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]

Tuesday 30 May 2023

Tarn Crag (Sleddale) (NY488078; 664m)

Tuesday 30 May 2023
Start Point: Pull in on B6261 just W of J39 (NY573123). A better start point, even in a Bertie-sized vehicle, would have been at the start of the minor road that leads up Wet Sleddale.
Distance and ascent: 24.8km, 720m
Weather: gloriously sunny, albeit with a slightly cool breeze. 9 degrees at start, notably warmer by finish.

I’ve been up a lot of nice hills since Conrad gently coerced me into Marilyn bagging some years ago. I’ve also been up some pretty uninteresting, and dare I say, pointless 'hills'. All of the latter category were made worthwhile today, for if I hadn’t persisted in the collection of these summits I wouldn’t have found myself walking up Wet Sleddale, which was a magnificent place to be under a glorious blue sky - moreover as the dry conditions meant that it didn't live up to its name.

My long-held plan had been to approach this hill from Sadgill – a location not accessible to a vehicle of Bertie’s size. Last July I drove up Long Sleddale to Sadgill and having done so wasn’t in any rush to drive that road again (4.5 miles of overgrown hedges such that Erica was often being brushed on both sides, fortunately I only met two other vehicles although one was a bin lorry!) but as I was driving support for Mick that day I wasn’t at liberty to go and bag my hill.

With a bike at my disposal this week, I thought it would be a good solution to cycle in to Sadgill from the A6. Reading the logs on, to see if I could glean any information about ascending Tarn Crag via Stockdale and Great Howe (so as to make a circuit of the outing, descending via the main track from the Gatescarth Pass), I happened upon a single mention of someone approaching from Shap. That held great appeal: as we were spending the night there, we wouldn’t have to drive anywhere, meaning Mick could have a lie-in. I perused the map and quickly came up with a plan.

Having used the track over the Gatescarth Pass via Sadgill a number of times before, and having never been into Wet Sleddale (and I doubt I ever would have found a reason to but for this hill), I was happy indeed to find myself there today – even though I found myself bare-leggedly wading through a patch of nettles within metres of leaving the A6 (I didn’t take that short-cut on the way back)! Once beyond the reservoir, the old, often grassy track was a delight. The first view of Mosedale Cottage bothy was impressive too – a glow of white paint on a building that was larger than I expected, nestled against some trees far up the valley.

It was just before 0930 when I reached my summit and the breeze up there was a little cool on my bare arms and legs, but not enough to make me reach for an extra layer. I took in the hazy views, took some snaps, looked up where the official summit lay, visited all other contenders for the high point, let Mick know my progress, and headed off to retrace my steps. A few minutes later I passed the only person I saw the whole time I was out (the day after a Bank Holiday, and during school holidays; I’ll wager that few valleys further west were as quiet!).

It was some hours later, when I looked at the map, that I realised that with minimal thought I could have made a lollipop of the walk by taking the E ridge to drop down to the S side of Wet Sleddale Reservoir. Careless of me not to notice at the time, but it was no great hardship to enjoy the valley in the opposite direction – particularly with the sun having moved such that it was now being shown off to better advantage.

I’d expected the descent to be quicker than it was. I reckon someone had been out and snuck a whole lot of ascent into the return leg that I’m sure hadn’t been there two hours earlier.     

In case I’ve not conveyed already: it was an excellent outing, even with the incident where I plunged both feet into the only bit of bog around. It’s rather a shame I didn’t have Mick with me, as it would very much have been his cup of tea too, but his legs were resting after his far harder efforts yesterday.

Snaps from the day:

Lovely grassy track 

Looking up the valley to Mosedale Cottage, far away (first snap) then closer to (second snap) 

Summit selfie

Looking east, approaching the reservoir. The view this way had been marred by the sun on the outward leg. 

Meanwhile back at Bertie:
There seems to be a cow at the door... 
The look on a cow's face when it's just been caught playing knock-and-run