Mungrisdale Common – a boring hill?

by backpackingbongos

It was close to midnight and the spot where I had planned to park the Bongo for the night was buried under deep snow. I therefore did what I have never done before and ‘wild van camped’ in the middle of a village. Tired after a day at work and a long drive both myself and Reuben slept well, discovering in the morning that even rural Cumbria has a mini rush hour.

The plan for the day was to go and bag a couple of Wainwrights close to Blencathra that have so far eluded me. Souther Fell on the map looks nice and shapely and a bit Howgill in nature. On the other hand Mungrisdale Common appears to not even be a hill, just a spot height on the boggy side of Blencathra. I though that it would be best to explore on a murky school day in the middle of winter. That way I could escape the crowds that were bound to be hogging the no doubt impressive summit cairn.

17 kilometres with 770 metres ascent

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I led Reuben out of Mungrisdale without too much of a plan of how I would link the two hills together. Souther fell looms over the village so it made sense to climb it and get the lung bursting climb done first. I found the rapidly thawing snow hard work and picked a route along patches of grass. Reuben thought that the whole snow thing was loads of fun and acted like he has never seen the stuff before.

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Souther Fell gave a pleasant promenade with higher peaks towering above and views out across the Eden Valley. Reuben got very enthusiastic meeting a Border Collie who did not know what to make of having his face licked vigorously.

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I had thought about continuing along the path above the River Glendermackin on the south side but I was worried about the steepness of the snow slopes at its head. Instead I decided to continue up Scales Fell and climb onto the summit of Blencathra. This I later realised was a very wise move. Despite the snow it was easy going up the path and I only needed my microspikes for the last hundred metres when the snow got particularly crisp. Reuben met another Border Collie on the way up who positively encouraged him to lick his face vigorously. They bounded around while I chatted to the owner. The theme of the following couple of days was the friendliness of fellow dog owners whilst many other folks could barely manage a smile.

There was no view on the summit of Blencathra so we crunched along the icy plateau and started the descent to Mungrisdale Common. I made an initial false start when I realised we were heading for Sharp Edge which meant climbing back up before finally locating the correct path down. Snow and mist made navigating rather tricky. I need to remember that the compass knows better than I do.

The land behind Blencathra is about as different from Sharp Edge than it is possible to be. With a covering of often deep snow and with cloud hanging low it certainly felt a wild and woolly place. It was a good yomp to the summit of Mungrisdale Common where I sat on the rather insignificant cairn and ate my lunch.

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I have to say that I think that Wainwright picked a rather fine spot to include in his 214 Lakeland Fells. It was probably the weather but I felt that I was in the middle of nowhere rather than in the compact and busy Lake District. I might even come back and spend the night.

The soft snow made walking slow and laborious as we contoured round to the head of the River Glendermackin. There I came across the debris from a large avalanche, slabs as big as a sofa piled up on top of each other. It is hard to say when it happened but I was glad that I had climbed Blencathra earlier in the day. The alternative would have involved traversing directly across the slopes now covered in debris.

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The River Glendermackin carves through a lovely valley and I enjoyed the long walk along its length back to Mungrisdale. Back at the van I decided that it would probably be a bit rude to spend another night sleeping in the Bongo in the village. I headed off into the hills ready for another snowy walk the following day.

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20 Responses to “Mungrisdale Common – a boring hill?”

  1. I think Mungrisdale Common gets some unfair criticism. The views on a good day, the views towards Skiddaw and across to Knott, when walking from Foul Crag are pretty impressive.

    • The views were pretty limited when I was there Paul but I enjoyed it anyway. I made a real mess of finding my way off Foul Crag in the mist! At least I did not continue down Sharp Edge!

  2. There is some lovely walking around there James. It certainly has a wintry look to it.

  3. A wild and wonderful place. No such thing as a boring hill.

  4. And let’s be frank about it, how many of us have at some point thought we knew better than the compass…..?
    Lovely photos, that have captured that rather chilly feel very well 😀

    • It’s so easy to end up thinking you know better that the compass Chrissie!

    • Whenever I think that I tell myself the compass is right and force myself to follow it (I have no sense of direction) . . . then proceed to veer towards the direction I wanted anyway so I end up halfway between where I thought I should be and where I actually should’ve been!

      • Yes I often find myself being drawn in the wrong direction by my faulty internal compass!

  5. I am one of Mungrisdale’s critics, I’ve even gone so far as to describe it as a loathsome excrescence, a description I’m prepared to defend :-}

    James, if you do go back for a wild camp, please be careful of Reuben. Mungrisdale is home to some unexpected boggy patches, one of which once completely swallowed our Bearded Collie. Thankfully I was right behind him and managed to extract a very confused dog before a not-very-pleasant walk turned into a tragedy.

    I can’t find the reference online, but I believe Alan Hinkes once went into one of these bogs whilst walking at night. My recollection is that he only managed to get himself out because he was using two walking poles which acted as braces.

    As I said, loathsome, and I have no intention of returning, even though I only live a few miles away!

    • Eeeek dog and Hinkes swallowing bogs! Reuben had the misfortune to fall in one on Mill Hill near Kinder Scout, a plop and just his head was above the surface! Luckily I had no more that wet feet when there, glad that the soft snow was not hiding a deep bog for Reuben and myself.

      • I don’t like all this talk of bogs . . especially ones that swallow a whole dog in one go? How common are they? My dog will run straight into anything wet and muddy. I’m wondering if I need to leave a long lead trailing off him so I can pull him out!

      • Helen I have to say that I have not come across many bogs that swallow a dog in one go, although they are out there. Reuben soon learns to avoid bogs once he has gone past his elbows a couple of times. I have had to pull a sheep out of bog before, just its head was above the surface. It ran away without saying thank you!

  6. A great effort James to drive all that way to climb MC. Well worth it in my opinion as I have done it many times. I have stood by the cairn in every month of the year and have seen no one, surely a bonus. The becks surrounding it are interesting, Sinen Gill is good for wild flowers in the spring and I read that the lovely Blackhazel Beck has Gold in it. Dont tell anyone! I once found a cigarette lighter by the Cloven Stone (not that interesting).

    I am thinking of camping in a neat spot nearby which should give me a view of the Eclipse this week. Keep your eye on Rueben as I have just coughed up £300 in vets fees for Alf as he ate something dodgy on Whiteside last Tuesday.

    By the way I finally got a February overnighter in whilst you were being held against your will in the tropics. If you have time check out my modest blog https://micksmountaindiary.wordpress.com/. There is a report on the trip there. I also manged to put the tarp up! have a look I only have 9 follwers!

    Kepp up the good work
    Mick

    • Good to find an advocate for MC 🙂 Do you any idea what Alf ate on Whiteside as I may be up there on Friday, hope that he’s ok.

      I will check out your blog post.

  7. I think I may ha very been up both these hills and I think I liked them. Long time ago though and my memory isn’t what it was. To add to the shared stories theme I once rescued a stag from a bog in Scotland. Also while ski touring in the Brecons in a white out me and a mate were pleased to see a set of ski tracks. We thought someone else was up there skiing with us until the obvious dawned on us……..

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