The Day After the Night Before
No one had seemed that bothered about staying in the pub, helped by the live music act’s rather dubious renditions of what had up to that point been some well-loved songs, and so we all decamped to, errr camp. An evening sat around the camp, warding off midges and enjoying the craic. Rik produced a crate of weissbier and after telling people not to drink it from the bottle and being challenged as to what else was available, produced a stein – and a massive one at that. Rik doesn’t do anything by halves, including doing most of the 10-in-10 with damaged ligaments (it later transpired). No one wanted to be the first to bed, but when someone finally succumbed, I followed in pretty short order. I fell asleep to the gentle lullaby of voices and the cracking open of further bottles of weissbier.
I had a lie in until at least…6am as I didn’t have a challenge to do today. A leisurely breakfast and chit chat spun the morning out and then people started drifting off home. Just before midday, the field was clear apart from Cath’s and my tents and everyone else had gone apart from Rich. Neither Cath or I felt like doing much of a walk other than a gentle leg stretch, and we settled upon a bus ride into Keswick for essential supplies (ie beer).
As luck would have it Booths had a 4 for £6 offer on across a decent range of local(ish) ales and some slightly less local ciders, so we filled our boots. A brainwave to return to camp via Buttermere on the circular 77 bus route saw us lug our provisions back via a scenic drive and a recce for a future trip in an area Cath’s not been to before. We arrived back just as Rich was getting back from the pub.
The key task for the day done, the three of us sat around for a couple of hours, occupying ourselves with idle chat and a bit of banter. Having missed Rich when he arrived after I’d gone to bed on the first night, I’d not had much of an opportunity to catch-up with him, so it was nice just to sit there and pass the time of day. Until he dozed off that is.
All good things must come to an end, and Rich had a drive ahead of him, so got going. He also secretly wanted to bag a fell on the way, we later found out. It was now too late in the day to do much, so after a walk to the village phone box to check-in with home, dinner and beer were the main priority.
A few people turned up, but nothing to risk overcrowding. We settled in for a quiet night.
After yesterday’s beaker day (a term my brother introduced me to meaning a day spent lazing around and drinking instead of doing the more active thing you should really have been doing), we knew we had to do a walk today, and I’d come prepared with a few ideas that I’d measured out on the map beforehand. Most of these went out of the window when it was decided that we needed to pop into Keswick for additional supplies, and in particular for something to combat the scourge of the midges with. A plan rapidly formed that involved bussing into Keswick, getting the shopping and then simply walking home. We trotted along to the bus stop and there watched 28 Mazda MX5s go past – all Dutch, and getting increasingly luridly orange in their adornments as the fleet passed by. For the second day in a row we risked the open top bus ride, and sat at the back where there was nowhere to run to if any particularly aggressive branches swept the deck.
Citronella tealights stowed (I won’t say safely stowed, just stowed as there were several dramas when they escaped and jeopardised nearby foodstuffs in Cath’s bag), a bit of browsing in gear shops, and heavier by the acquisition of two warm pasties, we climbed out of the town past the church, missing the road we wanted and backtracking. After a bit of faffing around, and the decision by me to carry my pasty in the safest possible place (inside me), we eventually found ourselves on the path up through Springs Wood.
Another warm day and I was struggling in the heat, so it was a relief to find a cooling breeze further up, and getting stronger the higher we went. Being a much better day than last time I came up here, the views were pretty good – in particular over Derwentwater and the North-Western Fells.
The summit of Walla Crag was a bit busy, so after conducting the necessary business of photographs, a swig of drink and downloading all of the 10-in-10 tweets, pictures and updates now we had a phone signal, we got going. We took our time getting up to Bleaberry Fell, in particular me as I was finding it hard going in the heat.
We made it though and took a longer break now we had better views towards Skiddaw, Blencathra and Helvellyn. Cath safely stowed her pasty internally and then we were off towards High Seat. We’d chosen this walk because the bogs should be at their driest, and so far it seemed to be working – a few squelchy patches but nothing serious. So better progress was made than on my previous visit. We climbed up onto High Seat and very quickly ducked down on the other side of the summit for some respite from the stiff breeze scouring the top.
The journey to High Tove is pretty much a descent over a bog, and although clearly far improved compared with usual we started to run into some challenges to keeping dry feet. It all started when we got to a really eroded bit that would have been horrid after a decent spell of rain, and did our first few hops.
Cath hasn’t yet mastered the key rule I employ over boggy ground – which is to get through it as fast as possible, meaning once started crossing a boggy bit don’t stop until it’s over. This was particularly useful today as none of it was that wet, and alacrity ensured I didn’t get wet at all – the ground was soft but only wet if you stood still on it for any length of time. In a few instances I found myself ahead waiting for Cath to catch-up, listening to the squeaks and shrieks involved in her more tentative approach. She also didn’t appreciate the continuous sequence of pictures I was taking, hoping to record a comical moment.
She made it eventually and we reached the summit cairn of High Tove, instantly nominated as Cath’s most dreary Wainwright to date. Decisions now needed to be made as to whether we were going to head over Ullscarf or take a shorter route back to the campsite. We opted to make it up as we went, but a slow day so far made the shorter route more likely. Next up was Armboth Fell, a common contender for worst Wainwright. A sheep track walk down through the grass got us there.
We headed for the most obvious high point – a flat-topped rock outcrop which turned out to have half a dozen stones on it as a rudimentary cairn. This is the Birkett summit and the true top of the fell. Knowing the Wainwright summit is separate, but forgetting which one it is, we tried out a couple of nearby alternatives as I seem to remember doing last time I was here. We then headed across a depression in the direction of Ullscarf to the next most likely contender, which I think is the actual Wainwright summit. This makes me wonder if I really did bag the Wainwright first time around, but no matter I have now and it’s on my Social Hiking map to prove it.
Despite protests from Cath who seemed to have developed a pathological dislike of soft and boggy ground, we cut across the depression to rejoin the fence that would be our handrail to Blea Tarn. It wasn’t that bad really. We met the fence in between Middle Crag and Shivery Knott and headed for the latter.
Alongside the fence, we rounded Shivery Knott and looked down on Blea Tarn. Ullscarf looked a hell of a climb after the tarn, and we quickly decided that we’d cut down to Watendlath and over to Rosthwaite. But first we climbed the fence, bagging a Birkett (Watendlath Fell) and made our way down to the tarn. A couple of other walkers crossed in front of us and started heading back up the hill, while we enjoyed the tarn at close range.
A sign now showed the footpath as back up the hill, but we actually followed a faint track halfway between that direction and the gill, and as luck would have it we seemed to be on the actual intended path. Unfortunately for the other pair, they’d taken the sign literally and were already quite high up, while we steamed along the contours of the fell. We lost the path a few times but quickly recovered it, and our confidence grew in the route ending up where it should. At some point we overtook the other pair who still seemed to be struggling to find the way down. We looked down on Watendlath Tarn, a view I’d not seen before, and the route over the col between Grange Fell and Great Crag that we’d have to negotiate to get back to Rosthwaite.
A steep descent into the hamlet, a few moments taking pictures by the tarn and we were climbing again over the old pony track to Rosthwaite. Having told Cath my estimate for arriving back at camp (7:30) she found a sudden turn of speed, all but leaving me behind as we motored over the gap between the fells.
We arrived back on the flat just behind the camping barn I stayed in when I did the Cumbria Way three years ago, and there seemed to be some big event involving kids going on. An enormous marquee was erected in the field and kids were flitting about like termites around a mound. Cath voiced the fear that was uppermost in both our minds – hoping that they weren’t using our campsite as some sort of overflow. Well we got back to the campsite, and did find a crowd of young people, clearly on a DofE expedition – the Vango packs and tents are a dead giveaway, as was the way they organised themselves into little groups of half a dozen next morning. But they were good as gold and never gave a moment’s trouble. No, with the last of the booze to dispose of, that was down to Cath and me.