The Road goes ever on and on; Down from the door where it began;
Now far ahead the Road has gone; And I must follow, if I can;
Pursuing it with eager feet; Until it joins some larger way;
Where many paths and errands met; And whither then? I cannot say.

[JRR Tolkien, Lord of the Rings]

Friday, 29 August 2008

The Lakes: Thursday Afternoon

By the time we had wended our way up north, concluded our business in George Fisher and stocked up with suitable food at Booths, it was approaching 3pm and time to make a move into the hills.

Up to Mosedale we drove and then took the dead-end road past Swineside. We’d walked along the Caldew valley to that roadhead early last year and I recalled that just beyond the end of the road there are some parking areas. We abandoned the car in one of them and by just gone 3pm we were hot-footing it up Grainsgill Beck.
Mick contemplates how to cross a side stream
Two things were immediately remarkable. Firstly visibility was going to be absolutely appalling. That mountain weather forecast I’d seen, which suggested that although it would be drizzly, the cloud would be high, was only right on one count: it was drizzly. The other notable feature was the mud. It keeps being mentioned on the wireless that this has been the wettest August on record and from the state the ground where we walked I think that Cumbria may have borne the brunt of England’s wetness. Still, I’ve always maintained that a walk is not a walk unless you find mud; on that basis this was shaping up to be a King of Walks!
From the road-head, looking at the prospect of low cloud

Lingy Hut is a very good navigational aid when walking up this particular hillside, but it was useless to us yesterday completely obscured by cloud as it was. Remarkably, however, we managed to pick the right point at which to cross the Gill and over to Coomb Height we went before heading over to Knott.

The vague plan had been that we would find a pitch somewhere around Knott – off to the right of the ridge between there and Great Sca Fell looked likely from the map. The plan was being somewhat hampered though by the appalling visibility. There was no standing on the hillside surveying the surroundings and choosing a likely spot before going to check it out. Instead there was just blind stumbling around, hoping to find somewhere flat.

With no pitch jumping out at us we figured that we may just as well collect some water, so as to give us the option of a ridge-top pitch (not a favoured option on this occasion as the wind, which the forecast told us should have dropped by mid-afternoon was still strongly in evidence), so a diversion was made in search of a stream. It wasn’t the best stream I’ve ever encountered. The water looked like this:

We desperately searched the area by the stream for any land that was even approaching flat and level (we'd already written off the chances of finding anywhere dry too).

Within a few minutes we gave the area up and decided that we were more likely to find a spot up on one of the tops, so on we headed.

Great Sca Fell was taken in and then, having considered the map, a big circuit of Yard Steel was made on a pitch-finding mission.

Alas, nowhere was jumping out at us and even on our lowest standards as to what constitutes campable land we were struggling.

More poring over the map and we decided that the only thing for it, given the conditions, was to descend. It wasn’t an overly happy conclusion given that it would mean having to regain the height in the morning, but time was ticking on, plus the temperature was falling. I was now regretting my ‘it’s summer’ selection of my Featherlight Smock and wishing for my Fuera, and out came my jacket, hat and gloves. With the wind-driven mizzle now penetrating my trousers, I was also rather wishing for a pair of waterproof trousers, but given what I had available to me, I opted to suffer the wet legs.

Over towards Meall Fell we headed and then downwards from the ridge.

We were almost upon the ruined sheepfold when we saw it and immediately we saw that it had potential. A quick look around the surrounding area told me that there was nothing better in the immediate vicinity, but did reveal a crystal clear stream a dozen paces away. Compare and contrast water sources: from streams on the opposite side of the same hill (we used the one on the right!)

Up went the tent, and in we climbed. Then we nearly moved because we now realised that desperation may have clouded our perception of the levelness of the pitch, however, another round of the nearby area still showed nowhere better, so we settled down for another night suffering from Wendy’s Slippery Bottom (the seam sealant apparently didn't resolve the problem).

Sitting there, tea in hand, considering where to walk next (particularly considering that we’d already done a good chunk of our intended route), we reluctantly concluded that if the weather didn’t get any better then there was no point continuing.

Wendy Warmlite, and lots of cloud

Whilst there’s a perverse enjoyment to be had from successfully navigating through cloud, and conquering ‘interesting’ underfoot conditions, to have continued our intended route without visibility really would have been an exercise in walking to hilltops purely for the sake of it, and that didn’t greatly appeal.

So, we retired for the night not knowing whether the morning would bring a good walk over some more tops, or a swift return to the car being home by noon.


  1. ah the joys of a lakeland bank holiday

  2. Great stuff hey - nothing like a bit of mist and the like to make it the normal Lakes welcome.