March in the Lakes – Part 3: “Close” to home

When I was deep into my carless Wainwright round, the Far Eastern fells presented something of a problem. The only useful bus route runs along the western edge of the area, making the fells to the far east of the far east virtually inaccessible on a day walk. The need to pick off these fells without using a car was the key catalyst in me taking up wild camping – it was the only way I saw I could do these fells. The irony that my nearest Wainwright to home was also arguably the most remote in terms of my ability to reach it just using my feet and public transport, was not lost on me.

That round is now in the bag, and I’m working my way through the fells I visited before I started using Social Hiking. This will then have the dual result of having a complete round on that site, and also of me revisiting the fells I undertook early in my round, and in many cases before I gained a measure of familiarity with the fells. With me no longer constraining myself to carless methods, the fact I had the car with me on this trip and was based towards the south east of the Lakes, impelled me to make the most of this and attempt a revisit of my “local” Wainwright. This time the easy way.

The drive itself isn’t the easiest, it’s a long way along a narrow lane with few passing places, but after dropping Cath at the station and grabbing some lunch I made it to the car park by the church in Longsleddale for about a quarter past ten. Being unfamiliar with the valley, I settled for this easy car park, not knowing what parking opportunities I’d have further up the valley. It meant a longer walk-in and walk-out, but this was the price of certainty.

Parking at the church in Longsleddale I set off up the valley, making for a way up onto the fells at Stockdale. On the map the public right of way just seems to stop at a boundary, but it turned out to be perfectly obvious. A clear track continued on alongside Brow Gill for a short way before arriving at a gate with an Access Land plaque and a choice of continuing up the gill or striking out on the hillside itself. I chose the latter.

Heading up Longsleddale
Climbing onto the fells above Stockdale

Huffing and puffing a bit as I hauled my winter-engorged frame up the fell, I topped out on a level bit which was Great Howe, a Birkett. Ahead of me I could see the way around and up onto Grey Crag itself. I climbed gently up to the summit of my local Wainwright.

On Great Howe, heading for Grey Crag
Summit of Grey Crag

Now lunchtime I debated whether to pause here or to get the next one under my belt as well, eventually deciding to have lunch on Tarn Crag. I found a nice spot overlooking Longsleddale.

On Tarn Crag, pillar a short way from the summit itself

My slow progress onto the fells, and my none too early start now indicated I’d be up against it to complete a horseshoe of Longsleddale, and thoughts turned to how much I could realistically get done. It didn’t take long to get to the foot of Branstree, but then the climb up the flank of Branstree and contouring around over the east top and thereafter to Selside Pike seemed to take ages. It was obvious when I got to Selside Pike that I wasn’t going to make it to the other side of Gatesgarth Pass today.

Heading down from Tarn Crag to the col between Longsleddale and Mosedale
Looking across to High Street
On Selside Pike

This took the pressure off slightly, so I wended my way back over Branstree East Top and up to the main Branstree summit at a natural pace. The views were still stunning.

Pillar between the two tops of Branstree
Last of the snow on Branstree
Branstree summit

Having decided to not venture up onto Harter Fell etc, it was basically downhill all the way from here, and I picked my way carefully down to Gatesgarth Pass, turned left onto the track and began the long descent and walk out to the car. Sunlight played over the tops of the adjacent fells, reminding me darkness was coming. I made the best pace I could back to the car, even now it being clear that I’d be lucky to make it before dark.

The long walk back to the car from Gatesgarth

Five miles later the sun had gone and it was just getting dark when I arrived back at the car. A restorative cup of tea and then I was on my way back to the hostel.

To be continued…

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