Cath was on a bus heading home, but I still had another night and a day to go. The weather was stunning for October, and the thought that was foremost in my mind was repeating the previous night’s stunning camp. Could I take another night of fiery sunsets, 360° views and clear moonlit skies. Hell yes. Especially with a full lunar eclipse due.
A hastily scoffed fish and chips, a top up of supplies and I was off crawling up the Kirkstone Road. A cavalcade of bikers roared their way down the road and then I was stepping off the tarmac onto grass, being channeled between dry stone walls on an inexorable climb up the long south ridge of Red Screes. A route that stuck vividly in the memory from a trip in 2010. It was no hardship to be retracing those steps.
The sun began to sink over my left shoulder and rays of light played over Ambleside and Windermere behind me. Rydal Water off to the left appearing like a splodge of white paint spilt on a black surface. As is always my wont when I’ve a big climb to do at the very end of the day, there was much clock-watching and calculating as I climbed – would I beat nightfall ?
I climbed up onto Snarker Pike and along the ridge to Raven Crag and then it was an easier stroll up to the main summit. Ahead of me a figure darted about around the trig point, staying in view a good ten minutes. Surely with night about to fall that suggested I’d have company tonight ?
I arrived at the trig and it turned out my fellow summiteer was just on an evening dash up from the car at the pub below. Phew. I’d much rather have the place to myself for a camp. There was no disguising the fact that I was here to camp though, and starting to get cold stood on the summit, I made my excuses and headed off towards the summit tarn to find a spot.
Matilda settled in facing west for a view of what was left of sunset and I settled in for what felt like was going to be a cold night. The wind was clearly stronger than last night, but nothing that really bothered the Hexpeak. The moon rose behind the tent and I realised I was too tired to sit there until it started to eclipse, so went to sleep.
My slumber was fitful what with the wind, and the fact that I never sleep right through in a tent. About 3am I woke, looked at my watch and decided to look outside. I poked my head out and there to the south was a blood red orb in the sky. This was not the moment to only have a phone camera, as my Note 4 failed to focus and take even a blurry picture. I gave the moon another 30 seconds and then scurried inside out of the cold.
An hour or so later, and incredibly there were voices nearby. I left them to their freezing moon watching. They probably didn’t even see me there.
It was a different story when daylight, of sorts, returned. Encouraged by light penetrating through the fabric of the tent, I looked outside and straight into thick white mist. Bugger. Not going to be like yesterday then.
I packed up and walked back up to the summit, trying to see the way down to Middle Dodd, a sense of déja vu settling in – it was an almost exact repeat of the conditions last time I was up here. Care was taken with the direction as I descended the ridge and dropped sufficiently below the bulk of the cloud for breaks to appear. Swathes of mist swept across the fell in front, mischievously revealing glimpses of Brothers Water and Patterdale beyond.
I reached the summit cairn and took shelter from the stiff south easterly while I decided on my next move. Memories of that day in July 2010 flooded back, and in particular what was remembered as a tortuous route contouring around Red Screes to join the path down to Scandale Pass. I’d sworn that next time I’d simply head back up Red Screes and join the path from there, but when it came to it, I chose the contouring route again. Luckily it didn’t seem so bad this time, although it seemed to take an age.
I walked down to Scandale Pass and took a break. The mist was beginning to clear off the tops and Little Hart Crag, my next destination, was now clear with patches of blue sky starting to appear. I climbed up, briefly looked down into Scandale Tarn and then headed onto Little Hart Crag, finally mist free at my third visit.
I walked down to High Hartsop Dodd to reduce my number of remaining Wainwrights to do solo by one (10 left now) and then back up to Scandale and a trudge up onto Dove Crag.
The day had now developed into a fine one, with the wind dropping and the temperature rising. Views were opening out all around and I ambled around the top of the fell taking it all in while I decided on what to do next. A choice of continuing over Fairfield and down over Heron Pike, or simply walking down over High Pike to Ambleside had me in a quandary. A full mountain day making the most of the conditions or take it easy and just enjoy a leisurely stroll.
You know me. I took the stroll.
Down to High Pike, and it was all very nice. I’d not done this route since 2006 so it was all a bit of a distant blur. So I got a huge shock when I got to Low Pike and found myself having a couple of challenging down scrambles in my chosen route next to the wall. Working much harder than I’d planned, I was relieved to reach the lower brackeny slopes and saunter down into Ambleside for a pint and a steak in the White Lion.