A hectic schedule of work, art fairs and the like suddenly opened up and I found I had a 3 day window to get some time on the fells. The forecast was for cold, so the winter bag was packed. A train delay saw me arrive in Windermere an hour later than schedule, and with sunset coming by 16:30 at this time of year, this didn’t leave me much time to get to a camp spot before night claimed the fells.
So my original plan to head up to Bell Crags below Ullscarf was scrapped in favour of the old favourite – the walk up Easedale. This time my target was a spot I’d earmarked for anytime I only had an hour or so to play with – Ecton Crag. A straightforward and familiar walk took me up out of Grasmere and onto the path to Easedale Tarn.
A suitable spot, pretty much where I’d expected, appeared but was the other side of Sour Milk Gill which was just that little too wide to step across in one go. It took a while to find the right combination of a non-boggy walk over to the Gill, and a safe place to ford the stream. A reasonable flat spot was found next to the Gill. I just got the tent up before a band of rain rolled in, and that was that for the night.
Rain lashed Monica periodically through the night, accompanied by a stiff breeze. I was happy when daylight came. Especially when I looked back down the valley to Grasmere and beyond:
I packed up and began the climb up the nose of Tarn Crag, enjoying the views back down to Grasmere. This was a new route for me, but one I’d been planning to take for a while, just never finding the right opportunity. Indeed, I’d visited Tarn Crag 3 times in the past but my recollection of the top of the fell remained sketchy – to the point where sometimes I even doubted whether I’d actually found the summit on any of those visits.
I drew alongside Easedale Tarn below and spent a few minutes looking down. Last time I had this view, I was in trouble – lost and late for my bus. Not today though.
I quite enjoyed the ascent of Tarn Crag, finding in its succession of outcrops some good viewpoints and even some places I could camp in the future.
The summit arrived.
My route now took me over more familiar ground as I passed the variety of small tarns that give the fell its name. A bit of a slog up a gully brought me onto Codale Head, and shortly afterwards I was on Sergeant Man.
Today’s mission was about picking off a few stragglers that I hadn’t yet ticked off on Social Hiking, my visits to these fells pre-dating my use of it. So next up was Pavey Ark, last visited in 2010 by way of Jack’s Rake, and largely bypassed since then.
I toyed with the idea of doing the other Pikes, but as I didn’t need to tick them off and had visited them not so long ago, I decided to focus my efforts elsewhere. Back up to the top of Thunacar Knott on the way to High Raise. High Raise is a contender for my most visited fell – and no wonder as it’s pretty much the central point of the Lakes. From there I dropped down to Sergeant’s Crag and Eagle Crag, fells I haven’t visited since 2009. Sadly, all the interest in Eagle Crag is in the ascent direct from Borrowdale, not the mucky ridge walk from Sergeant’s Crag. I think Eagle Crag dropped a little in my list of favourite fells as a result.
As I began the climb back up to High Raise, the sun was sending out warnings of its imminent departure for the day, and I quickened my pace. Some water was gathered from one of the gullies on the west of High Raise and with the best part of 4kg sudden increase in weight (no way I’m skimping on hot drinks on a long cold night!), it became a bit of a slog. I was glad to reach the top.
I looked around for a reasonable spot to pitch on, unable to recall the nice flat dry patch Cath and I camped on a couple of years ago. I settled for a patch east of the summit on the way to the tarns. Just as I got the tent out, a shower hit, and I worked faster. I got the tent up, stood back to admire it and realised Monica was already covered in ice particles. That helped speed my getting inside!
A cold night, and one in which I was thankful for grabbing 4 litres of water, having knocked my stove over twice on the uneven ground, and losing big potfuls of almost boiled water. Apart from this it was a good night, and I had the fell to myself.
The camp on High Raise had been planned as a good spot to see some sunrise, and it didn’t disappoint.
A decision had to be made now. The forecast was for wind and rain later in the day and I wanted to be off by then, but at the same time I wanted to make the most of the dry, crisp and cold conditions I’d woken up to. On a day like this with the ground frozen, the boggy path to Ullscarf, and maybe even beyond seemed like a good thing to do. So I did.
I stood atop Ullscarf choosing between 3 options – first a descent over Great Crag and Grange Fell, but which would leave me sitting on a bus for quite a long time; second I could continue north towards Keswick, really making the most of the crispy ground in what is one of the boggiest part of the Lakes; or thirdly I could stick to my main plan and retrace my steps back to Greenup Edge and descend to Grasmere by way of Steel Fell. I chose the last of these.
A bit of care was needed down the initial steep section of path from Greenup Edge due to the ice between the rocks. The crossing of Brownrigg Moss was “fun” as ever, and then it seemed like a long long walk onto Steel Fell proper. Again this was a walk I last did in 2010 and so the memory was a bit sketchy.
One thing I definitely remember from 2010 was that Steel Fell isn’t one of the most popular fells. Except today it was. Dozens and dozens of people in two main groups passed me heading the way I’d come. I’m still not sure why.
I dropped down into Grasmere and literally walked onto a bus without breaking stride. How about that for timing!