Variety Pack

When I started this blog, the trips were so far and few between, I think the posts were a way of prolonging the enjoyment, holding on to the experience.  Now, I can't keep up.  Since we moved north of the border we are out every week, day hikes or overnighters, one thing or another.  Life has changed, my relationship to the outdoors has too.   I think the blog will have to follow, but I'm not sure how as yet.  I've grown quite attached to the secular confessional.  In the meantime, a quick flypast to some of the more memorable moments of the last few months...

The trips to Aberlady Bay continue.  I've grown very fond of it there, and will continue to go back and learn more.

Schiehallion is an interesting walk that took me a little by surprise.  It begins on a broad track, so broad and well built I was unsure how to feel about it.  Is this the future for Scotland - motorways on mountains, like parts of the Lake District?  I understand the reasons for substantial pathwork - footfall on popular hills causes real damage to mountain ecology, and organisations like the National Trust and the John Muir Trust are leading practical action and research in protection... but I don't like conveyor belts.  So, I started out warily, but slowly changed my mind.  It's ingeniously done.  About half way up, the main path peters out, and the last 200ms are a mess of boulders left in their natural state.

We went up after lunch, and met so many coming down who were having a real adventure, a proper challenge - it's a popular hill which draws all abilities, but the carefully constructed route had held their hand in just the right way until the mountain top began in earnest, where they learnt not to wobble on their own two feet.  There's just enough path to prevent damage from footfall, and no more.  What's more it follows the long line of the hill, rather than sitting as previously on broad (northern) flank, minimising both erosion and any visual impact.  Very clever stuff.

It's also a deceptively long ascent - don't take it for granted.  Finally, there's the mountaineering history, which for those who understand the attraction makes this Munro pretty much an essential visit.

On our way back we saw the Beuly Denny construction in full effect.  Are we 'in deep symbiosis' with our environment when we do this, as I saw someone comment recently in a newspaper article about wild land industrialisation?  Another person commented that these things shouldn't be done in wild places, but since we'd already trashed it all it didn't really matter....  I'm not a Luddite - I have an issue with the infrastructure, not the technology - with a centralised grid and volume, not with electricity, climate change science or renewables.

For me, it's a problem of capital - and yes I know what happened to Trotsky - but some are just brought up to think they can keep all the sweets in the jar to themselves.  Money, not the environment is the driving force in the Scottish countryside - historically and now, from the clearances for sheep, then deer, to forestry and hydro, to nuclear and the current industrialisation by wind.  Money has crow-barred human identity from its rightful place grounded in the physical reality of earth, to the point that even some wild land advocates unwittingly use the language of misanthropy - the tongue of the oppressor!  Divorce land from identity and language will reflect the schism.  Note the huge growth in food growing and allotments in recent years: people are endeavouring to find a connection with the soil again, on a smaller scale.  Scale is a money problem, and the answer is local.  There is very little nature in the picture below - instead there are layers of industrialised extraction required by a centralised grid.  The picture could be so different. 

Meanwhile, we went on holiday.  Holy Island is not in Scotland, but near enough to the border and chock full of history.  A weekend with my parents, September sun, a trip to the islands on a boat surrounded by Seals and Ganets.  Lindisfarne got alot more commercial in the 20 odd years since last we visited, but the landscape and it's position in the bay is still something else.  I like the borders alot, it's where my grandad was from.

The lighthouse at St. Abbs head was built by the Stevenson family (of 'kidnapped' fame), perched on the very edge of high cliffs backed by odd swirling mounds and lots of nosey sheep.  You can rent a cottage here, apparently. 

Oh yeah, and my mum brought her new dog along, who strained at the leash under herringbone skies.  It was cute.

The Disenchanted Forest  Generally speaking I try to keep things positive here (unless I'm whinging about the environment) but this warrants a special mention.  The Enchanted Forest is run by Highland Perthshire as a tourist exercise, and it works.  Truly vast numbers of visitors are bused into the 'venue' (a small loch near Pitlochry) throughout October to complete a circuit of pretty lights, sounds and other distractions for the princely sum of £15 per head.

Gangly, tongue tied teenagers in Druidic getup fell over their scripts to tell us about types of wood and their uses in 'ancient' times - I felt bad for them, the pseudo mysticism was toecurlingly awkward.  They stood in front of bastardised 'celtic' symbols which represented the language of trees, apparently.  Are you thinking what I'm thinking?  There is no art here, just artifice - for this to be art it would have to be about something more than pretty lights.  We consulted the leaflet given to us on the coach for assistance - what we are seeing seems to have something to do with... trees.  Though what, we are not exactly sure.  Dawn, dusk, and the 'pulse' of nature?  Why not just go into the woods and enjoy what's there?

We also had real questions about how much energy is used lighting all those trees.  This felt like a really wasteful experience, nature mediated, rendered through electronic viewing goggles.  Complicated, not simplified.  The final slap in the face for me was the musak, which was plain awful, switching between balafon loops at home in an elevator or endlessly uplifting major chord pomposity.  If this was going to be like a rave without the stimulants, pretty but vacuous, at least the tunes had better be good.  Instead, it was like one giant O2 advert, or those William Wallace tea towels I saw in Stirling with Mel Gibson's face on them - sickly, slickly disturbing.  This was about money, not about art and not about nature.  Will the last person to leave the forest please switch off the lights...

Loch of the Lowes is mostly great.  The Scottish Wildlife Trust run a fantastic visitor centre near Dunkeld, with large viewing window, a good hide and lots of information.  There are otters, red squirrels and ospreys here.  I'm not at all happy about the branding though... is it just me?

Ben Vrackie is another fairly local one for us, and a really enjoyable hill with great views of some hills we'd walked earlier in the year.  Busy with people on a Sunday morning, but none the worse for that.  It's steep too, the last bit anyway.

It's not the de rigeur position for an outdoors blog to take, but I love seeing people enjoying themselves out for a walk, connecting in their own way.  All shapes, ages and sizes, a kid questioning me if I only did Corbetts or did I do Munro's as well?  Oh, so young people are all stuck inside on their Nintendos are they?  Mmm. The lake below is just stunning as well, wild swans and jumping fish, a fine spot for a wild camp within striking distance of town.

I was just at the TGO Awards for work, and managed an overnighter and a damp trip to Great Gable.  This was supposed to be a 4 day trip but I bailed after 1 night - partly the weather, partly a case of manflu made worse by the weather, and partly because I missed my girlfriend!  You know you're an old hand when you are going in when everyone else is coming out, and when you are so complacent you make a 45degree wrong turn but keep going knowing you can correct it later (that is not a boast!)  The light was ferric, and the weather promised to improve in a day's time, but my heart just wasn't in it.

After 12 hours of sleep, I went up to the Westmoreland Cairn in heavy clag, paid my respects at a poppy covered memorial (a crying shame, a bloody waste - the liberals prayer) and dropped out at Windy gap.  Instead of the main path I jumped across the river and found a thin track leaning out precariously high above the falls - still some fun and excitement to be found in the Lakes.

Last but definitely not least in this little roundup, beloved Skye.  We managed an overnighter either side of our trip to Harris in October, and were blessed with good weather, great camps and fine walks.  When you get off the boat from Harris it feels like the mainland, so built up in comparison, but it's hard not to love it there, and I enjoy taking T to different areas, some I know and some I  don't.  Glenbrittle was new, and the golden hour was golden indeed.

This time, we took a tiny, spiny track that threaded its way up an incredibly good value Munro in the east of the Cuillin, which allowed us to lean over the alpine abyss and finally access the main ridge at last!  Each time I go back I'll be chipping away at this project now, who knows if I'll ever do the whole ridge, much of it looks terrifying, but it's an awesome sight on top, really.  This was a good day, a really good one, it allowed us to get up close and demystify just enough to make other things possible in the future...

On the way out, something more gentle.  A really beautiful coastal wild camp near the point of Sleat under the watchful gaze of Rum and Eigg.  The lighthouse has been rebuilt since I last went 10 years ago.  Steel girders and solar panels are more efficient I know, but I wish they had built it round and not square.  The MLD Supermid continues to impress, more than stable enough and a luxurious amount of space, footprint not really any bigger than the Trailstar.  Gusts in a rain storm on the Cuillin camp did yank a corner stake out of boggy ground, but the beauty of these tarps is no stretched fabric or damaged poles - just repeg and all's well.  Otherwise, rock solid, even in coastal winds - a really enjoyable and functional unit for 2-4 people.

We drove home out over moorland to tiny crofting townships on the north side of the Sleat Peninsula, with incredible views over both ranges on Skye, both the red and the black mountains, which made them appear almost as one range, which was a geological education in itself.  Days like these, the west is the best.

Cumbrian short circuit - days 7-10

Day 7: 13 Wainwrights in one day

Early doors.  We are up to Great Dodd just after 9am, on top of the world without another soul.  The rolling Northern hills of the great Easter(n) ridge maybe less dramatic than the middle, but wonderfully empty and provide a spectacular view of the path ahead.  A brief snack in the fierce cycling wind and then off, that way. One by one we check in, touch, then go.

Quickly they fall to us, ridge walking is easy when the weather is this good and with an early start.  Watson's Dodd, Stybarrow Dodd, down to Sticks Pass and up to Raise and White Side where we rested again.  There's a few other walkers up by now.

The push up Helvellyn Lower Man is more taxing in mounting heat, but views of Swirral Edge are worth it.  Last time we were here we missed this scramble in the clag entirely, walking round the long way down to Glenridding after Striding Edge.

Helvellyn is busy as a high street by lunchtime, not helped by a 1 man climbing team having set up a big tent on the summit selling teas and bacon butties to raise money for a private expedition to Peru.  Public-school boy-scouts, tssk.  We move on, stopping for our lunch down the other side of Striding Edge.  Its fun to watch the walkers negotiating the chimney, away from the crowds.

We head off to Dollywagon Pike, giving great views of St. Sunday Crag and the southern Fells, and then down to Grisedale Tarn by 3pm.  We were making better time than expected, which left us with a conundrum.  We had planned to camp here this evening, but it was too early and too hot to wait.  Instead we let the winds dancing on the water hypnotise us for a little while, before refilling water bottles and moving off.

Avoiding the steep scree covered climb to Fairfield on the west, we aim up the side of St. Sunday Crag.  This is a beautiful alpine style path that takes you high above the lake and allows us to look back at the ground covered today.  I remember seeing similar views from a bitterly cold Fairfield in October 2007 and thinking these mountains looked impossibly unreachable and unknowable - we are getting a bit better at this walking thing, after all.  More importantly, we are beginning to understand how these hills join up with one another - to see the lie of the land.

We head sharp right and into a steep high pull up Cofa Pike, which is a stunning little scramble.  By the time we get to Fairfield though, our legs are wobbling and we are sorely in need of sugary calories - its tough in the heat with bags.

Fairfield is quiet, most others have already gone down for today.  We stop awhile and recoup, the sheep are cheeky in these parts and approach for feeding!  A good spot for navigation practice (successful)  and head off for Dove crag and the walk out.   We've a vague idea that we'll aim for Ambleside this evening but will see how we go - Cofa Pike turned our legs to jelly!

The walk from Fairfield to high Pike and Low Pike is long as the shadows mount, a grand ceremony of a ridge line.  We spy over into Dovedale and as the ground turns from spikey boulders to grassy slopes, enjoy the sloping scoops of the Pikes, and the artfully made wall we are following down to the town in the distance.  We haven't come this way before.

We pull up about half an hour outside of the town, near High Sweden Bridge, and hang the tarp high from a tree, hidden near the river.  When we stop walking, our bodies continue on, generating huge amounts of heat - so we both go in for a quick bath.  Its late, but we make a wood fire and eat cous cous before the rain comes in the early hours.  A good Good Friday.

distance: 12.5m or 20.3 kms
elevation range: 710ms
map: here

Day 8 - the Langdale Pikes

We wake early as usual by now and pack up for the half hour into Ambleside.  We have completed the circuit a day early which leaves us with a leisurely morning eating breakfast in the town, before catching the bus into Langdale.  This means we can squeeze in some more hills.  Meanwhile the walk out is pretty enough, though Ambleside seems insanely busy after the airy headspace of the last 2 days.  Am I turning into a hermit?

After depositing our kit and eating lunch at the lovely NT campsite in Langdale, we aim for Stickle Tarn and the Langdale Pikes.  The path up to the tarn is in full sunday stroller spate.  The climb above Parvey Ark the path to the east takes us up through a gully to the top, before the cloud comes in.  The crowds thin out, now only those determined are here.  Parvey Ark is a brooding reptilian monster.

Next, Harrison Stickle, and the summer service of the last week is temporarily suspended and normal Lake District weather is resumed.  This means there is no problem with heat haze, and we both enjoyed the next couple of hours in moderate rain, and colours begin to show themselves again.

It is great to be in this huge central area of the Fells for the first time, and I'm now thinking of another trip to explore it properly over a few days of high camps.  After donning the waterproofs, we aim for the nipple shaped mini mountain of Stickle Pike.

On top here after a wee scramble on oily wet rock, we have 360 views of the cloud moving in fast and furious, over Sargents crag and Glaramara and other tops we've yet to identify.  Oh, to the weather, without which the territory is nothing at all.  On the way down via the dramatic Dungeon Gyll path, the rain slowly starts to clear.  We see this behind...

and this across...

and this when we hit the valley floor.

Langdale is awereet by us and no mistake.  Repair to the pub for great food and a beer and back for a shower and bed. 

distance: 5.9m or 9.4kms
elevation range: 680ms approx
map here

Day 9 - threading the eye of the needle: Bowfell, Crinkle Crags and Pike of Blisco.

Our last full day, we walk out along the Cumbria Way for about an hour, and then cut left high up to Angle Tarn via Rossett Gyll.  Today its hot by 9am and promises to be much clearer after the rain yesterday, we are tired early.  I fantasise about pasties as we climb to the Tarn.

After a brief pause we hang left and left again, around the back of the bulk of Bowfell.  Once at the top of the col, its left again, up to the summit and a growing crowd.  A Search and Rescue Helicopter practices maneuvers on the Pikes across the valley but its strangely tranquil despite the crowds and the noise of distant engines.  The view back to Mickleden and Langdale is impressive, but the heat haze still loiters a little.

After lunch out of the biting wind off the sea, we walk up and over to Crinkle Crags.  These have always eluded us despite several trips so its great to finally see what the fuss is about.  Its Easter Sunday so a busy path is inevitable, but there are still magic moments to be found if sought out.  Bowfell is some mountain.

We stop and lie down in the lee of a sheltering rock for a while, to warm up like basking snakes away from the wind.  I stop by a small tarn and record the sound of the wind in the grasses, whilst T walks on a little.  We sit often, then clamber up the fissured slabs away from the path, to the top of each crinkle.  We take our time and survey hills we have walked up on previous trips, but from previously unseen angles. 

Later, I think on the 3rd crag but I wasn't counting, we encounter a lady sitting with greyhound.  She's obviously had enough, if not quite cragfast.  There's a bad step, apparently.  We help one couple down and then the lady, finally the dog.  The dog is frightened and wees on me and another guy who by this time has come to help - not what I'd planned exactly, still the other guy got the lions (dog's?) share.  Hopefully she and her husband will take note and get a full dog harness a la Reuben on BBB, so they can do their own lifting in the future.  We saw them later and they were very gracious, whilst the poor mutt had a stress relieving snooze by a stream!  It was interesting though, helping out - I sort of enjoyed it, despite the dog wee, and did OK talking her down.  Instinct kicked into play, seemed to know what to say and where to place hands and feet, both mine and hers.

But the best was for last.  Coming off the Crinkle crags we descend onto an other worldly plateau-like mountain, Cold Pike.  This rises only slightly to its peak, a quiet, broad monolithic pedestal from which to view the Coniston Fells before us.  Then down to the stream near Red Tarn for a paddle of hot toes.

And finally, the last Pike.  Blisco is reached late, and its quiet, being separated from the crags and frequented much less at a guess.  Our walk accompanied by one of the couples from earlier - Swiss and Sri Lankan, both living in Hull.  Nice pair.  We chat as we walk up.

It was the last proper hill of the trip, the shadows were deep and long, and we could see over to Dow Crag and Eskdale, where we had begun our walk a week or so ago.  The hills, as they mostly do, had welcomed us despite almost hammy levels of world weariness on our part at the beginning, and seeing it laid out now made some sort of finale to our trip.  A few moments of bliss on Blisco, yeah I'm mindful of the gap.

distance: 9.4m or 15.4 km
elevation range: 700ms approx
map here

Day 10 - home again, via the Cumbria way to Ambleside

We thought we'd walk out, since we had time for that but not for a big hill.  We went via Chapel Stile, Elterwater, Skelworth Bridge and finally up to Loughrigg Fell top, and saw lots of prams, cotton clothing and wild garlic before reaching town.

"I can't walk and think at the same time"

Sit up and beg - the shop at Chapel Stile is an old school beauty

Tasty wild garlic at Elterwater edge
We survey the new Kirkstone range of UL sitmats
Shop at Skelworth bridge....or don't!  Philippe, really, I ask ya.....

There might be some kind of audio record of this trip coming along in a while, plus another barrel of photos, all shiny like.

If you enjoyed reading about this trip, please stick around and read some more, its certainly better than work.  Then please consider donating whatever you can afford to 2 great charities via my 500mile coast to coast walk this summer, by clicking HERE.  Your support does make a difference to the charities, and to me, too.

Thanks as always, for tuning in.

Cumbrian short circuit days 3-6

photo: T. Morgan

Day 4 - Black Sail to Keswick via Dale Head

Today we resolve not to miss any more tops, and after a good nights sleep we head off by 8.30am on the Coast to Coast path towards Honister Pass and the cafe, about which the only good things are the hot chocolate and the cheese and onion pasties. Self powered is only really powered by 3 things - cheese, snickers and pasties.  The weather is hot and hazy, but the drummocks in the valley bind their own spells as we shake the sleep from our heads.

Passing high over Haystacks and Buttermere early in the haze at 9am, we rest and drink water.  At the pass we meet tourists, still friendly as its early, and after refreshment head north up to Dale Head.  A long steady pull in the growing heat and humidity.  A fell runner moves up fast and surprises us.  The rocks and our breathing take control.  I start to enjoy the endorphins half way up - day 3 is always rough, day 4 is fitter - always.  The top is worth every calorie, as the ground simply peels away as you reach the summit to reveal high ridges on both sides of a enormous valley leading eventually to Keswick.  The images I have are too hazy to do it justice, but its a fine drop.

We come off sharp right and down on tip-toe to Dalehead Tarn, a beautiful spot in the midday sun for paddling, lunch and friendly dog showers.  The reeds penetrate the surface tension and the sky is submarine with mere smears of cloud.  Another wild camp must for the future, surely.

After resting again (it would be rude not to spend at least some time here) we ascend to the ridge and spend the afternoon in high heat walking from High Spy to Keswick, Maiden Moor and Catbells along the way.  These are easily accessible tops from Little Town and Keswick, and its easy to understand why they are so popular.  Catbells especially has a rollercoaster of a character and plainly makes a great 'first scramble' for many a youngster out with family for the milder weather.  Its busy, and as we get nearer town people become less friendly, but a good, easy and fun yomp all the same.

The end of the day is marked by a slightly tortuous path into the campsite at the head of Derwent Water, for which there is no easy access - you must continue on the Cumbrian way into town and then cut right.  The woods are beautiful respite from the sun but 'hotel riverside walk' does not hold a shortcut into the campground!

distance: 11.4m or 18.3 km
elevation range: 680ms
map here

 Day 5 - Sharp Edge and Blencathra

Today, was a day off, at least from the backpacks, so we went up Sharp Edge.  Catching the X50 bus at 10.10, after a hasty but hearty breakfast from Booths, we were ejected at Scales Farm and took the contours around the base of Blencathra as they came.  Another blue day.

This is an excellent first scramble for grown ups - it's much shorter than both Crib Goch and Striding Edge and certainly nowhere near as exposed as the Aonach Eagach, and we had a riot going up... others felt less sure but it wasn't too crowded so no rush.  The last haul up to Atkinson Pike is not to be underestimated as it is on largely flat slabs with less clearly defined holds, but we had the weather and the head for heights to make this a fun, exciting foray that was over far too quickly.  In winter it would be different - I'd like to come back and make this my first winter grade 1 climb.  Along to Blencathra top for lunch, contemplated Halls Fell ridge for the descent but decided to stay high and head along the ridge to Blease Fell, which allowed us to take stock of the next days route shimmering in the distance.

The route down from Blease Fell is long and arduous in the heat and the map is not the territory - the paths however all lead eventually to the Blencathra centre at the foot of the hill.  After that it was a languorous walk back in the sun through pasture and grazing, through woodlands and past dozing lambs and humming insects.  The hills became silhouetted in blue, ideas of themselves - hands in pockets now, after the exposed rock of the morning.  I love this variety.

After bimbling through meadows we enter Brundholme wood and a lovely path on the northern side of the river which bends and winds too much for us at the end of the day.  As always, the edges and margins - where the town meets the country, provided one of the weirdest scenes of the trip so far.

Later on, we went for a thai curry at the Star of Siam in Keswick, which was excellent, especially the wonton soup.

distance: 8.1m or 13km
elevation range: 790ms
map here

Day 6 - All manner of bewitchment from Castlerigg to under Great Dodd

Today we leave late from Keswick and aim off for Castlerigg Stone Circle, a mile or 2 out of town.

There were 3 equally significant things about this:  Firstly, the location, which is a circle of rock encircled by rock, blue mountains all around, and makes a striking impression in deep sympathy with its surroundings.  Secondly, these places are visited by people from all over the world - there were asians, americans, germans and brits all there taking it in - what could it all mean?  And lastly, word should be given to the best ice cream van in all christendom - Luchini plays a plaintive and endless blues on his half sized 'parrot' guitar, whilst he patiently waits for us to make our choice - except that we're listening to him...... this could go on forever.  Genius.

After, we do more ambling in the building heat along to Sykes, between Low Rigg and High Rigg, and pop in on St. John in the Vale chapel.   Its nice to get out of the heat and John Richardson sounds like an interesting guy, having written a book of Cumbrian poetry in the 1830's which remains important to the study of linguistics even now.  We stop for lunch at a lovely river at the foot of the valley, before embarking on the tortuous old coach road circling around Clough Head, entirely devoid of water or shelter.

It wasn't without its charms, the open country is quiet and the traffic moved off into the background.  We headed right at Mosedale Beck following the stream up to Calfhow Pike.  From dry to sopping wet, by now I have the hang of when to don the waterproof socks so dry feet and a smug grin are mine to wear whilst we seek out a camp spot.

Eventually we settle on a small hill under Great Dodd, with a view of Skiddaw in front and an extravagant bathing pool from which we take our fill.  Rice and a drop of wine culled from last nights restaurant, and bed by 9 to listen to the breeze moving across the high eastern Fells above us.  The walk is now starting to settle, achieve some balance.  We are quite alone.

distance: 9.7m or 15.6km
elevation range: 650ms approx
map here

Cumbrian short circuit - days 1 to 3

Day 1 - Ambleside to Coniston

The first day begins from Ambleside with a belly full of breakfast from the bakery, and a pack full of jelly babies and pasties.  Luckily it hugs the valley bottoms in the main, apart from a small pull out from town onto the base and contouring around Loughrigg Fell to Elterwater.  The countryside is gently undulating pastureland, and just the thing for soothing jangled city nerves and warming up sedentary muscles after a 4am start.

A jar at Elterwater and then gaining ground to a perfect footbridge at Little Langdale, where the path becomes sketchy by old quarries.  Over the top and the way opens up a little - we collect firewood and adjust straps in the languid air.

After Tilberthwaite, we make the first of many detours this week, climbing sharply up to the flatlands around Crook Beck.  Here the afternoon light and mid fell magic take over, and we amble lazily amongst the grasses slowly making our way to Coniston.  Under Red Gill Head is bewitching, this place is its own.

A classic first day mistake sees us walking too long and aiming for Low Water, but we run out of puff and camp half way up the Old Man of Coniston down from Scrow Beck.  An inauspicious first night under the new tarp, much faffing, condensation and bright moonlight.

distance: 9.98m/16.06km
elevation range: 361ms
map here

Day 2 - Coniston to Harter Fell

We move slowly through mining ruins to arrive at Low Water under Coniston Old Man at about 10am, and watch the cloud roll in.  Its a fine spot for a second breakfast.

After stopping at the summit for a while we step left onto Dow Crag, which looks enormous but takes us less time than we think.  By lunchtime it is very busy, we make for the rocky, knee-busting descent of the Walna Scar road - less painful for us than the gurning mountain bikers going up, by the look of things.  

As the afternoon temperature rises, we enter the enchanting world of the Dunnerdale forest.  Sweet farmland in the first flush of green, and stepping stones across bubbling rivers show another side of this Land of Lakes to the rugged mining and climbing country of our morning's walk.  In even sharper contrast the valley and woodlands are deserted, and offer tranquil respite from Sunday peak bagging - simple, silent, with trees.

The light charms our gentle ascent onto higher ground by Grassguards, where the going gets not boggy but downright swampy.  Through the FSC plantations and out to Hardknott forest, where efforts are being made to restore indigenous woodland once again. 

We stop for a break, to dry the tarp and our feet, then walk gently down towards Eskdale.  It is past Harter Fell and nearly 6pm when we stop early for the light, and the view of the central fells.

A fantastic wild camp barely an hour from Eskdale village, with wood fire (with stove and base to protect the ground) and a flat grassy pitch, the sun hits the sea in a shower of early summer sparks and an hour later moonrise behind Harter Fell.

distance 7.8 miles or 12.5 km
elevation range 660 ms approx
map here

Day 3 - Harter Fell to Black Sail Hut

A much colder night but more comfortable with the tarp poles in an A frame.  As we pack a couple we met briefly on day 1 came to say hallo.  Matt and Sharon were great company for most of day 3, down into Eskdale, over to Wasdale and onto Black Sail Pass.

From Eskdale the ground becomes wide open moorland with Pillar and Scafell standing sentinel and hunting birds hovering over unseen prey.  It feels old around here, ancient drove roads and peat huts speak of past lives worked short and hard. 

At Burnmoor tarn the weather grows murky for a while whilst we negotiate the several paths down to a pub lunch at Wasdale Head.  Baked potato!  Decisions about whether to stop early for the day were made for us, as the campsite here has no showers.  A great gear shop sold us the BMC map.

Onwards, and past shepherds training errant collies high up through Black Sail Pass to high drama and late light on the Gables.  We part our good company and dither over whether to take the right hand path to Styhead Tarn, another wishful wild-campsite.  But its too late and the weather looks as if it might turn on a pin, so we reluctantly follow the others down to find a grassy pitch next to the River Liza, just out of sight of the historic Black Sail Hut.  Its still a magnificent spot and what it lacks in drama it makes up for in security as the clouds come in a little.  

We have realised we are not eating enough and resolve to change both amount and types of food - less sugars and more proteins and carbs are needed, especially whilst we find our feet again.  Thankfully eating is less of a chore than carrying the stuff, and we fill up with oodles of noodles whilst the river fills our ears with all the colours of the frequency spectrum.  Pink noise means I sleep like an angel.

distance: 10.6m or 17km
elevation range 500ms approx
map here