February 18th 1995, Saturday morning, 6.30am the first day of the anniversary walk, time to get up and get moving. The weather was grey and dull but even if it had been raining it would have made no difference, we were going no matter what. We had no bacon but plenty of ham, so ham and eggs for breakfast and thus refuelled we were ready. We caught the bus from Windermere, an 8.13am departure, to Rydal Church near to Rydal Lodge. We walked up the road about a hundred yards then crossed over the river, which was very full, on a narrow footbridge to our left. Then we went up through the woods and round the back of Loughrigg at which point Bridget thought we were lost. We wandered aimlessly for a while and though it wasn't raining the ground was very damp, it felt odd to be up amongst the hills at such an early hour, by 8.45 we felt we were in the wilds. We climbed up onto Loughrigg, and saw Elterwater and Skelwith Bridge so it gave us a good idea of where Grasmere sits in relation to those two. We then went down the front on a much more direct route and came out on Red Bank. We saw a red squirrel on the bit which would be an excellent Mountain Bike descent if you were allowed to cycle down it. Next came a sign saying permissive path, we thought it pointed through the gate it was next to and so we went through the gate and walked down to Grasmere lake. Herons wheeled above the trees on the island in the middle of Grasmere where they appeared to be fighting over nesting sites and to their cries were added the raucous honks of Canada geese. We also had a fly past from some swans as well. It looked really picturesque with these three species of huge bird flying around. The herons looked very ungainly when they landed in the trees, they appear to be too big to perch. Unfortunately we had only joined the waters edge for 50 yards before we were compelled to turn and rejoin the road about 20 yards from where we left it. Thus a round trip of a quarter mile yielded 50 paces by the waters edge. In fact the lake side path can be followed anti-clockwise, not clockwise as we were trying to do. We followed the road into Grasmere, and stopped at the Gingerbread Shop where we met Dennis, Christine, and Steve, much chortling badinage ensued. Christine gave us four bits of Gingerbread to help us on our way. She thought we would pass Nigel on our travels. After stopping at the public toilets opposite the now closed Lakeland Perfumery we continued up the Easedale Tarn Road. It was as we walked along the permissive path at about 10:45am that I saw Nigel's car and gestured wildly to him. He goes to the shop each Saturday at 11.00 am to have a cup of tea and, Christine suspects, to gloat at those who are compelled to work. We followed the signs for Borrowdale and Helm Crag, and to Far Easedale, but not the Easedale Tarn Signs. We stopped for elevenses in Far Easedale and ate our Gingerbread and had a coffee. Along Far Easedale until the bridge which carries the path across the little stream, which is where the path splits with the left hand path leading up to Tarn Crag. It was raining at this time and yet the sun was out, we saw a tremendous rainbow at Far Easedale and Bridget was quite convinced that the photograph she took would win the calendar competition at work. Not only was the rainbow very distinct but it was also very small, standing out against the fell side as opposed to the sky the whole fitting within the confines of Far Easedale itself. We could see both ends of the rainbow easily and the sun at this time was directly behind us. Taking the left path and as soon as we saw Sour Milk Gill we turned right up Tarn Crag and saw Easdale Tarn below us. We almost missed the top of Tarn Crag since it has higher things behind it, but we found it easily enough. So we headed across the boggy, puddle spattered landscape and started climbing into the Snow on Sergeant Man. We'd seen a large party climbing ahead of us, and when we got to that part the snow was about a foot thick but we could follow their footprints easily. Sergeant Man has a difficult top to find, we eventually decided that someone had removed the trig point which Wainwright describes in his book. Everyone else was at the same peak we were on so we figured it must be correct. Stopped round the back to have lunch and it was horrendously cold. We were gazing out towards High Raise and though there was no snow falling there were huge flurries being blown fifty feet in the air. We set off after lunch and I couldn't get my gloves on properly, it was too cold to stop so I battled on regardless. Staggering from drift to drift I realised that I should have worn my new trousers. I Eventually put them on to find that they only just fitted over my boots, hopping around desperately trying not to put my foot down, I managed to get them on and eventually to warm up. The views were spectacular, especially down to Sergeants Crag and Eagle Crag, which was our last summit of the day. There was a ridge off to Ullascar, and a broad sweeping sloping plane to Sergeant Crag, and as we dropped we passed through the snow line. I'd warmed up considerably by now. You cross a wall to Sergeants Crag, then skirt the edge of a wall to get onto Eagles Crag, where there is a sloping slab of stone with a cairn on it. Then onto the Greenup bridleway you retrace your steps as far as the wall corner, and this time cross it, trouble is it has a wire fence on it now. After negotiating this you turn left to follow the wall until the path begins to steepen, at this point skirt way out to your right, further than I did, and drop down to cross the stream and join the bridleway which connects Borrowdale to Grasmere, and meets up with the Far Easedale path we were on before. We met some mountain bikers and rather than say hail fellow traveller we've cycled this way before, or rather near here, I made some annoying walker style comment about it being easier to walk without a bike. The Greenup Bridleway led us to the junction where we had turned off with Grahame and John on the return leg of the Rossett Gill bike ride. Then to Stonethwaite, then Longthwaite, where we found our B&B.
We arrived there at 4.30 and having looked round and knocked on the door repeatedly, made the best of a bad job and went to the pub. It's called the Riverside Inn and is part of the Scafell Hotel. A pint of Old Peculier and a roaring log fire put my world to rights. After my second pint I enquired about a telephone to ring our B&B and was distressed to find it was 200 yards up the road, in the rain and wind and cold. The landlady was in, apologetic for not being about earlier, but apparently her aunt had been in and had seen us but was unable to catch up before we walked away. I told her we would be along in half an hour and returned to the bar. Five minutes later a young lady appeared and asked if it was we who had phoned, we admitted it but since we'd just bought a pint we declined her offer of a lift so she said she'd come back for us in half an hour. When she did return she decided it would be easier to lend us her car as she worked next door in The Royal Oak, so this was agreed as long as we were back by 8.30pm. We drove to the B&B, lovely old building, both had showers and I felt it was such a clever thing to have dry clothes to wear which we had been carrying. We drove back to the pub and had dinner near the fire, then the landlady reappeared to ask us if we wanted a lift home, we did and so returned to watch the boxing just prior to bed.
DAY 2. Sunday, February 19th 1995
Breakfast was at 8.30 am, this eaten in the company of two students who had been rained out of their tent, we paid and departed. Back to Stonethwaite, then rather than left over the bridge to the Greenup Bridleway, we stayed this side. Through the houses and past the hotel we walked along a broad tractor track looking to our right for Big Stanger Gill. We found the path, not very clear through a large black gate and thus began the climb. All around there were signs of the tremendous amounts of rain that had fallen in this area recently. It's the wettest place in Britain anyway but this had caused massive erosion. The path follows the left side of the Gill and there were fallen trees and ever more erosion, even away from the path. After much climbing you get better views of Eagle Crag, then the path leads into open marshy areas. The final marshy patch is the source of the stream and leads onto Rosthwaite Fell. The wind was absolutely howling cold round Bessy Boot, so we ducked down behind a cairn to put extra clothes on. We could see Glaramara, and high raise and Eagle Crag where we had been the day before. Glaramara looked exactly like it does in Wainwrights pen drawing. We were basically on a ridge which followed the same direction as Eagle Crag and Sergeant Crag. So we headed off to Glaramara past a load of tarns, and there were quite a few little peaks in between, such as Rosthwaite Cam which we didn't find, but then again that is like the Lion and the Lamb, but without the Lamb, according to Mister Wainwright. So we went up Glaramara in the snow, there was quite a lot of it on that side. We didn't stop on Glaramara having decided to eat on Allen Crags, there used to be a line of Cairns following the easy ridge but now it is a very distinct path which you can follow in any weather apart from deep snow. Allen Crags has three Cairns on top of it, we sat down next to one and had dinner, then we dropped down to Esk Hause and noticed quite a lot of people going in the other direction. This is the area where we had our photographs taken with Grahame and John last summer. There was someone camping in the cross shaped shelter at Esk Hause. We could see Angle Tarn which is the little Tarn we cycled down to after climbing up Rossett Gill the year before. It had been the first bit of descent and though it lasted but an instant it did make us all feel better after our horrendous climb. Next was the big climb up Scafell pike, a range of huge cairns to guide us, it was very easy and very pleasant in spite of the thick mist. We passed the end of Great End, basically skirting round to the left, going past quite a few pikes on the way. Through the boulder field, then drop down at which point we were following crampon tracks, and had our ice axes out. As you go down the last drop Scafell Pike just rises in front of you, it's not much more climbing after this, 200 yds walking and you see the huge Cairn with the plaque on it. Bridget took several photographs of snow and ice on the top. The cloud was right down, no rain but a strong wind, not as cold as the day before. We took a bearing to get off Scafell Pike down to the Mountain Rescue box where we met a group of people asking us where Scafell Pike was. We then did the drop down to Mickledore where the snow thinned out and found a a couple who hadn't liked the look of the gully up to Scafell and had instead decided to have a stab at Broad Stand or some such. When we explained that we were avoiding Broad Stand because of the ice they decided to follow us up the gully to Foxes Tarn, we never saw them again so they must have thought better of it. At the top of the gully there was an open snow climb, two people came past us wearing crampons, so we followed their tracks clinging hopefully to our ice axes again. Once we were on top of Scafell we didn't see anybody else, it was sometime after 3:00pm so perhaps that is not surprising. Scafell has much less of a cairn, in fact I walked straight past it. I hadn't realised there was another peak called Slight Side which we were thinking of doing, I thought that after Scafell we would head towards Burnmoor Tarn then cut off to the left. We ended up skirting round Slight Side, then got the map out and peered under the mist, took our bearings off Burnmoor Tarn and got back onto the good path which eventually leads into Eskdale. This is just a huge long trek, you traverse a big valley above the Eskdale valley floor and just as you decide you're not dropping enough, you being to climb, though only briefly. It's about four and a half miles, and you are not going to miss it. According to Wainwright this route we did that day was in fact the full extent of the Scafell range, if we had climbed Broad Stand as well even purists would have approved. We eventually reached the road at Wha House just as it was getting dark and began the final run in to Boot, another 1.5 miles. Bridget's foot was very sore due in part to the transition to road walking so I marched and she hobbled gamely along in the van.
We were staying in the Post Office in Boot, but we only recognised it because the owner had told us it was the only shop in the village. I thought we were knocking on the wrong door when we tried the one marked Dale View Guest House, but it was correct. The man offered to dry our boots which was great, and recommended us to eat at the Woolpack which was 15 minutes walk down the road, and Bridget said we weren't walking anywhere except the Burnmoor Inn, about 30 feet away as the crow flies. A Darlington man, who knew who the woman we'd stayed with the night before was. She had told us she had been born in Boot and so we got a potted biography from him, and further detail from the Landlord of the Burnmoor Inn. She was originally a local, from a tall family, and her father had died in tragic circumstances diving into a fell tarn as he often did, but not ever coming up again out of this one. Just shows that these places still are proper communities. We ate dinner, same as last night Gammon and chips and an extra portion of chips, though this time with soup to start with. I'd had three pints and it was only 8:00pm so a night of drinking in store ? No. We decide that rather than drink more we both wanted to go to sleep, so back to the B&B and out like an over dose of sleeping tablets, switched off the light at 8:30pm. Slept through until 7:15, shows what a bit of exercise can do for you. Breakfast was at eight so the prospect of an earlier start, and everything to go at, still the vague idea that we could make it all the way home.
DAY 3 Monday, February 20th 1996.
Breakfast was at eight instead of the previous days eight thirty so we thought we would get an early getaway, but what with finding that the other person staying in the B&B had a son who had done the same College course as Bridget it wasn't to be. We eventually got away at 9.05 am, as opposed to 9.15 of the previous day. We walked out of Boot in the direction of the Woolpack, and turned right at Penny Hill farm, through the mud on the far side of the farm yard and up Harter Fell. The route up the Fell was interesting and varied, and more importantly dry. At the top however it was a howling blasting sort of day. We took the hard route up the final part of it and cowered, it would be a nice summit to dwell on if it was a nice day, but it wasn't so we didn't. Good views of Hardknott Pass Fort from there, but there was too much cloud for us to see anything, hailstones and a howling gale. We took a bearing, found the path and descended into the Duddon valley. The path becomes more distinct as you drop, and we came out of the mist into the trees so we could see more and also had much more protection, it's a straight drop. You come out above Birks, which is a Forestry Commission place, skirt that to the right and drop into some more trees where you eventually find a wooden bridge built by the Royal Engineers. Over the bridge it is clearly marked to Troutal. Turn left onto the road then first right, where a car had become stuck in the mud and a group of people were trying to drive it up a slope, instead of round back to the road. Towards the farm you look to your left for a path up to Seathwaite. The rain was really setting in, and the mist dropping. We had originally intended to take the ridge route up Grey Friar, but instead opted to follow the side of the reservoir. Our last outing up Grey Friar had shown it to be an easy one to miss in mist so we were taking the safe option. It was pouring with rain and the mist was down at tarn level. From the map we could see a path which would take us to the end of the valley, then up to Levers Hause. The reservoir is easy to follow but after that there is no obvious route, just stick to the ground above the valley bottom, otherwise you'll get your feet wet. We passed the mine workings to our left and reached the end of the valley where we crossed the river. Bridget nearly fell in and in the process almost left her leg behind, I thought she was going to break it but in fact she was OK. At this stage I was weighing the options of giving up altogether and going back to the Duddon valley and hitching home. The path at the end of the valley was indistinct but by picking a course on which no scree had fallen we knew we weren't climbing into crags. Also we had enough time to back track if things went wrong. All the grass looked like it had been eroded by heavy rain, so having lined ourselves up with the map and the end of the reservoir we started climbing. It was a real hack all the way up, a very even slope for several hundred feet. Visibility was less than a fifty feet as we kept on straight up. All of a sudden after 20 minutes and a load of climbing we found a path, the path which we had been on last time we were up Grey Friar. Having gained this Bridget was loath to leave it so we turned right and less than 20 yards away we found Levers Hause. We now had the choice of going over the other side, or else climbing to the top of Coniston Old Man. The mist had now brought visibility down to about 30 feet but we know this bit well enough. The temperature had dropped, we were both wet so to stay warm we kept moving. We went over Brimfell where there was a lot of snow, and followed some footprints from size 14 shoes. At the top of the Old Man there was a group of management trainees all taking themselves very seriously, hard hats, carabinas to rope themselves together, and enjoying much discussion as to whether ice axes should be deployed. We decided to get our axes out, and set off down the front of Coniston, the path indistinct to start with but improving all the time. As we dropped there was less snow, we found ourselves in shelter from the wind, and visibility improved. Once out of the mist we stopped and had a coffee break. We watched the huge lorries in the valley bottom carrying giant lumps of stone out of the workings. The coffee break was at about 3.30pm, and we knew we would be down in less than an hour. We put the axes away and dropped into Coniston at 4.10pm. There was no bus so we caught a taxi to the ferry, which cost us 6.00 Pounds. Over on the ferry and an easy walk home, both of us totally shattered. We actually walked through our front door at 5.30pm, just as light was fading.
In all it was a good three days. The second day was perhaps too far, or else we should have started off a little earlier. The third day involved more ascent than a climb up Ben Nevis. The thing which sticks in my mind is arriving somewhere in wet clothes, then taking a bath or a shower, and putting on dry clothes which one has actually carried oneself, it just seemed such a clever thing to do.
First day we left the bus stop at 8.38 and arrived at the B&B at 4.30. Second day we set off at 9.15 and arrived at the B&B at 6.30. Each lunch stop was about 15 minutes, with the a coffee stop on each and the odd pause to admire a view. On the final day we didn't stop for lunch so we set off at 9.05 and getting to Coniston until 4.10 then a ride in a taxi then another half hour up from the ferry to home.
So 7 hours 52 minutes, 9 hours 15 minutes, and 7 hours 35 minutes. No wonder I felt shattered.