I had managed to build up a bit of lieu time at work so I downed tools (well a pen) at lunch time and was in Richards car being driven to the lakes by 2.00pm. This meant that we were able to miss most of the usual Friday rush hour madness and were entering the lakes in a downpoar by 6.00pm. A weekend seems that much longer if you can be on the hills an extra night.
We parked in a small layby just past Cockley Beck on the Hardknott pass road and took straight to the hill. There was no time to get the legs and muscles working properly as we headed up the steep slopes of Dod pike. The rain had passed leaving the view down into the Duddon valley sparkling green. The plan had been to pitch just behind the summit of Dod Pike but it was too boggy, so after collecting water it was heads down climbing towards Border End.
After a bit of searching we found two sheltered grassy shelves between Border end and Hard Knott fell and pitched the tents. The weather now was stunning as the sun started to slowly sink towards the horizon. We headed to the summit of Border End to phone respective partners and take in the grand view. The Scafell peaks had clouds streaming down them like a waterfall and the sun lit up the sea on the horizon. The wind however had a real bite to it, sitting there it felt more like 4.00pm on a February afternoon than a late June evening. We soon went back to the tents to cook dinner and get comfy for the night.
Spot the tents……..
As I was getting comfortable in my tent the strong breeze started to transform itself into a strong wind, I was glad that I had found a pitch mostly sheltered from it. As I lay there the wind got stronger and stronger seeming to come from all directions at once, the Laser Comp tent flapping away noisily. I just could not get myself to sleep as the noise was too loud to relax. It did not get properly dark and at 2.00am I stuck my head outside to see a clear starry night with a bright moon. The wind died down a bit later and I drifted into a disturbed sleep.
A couple of hours later I was awoken by a storm raging outside the tent, wind and rain hammering on the flysheet. I stuck my head out of the door and could see through a parting of the clouds that Scafell had a good dusting of snow on its summit. I lay there cold for hours unable to sleep in my summer sleeping bag until it was time to get up. A dash to Richards tent revealed that he was getting more of a battering than I was, the wind had managed to turn the pole cover on his tent inside out! He had spent the whole night with damp tent pressed on his face.
I slunk back to my tent to cook breakfast before packing up, I was thinking about asking Richard if he fancied heading back to the car and driving home! The conditions were that of mid winter not June and I felt ill prepared for them. After we packed Richard vocalised the same feelings and I was secretly a bit relieved. We decided to head for the summit of Hard Knott to see if our moods would lift a bit, so off we staggered like drunks into the wind with freezing cold rain stinging our faces. Further north the clouds parted a bit to reveal a very moody Scafell Pike with a tiny bit of snow still remaining from the night before.
Needing to get out of the wind we dropped down to Lingcove beck and found shelter by a big boulder where we got a stove on for a cup of tea. Richard was keen to go home now, which strangely made me determined to want to stay. Was there a strange type of psychology at play? Someone having a worse time than me seemed to perk me up a bit! I suggested that we head onto the Great Moss to pitch the tents and see what the weather fancied doing, if it remained bad we could head home later, if it behaved itself we could walk onto the tops with lighter sacks. A long descent to Lingcove Bridge put us off so instead we headed up Lingcove Beck to the head of the valley and found a great grassy patch next to the river.
When Richard started erecting his tent he realised that one of the poles at the end was missing. It was not in his bag and we believe that it must have fallen out whilst packing a flapping mess of tent into its bag earlier on. His tent took on a new shape that day! I managed to get the tightest pitch I have ever managed which was nice until I looked inside and noticed the inner looked a bit odd. No amount of rearranging pegs made any difference. This is when I noticed that the pole at the end had ripped away from the inner tent, now that probably not meant to happen? Things got worse whilst I was putting the pole cover on, I managed to pull the cord too much at one end and the cord disappeared from the other end. Not sure if that is meant to happen either! It then started raining really heavily whilst I sat on a rock with a tent peg trying to fish the cord back out. If I was four years old I may have had a tantrum at that point!
To cut a long story short a text from my partner came through promising better weather, almost at the same time it stopped raining and it brightened up. Enjoyment and mood levels lifted after lunch and we decided to leave the tents and head up Esk Pike via Pike de Beild Moss. This was a great approach to the hill with no trace of a path. Rocky outcrops providing scrambling opportunities whenever we fancied it.
There were many false summits until we came to the top of Esk Pike which strangely for a Lake District fell was empty. In the distance we could see Helvellyn which still had patches of snow from the night before. We were soon descending then climbing to the summit of Bowfell which has stunning views down the whole length of Lingcove Beck and Upper Eskdale.
The path down to Three Tarns was in a bit of a state and was obviously about to be repaired as there were huge bags of stone alongside it. We picked up a faint path that descended to the head of Lingcove beck where we could see our tents in the fork of two streams. Thankfully they had dried out and we set about unpacking the rest of our gear.
In contrast to the night before we had a calm, relaxing and peaceful night. I felt really happy that we had not called it a day and gone home whilst I lay in my tent looking at the surrounding fells.
A bit of a late start in the morning soon led to a punishing climb straight up the steep slopes of the Crinkle Crags. After a while we came to Rest Gill to fill our water bottles and decided to make the climb more interesting by scrambling directly up it. There was an element of excitement as we did not really know what to expect, there was always the possibility of it getting too difficult and needing to make a hasty retreat. Although entertaining it never got too difficult, the main danger was with loose mossy rocks.
We were soon on the summit of Long Top where we passed the first walkers of the whole weekend, maybe the weather forecast had put people off travelling to the Lakes? I wanted to visit Little Stand so we descended south and crossed grassy trackless ground to reach its rocky summit with its collection of small tarns. It would be a great place to wild camp with lots of little rocky knolls to pitch the tent behind.
We had not counted just how rough the descent down to Cockley Beck would be from the summit. Although there is a bridleway marked on the map it most definitely does not exist on the ground. We needed to constantly backtrack around cliffs and crags on steep bouldery ground. Certainly the sort of terrain that makes twisting an ankle easy. The plan had been that when we got to the car we would dump the sacks and then head back up to Border End to look for Richards missing pole. However tiredness and the first spots of rain soon put an end to those thoughts…………………………………..