Archive for March 30th, 2012

March 30, 2012

The Dovedale horseshoe

by backpackingbongos

My planned ‘campsite’ for the night was the car park at Cow Bridge near the village of Hartsop.  The drive over the Kirkstone pass was spectacular in the early evening light, stars beginning to make an appearance.  I chose a pleasant spot next to the river to park, noting that there were already three vans who looked like they would be there until the morning.  The evening and night passed peacefully and I woke up at 7.00am to a slight frost and sunshine filtering down into the valley.

7 miles with 830 metres ascent

Even after getting up early I still managed to faff around for far too long and it was 8.30am before I set off with Reuben.  The climb started immediately from the car park, a narrow path branching up into the woods.  I was soon sweating buckets in the still air of Low Wood, even though the sun was low in the sky.  I was very proud of Reuben as we rounded a corner and surprised a very woolly sheep, he looked with interest but resisted the temptation to go and investigate.  He received lots of praise for that.  Exiting the woods onto open pasture we found a spot to rest and take in the views.

The first objective of the day was the summit on the knobbly ridge of Hartsop above How.  Once the ridge itself was gained the walking was easy and the views fantastic in the morning light.  In front was a sense of mountain drama, the area around Link Cove looking particularly inviting and possibly worth exploring for its wild camping potential.

St Sunday Crag across Deepdale had its head firmly hidden in the clouds, its summit being a mist magnet under reasonably clear skies.  Past the summit of Hartsop above Howe there was a small descent and then a long slow plod across grassy slopes towards Hart Crag.  The reward was the panorama opening up behind me with every step.  A great excuse to stop and look, nothing to do with trying to catch my breath!

The final pull onto the summit of Hart Crag was steep, although this means that height is gained relatively quickly.  I could not decide which of the two cairns was the true summit so we visited both.  The views to the west were impressive and I stood for a while attempting to identify the array of well know peaks.  Sadly the light was not at its best in that direction which means that it was almost impossible to photograph.

We left the deserted summit and walked the gentle slopes to Dove Crag.  A drystone wall runs along the summit and we used it as shelter from the wind whilst we ate an early lunch.  I saw ‘we’ but in reality this involved Reuben watching me eat and then him hoovering the ground for any stray crumbs.  I noticed that just about every male that had passed was wearing shorts.  Although warm in the valleys it was pretty chilly on the fell tops, emphasised by the fact that I soon had to get moving to keep warm.

The well-worn path was left as we branched off towards Little Hart Crag and started the steep descent down to Bakestones Moss.  I was struck by the views across to High Street, wave upon wave of hills, each one getting progressively higher.

Before the final rise to Little Hart Crag I went to peer over the edge and down into Dovedale, the steep slopes gave me a real perspective of height.

Signs of spring were evident as we passed a boggy pool full of frog spawn.  The fluffy white clouds drifting across a soft blue sky were reflected in the dark surface of the water.

It was windy on the summit but it was still a place to linger as the views of the crags at the heads of the valleys were impressive.  As we sat there a man approached the summit cairn with his Jack Russell and I told Reuben to stay at my side.  However after a few minutes the sheer excitement of another dog being in close proximity meant that he broke ranks to say hello.  He did not get the greeting he was looking for and I had to sheepishly apologise to the owner of a cross Jack Russell.

As I was about to start my descent towards High Hartsop Dodd I overheard a woman inform her walking partner that she was unhappy and pissed off that he was making her detour to its summit.  I followed at a short distance behind, their body language telling more of a story than words ever could.  As I reached the tiny cairn they had turned around to reascend Little Hart Crag and he mentioned that it had not been worth the effort of their detour!

The tight contours of my map were confirmed by the steep slopes on the ground as I started the descent towards Brothers Water.

It was hard going on the knees and it got warmer and warmer the closer we got to the valley floor.  The Kirkstone pass far below us was busy with Sunday traffic, although the only sound that carried upwards was that of powerful motorbikes.

It was with relief that we reached the valley bottom and I selected a boulder to sit on for a rest and to finish the last of my water.  I was regretting wearing my leather boots as my feet were cooking within the confines of a waterproof lining.  Time to put them away for a few months and go back to the freedom of unlined mesh trail shoes I think.  I enjoyed the easy walk along the shore of Brothers Water, passing a family having a picnic in the sun on a stony beach.  What I was not prepared for was the car park where I had left the Bongo.  At 8.30am when I departed there were only a handful of vehicles but on returning the place was heaving and the van was firmly wedged in with only inches to spare either side.  It took me ages to manoeuvre myself out.  I do wish that people would realise that vans are more difficult to get out of tight spots than cars and they have numerous blind spots.  With the stereo on and the windows down I started the slow scenic drive home along the shores of Ullswater.