanding. I turned my back on the Kentmere horseshoe and headed into the sun. A short way out of Kentmere, a taxi passed on its way, clearly, to deposit people in Kentmere. I thought I’d flag it down on the return when it would be empty and get myself to Windermere for a fry up and maybe even a slightly earlier train.

I heard a vehicle approaching, looked over my shoulder and saw the taxi. Out went my arm to wave, and the driver clearly thought I was just being friendly, waved back and powered into the distance. Rats. But it didn’t matter, I wasn’t in “need” of a ride, I was just being lazy. I carried on along the road, enjoying the walk on the tarmac bizarrely and just accepted that I’d probably walk all the way to Staveley. But it was a nice day for it.

Of course I took in the sights on the way, a brief look at Kentmere Tarn, an inspection of the outlying fells on either side for future walks, and enjoying the delights of the roadside.

Convenient facilities

I reached Staveley and headed for the station to find out the train times. Twenty minutes later I was alighting in Windermere, where I headed for the town and some artery-clogging, finding myself in Lazy Daisy’s where I was just on the cusp of breakfast ending and lunch starting.

First proper meal since Monday

I killed some time in Windermere whilst waiting for my bus to Penrith. Of course I could have taken a train to Oxenholme and picked up a train there, but there was one last part to this trip that I wanted to do.

The bus arrived and we headed up to Troutbeck. All around the colours on the fells were bright with the signs of early autumn. Eyes locked to the right, I reviewed the Far Eastern fells, reflecting on what I’d completed, and gathering intelligence for the mopping up of the stragglers close to the road.

Thornthwaite Crag, Froswick, Ill Bell and Yoke behind Troutbeck Tongue
Gray Crag from Hartsop – saved for next time
Arthur’s Pike and Bonscale Pike

Yes, I’d wanted to do this bus ride because it rounded off the tour of the Far Eastern fells nicely, giving me a sense of the scale of them, showing me those fells I hadn’t been able to see properly last time around and bringing a sense of closure to the mission. Not that the FE fells were completely finished – I still have Place Fell, Caudale Moor, Gray Crag, Hartsop Dodd and Troutbeck Tongue to do – but these can be picked off relatively easily as they’re close to the road, and I’d deliberately planned my route so that if I left any it would be these. But the hard work of the Far Eastern fells was done, the motivation for taking up wild camping was fulfilled, and I had slashed my total outstanding Wainwright count to a mere 31. Without this trip, there is no way that I could ever hope to complete the Wainwrights under my own steam and without the use of car. That hurdle was now cleared.

I silently said goodbye to the fells as the bus turned it’s back on them and entered the outskirts of Penrith. A bit more time killing and then I was on the platform waiting for my train home. Further good fortune meant the train was in reverse formation, so I waited at the London end of the platform where I took a last look at the Lakeland fells – from the Far Eastern all the way to Blencathra. Next time I return I’ll be on a mopping-up mission and racing towards the conclusion of my Wainwright round.

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