Daylight’s fingers crept over the surface of the tent and the wind that had blown malevolently all night finally disappeared. It wasn’t supposed to be especially windy according to the forecast, but it seemed that it must have been funnelled in such a way as to enhance its force. Either that, or it’s just out to get me.
Much of sunrise was hidden by the bulk of Scafell Pike, and I had to wait until the sun appeared over the plateau to see much of an effect.
Wanting to hit the Pike before the hordes, I packed up and set off, descending the short way to Lingmell Coll and then starting the winding climb up the rocky side of the mountain. 100m or so up I spotted a break in the rocks and found a spot I could have camped if I’d just been a little more persistent yesterday. It was grassy, flat and would have been much better sheltered from the wind too. It even seemed as though the pegs would have gone in far enough. Never mind, this always happens – finding a nice spot soon after the one I actually chose. It didn’t matter, a camp on Lingmell had been on my to do list for a while anyway.
Behind me I saw an early starter catching me up, and I quickened my pace so as to reach the summit first and increase my chance of having it to myself, even if just for a little while. It wasn’t to be though – I clambered onto the summit structure and found it occupied by a guy who’d been out on the mountain overnight for some photography.
My pursuer arrived and the three of us stood chatting for a while, the latter arrival seemingly very interested in my Mariposa and when the talk turned to tents and he mentioned he was thinking of getting a Scarp, well then it would have been rude not to have offered a few words of encouragement and show him some pictures of one in action.
I left the other two and descended to Broad Crag Col then up and onto Broad Crag itself. Across the way lay Ill Crag and that was my next stop, a leisurely exploration of the outcrops and visits to the three main cairns. My progress today was again slow, but by the desire to take in my surroundings, rather than the effects of yesterday’s lunchtime over-indulgence. With the hordes not yet arrived, the roof of England could be enjoyed at a more appropriate pace.
Now I headed across the boulder field via Blunt Top to Great End, spending a little time at each of the main cairns. I looked around and was happy I’d camped on Lingmell after all. I headed down to Calf Cove, noting the biggest patch of remaining snow of the entire trip (As I write this, Great End is now covered in snow again). The corner cut off at Esk Hause, I trod the familiar red path down to Sprinkling Tarn and there walked out a little way onto my favourite fell (so far) to enjoy one of my favourite tarns.
I sat by the tarn, the waters gently lapping at my feet and ripples spreading across the surface, and reflected on what lay before me (which wasn’t very much in terms of number of fells to visit). I’d just ticked off the only two remaining fells that had previously involved using a car to visit, and now just had one fell to visit to complete a totally carless round of the Wainwrights. And I had a full 24 hours left of the trip to do it, with a good forecast.
Whilst massively tempted to mark the occasion with a camp at Sprinkling Tarn, it was still only lunchtime and it would give me a little too much to do the following morning. For Saturday all I really wanted to have to do was a short walk up onto Haystacks and then down to the pub. I really wanted to go to bed tonight in the knowledge that, barring the unforeseen and accidents, the round was in the bag, so that I could fully enjoy the actual moment of completion. So onwards I went.
Back on the red path, and down to Styhead. Ahead of me lay the last big climb of the trip, and of the whole round. Last visited on the day I reached halfway, Great Gable that day was a bonus added to the walk in my delight at achieving that milestone, and it seemed fitting that the home straight of the round should see a revisit. I remember the climb as being a bit of a slog though, and so it was again, but this time progress seemed faster, showing the benefits of better overall hill fitness.
I reached the top, did the usual look down into the valleys and was on my way again. In my mind it was pretty much downhill all the way from here, and I was eager for the finish line.
Some of that eagerness rubbed off as I toiled down the rocky descent to Windy Gap, but soon I was up the eroded path onto Green Gable. The first phone signal of the day, so I dealt with some emails and a couple of calls – I now knew I’d be starting a new work contract on the Monday, adding a certain extra desire to enjoy the remainder of the trip. And happy that I’d decided to push to finish the round rather than string it out in small bits over coming months.
I walked down from Green Gable towards Brandreth, but decided not to bother with a visit to that summit, and cut around the fell to intercept the Moses Trod path. Ahead of me a patch of water glistened between rocky outcrops and in the distance behind and below it I could see Buttermere and Crummock Water. The end was literally in sight.
Excited that the finish was so visibly near, I hurried onwards to the tarn, not even minding the boggy ground on the approach that turned my dry-all-day feet into a soggy mess. I walked down the side of the tarn to find the best spot, found an ok one and carried on to see if I could improve on it. Indeed I could, finding a spot at the outflow end of the tarn.
I pitched up and took in my surroundings. Another one off the wildcamp wishlist.
The sun sank in the west, but the angles of the hills hid most of its display, and I turned my attention to the Last Supper. Tonight it was the dehydrated chilli, saved for this occasion both as motivation to get to this stage and as a last night treat. With this being the last camp I was also not too bothered about what food would be left, and carved my way through my remaining supplies – well the nice things anyway.
Darkness fell and I turned in with dreams of the completion in a few hours time.
Blackbeck Tarn isn’t the optimal location to camp if one is desperate to see sunset and sunrise, but that’s not why I chose it. I love camping by tarns and the sense of tranquillity they bring to the whole experience, and on this final camp of my Wainwright round, it also felt right that it should be crowned with a camp here overlooking Buttermere, where I’d first tasted defeat in my attempts to climb the fells and had learnt so much. Where I was camped was also technically on Haystacks, and so I was sleeping on the final fell.
The Final Day dawned clear and bright with a crisp cerulean sky and barely a drop of wind. After so many struggles against the elements during this project, it seemed I would finally get some decent weather to finish with.
Roughly 100m of vertical separated me from the end of the quest, and I was determined not to rush it unnecessarily. I walked up the side of Haystacks, taking my time, and soon found myself by Innominate Tarn. Here I paused for 20 minutes or so to thank AW for writing his pictorial guides that have brought so much pleasure to my hillwalking and almost certainly prevented me from cracking up due to work stress over the last ten years. I’d brought volume 7 with me, and sat on a rock and read the chapter on Haystacks.
Looking out over the tarn, I could see 3 of Wainwright’s finest half dozen, as he listed in his concluding notes, and felt I could sense why he may have chosen to have his ashes scattered here. And I could also see why Haystacks was such a favourite with him. Somewhere you could distance yourself from the cares of everyday life and lose yourself in exploring the hidden nooks and crannies of this delightful place. Sprinkle it with tarns and it’s a magical place. The only other fell I could really compare it to is Seathwaite Fell, my favourite, but possibly now my favourite no longer. I truly had saved the best fell until last.
I didn’t want it to end, but I really couldn’t sit there all day, so forced myself to make a move. I walked the last few metres up to the summit outcrops and visited every one of the cairns there, just to make sure I had truly been to the summit. I also went and had a look at the summit tarn. Not such a good contender for a camp as Blackbeck Tarn had been, but it’s always nice to see a tarn so close to a summit – there aren’t that many fells with them.
With more walkers starting to arrive, I finished taking pictures, and got one of the newcomers to take one of me at summit number 214. Then I started heading down to leave others to enjoy this fine fell.
People were streaming up the path towards Haystacks as I arrived at Scarth Gap, and I was the only one heading down: not for the first time this trip was I going against the flow. But then that’s been one of the features of this project, and indeed one of the reasons.
I reached the lake shore and walked through Burtness Wood, my final objective growing bigger and nearer with every step. Finally, I stepped off the last path of the walk onto a short stretch of road and moments later was in The Bridge Inn, celebrating the completion of a decade-long project.