Summer in the Lake District certainly has given us a wide variety of weather. When the weather’s good and there’s a free day, I’m making the most of it all and exploring the Lake District mountains, sometimes with family members, sometimes on my own, but never totally alone since people are always so friendly on the tops, sharing news about where they’ve walked from and where they’re going! Below are some of the highlights of the last few weeks…
Wednesday August 17: A memorable day on the rough, rugged and very rocky roof of England! England’s highest mountain, Scafell Pike, the very top! I got there at 12 noon surrounded by greyness – in the rocks, clouds and views. The path to the summit over Ill Crag and Broad Crag involves crossing over big boulders. Wainwright on Scafell Pike: “Roughness and ruggedness are the necessary attributes (of a mountain), and Scafell Pike has these in greater measure than other high ground in the country…Crags are in evidence on all sides, and big areas of the upper slopes lie devastated by a covering of piled-up boulders, a result of the volcanic upheavals that laid waste to the mountain during its formation. The landscape is harsh, even savage, and has attracted to itself nothing of romance or historical legend. There is no sentiment about Scafell Pike.”
I went up Bowfell too: “Rank Bowfell among the best half-dozen!” (Wainwright)…
From Dungeon Ghyll Old Hotel, Great Langdale to Bowfell 902m (2,959 ft) via Oxendale & Hell Ghyll, then along the ridge to Esk Pike 885 m (2,904 ft), Great End 910 m (2,990 ft) and finally onto Scafell Pike 978 m (3,209 ft). Return via Rossett Pike 651 m (2,136 ft), Angle Tarn and Mickleden. A mix of cloud, mist and sunny spells, no wind, no rain, perfect for walking! There were lots of people on Scafell Pike, including many families with young children, some as young as 5! Total: 22.07 km, 1,409 m of ascent, 7 hours walking, 10 hours total time.
There’s also a memorial plaque on the summit of Scafell Pike, with the words: ‘In perpetual memory of the men of the Lake District who fell for God and King, for freedom, peace and right in the Great War. 1914 – 1918. This summit of Scafell was given to the nation subject to any commoners rights & placed in custody of the National Trust by Charles Henry Baron Legonfield 1919’.
Tuesday August 23: The weather forecast was not so good, so we brightened up a misty day by walking among heather of all shades of pink and purple on Lingmoor Fell 469m (1,540ft). This is the mountain to climb when the higher tops promise to be in the clouds. Ascent from Elterwater in Great Langdale via the quarry (run by Burlington Slate). ‘Ling’ in the name ‘Lingmoor’ means ‘heather’ and there’s 3 kinds growing on UK mountains, all beautiful!
Thursday August 25: “Positively one of the finest ridge-walks in Lakeland’ (Wainwright)! An early start for the Oxendale Horseshoe from Dungeon Ghyll Old Hotel, Great Langdale up Oxendale via Red Tarn to Pike O’Blisco 705m (2314ft), then to Cold Pike 700m (2297ft) and along the ridge of all 5 crinkles on the Crinkle Crags, including the highest point Long Top: 859m (2,819ft) on the second Crinkle, and along to Bowfell 902 m (2,959 ft) and down via The Band.
This is THE view of Scafell Pike & Scafell, visible from all over the Lake District, this one taken from Bowfell….
Crinkle Crags officially has 5 crinkles, but it seemed way more than that – so many crinkles, so many rock buttresses, so many cairns on the tops! The famous ‘Bad Step’ on Crinkle 2 has an alternative route, don’t worry!
It was cloudy all morning, misty along the Crinkles, then the sun came out on Bowfell and stayed out all afternoon. Total: 17.5 km, 1,234 m of ascent.
Saturday August 27: Amazing weather for August Bank Holiday Weekend doing the Coniston Round from Coniston village, out along the Walna Scar Road and up the ridge to Brown Pike, Buck Pike and Dow Crag 778m (2,552 ft) with its steep rock faces high above Goats Water…
Then on to the highest point of Old Man of Coniston, aka Coniston Old Man, 803m (2,635 ft) where the mist was swirling around. Along to Brim Fell, then very nearly almost the highest point of Swirl How 802m (2631 ft) – officially only one metre lower than the Old Man, and then to Great Carrs where the aeroplane (Halifax Bomber) memorial is located…
“Halifax LL505 came to grief on Great Carrs in the Lake District on the night of 22nd October 1944 whilst on a night navigation exercise from Topcliffe in Yorkshire. Its crew; seven Canadians and one Scot, encountered very thick cloud whilst over the north-west of England, they circled the aircraft hoping the cloud would clear but this made them even more lost. The pilot then descended so the navigator could get a visual fix on the ground but by this stage it was flying too low in the heart of the Lakes. In a few seconds the aircraft hit the top of Great Carrs and crashed killing all on board.” Very poignant.
Then up to Grey Friar 770m (2,530 ft) above Seathwaite Tarn, & back to Swirl How, down Prison Band and onto Wetherlam 763m (2,502 ft). Descent from Swirl Hawse to Levers Water (for paddling) & the Coppermines Valley, with a large number of disused copper mines & slate quarries. The place is oozing with mining history. It’s now also a wedding venue.
“Although cruelly scarred and mutilated by quarries the Old Man has retained a dignified bearing, and still raises his proud and venerable head to the sky. His tears are shed quietly, into Low Water and Goats Water, two splendid tarns, whence, in due course, and after further service to the community in the matter of supplies of electricity and water, they ultimately find their way into Coniston’s Lake, and there bathe his ancient feet” (Wainwright).
A day with great views of Scafell Pike in the distance & everything in-between, even distant views to the Isle of Man. Misty spells and clouds, with lots of sunshine, no rain. Perfect weather! Total: 23.7 km, 1,347m altitude gain.
Monday August 29: A White Heather Day for Bank Holiday Monday on the spectacular Helvellyn Ridge! Ascent from Patterdale, starting in the drizzle and swirling mists, to Arnison Crag, Birks and St. Sunday Crag 841 m (2,759 ft). Apparently, St. Sunday is a local name of St. Dominic, meaning ‘of the Lord’ as in AD ‘Anno Domini’ (‘Year of the Lord’)….
Then down to Grisedale Tarn and up onto the Helvellyn Ridge: first to Dollywaggon Pike 858 m (2,815 ft) and Nethermost Pike 891 m (2,923 ft), with great views of Striding Edge, then to the highest point of Helvellyn 950 m (3,118 ft) just coming out of the mist at midday. Onwards north to Helvellyn Lower Man, White Side 863 m (2,831 ft) and finally Raise 883 m (2,897 ft) where the Lake District Ski Club have a ski lift for use in winter. Descent via Sticks Pass through the heather (including one clump of real genuine white heather!) & through the old lead mining area – most of the old slag heaps are now covered in heather – up to Sheffield Pike 675 m (2,215 ft), ending with a steep descent to Glenridding. Morning: drizzle and mist, afternoon: cloudy but dry. Total: 24.31 km, 1,567 m altitude gain.
Tuesday August 30: Not strictly a mountain, but there were stunning views and amazing scenery at Humphrey Head 52 m (172 ft), a long limestone outcrop with a natural arch near Grange-Over-Sands on Morecambe Bay, with windblown hawthorn trees full of haws, lots of yummy blackberries, steep limestone outcrops and plenty more. There’s an interesting fact on Wikipedia: “Humphrey Head is the traditional location for the killing of the last wolf in England, in about 1390…” and do google the rock-climbing videos of Humphrey Head, esp. ‘Back into the Future’: incredible!
Wednesday August 31: Wetherlam 763 m (2502 ft) really does deserve respect and a whole day to itself, without being included in ridgewalks to any other fells. “Wetherlam features prominently in Brathay views like a giant whale surfacing above waves of lesser hills.” (Wainwright). Early morning ascent from Tilberthwaite (free parking), via the remains of the disused copper mines (mostly fenced off) and slate quarries, up Wetherlam Edge, along the ridge (it was very chilly!) and down to join the lovely grassy Tilberthwaite Gill path. Fascinating to peer into the old quarries and see the remains of the derelict buildings.
Wikipedia: “In the past Wetherlam was extensively exploited for its mineral resources. The slopes on all sides are pitted with disused copper mines and slate quarries, making it the most industrialised of the Lake District fells. The workings are on a small scale, however, and, according to Alfred Wainwright, unobtrusive: “this fine hill… is too vast and sturdy to be disfigured and weakened by man’s feeble scratchings of its surface.”
Wetherlam is one of our old favourites, it is just so special!
Thursday September 1: Whitbarrow Scar 215 m (705 ft) is also (like Humphrey Head) not strictly a mountain – though mentioned in Wainwright’s ‘Outlying Fells of Lakeland’ as one of his favourites in the area – it’s a huge limestone outcrop, with lots of limestone pavement, and really spectacular. Full of fungi, sloes, blackberries and haws – signs of autumn!
Friday September 2: the last day of this current fine spell of weather, and the last weekday before schools go back next week. Having tried to go into Ambleside a few days ago and not finding a single parking place, so I decided to walk there and back, via Wansfell Pike 486.9 m (1,597 ft), down into Ambleside via Stockghyll Force, and back along the lower road that leads to Robin Lane in Troutbeck. 21 km round-trip. This was sunrise – the views were good!
Summer is ending, the Lake District is clearing of its vast summer crowds, although it still feels very full of people in the main towns. Signs of autumn arrived early a few weeks ago – red rowan berries, blackberries, hazelnuts, autumn crocus, cuckoo pint …..
And finally some photos of Troutbeck, where I’m staying, taken over the summer on nice sunny days. It’s a beautiful place, starting with Jesus Church, Troutbeck…
Some butterflies (small tortoiseshell, left, and red admiral, right) to wish you all a good start to the new school year and Happy Autumn!