The sense of aborting my foray into the Western Fells in favour of getting the Northern Fells to 100% soon became even more obvious. With today being travelling home day, there wasn’t much else I could do that hadn’t already been done, and Carrock Fell was, sort of, on the way home. The forecast for today was lovely, almost the inverse of the previous day as if the sky had run out of crap to throw down upon the earth and needed time out to reload.
I snuck out of the dorm just before 7am, thankful that I’d packed all that I could before retiring for the night. A few moments of rustling as I got dressed and picked everything up were all the disturbance created. Gear was recovered from the drying room, some porridge oozed down my neck and then I was off to the bus station.
The bus dropped me at a stop I didn’t know was there at the end of the road to Mungrisdale, and precisely the optimal point from which to do this walk and return to for the bus to Penrith later on.
Unsure quite how long it would take to do the walk and needing to be back at the bus stop for 3:30, I was conscious of the time the whole walk, and set myself a series of benchmark times so that I could shorten or lengthen the route as needed as I went.
The first target was to get to the base of Carrock Fell, a 4 and a bit mile walk along the lanes through Mungrisdale and Mosedale. Not much to say about this, especially after the views to the Eastern Fells were obscured. I did find myself having a discussion with a couple of guys parked up by the village hall. Not for the first time, someone was curious about my pack (I had the Mariposa with me) – I’ve even had staff in outdoors shops ask me about it (I generally then don’t go in those shops any more!!).
Further Gill Sike could be seen tumbling down the steep hillside, and I looked about for signs of the path that would take me up. A steep slanting ledge of a path it turned out to be too, and with enough skidded-on mud to make me prefer an alternative route down later on. The path entered a little gorge and became a grassy rake through the heather.
Ahead of me the summit structures came into view. I rocked up and took what shelter from the breeze was provided by the cairn. Which wasn’t much.
A decision now loomed. I’d made good time, but didn’t want to push my luck with continuing along the ridge to High Pike and then back down by the route alongside the River Caldew. That would probably have me running for and failing to make the bus. A shorter route down was needed. As I clambered down from the summit, another more appealing idea came to me – a shorter descent and buying the time for a stop in the pub on the way to the bus.
So overwhelming was the sense of this proposition, that I didn’t waste a moment and opted for the motorway of descents, using the route Wainwright recommends in mist – straight down the northern side of the fell towards Carrock Beck. I lost height impressively on what was a simple grassy slope – my all-time favourite way of getting down off a fell quickly.
I cut the corner and curved around towards the right to avoid a bit of unnecessary extra road walking and within half an hour of starting the descent was back where I’d started the ascent. I reckoned I had an hour to play with, and knew I’d easily have used all of that and more if I’d continued along the ridge.
Mungrisdale was my target as I reversed my walk-in, arriving at the Mill Inn just as my feet were starting to protest about so much walking on a hard surface. Road walking is fine at the start of a day, but once you’ve walked on softer ground, it’s no way to finish a day’s walk comfortably.
Encouraged by a steak and ale pie on the menu, it was a crushing blow to be told that they weren’t doing food due to being short-staffed. It was soup and sandwiches only. Bugger.
I sat there and noticed that Terry’s latest fundraising appeal for his new Blencathra film was now live, so went and had a look. It was never in doubt that I’d support it, but I was curious to see if the perks on offer this time would tempt me away from my usual DVD and digital copy of the film. They did, and I was so quick off the mark that I secured VIP tickets to the premiere. That’ll do nicely. It seemed quite fitting that I was signing up for this, whilst in the shadow of the mountain in question itself.
The final couple of miles passed by quite quickly and I found myself with half an hour to kill waiting for the bus to come. It meant a late arrival home at 10pm, but the day had worked quite well, so I think I’ll take this approach again.
The Northern Fells are now done and there’s just 10 Western Fells remaining – 9 for a forthcoming backpacking trip in a few weeks, and the final outing on Haystacks on 18 July, 10 years and a day since I started.
With 202 of the 204 fells done so far without a car, either for the walk itself or even the journey to the Lakes, the target remains to complete all 214 that way too. Haystacks is likely to be a car effort as I’ve had to compromise that for the likelihood of having a decent size company for my walk, and I’m due to be in the Lakes for a social occasion anyway. It’s too good an opportunity to miss, but I will then have 3 fells to repeat to make mine a carless round. I’m planning to do that by late October which will be ten years since my first carless fell.
Looking further to the future, with only a dozen fells done with other people, I’m not that far off making my round a solo carless one too. That’s less of a priority, but still something to aim for. So don’t be offended friends if on occasion I eschew your company for a solo walk – it’s just because I have a few fells to do that way.
And of course, I only started recording my walks on Social Hiking in 2013, so only a third of the Wainwrights are shown as bagged on there. This of course gives a good excuse to revisit those fells I haven’t been to since early in my round.