5 Days in The Lakes Part 1

Stratospire near High Raise

Stratospire near High Raise

I wasn’t meant to be here, my original plan was to walk the Skye Trail over a 7 day period and with traveling to the island this would mean I would be away for ten days and with the sale of my house well underway I had to be back within a certain period.  The narrow window of opportunity was spoilt by Hurricane Bertha meaning that the start of the Skye Trail would be delayed.   Option two was go to the Lakes once the weather calmed down a bit.

The plan was to take public transport to Penrith, walk from east to west and then head north to Keswick and then by bus back to Penrith for the train back home.  There was a weather window that I took, the forecast suggesting cool northerly winds with sunshine and feeling rather like early October than late August, so a down jacket was packed along with a few extras that don’t normally make their way out of my kit box at this time of year. Tickets booked I found myself soon changing trains at Manchester Piccadilly on a Tuesday lunchtime with a 15 minute wait for the train to Penrith.

Once I arrived at Penrith, there was a ten minute taxi ride to Askham village below the Far Eastern fells of the Lake District arriving at around 2.30 in the afternoon.

Tuesday 19th August

Askham to Loadpot Hill to Wether Hill to Red Crag to Raven Howe to High Raise

A steady climb out of the village of Askham to attractive common land led up to Loadpot Hill.   On the map, it looks a very obvious route, but dozens of footpaths and sheep trods through waist high bracken weaved their way serpent like across the hillside.  Eventually after a few dead ends in the bracken I found the path that gradually climbed up to the trig point on top of Load pot Hill. The weather had been kind to me, a gentle breeze and the sun was out, but it was not really like August. As I walked southwards, the northerly wind increased with altitude and nipped at my back, feeling cold through my shirt.

Leaving Askham Village

Leaving Askham Village

Heather in bloom

Heather in bloom

On slopes of Load pot Hill

On slopes of Load pot Hill

Trig point at Load pot Hill

Trig point at Load pot Hill

After leaving the summit, I put on I my wind shirt walking on the Roman road of High Street, steadily climbing as I went over Wether Hill and Red Crag, where for the rest of the day’s journey I twisted and turned making my way through bogs on this watershed. Water runs a short journey from the bogs into the becks that led into either Ullswater on the right or the even shorter journey to Haweswater to my left.

Lakes August 2014 011

Shafts of light pour through the clouds

Shafts of light pour through the clouds

I rather like the look of this collapsed stone wall

I rather like the look of this collapsed stone wall

I reached the flat top of High Raise, which unlike many of the fell tops in the area has a good quantity of rock on the summit. The wind had picked up a bit and was blowing from the north west sometimes backing around to the north and as the sun would be setting soon it was now time to find a spot out of the wind for the night. It is always surprising to me how quickly the half past nine, quarter to ten sunsets  become a distant memory of an all too brief glorious midsummer period, even when viewed in mid- August. The balmy days of my last Lakes back pack with Chris Townsend and Terry Abraham in that short midsummer halcyon were already behind me.

Just down from the summit towards the direction of Haweswater, I found a sheltered spot nestled in the lee of the wind, a little shelf of reasonably flat grass. Water tend to be rather scarce on many of the Eastern fell tops, but a couple minutes’ walk down towards High Street, was a tiny tarn, really not much more that a puddle with thoughts of grandeur. I would fill my containers after setting up my camp.

I went through the ritual of setting my stuff out which all seasoned backpackers and wild campers must do each night, blow the mat up, pull out the down bag tightly secured in its small stuff sack, fluff it up and lay it out on the mat. Pull the little stuff sack with all the bits and bobs out of the pack. This goes here, that goes there and I will need that by my meths stove.  Must get my head torch ready so I know where it is when it gets dark – a wild camper’s ritual.

I walked the short way to the tarn and filled the platypus containers with tea coloured water and within minutes had the stove on; water boiling first for tea with the rest of the water for packet minestrone soup, always with croutons. I climbed into my sleeping bag looking out of the tent door at the setting sun, with knees drawn up and warmed by the down, I had my soup and gulps of tea. Soup finished, water is then on for the main meal, Vegetarian Thai Rice. The food may vary, but this part of the day never does. A comfort at the end of the day, a chance to relax and reflect on the day passed and to think about the next leg of one’s journey.

A day's end

A day’s end

Dinner is nearly ready!

Dinner is nearly ready!

Meal over, I took advantage of a 3G signal, next to no signal at home means that outside of work, this is a novelty for me. I took some photos and tweeted them, watched the news on my iphone and checked the weather forecast for tomorrow.

Wednesday 20th August

High Raise to High Street to Thornthwaite Crag to Threshthwaite Mouth to Stony Cove Pike to Caudale Moor to Kickstone Pass to Red Screes to Scandal Pass to Dove Crag to Hart Crag

Sunrise - it's going to be a nice day

Sunrise – it’s going to be a nice day

Riggindale Beck into Haweswater

Riggindale Beck into Haweswater

Approaching High Street

Approaching High Street

I was awake at six, brewed up and used the rest of the hot water for porridge. Packed up and away by eight, walking in brilliant sunshine. The first fell to tackle was High Street, this always looks better when approaching it, than when you arrive at the flat summit which is very un-mountain like. I decide this time to walk on the Hayeswater side rather than the main path and then cut across about 150 metres to the summit.

Blea Water


Leaving the summit of High Street

Leaving the summit of High Street

A quick slug of water and a handful of trail mix and I was away. The path swings to the right, towards Stoney Cove Pike and I headed to the summit of Thornthwaite Crag with its stone built beacon sitting at the top. I dropped down to Threshthwaite Mouth and climbed steeply the 500 feet or so up to Caudale Moor. This ascent was rather tougher going than it looked on the map, with its steep and rocky slopes.  Pausing for a breather before making my way to Stony Cove Pike.

Looking down from Thornthwaite Crag

Looking down from Thornthwaite Crag

The path goes through a gap in a wall at the top and then drops gradually following the stone wall all the way down to Kirkstone Pass. The sun was out and the first batch of day hikers started to appear walking up hill towards me. I continued down, stopping on occasions to answer navigation questions from people walking up.  This is quite a regular occurrence and I guess my appearance as a backpacker rather than a day walker seems to prompt them to ask the way.  Backpackers generally are very few in number when walking any stretch of hills in the UK.

I stopped for a quick lunch break on St Raven’s Edge, whilst the sun was out; I needed to pull on my wind shirt to protect me from the chilly northerly wind. The last section to the road is a steep drop, before levelling out just before the Kirkstone Pass Inn.  Three small wind turbines turned slowly in the breeze guarded by CCTV and a stern yellow warning sign about tampering with these rotating spikes of metal. I assume that these were here to power the Inn by the roadside.

St Ravens's Edge with Lake Windermere in the far distant

St Ravens’s Edge with Lake Windermere in the far distant

Warning CCTV

Warning CCTV

Kirkstone Pass

Kirkstone Pass

I resisted the temptation to stop for a pint and carried on. Red Screes is a steep steep climb out of Kirkstone Pass, and after a lot of up and down already, left me a bit breathless at times, pausing several times before reaching the flat grassy plateau top with a huge mound of stones at one corner.  There was only one couple at the top and I stopped for a quick chat before moving on.

Scandale Pass

Scandale Pass

Another steep drop down to Scandale Pass, with some great views down to Brothers Water on reaching the pass.   Guess what? Another steep ascent the other side of the pass, passing Scandale tarn and close to Little Hart Crag, I made my way, slowing quite considerable by now, as the accumulated ascent and descents took their toll on my leg muscles. Finally the ground levelled out on the ridge up to Dove Crag. It was now late afternoon and time to scout out a camp spot. I needed water and a sheltered spot out of the nagging north wind.  I spied somewhere between Dow and Hart Crag and made for there, scrambling down amongst boulders and boggy ground causing Herdwicks to scatter all over the place.  On a little ledge I pitched my Stratospire, with a great view down the valley.

Seconds night's camp

Seconds night’s camp

Sleep came easy tonight, after a long day. Before I dropped off I listened to the weather forecast, tomorrow was going to be strong winds and heavy rain. I decided that I would change my route, being up on the top of the fells. I would walk along to Fairfield and drop down to Grasmere and decide my route from there.

Thursday 21st August

Hart Crag to Fairfield to Great Rigg to Stone Arthur to Grasmere to  Huntingstile to  Huntingstile Crag to Elterwater to Cumbria Way to Great Langdale National Trust Campsite

The sound of rain drumming on silnylon woke me up just before six. The clouds looked like they would be coming down soon, so I quickly had breakfast and got packed up and got away. Waterproof jacket and trousers on and off I went.

Looking down to Rydal Beck & Windermere in distant LHS & Thirmere RHS

Looking down to Rydal Beck & Windermere in distant LHS & Thirlmere RHS

Up on the ridge, the rain hit me straight in the face, as I staggered about in the high winds. I needed to get to Fairfield and then down to Grasmere. The wind slammed against my left side and then my right as I follow the ridge path as it curved around to Fairfield. I followed the ridge down to Great Rigg with the wind and rain pushing me southwards. At Great Rigg I took the right hand path to Stone Arthur and then the very steep path near to Grasmere.

Walking from Fairfield to Great  Rigg

Walking from Fairfield to Great Rigg


A solitary tree gave me shelter as the heavy rain turned torrential.  Streams suddenly appeared running down any path or sheep trod on the hillside.  I trudged down in the pouring rain reaching the edge of town through a wooded section of path.

Grasmere is somewhere down in that cloud

Grasmere is somewhere down in that cloud

Looking back towards Stone Arthur

Looking back towards Stone Arthur

Grasmere’s streets were awash. I stopped at the Co-op to use the cash machine, dripping all over the ATM, before moving on to find somewhere suitable to stop for a bite to eat. A warm bakery smell wafted around me and I stepped inside  a small cafe and sat down with a hot pastie and a big mug of tea and took advantage of free Wi-Fi.

Refreshed and somewhat drier, I stepped out into the rain, which, I couldn’t believe was actually coming down harder than before. My destination for tonight was Great Langdale, I had decided to stay down in the valley rather than back on the fells, although I not sure it could be any wetter, but I guess the wind would be less. I crossed over the fells at the lowest point walking from Huntingstile Lodge into Elterwater. The rain kept falling harder and harder and I just carried on walking. It was a real test for my waterproof jacket and trousers, and they did just fine.

The track from Huntingstile

The track from Huntingstile

Huntingstile Crag

Huntingstile Crag

Looking down at Elterwater

Looking down at Elterwater

At Elterwater I joined the Cumbria Way and walked the remaining miles. Rain rain rain, it just kept coming without a let up, well maybe for a minute or two at a time. It had been raining stair-rods for 7 hours solid and with no let up, it was head down and march on.

Heading to Great Langdale along the Cumbria Way

Heading to Great Langdale along the Cumbria Way

The National Trust campsite was where I was heading. Eventually I saw the New Dungeon Ghyll Hotel and within 10 minutes I was booking in at the site. It was just after half past three and the rain was still coming down. Most of the field where the tents were, was under water, but I spotted a high spot which was also flat.  I quickly put up my tent, well as fast as I could given that the ground was full of stones and rocks, hammering in my Easton nails and Clam- cleats with a handy rock to secure the tent.

I sorted out my gear and found that there was a drying room. My socks and Salomon trail shoes which are unlined were saturated. As I opened the door,the smell of wet socks, and damp boots hit me along with probably 90 degree heat. Every shelf and hook seemed to be taken, but I found a small place for my socks and shoes. A nice hot shower followed. Back at the tent water was on for soup, tea and then for a Vegetarian Spaghetti Bologonese, which was very tasty.

There was no phone signal at all at the site, so I wasn’t distracted, by emails, texts or tweets. I listened to Radio 4 and read a few chapters of a novel on my Iphone before turning out the light. As I settled down for the night the last of the day’s rain finally petered out. It had been raining pretty much for 15 hours!

Part 2 soon





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30 Responses to 5 Days in The Lakes Part 1

  1. Paul Byrne says:

    Good detailed account Mark, well illustrated with some fine photos.

  2. GeoffC says:

    Grand route with plenty of up and down, and a real mix of conditions to test the spirit. Nothing like that feeling when the shelter is pitched and you’re inside though, whatever the weather.

  3. Joanna Hughes says:

    Really enjoyed this, and agree with Paul, Very vivid and detailed account.
    We were staying in Ravenstonedale at the same time as this, did a family walk up Skiddaw, in rain and cloud , very poor visibility, but cleared beautifully at the top for magnificent views all the way to Solway Firth in the North and Morecambe Bay in south. Did Helvellyn on a glorious day with fine views all the way up and down. Also Arnside knott from the Pier, on the sands at very low tide with fabulous views, great photo opportunities of the viaduct railway, up through the caravan Park at Holgate and over the Knott with views across to Wild Boar Fell in the Howgills in the east and Morcambe Bay in the west.

  4. David says:

    Great stuff Mark. Lovely photos. And great to read of your backpacking routines. My preferred order is tent up, get water, brew up,only then sort gear. I have a house near Penrith but have been walking other places recently but you can’t beat the Lakes. But a 10 minute taxi ride to Askham? Your driver must have had his foot right down!

  5. Paddy Sherwood says:

    Great report Mark – looking forward to part 2!
    Just wondered how you are getting on with the Stratospire 1, now that you have had it for a few months…
    Contemplating a purchase of one of these from Henry Shires myself at some point and would welcome any advice or comments that you have…

  6. Martin Rye says:

    So far a cracking walk. I would have had a pint.

  7. PhilR says:

    Excellent account, some very nice photos and a fantastic route. yeah, I bet that was a really nice smell in the drying room.

    • Thanks Phil, that smell was rather ripe, lets say !

    • Hi Phil, tried to leave a comment on your blog, but I think I need to have Google + Is that correct? Just to say that I liked your post on the Lincolnshire Wolds as that is where I live! Just down the road from where you were walking.

      • PhilR says:

        Mark, thanks for the heads up didn’t realise the comments are now fully Google+ something I must have ticked without reading thoroughly, I’ll look into it. And thanks for the comment about the Wolds post, lovely area and as I said in the post haven’t ventured into the Wolds much but is now an area I will visit more regularly when I’m up there.

  8. Nigel says:

    I keep wanting to use the train to the Lakes, but from London its cheaper to drive!

    Only just realised I have the same post-pitch ritual! But, on a more serious note, I can’t believe you missed the opportunity for a pint at Kirkstone Pass Inn AND the New Dungeon Ghyll Hotel:)

    • Nigel, it is really a very similar price for me to drive or train it. I live near Lincoln. It just saves worrying about leaving a car somewhere for 5 days or paying to have it standing at a campsite for the duration. I think I must be slipping, by by-passing the pubs. However I knew with a hard climb up Red Screes and lots more ascent & descent after that, a few beers would have really slowed me up. I just wanted to get out of the rain when I got to Great Langdale and set the tent up!

  9. AlanR says:

    That’s a really nice route and some of it was exactly what Sheila and I had planned to do before we diverted to Barmouth. I’m not sure if we will get chance to do it this year so its good to read about it. Looking forward to pt.2.

    • Thanks Alan, good route. A lot of up and down, so keeps you fit. I have to catch up with your blog and others. The RSS feed that I use has gone haywire seems to have deleted all my subscriptions!

  10. @OutdoorsMH says:

    Good stuff Mark, some nice photo’s there. Do like the look of the Stratosphere

  11. surfnslide says:

    Great trip with plenty of variety in both walking and weather! Like you I have the unpack and set up camp routine. First thing is always to get the stove on for a brew. Everything has to be its rightful place, a tidy tent is a happy tent. 🙂

  12. Carl says:

    Nice to see some great photos of the lakes, not been able to get there myself this year and it reminds me what i,m missing

    Liked the way you described the routine when making camp, its something we all do and I can,t settle until everything is in place 🙂

  13. Tidy tent? Not mine, I’m afraid! I usually know where stuff is though 🙂
    Anyway, looked fantastic that. And isn’t it funny how you can never see the rain in photos taken on a rainy day?

  14. Philpot says:

    Fantastic blog.
    I’ve done some hikes myself in Norway and Iceland. I’m planning another trip to iceland for 2016.
    Can I ask, when you decided to complete this 5 day trip did you play each days walking and take maps etc? Or did you just wing it Bear Grylls style?

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