A night out in the fells is something I’ve been trying to organise for a while now but this summer has been a bit of a washout with every day just a variation on the grey of the day before. Now the indian summer is here and the light is getting longer and the forecast for Friday / Saturday looked promising. The prospect of clear skies and cold days seemed like one not to miss.
Bunk off work early on Friday, everything is in hand, and bags to pack.
All the gear laid out checked again, while I’m not planning to be far from civilisation it’s best to be prepared and it’d simply be a ball-ache to have to abort the trip just because I’d forgotten something.
Spare batteries, freshly charged for the camera, head-torch, food, water and sleeping bag. The new Jet-Boil stove would be getting its first real work out too. Indeed the new rucksack, the one I got for the postponed trip to the GR20 would be used for the first time as well. All packed up and the dash over the A69 to Cumbria was completed in reasonable time. To Keswick and down through Borrowdale, remembering earlier journeys down this beautiful valley, Lakes 3000 and the Coast to Coast relay last year. Arriving at Honister Slate Mine at about 6:00 just as the Cafe shut up, bang went my chance of a last minute brew before setting off up the hill.
With only a vague plan of where I was going, roughly towards Grey Knotts or Bandreth I thought, I set off up the old Tramway from the mine car park. It’s a steep pull up to the more solid remains of the tramway itself but the gradient slackens off as you make a left towards Brandreth and the “normal” route down to the Black Sail pass. By the time the light of the evening was making its presence felt the plan was coming together. The sight of Great Gable and Pillar on the far skyline sealed it. The best of the morning light would be here looking at the bulk of Great Gable and Pillar and down into Ennerdale. Vague recollections of a StewyPhoto blogpost came to mind and I was sure that there was some sense in this.
Camp is by its nature fairly basic, no shower blocks, washing facilities or other trappings of civilisation, just the tent. After stopping to take just a few photos, getting the tent up and a brew was a priority. The Jet Boil is a neat pice of kit, a stove pot with integral gas burner at its basic. but the clever bit is in the heat exchanger / windbreak which makes it hugely efficient and phenomenally quick. It packs into itself once you’ve finished, making it very space & weight efficient too. Highly recommended. Coffee and the remaining water goes into the foil bag that contains freeze dried Hungarian Beef Goulash with Noodles. Well at least that’s what it said on the packet. It’s food Jim but not as we know it. I took comfort in the fact that it was supposed to give me 480kcal. according to the details. A hunk of plum loaf to round it all off with coffee. There was a vague attempt to get a photo of the moon and stars in a crisp and cloudless night sky but it was so cold I soon lost all feeling in the fingers and gave it up as a bad job.
Sleeping as usual fitfully even though warm enough, the winter sleeping bag I’d bought earlier on in the year, a replacement for a 20+ year old one now well past its best. Waking as dawn broke to a layer of rime coating the inside of the tent and severe frost on the outside at about 6:30, now keen to be up and going. Brew on with the last of the water, breakfast is the remains of the plum loaf and coffee.
As the light began to strengthen it was difficult to keep concentrating on the task in hand. The light just kept getting better and better. The orange glow coming over the horizon to the south east just begged me to do something. A swift jog to the top of Brandreth catching the orange atmosphere advancing from the East. Blencathra is stunning even at such a distance. A long lens captures a wisp of cloud on the summit, Hall’s Fell. Then back down to the main event and focus my attention on the Pillar group and the views down Ennerdale.
An hour or so later I have enough and while I reasonably pleased the lack of any cloud means the sky is a bit “plain” and given the “The Sky Today” project that’s more than just a bit ironic.
The decision was to go down to the car and think again what to do with the remainder of the day. It was a new feeling, walking back down to the car and still have a day to play with, it was only 8:30. As someone said as I passed them by just as I was approaching the car park at Honister, “That’s impressive, to be coming down while we’ve only just set off..”. Then a leisurely drive down to Buttermere, stopping by the lake at Gatesgarth to take a few pictures by the lake. The sun by now really bright and with little cloud the landscape is full of contrast.
Parking anywhere in the Lakes is a problem at the best of time but Buttermere is a tiny village and the car park equally so and bloody expensive. It puts me off staying there all day and while I had considered tackling Grasmoor from here I decided I’d probably go elsewhere. However a trip to “The Fish” and a pint of “Haystacks” was in order as a reward for the overnight’s work. It was very pleasant indeed, the beer and the autumn sunshine the beer garden behind the inn. It clearly was an awkward time of day though, between breakfast and early lunch and the inn hadn’t any food, the Cafe had though, and a pot of tea and a bacon roll was swiftly dealt with before setting off.
The Day’s Yet Young
A quick drive over Winlatter pass in time to get to the summit of Skiddaw in time for lunch? It turns out to a be very warm, the south facing slopes of Skiddaw, with plenty of tourist traffic, some having more of a struggle than others. There’s a bunch of school kids, all weighed down with huge rucksacks and way too many clothes, dying in the heat in a mass of sweaty exhaustion. I’m, in contrast, just running shorts and a single long sleeve lightweight top and only add another layer when I get to the summit and stop to grab some food. The kids will remember this day but for all the wrong reasons!