Friday, 17 June 2011

Buttermere to Wasdale

Walk Statistics
Walk Date - 17 June 2011
Walkers - Steve Smith
Start Point - Cragg Farm bunkbarn - Buttermere (GR NY17385 17157)
Start Time - 08:56
Finish Point - Wasdale National Trust campsite (GR NY18285 07646)
Finish Time - 14:11
Duration - 5hrs 15mins
Average pace - 1.53mph
Distance Walked - 8.02miles
Height Ascended - 779.61metres

Peaks visited
None visited.
I had intended to visit several Wainwrights and Birkets as planned for Day 01 of my walk from Buttermere to Coniston, completing the day at a wild campsite somewhere near Intake Works on Caw Fell in preparation for the 5 Nuttalls round Haycock & Seatallen on day 02. But bad weather and heavier than planned pack weight forced a change in plan. Either of the two on their own would have been manageable as always it is when two or more difficulties arise that plans tend to go awry.


Other walks on this trip
15th Kentmere Horseshoe & Sledale Fells
17th Buttermere to Wasdale
21st The Coniston Fells

Click on photograph to view slide-show
Walk Description
After finally arriving in Buttermere, albeit 2 days late, (See Kentmere Horseshoe and Sledale Fells for more info) via a good pub meal and a couple of pints of Stella in Keswick, I had a few hours to kill before bedtime. One thing NOT on the agenda was to go for a walk, so after sorting out my pack in Cragg Farm bunk barn I strolled to the Bridge Inn for another beer and to study my maps.

Due to the poor weather forecast I had already committed to miss out a number of minor peaks and concentrate on the 2000ft tops, after all that is what I am here for.

Although I had planned to wild camp at the end of day 01 I really wanted to reach a campsite with a hot shower and the chance o change into dry clothes. However as hard as I tried, I could not find a route under 24Km that would get me to Wasdale as well as visiting the 5 outstanding tops of Iron Crag, Silver Howe, Gowder Crag, Haycock and Seatallen.

This left me for the first time with a feeling of anxious anticipation; what will the weather be like, how will I cope with the 70lb backpack, what time should I look to wild camp and in what circumstances should I press on for Wasdale even if it means missing some tops.

In view of this I skipped the beers, stuck with the coffee and returned to the bunk barn in broad daylight to settle down for an early start next day.

24km/15miles @1.5mph would be 10 hours hard walking. Longer if the heavy pack or weather slowed me down. I therefore set the alarm for 5:30 with the intention of setting off before 7:00.

This was over ambitious for me (a) I am a slow starter (b) hydrating with 2litres of water and fuelling up with porridge takes time (c) it took several attempts to get everything into my backpack without too much hanging off.

I finally set off at 09:00 and as forecast it was raining steadily with the tops draped with cloud above approx 500m I decided to avoid Red Pike and cross the High Stile range via the Scarth Gap Pass. It would be further but avoided a steep and exhausting climb alongside Sour Milk Gill and past Bleaberry Tarn in wet weather.

In deference to the heavy pack I set off at a fairly slow pace sticking to the shoreline of Buttermere to avoid any unnecessary ascent. The rain continued steadily making the main problem to keep ventilated and avoid overheating.

As I started to ascend near Peggy’s Bridge, level with Gatesgarth Farm, I had got into my stride unaffected by the rain. I stopped to chat with 3 guys from Preston who were on their way up to Haystacks. Whilst walking and chatting I realise we were near the broken wall that led up to High Crag, surprisingly they had stopped to rest while I pressed on. It really is a lonely existence peak bagging on your own. After a brief photo stop I felt good enough o complete the days planned walk and it was not until I came to the brow of the pass the wind became more evident and the rain harder. As the gradient levelled out I stopped to take more photos and to put some gloves on (always bring gloves, even in summer!). Very quickly I started to get chilly so I pulled up my hood and pressed on.

At the top it was very windy driving the rain into my face. I would have liked to take more pictures of Haystacks, but as is often the case when conditions are bad, photos get neglected.

Descending into Ennerdale I was still committed to completing the original route, but as the wind continued to drive the rain I had the bright idea to head for Wasdale via the Black Sail YH and Black Sail Pass. I could then pitch my tent, have a hot shower, put on dry clothes and then do the Yewbarrows without the large heavy pack, leaving Haycock, Seatallen etc. for tomorrow. This would be the plan as long as I reached Wasdale by 2pm.

Passing Black Sail I had my photo taken, passed a dead sheep and headed up towards the Black Sail Pass. Near a lone tree there was a stiff climb up a crag, but after that the pass did not seem too far away. As usual it was a false brow and the pass was much further. By the time I reached it I was shattered. Munching on some oat biscuits and a mini mars helped but once again at the top of the pass the wind increased driving rain straight at me. For a brief moment I thought about bagging nearby Looking Steads, but this thought did not last long and I pressed on over the pass and down into what I hoped would be more sheltered descending into Mosedale. Somehow the wind was channelled along the valley and it was not until I had crossed Gatherstone Beck that the wind and rain eased. By now I was really tired and considered the possibility of not going out again after a shower. Let’s wait and see how I feel I really do need to do the Yewbarrows today to stay on schedule.

I reached Wasdale NT campsite just after 2pm, so I was on schedule to do the Yewbarrows after showering and making camp. But I was absolutely shattered, it is really too much for me to carry 70lbs, walk 15 miles and visit several tops with associated multiple ascents. Certainly when the weather does not improve or gets worse it is important that whatever plans you have made you have a plan (b) or even a plan (c) and make new plans as you go along based on current circumstances and conditions.

My plan tomorrow is to therefore visit both Yewbarrows then circle north and west to pull in Haycock, Iron Crag, Seatallen etc. Again it will be at least 15 miles but I will not have a heavy pack to contend with and hopefully the weather will improve.

At this stage I have abandoned walking all the way to Coniston but if I transfer to Langdale and use it as a base I still have 3 days to complete the 3 walks needed to mop up the 2000ft tops in the southern and Western Fells.

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