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Friday, 18 May 2018

Mallerstang, Baugh Fell & wild boar Fell.

A very favourable weather forecast.. For once coincided with a planned 3 day trip over the bank holiday weekend. I chose to visit an area I'd never been to before - the Upper Eden Valley, my planned route was roughly 36 miles, starting from Kirkby Stephen, taking in Nine Standard's  Rigg, Mallerstang edge, out to as far as Ure Head before dropping to the valley, then heading out to Baugh Fell, returning back to Kirkby Stephen via Swarth Fell, Wild Boar Fell-from where I detoured a little to Look down on Sand Tarn, then onto The Nab, Little Fell, Green law Rigg before returning back to my van.

The large Free Car Park in Kirby Stephen provided a handy starting point, it was already quite warm as I shouldered my pack, then with Max in tow, we headed back to the main street, turning left by the church towards Franks bridge. A section of the Coast to Coast path was then followed along quiet country lanes. I love starting a backpack this way.. it gives a real sense of leaving civilisation behind..once the climb into the hills starts I always feel as if a heavy weight is lifted from my shoulders, my mind clears, and then I can fully relax and enjoy the surroundings, the only thing I need to think about is getting to the next waypoint on my route, it's a feeling that is hard to put into words, but for me it's like coming home, to a place where I'm truly at ease and at peace with myself. Backpacking really is good for the soul.

Day 1  10.3 miles ascent 2895 ft.

Franks Bridge.

Views beginning to open out.

Eventually the country lane ended and I joined a path heading up towards Hartley Fell following the stream - which was dry lower down, but flowing further up. From what I've read streams in these parts, and the Yorkshire Dales often display this same characteristic, disappearing under ground at lower elevations, but flowing quite well higher up.

After stopping for max to cool down in Faraday Gill we continued up. Soon Nine Standard Rigg appeared on the sky line and we continued on the top.

Approaching the Nine Standards.

The Nine Standards.

On reaching the Nine Standards ( a line of impressive large cairns ) I met the only people I would see until I reached Wild Boar Fell on day 3. After exchanging pleasantries, I Left them to head a little south to the summit cairn before heading South, South West over a little boggy ground towards Dukerdale.

Emerald green boggy ground.


High Dukerdale.

I decided to stop for lunch here, relaxing in the warmth of the sun whilst taking in the view, one of the nice things about summer backpacking is that you have a lot of daylight hours to play with.. I tend to take more breaks in summer than I do in winter, on the whole its a more relaxed affair.

After around half an hour I continued NW to Tailbridge Hill - another excellent viewpoint !

View from Tailbridge Hill.

Next up was High Pike Hill and I descended SE towards the minor road which I crossed then continued over initially boggy ground, past a few sink hole's where a path ascends to the summit.

Looking back to Tailbridge Hill, from ascent to High Pike Hill.

From there I continued on towards my intended camp spot for the night - High Seat, where I quickly located a very good pitch. A brief look at the map showed a water source not too far away on the Western side of the hill - Sloe Brae Gill which I descended finding a good running supply near to Trough Riggs. With my usual 4 litres added to my pack I ascended back towards the spot I located earlier where I set up camp for the night.

Archy Styrigg from near camp.

Time to Relax.

Pitch on High  Seat.

Sunset from High Seat.

Sunset as seen from my Trailstar.

Once in the Trailstar I removed my Trailshoes allowing my feet to air for a while, before applying Gehwol cream, then fresh dry socks which I covered with a  pair of Rab Vapour barrier Socks- excellent for keeping fresh socks clean and dry around camp, more robust than plastic bags, and only weighing around 50 grams for a size large.

Lighting my meths stove for a brew, I poured myself a single malt whisky then relaxed whilst I waited for the water to boil, reflecting on a perfect day in the hills. The sunset was a good one and after taking a few pics I returned to the Trailstar where I cooked dinner, tonight's menu was a soup starter followed by a summit to eat chicken fajita which was very nice. I don't take freeze dried meals often, I usually prefer my own concoctions - usually based around a pasta n sauce, noodles or instant mash, it is far cheaper than shop bought meals and with a little imagination it's easy to come up with a tasty, filling meal. Desert is usually a chocolate bar.

I woke around 4.30 am, there was some lovely pre dawn colour showing giving signs of a good sunrise, lighting the stove for a coffee I got dressed and once the water was boiled with a coffee in hand I sat in the porch watching the different hues in the sky.

Early morning light on camp.

Sunrise from camp.

Camp on  High seat & moon.

After breakfast and another brew I set of under blue skies towards Archy Styrigg.

Leave no Trace.

Day 2. 12.76 miles ascent 2205 ft.

Although it was early it was already quite warm, today was going to be another warm one !
Archy Styrigg was soon reached then I headed SE passing several large cairns before heading S then SE to Hugh Seat.

Looking Back to Last nights camp.

Continuing South, Little Fell Brae was crossed before ascending to Ure Head then I continued a short way S to the last hill on this side - Sails.

Ure Head from Little Fell Brae.

Ahead lay a long valley walk out to the final destination for the day - Baugh Fell. Following Hell Gill Grains I arrived at a Bridle way which I followed N to Hell Gill Bridge, from where I headed south to How Beck Bridge which was crossed before continuing to Shaw Paddock then down to a minor road.

The road passes under a railway bridge and shortly after I took a waymarked path to Shaw Paddock.
There was some extremely boggy ground here so I left the path to try and find a dryer line further up.
Once I reached Shaw Paddock I had a good look around before ascending Rowan Tree Side topping out at The Haggs , more boggy ground was crossed before I descended via Flust Gill, Joining 'A Pennine Journey ' I followed this W to Rawthey Gill Foot.

Hell Gill Grains.

High Shaw Paddock.

Boggy Oasis on the Hags.

Big Skies, Wide Reaching Views.

Rawthey Gill.

I initially followed Rawthey Gill then branched off to ascend over pathless ground, heading for a prominent gap in the skyline. Further up I followed Broken Gill, collecting very good fast flowing water before topping out near to the East Tarns. From to there I continued to Tarn Rigg Hill before following the wall to Knoutberry Haw where I decided to call it a day and make camp, I considered heading to West Baugh Fell Tarn to shorten the next days walk, but a lovely flat grassy pitch combined with fantastic views convinced me to stay put.  It was a repeat of the previous evening and another good sunset followed.

Camp on Knoutberry Haw.

Home for the night.

After sunset, just before it got dark there was some lovely 'blue hour ' light, I grabbed 1 last pic before retiring to my Trailstar to food,brews & whisky.
Again I awoke around 4.30 am more predawn colour signalled another good sunrise.. 2 in a row! I was being spoiled :-)

'Blue Hour'

Early morning light on Knoutberry How.

After Breakfast and another brew I packed and set of towards West Baugh Fell Tarn .

Day 3. 13.2 miles. Ascent 1775 ft. Descent 3402 ft.

Passing West Baugh Fell Tarn ( forgot to take any pics here, but did get some video footage which can be seen in day 3's video below) I descended towards Rawthey Gill Foot where I stopped to freshen up before a steep climb to Swarth Fell, passing Holmes Moss Hill en-route.

Swarth Fell summit cairn.

From Swarth Fell I descended towards a pool at spot height 619 mtrs , before the final climb of the day - wild Boar Fell. Taking a little detour I peered down on Sand Tarn ( Again I forgot to get any pics, but got footage shown in day 3 )

Once at the summit cairn on Wild Boar Fell I found a spot to have lunch. I noticed quite a few folk in the distance around The Nab... the tranquillity of the last couple of day's was coming to an end.

After lunch I continued to The Nab where I took the last pics of the trip, with a long drive back I descended over easy ground back to Kirkby Stephen.

It had been a wonderful trip - 3 days of near unbroken sunshine, fantastic sunrises/sunsets, light winds and no rain! in a new area to me, and one I will return to again- maybe a winter trip to see it with its winter coat on.

Max and me on The Nab.

Thanks for taking the time to read. Where ever your path takes you, may your journey be a good one..

Till next time, happy Wildcamping.



Thursday, 5 April 2018

Easter in The NW Lakes - Honister to Great Borne

For my Annual Easter Trip I originally planned a 3 day backpack from Grasmere to tick of a handful of remaining Wainrights to the South of Fairfield. A last minute check of the weather showed that instead of a lovely spring camp that I had envisioned the weather had other ideas... Winter was not yet ready to release It's tight grip on the fells. The forecast for the Easter weekend was bleak to say the least- snow sleet showers, strong winds with a wind-chill well into the teens. It also showed that the North western side would fair better, so a rough route was hastily re-planned , maps grabbed, rucksack packed, before an early night so I could be away early the next morning.
I chose to walk a route I last did around 4 yrs ago, but extend it to bag some wainrights in the Loweswater fells with a Wild Camp on Melbreak- a lovely looking spot that I had been eyeing up for some time.
Around 8am on Good Friday I pulled into the small lay-by just before the Honnister slate mine,
The weather was overcast with light winds and no rain - I was hoping it would stay that way!
 Kit readied I got Max out of the van, and we set off towards the slate mine, then taking the quarry track towards Fleetwith Pike.

Lower Flanks of Dale head from Honister  Path

Hut on Honister Slate Mine ... I liked the contrast of the rusty building against the  slate.

The last time I climbed Fleetwith Pike I arrived at the summit in thick clag, so planned on revisiting the summit if it was clear this time... it wasn't- the high tops were in the clouds, so I continued on following the track down to Dubs Hut, smoke coming from the chimney signalling it was occupied. A few pics were taken before I continued on my way.

Dubs Hut.

Crossing Warnscale Beck I continued on to Green Crag, reaching Blackbeck Tarn soon after.

Blackbeck Tarn.

Looking back to Green Crag, with Fleetwith Pike beyond.

Not long after I arrived at what is probably the most famous Tarn in the Lakedistrict - famous for being on Alfred Wainwrights favourite Fell- Innominate Tarn. It is also the area where His ashes were reputedly scattered as per his wishes. Despite being modest in height it is a fell of great character , you could easily spend a half day - in descent weather exploring the many crags here. In His pictorial guide to the Lakeland Fells Wainwright describes it perfectly " Haystacks stands unabashed and unashamed in the midst of a circle of much loftier fells , like a shaggy terrier in the company of foxhounds."

Innominate Tarn

Not long after I reached the summit but for some explicable reason, I only took photo's of the views and not the summit itself ! I did get some video though- you can see this at the end of this blogpost.

Buttermere & Crummock water.

Ahead lay High Crag, looking very moody and imposing with its head in the clouds, from this vantage point it also looked very steep! between myself and the summit lay the minor top of Seat - still steep though and I knuckled down for the climb. The summit of high crag is hidden from view on the ascent to Seat, giving a false sense of security- as when you think you've reached the top, you top out at seat and High crag is still a steep climb from here.

High Crag from Haystacks.

Haystacks, Fleetwith Pike beyond.

Robinson, Hindscarth, Dale Head & Fleetwith Pike.

Great Gable from Seat.

Soon I reached High Crag, ahead lay one of my favourite ridge walks in the lakes- High Crag to Great Borne. I've walked  this ridge a few times and the views are always spectacular ! On my last visit to this area - a 3day trip taking in Kirk Fell , Looking Stead ( I spent the night here ) before climbing Pillar then descending to Ennerdale Forest before climbing to Red Pike ( where I spent the 2nd night ). On the third day I walked this ridge in reverse, over Haystacks then back to Honnister pass. The last time I walked the full ridge was around 4 - 5yrs ago - I descended to camp at Floutern Tarn on that occasion... this time I wanted to camp on Great Borne.

High Crag summit cairn.

View to High Stile.

Little Dodd, Starling Dodd beyond.

Continuing on I passed over red pike before descending to Little Dodd then onto Starling Dodd. By now it was late afternoon and my thoughts turned to tonight's camp. A short descent to Red Gill provided excellent water for camp, with my usual 4 ltrs added to my pack I set off towards Great Borne to find a pitch for the night.
Once at the summit, I began looking for a pitch. The summit area is quite rocky but I located a couple of likely spots near the summit cairn, both were fairly exposed though, and with winds forecast to strengthen over night I knew the Trailstar would need secure anchoring. I checked the ground but getting good anchor points was difficult so I continued my search - shame as it had terrific views, and was fairly flat. Not long after I found a lovely spot which ticked all the boxes - flat soft grass, dry with fantastic views and good solid pegging ground . Soon my shelter for the night was pitched and I relaxed in the late afternoon sun with a brew. There was a decent sunset, and after taking a few pics I settled down for the night.

Mountain Laurel Designs Trailstar on Great Borne.

Pitch on Great Borne looking towards Grasmoor

Starling Dodd, Red pike & High Stile.

Floutern Tarn.

Sunset from Great Borne pitch.

The next day I was planning on ticking of a handful of Wainwrights' in the Loweswater Fells. So with a nice single malt for company I looked over the map to plan next days route. My evening meal was a summit to eat Beef stew with potatoes- first time trying these, and I must say it was one of the tastiest freeze dried meals I've tried so far ! will defiantly be buying more of these.

Tasty Camp Grub.

The rest of the evening was spent gazing out watching distant lights come on , then later I watched Meru - a film documentary following 3 elite climbers as they took on the Sharks fin on mount Meru in India, said to be one of the worlds most difficult peaks- well worth watching if you've not seen it already. Around 6am I was awoken by strong winds and sleet showers, I made myself a coffee then thoughts turned to the day ahead, for some reason I was very reluctant to move on - very little motivation, down to the weather I thought. I decided I would leave the Loweswater Fells for a better day, and return the way I'd come and see if I could find a sheltered spot around Seat or Haystacks before walking out the next day. Once packed away I headed back towards Red Pike... it was very hard going walking straight into 30 - 40mph winds, so I decided to descend to the valley and follow the path towards Black Sail Hut. Once at valley level it was a much more comfortable walk, I planned to ascend to seat via Scarth Gap Pass, but as I neared the turn off point I began to feel unwell. considering my options I descided to head back- this turned out to be a good decision, as shortly before I reached my van I began to shiver, which combined with a headache made me a little nauseous. By the time I reached the van I was shaking uncontrollably and with heater on full I tried to warm up , I was well layered and its the first time I have felt like this - I knew then I'd made the right decision to return home - to stay would have been foolish. Once home, the effects lasted around 48 hrs, I felt drained and ached all over, can only assume I caught some kind of bug as I'm fine now.

Thanks for taking the time to read , and above all else- stay safe out there.

Till next time,
Happy Wildcamping.