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]

Thursday 2 June 2016

Whitfell, Hardknott, Harter Fell

Another really excellent day has been had under the most stunning of blue skies. In fact, my afternoon of hanging around in Eskdale (amongst other things, sitting on a bench outside the church which is conveniently within range of a BT wifi hotspot and steps away from the ice-cream-selling village store) has been as good (although in an entirely different way) as the morning’s hills.

Whitfell (SD159930; 573m)
With a drive up Hardknott Pass featuring in my plan for the morning, the alarm was set especially early today so I could be up and down Whitfell and on the road before most tourists were even thinking about breakfast.

And, if you're going to be up early then what better way to spend those hours of lost sleep than with a gentle walk up firm grass, with rocky outcrops and sea views within sight, under clear skies?

It was a joy! I even took the tiny detour onto one of the rocky outcrops (Buck Barrow) on my way down for no other reason than because it was there. (postscript: bonus! Just discovered it's on various hill lists so an extra tick too.)

Back at Colin it was time to tackle some more tiny roads, with the intention of driving to the top of Hardknott Pass for my next two hills. That plan got modified when the reality of the pass appeared ahead of me. It wasn't so much the thought of getting Colin up to the top, it was the thought of having to crawl back down in first or second gear so as not to have a repeat of the Spanish-smoking-brakes incident. So, I parked at the bottom of the pass and quickly replanned for a circuit taking in:

Hardknott (NY231023; 549m) and Harter Fell (SD218997; 653m)
The first thing I needed to do on this circuit was to get to the top of Hardknott Pass and, as not a single car passed me going in my direction during that 2km (1000' height gain), I didn't have the opportunity to stick out my thumb, so I walked.
Reaching the cairn at the top I was off tarmac for the rest of the outing (ignoring the few paces to cross the pass to get to my next hill) and onto a path which I'd read is 'intermittent'. I lost it on the way up and took what was, perhaps, a slightly harder route than was necessary. I managed to follow it on my way back down.

A particularly big grin on the summit

Crossing the road to get to Harter Fell I fully expected a path. After all, there are paths everywhere in Lakeland and surely lots of people choose to approach this hill from the top of the pass? For a while there was a trodden line too, per my expectations, but then I lost it shortly after a stile and a huffing-and-puffing yomp ensued until I picked it up again. Then I lost it again. Taking the direct line, I was heartened by the sight of a person not far above me and hoped she was on a path (whilst also hoping she wasn't going to think I was on the path and head in my direction). She wasn't, but the going from there was easy.

With its two big rocky tors, and stunning views over, well, lots and lots of hills actually, but most notably the Scafells... was a magnificent place to be. I visited both of the tors, just to be sure, although I was pretty sure that the first one I went up (the one nearest to the trig) was the highest.

Two chaps at the trig were intent on not speaking to me, save for a cursory 'hello' (goodness, how can anyone British not mention the weather to a stranger when in the midst of a spell like this?!), so after a little tour of the summit, down I went.

A ridiculous excess of cairns made sure I couldn't possibly miss the line of the path down to the bridleway which took me back to Colin.

In deciding not to take any lunch with me on this outing I'd calculated my expected timing and estimated that I'd be back at noon. It was one minute past when I blipped Colin's blipper and climbed into his superheated interior. Lunch had to wait a while longer as I was parked on such a wonk there that food preparation was not feasible!

With the options of finding another hill to fill my afternoon or just sitting around I opted for the latter today - and have had a jolly good time of it. All I'm lacking for perfection is Mick, but an exchange of emails this afternoon (I have no phone signal, or I would have just spoken to him!) has arranged a plan for a rendezvous tomorrow night, meaning that I will have company for my weekend's hills.


  1. We will be in Seathwaite, Duddon Valley this weekend if you are in the area.

    1. As you may have seen, as Mick came to join me for the weekend, I made his journeys to and from work easier by relocating to Elterwater.