Unexpected Joys in the Clag

Barely am I back from my cruise to Greenland, Iceland and Norway (more about that if I get around to it in due course), then the post-holiday gloom of returning to work hits full face. A lack of decent walking opportunities on the cruise, means it’s 3 months since I did any form of backpacking, and I’m itching to get out. One break from work quickly spawns the need for another. 

The forecast is watched closely as it yo-yos between apocalyptic and pleasant, and having bought my train tickets it settles more towards the apocalyptic end of the spectrum. I don’t care though, I need to be out on the hill, sleeping on uneven sheep-shit covered turf, and drinking from a muddy puddle. A further deterioration in the forecast on the Friday means plans are revised whilst on the train, and I jettison the plan for a walk above Grasmere in favour of terrain further east.

It’s drizzling in Windermere as I alight, and head straight for the path up to Orrest Head. My wife reckons I’ve been up here before, but it’s so long ago I can’t remember if we did or not. Certainly this is the first time I’ve climbed it properly. The views that inspired Wainwright certainly wouldn’t have had the same effect on him today though. Mainly because there weren’t any.

What inspiring view ?
Dubbs Reservoir, quite pleasant – for a reservoir

With a steady mist of water being driven at me, I walk down the other side and across farmland to pick up the lanes that will put me on Dubbs Road. The plan is to find a spot on Sour Howes to camp. The final climb from Dubbs Road sees rain soaking through everything and it’s a relief to stop and put the tent up by the wall at Moor Head. Just in time for sunset. If there had actually been any sun that is.

Camped at Moor Head

Inside, it’s a full strip job as the decision to bring my long-serving and newly re-proofed Berghaus jacket has failed spectacularly. So has the decision to risk not bringing overtrousers because of the small amount of rain forecast when I packed. My softshell trousers have done well but have just started to be overwhelmed. My one and only pair of pants is gone too. My entire stock of spare clothes is pressed into service while I make the forlorn attempt at hanging the rest to dry overnight.

Dinner is good though – home made and dehydrated pork casserole with mash – and it’s a recipe that will feature again. I much prefer it to the LYO pork meals everyone raves about.

Rain lashes the Duomid, but I’m snug in my Oooknest which has finally got its first field test. All is good, albeit moist.

Clag at Moor Head camp

I look tentatively out of Delilah to be met with clag.

I eat my breakfast in clag.

I put my wet clothing back on, in clag.

I pack in clag.

I set off in clag.

I squelch my way onto Sallows and down to the Garburn Pass, then follow the wall as it ascends Yoke. Much Squelching and Clag. The summit of Yoke is a welcome sight, and although I’ve been here before, it’s as if it is the first time. That first time I was so miserable in the clag I think I barely noticed. Today, I take in the outcrops and places to camp on the way up, when the clag momentarily thins. It’s not a day for the planned detour to Rainsborrow Crag and its little tarn, so I resume my northward course, pausing momentarily by the little ridge-top tarn next to the path.

Yoke Clag
Claggy Yoke tarn
Ill Bell Clag

Ill Bell is reached through more clag and a steeper descent from it than I recall. Froswick is nothing special, especially in the clag, so I press onwards, taking the low path around the head of the Kentmere valley that takes me to just past Mardale Ill Bell. Here a swarm of people are encountered after much loneliness. It’s disconcerting and I hurry on to High Street.

High Street Clag

Too breezy at the summit of High Street and nothing to see so I push on to Rampsgill Head and High Raise. I’m descending towards Wether Hill and the cloud parts to give the first view of the whole trip.

Behold! The Clag lifts
Loadpot Canal

Wether Hill and Loadpot Hill feel like a bit of a drawn-out slog, but at least I can see something. Ahead, in fact further than it seems on the map, lies Bonscale Pike. I arrive on the Pike and am taken aback. It’s exactly my kind of fell – lots of little undulations to explore and a stunning view over Ullswater and beyond. How did I not realise this on my previous visit ? So nice is it that I look for somewhere to camp here. Having had no view last night, I’m certainly going to try to have one tonight. I dump my stuff just above Bonscale Tower and mosey on down to Swarth Beck for some water.

View from Bonscale Pike
View from the tent
Camp on Bonscale Pike

The Duomid goes up and I revel in the view. Revelry is short-lived though – as the light goes, the wind rises and I realise it’s not quite as sheltered as I’d hoped. Inside, I find the flatness of the pitch leaves a bit to be desired too. I cope though.

The wind buffets the shelter all night long, only easing a couple of hours before sun-up. I emerge to find a broken guy that appears to have chafed against an unnoticed rock. Bugger. The tent stayed up though, and I chalk up a victory for the Duomid overall (I’d still rather be in my Scarp in these conditions though!!).

Swarth Beck

I set off back down to Swarth Beck and up onto Arthur’s Pike, the decision as to the rest of the day not yet fully made.  The forecast is clear for longer than anticipated, but against that I pushed further yesterday, so have relatively little of my route left to do. I have three options – finish at Pooley Bridge (breakfast!), walk to Penrith or backtrack to pick off some more fells and eke out the ok weather. Breakfast obviously wins and I head down, stopping only to talk to a guy who must surely hold the world record for the number of times the f-word can be put into a single sentence. I escape him and head for the caff.

Blencathra and Friends

The walk is done, with two more wild camps chalked up in the annual camping competition with my daughter (now 24-26 to her), and I’m feeling a bit better refreshed. Oh well, work tomorrow.

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