Blog Post 21
Date: Saturday 19th September
Wainwright count: 4
Wainwrights: Lingmell, Scafell Pike, Scafell and Slight Side
Who with: Susie, the Patterdale Terrier! J
Distance: 11.5 miles
So, today’s the day…the last four of my 214 Wainwrights! My good friend and walking companion, JP, was supposed to be joining me for this walk, but had to work at the last minute, so I was left to decide whether to wait till he was free to join me, or to do it solo. I saw that the weather forecast was for a glorious day, so I decided to go it alone, well with Susie, who always loves a good fell walk!
So, it was an early start from Skelwith Bridge for Susie and I, which helped us to try and avoid the traffic over the passes towards Wasdale. We reached the first pass, Wrynose that we had to cross at 6.30am and this proved perfect timing, so we could enjoy the sun rise, which was spectacular. I thought I would have the vantage point to myself, but some keen photographers had their tri-pods at the ready waiting for their shot of the sun rise!
Insert photo of sunrise
After an enjoyable drive over the passes, and not having seen another car, I arrived in Wasdale, where I parked on the village green, before setting off on the footpath towards the foot of Lingmell Fell. Setting off from the car, I had mixed emotions, in that I was looking forward to the walk ahead, but having lost my mum last year, I was sad that she wasn’t around to see me finally finish my Wainwright project, as it was my parents who had brought me up walking and where my passion stemmed from. But, I knew she would be looking down on Susie and I, which was a comforting consolation.
Upon reaching the foot of Lingmell, we began the arduous climbing of the grassy slope, following the path steeply for around a mile, which was tough going on the legs for first thing in the morning! It reminded me of my ascent up the South side of Kirk Fell, which was only around a mile from my current position. That was even steeper and a route that I vowed I would not do again for a very long time.
We followed the path to the summit of Lingmell, which was crowned with a summit cairn and masses of exposed rock, which was coated in the start of the morning mist which still clung to the higher fells in this area. After a few minutes, to soak in the scenery and catch my breath, we continued Eastwards off the summit, onto the path leading up Scafell Pike. This path was clear and the numerous piles of rock on its route did their job in the dense mist, acting as markers towards the top of this overly popular mountain.
I like Scafell Pike as a mountain, but I struggle with the masses of people, many ill-equipped, who walk it, so that they can say that they have reached the top of England. I am all for encouraging people onto the fells, but many underestimate the conditions on the tops, as ‘because it is sunny in the valley, doesn’t mean it is the same on the tops…’! An example from this walk was after I had dropped down from the rather misty summit of Scafell Pike towards Mickledore, where a group of rather ill-equipped ‘walkers’ (if I can use this term loosely) wearing jeans, trainers and a t-shirt, with no bag, map or water reached the top, after scrambling up the gully. They looked rather nervous and a bit shook up, and when asked if they were ok, they responded ‘we weren’t expecting that’.
After chatting with the chaps, they had just decided to have a ‘wander up’ to the top, and admitted they were nervous scrambling up a few minutes ago, adding that they didn’t think they needed a map, as there were lots of people heading up. I took a deep breath, and highlighted to them that they were about to head up into the mist, and even up Scafell Pike, it was easy to head off the path and lose your bearings, if they had them in the first place, especially in the mist! They said ‘ahh…don’t worry, we will be ok’. This wound me up, but it just highlighted to me that this is what the Mountain Rescue team in Wasdale must face on an almost daily basis….to me a complete disregard of theirs and others’ safety.
Anyway, I wasn’t up here to get stressed, I have enough of that Monday – Friday, so I headed down the path towards Eskdale, before taking a sharp right a few hundred metres along the path, heading steeply up towards Foxes Tarn. I had Susie with me, so opted away from heading up Lord’s Rake, and I hadn’t been up this route before, so exploring new areas is always enjoyable. Enjoyable though is not what I would call the steep climb up towards the tarn, which was a bit of a lung burster for me, Susie skipped up though!
Upon reaching the ‘tarn’, which was mostly dried up, we continued up the steep path up from the South of Scafell towards the top, which provided me with a breather, as compared to earlier segments of this walk, it was pretty much flat. This offered a chance to get some much needed air into my system, before reaching my penultimate Wainwright top. The mist lifted to just above Scafell’s altitude, my current location, and provided a view towards my final Wainwright, Slight Side. This got me a little more excited now!
Over the next mile towards Slight Side, I had time to reflect on my previous 213 Wainwrights, which had provided me the opportunity to explore an area that I loved and see all of its wonderful valleys and the majority of its fells. I have met hundreds of new people, all of whom have a similar passion and shared time on the hills with the people that I care most about; in my wife, my dad, friends, and last but not least the dogs, Sally and Susie. It has been a project that although I have enjoyed working through, it is one that I didn’t really want to end, but me being me, there will be another project soon enough.
The walk to Slight Side was a lovely pleasant stroll in the sun, before I reached the large rock that is its summit. It was here that we saw the RAF rescue helicopter flying overhead, hopefully training, rather than rescuing! Susie and I perched on the sun drenched rocks, with views out over Eskdale and beyond, which were unreal. It was a lovely few minutes where I thought a bit more about the walks I have done, and what my mum would have said was she here. I could have remained sat there all day and never tired of looking at the Lakeland vista. Truly stunning.
I still had three miles or so back to the car, so I headed West from the summit of Slight Side, towards the Northern head of Burnmoor Tarn, which was a boggy and pathless mile and a half it has to be said, and slow going as a result of this. After crossing the stream, I picked up a sheep track, which led through thick ferns towards the path heading back into the Wasdale Valley towards the back of the National Trust campsite. The sun was blazing now and once back on the path, the walk became a great deal more enjoyable, and provided a rest-bite for my achy limbs.
Upon reaching the campsite, which was extremely busy, it became clear that the masses were here for the fell running race, which was taking place up Lingmell, my first summit. Dozens of wirey bodies were making their way ant-like up and down this brutal hill. I’d found it hard enough walking, never mind running! After a few minutes of spectating, I made my way back towards my car, on the green, which was one of only a handful of cars early in the morning, but was now lost in the masses of vehicles that had invaded this beautiful valley.
Wasdale is an extremely special place, especially on a nice day and the grandeur of the surrounding fells is quite overwhelming and really puts you in perspective to this wonderful landscape. It is a place that I have always loved and having enjoyed many a day and weekend here, will remain one of my favourite Lakeland locations…especially when the crowds disperse, and the snow arrives!
So, what next? I have numerous things on my to-do list, over a longer time scale, I want to walk the Munros, and explore more of Scotland. I also want to walk the Cape Wrath Trail, and visit Loch Hourn and Knoydart. Logistics make this a longer term project for me with all other life’s commitments. I have a week in Glencoe to look forward to in February, with my good friend JP, to enjoy some winter mountaineering, which I am extremely excited about, but seeing that I am always up in the Lake District, nearer-term, I want to re-visit some of the fells and areas that I have really enjoyed walking in Lakeland and explore them even more, as I have only just scratched the surface.
I will keep you posted anyway….now for a pint, as I’ve worked up a thirst with all these walks!