Expeditions, Navigation, Guided Walks and Trekking
After dinner and an epic fight with the midges, we looked out at the incredible views up Ennerdale Water from our campsite after our second day backpacking. Then out of the woods to our right, a pale, whitish brown shape drifted out across the water. It was a Barn Owl!
Silently it glided across the lake in front of us, moving right to left before moving into the wood next to our campsite. We had finally set up camp on the site of the old Anglers Hotel, demolished to make way for an extension to the lake that never happened. Camping in this fabulous location was our reward for a hard day backpacking across this remote area of the Lakes.
Last night was cold. Steve’s thermometer suggested it had fallen to 4°. I certainly felt it, I added extra layers of fleece and trousers to my summer sleeping bag to keep me warm. We rose to find Scoat Tarn hidden in a thick mist. Wind and rain had passed over through the night but the cold remained. We weren’t happy campers. Our first time wild-campers were wondering whether all the effort of getting to this remote spot was worth the limited reward this morning.
Breakfast of porridge and bars, with the best cup of tea ever, set us up for the day. Ready by 9:00 am to drop the still wet tents, we packed up and headed off into the mist up the hillside behind us. It wasnt far to the top of the ridge, we soon hit the ridge between Red Pike to our right and Scoat Fell to our left. There wasnt much to see, a few impressive gulleys fell into Mosedale below us, but that was it, so we headed north to the summit. Even this early in the day it was good to prop the bags against the wall while we scrambled across to Steeple. As the mist swirled about us we enjoyed the isolation of the summit, quietly taking in the still and eerie feelings of being there.
Despite the mist, navigation was easy, we had to follow the wall westerly to Haycock. My last visit to the area was also shrouded in mist, but it did start to lift, revealing a Brocken Spectre (aka a Glory). Once in a lifetime for most people. Last time it cleared away to a bright day – no such luck today.
After Haycock we followed the wall into the gloom. It took us over a little crag, which with hindsight could have been avoided but it did give us something to look at apart from the wall and mist. Caw Fell is not a notable summit, and gave no shelter from the biting wind, so we headed off down the gentle ridge to Iron crag. It was soon time for a break, we hoped for some shelter from the wind which had picked up again but the impressive 2 metre wall was on the wrong side of us to hide behind. We had a long trudge before we found a gap in the wall. Through the gate, rucksack lowered to the ground and Jetboils on for a cup of tea and a backpackers lunch of pita bread, ham and cheese, followed by tea of course. Lunch was interrupted by a woman fell runner and dog who looked over the gate to ask it this was the top. “Top of what” was our answer, we were not sure where we were along the long flat ridge, so couldn’t help. This was the first person seen since we left Wasdale day, not a usual experience in the Lakes, even on a misty and damp Friday.
After sustenance, I searched the surrounding area. Not far from the wall was a loose wire fence enclosing a jumble of small boulders. It was not clear what the significance of this was although a separate cairn probably signified the top of Iron Crag and contained fragments of airplane. A message had been scribbled a piece of fuselage, remembering pilots from World War 2. Research shows that was not the Caw Fell crash site, rather the remains of the Royal Canadian Air Force Sabre, which crashed on 26th June 1959.
More wall and then even more wall lead us gently down the NW ridge and eventually to below the cloud. We could now look down onto Ennerdale Water and across Cleator Moor and the coast. An unclimbed Wainwright top Lank Rigg was hidden to our left but I had to miss the opportunity. It was just too far to do as a diversion and we couldnt split the group up in this visibility. Ahead, the forest on the map had been cleared, leaving a tangled wasteland of brashings. A small caterpillar bulldozer was working its way along the old mine road only the second sign of people that day, although we then met a lone walker on his way up, no doubt picking up the Wainwright we had missed.
Two unclimbed Wainwright tops were hidden in front of us in the mist. We headed off back into the cloud, dropping our sacs again at the col between Crag Fell and the amusingly named Grike. While Nas found a hidey hole, the rest of us wandered up to the top of Grike, past the Radio Mast. This unusual structure on the high fells was the subject of much discussion in our group, most of whom were telecoms engineers. Although we decided it was a relay station, later research suggests it is probably a transmitter for a small weather station at its base. This station is there to detect activity from Sellafield not far away on the coast over to the west.
Grike has a fine summit, a large cairn and well constructed stone shelter. Although we waited a while, Nas hadn’t turned up, so we wandered back down to our bags. But he was nowhere to be seen. We hung about before we started to do a search before spotting a spectre appearing in the mist coming from the direction of the summit we had been in. Yes, it was Nas, who had lost us in the mist and thankfully his navigation worked out the way down to us.
We set of up to Crag Fell, the second Wainwright fell of the day and the start of our search for a camp for the night. As we reached the summit, the cloud lifted again. The afternoon started clearing up revealing the lovely view over Ennerdale Water below us and across Bowness Knott to the range of fells dividing this valley from Buttermere.
The sketch in my Wainwright suggested there could be areas to camp on the side of Crag Fell, but none looked feasible, particularly as we were short of water. So we decided to drop down to the lake edge and find a quiet area. From the summit a line of old fence posts above the escarpment took us of the top. This was a lovely way down, gentle slope, soft grass and spectacular views. This track took us across the top of Ben Gill to a trail through the woods. As we started to enter the woods we saw that below us was a campsite, not marked on the map. This cheered us up a bit, the luxury of toilets was something to look forward to. A nice woodland path took us down to the valley bottom, nice apart from the midgies which came out in force when we stopped to fix Nas’s walking poles again. It was not a place to stop for long and didn’t bode well for a lower campsite. Across the fields we headed to the lake edge and the campsite.
“No Entry – Private Campsite” greeted us, this was the local Scout campsite. So we shouldered our packs and headed along the lakeside path. After considering a couple of potential areas, Andy found an ideal spot just out of the trees, next to the lake. Our view was fabulous and delightful, taking in the end of Ennerdale Water across to Bowness Knott on one side and Crag Fell, which we had just been on. A little memorial to the owners of Anglers Hotel gave us the clue as to what used to be here. Some lovely old photos on the web show the spot as it was some 50 years ago. Lovely as the position was, it was a bad spot for the midges which were out in force to get us. My new head net was used in anger and despite looking like a dowager at a funeral, it kept the little blighter’s from my face.
After dinner, another cup-o-soup followed by a special noodle curry, we took our Jack Daniels with Honey. As we looked out over the lake the clouds lifted, the summer breeze dropped, leaving a calm water surface and the days walk laid out in front of us. Haycock , Steeple and Crag Fell were all clear of the remaining clouds. Then the Barn Owl appeared, a great finally to a day in the wilderness of the Western Fells.