The whistling and roaring sounds from outside that I heard whilst safely tucked up in my YHA bunk were all the confirmation needed that I’d made a good call last night. I didn’t feel a bit bad about taking the easy option this time.
A deliberately leisurely breakfast took place before I went off to pack, also leisurely. The reason: the weather forecast. With winds of up to 50 mph and rain this morning, then clearing gradually from lunchtime to be calm and bright by tea time, it made good sense to delay my departure as long as I decently could and do my walking in the better part of the day.
So it was 10am before I finally shouldered my pack and set off down the forest track to the bridge across the Liza. Across a lushly green low-lying field and I was back on forest tracks the other side of the valley. I headed up the dale, the worst of the rain kept off me by the dense canopy of trees above.
I dallied a while at Moss Dub and then carried on – every delay being welcome today. Now the problem with forest tracks is there’s usually more on the ground than the map shows, and not always in exactly the same positions. I fell foul of this after crossing Low Beck and looking for my path up the valley side. A bit of zig-zagging took place before I finally emerged above the treeline in the place I wanted to be.
My emergence above the forest coincided with the end of moisture falling from the sky, and I climbed up towards White Pike having escaped almost all of the rain. This was a slow climb, and one that required the assistance of motivation in the form of a biscuit for every 100m ascended. These motivation stops also provided plenty of opportunity to observe the weather clearing behind me.
I reached White Pike and knew I only had another biscuit’s worth of ascent still to do. I negotiated the rockier terrain, reached the summit plateau and headed over to the trig and shelter. Lunch was called, a solitary affair with no one else on the mountain top.
Legs still smarting from a relentless climb carrying 4 days food on my back, I could at least now look forward to the scenically better part of the walk in the nicer weather, which was clearing noticeably by the minute.
Down to Wind Gap I went and then up onto Black Crag, making sure I detoured over the rocks to visit the summit, which many bypass.
Scoat Fell was straightforward and I encountered the only person I would see all day here, watching him first silhouetted climbing up the ridge to Steeple before coming my way from Scoat Fell. On the fell top, I visited the various tops purely to increase my bagged peak count on Social Hiking, then spent a few minutes enjoying the view.
Ahead of me lay Haycock, a fell I remember from my 2011 walk in this area as being nasty to descend from towards Seatallan. This was largely because I tackled it from the Little Gowder Crag side, and I had no intention of repeating that course this time. I descended to the col and followed the Nether Beck path a little way, the objective being to not lose any height I would have to regain.
I filled up the tanks with water and then cut around the side of Haycock, heading for the base of High Pikehow and the col with Seatallan. One of those walks where the destination never seems to get any nearer, but eventually it was done.
Due to my late start, the day was advanced to the point now where thoughts of camp were starting to form. I cut around Winscale Hows, making for the path up onto Middle Fell. This climbed up onto the fell along as easy a course as it could, and soon I was bobbing along the top, stopping to check out a couple of potential pitches, and testing them for windproofness as sadly the breeze was still a little stiffer than expected.
I clambered up onto the summit, with a view of the coast, and turned the phone on to pick up some updates. At this point, I shared my good luck today with the Twitterverse, and @LoneWalkerUK, who from past exploits together seems to have got it into his head that I bring good weather, remarked that I have “more jam than Hartleys”. It seems he has conveniently forgotten the aborted Peak District weekend of February last year.
I toyed with the idea of setting up camp on Middle Fell, which would have been so easy to do, but I still had an hour and a half left before sundown and reaching Seatallan tonight would reduce the amount of ascent I had to do tomorrow. So I went for it.
Back at the depression between the fells, there appeared to be a bit of a trodden path heading straight up the side of Seatallan, so I went with it. A bit steep it got too, and more food-based motivation was required to get me up there. Eventually, the gradient eased and I topped out on the plateau, making for the trig.
The beginnings of sunset over Sellafield were on my right as I walked down the fell to find a lower spot where the view wouldn’t be quite as obscured by the plateau itself. The usual walking to and fro while I tried to decide and then up went Monica.
I’d had a good day, and this called for a celebration in the form of the Fuizion Minced Beef and Vegetables, plenty of hot drinks and chocolate. Dinner confirmed my rule of thumb that beef-based freeze-dried meals are far superior to chicken-based ones.
I watched the sun sink down over the nuclear plant and the sea beyond and when darkness came got stuck into a few more chapters of David Copperfield. I retired for the night in the knowledge that I’d now ticked off 9 of the 10 new fells needed to finish the round, glad I’d made the effort today, and happy that for once I’d timed everything well. There’s no way this can last…