Sue and Martin in Mallorca 2019
Tuesday, 21 April 2015
18 and 19 April 2015 – A Trip To High House Tarn
My beautifully crafted contemporaneous entry disappeared into the ether on Saturday night, so here’s a more retrospective effort. This was my first backpacking trip since last year's TGO Challenge, and Sue's first for six years. We were supposed to be checking our gear prior to this year's TGO Challenge, but the weather put paid to that. It was very different to what we expect to be thrown at us in Scotland in May.
However, we proved that Sue can still shoulder a reasonably light rucksack, so the main objective of the trip was achieved. Alan and Sheila joined us.They bring good luck with Lake District weather. Coffee and tea cakes at the Farm shop on the Kendal by-pass got us in the mood for a slow swoop up the Langdale valley, where an athletics event, the Langdale 10km race, was in full flow. But thanks to the farmer at the Old Dungeon Ghyll Hotel there was plenty of parking space for everyone and we were soon on our t-shirted way up the path to Loft Crag.
Here we are, setting off from behind the Old Dungeon Ghyll Hotel shortly before noon.
Raven Crag glinted in the sun, Dungeon Ghyll was crossed, and below us the large group of runners set off on their 10km race. We headed up towards Pike Howe, before turning left up Mark Gate, from where there's a good view back down the Langdale valley. The trees in the valley are just gaining their spring foliage, so at last the season is visibly changing from the cold winds of winter to the warm breezes of summer.
Windermere came into view, as did Blea Tarn, pictured below during one of our many pauses during the steep 600 metre ascent.
It was a day spent under a bright blue sky with lots of happy people smiling at each other and offering pleasantries to strangers.
Lunch was taken below Loft Crag, with good views across to the Langdale Pikes. Sue and I enjoyed our first outdoor brew for some time in a spot sheltered from the cool breeze. Then we summited Loft Crag and strolled on to the distinctive cone of Pike of Stickle.
Here's Sheila with Pike of Stickle, from Loft Crag.
There were lots of fell runners about. Some were training, others we thought may have been on an orienteering exercise. We found one of their tally points on the top of Buck Pike, as we wandered over Black Crags on our way to Rossett Pike, but we later discovered that the event wasn’t being held until the following day.
From Pike of Stickle we enjoyed good views across to Esk Pike, Great End, Allen Crags, Great Gable and Glaramara, to name but a few.
Then we descended to Stake Pass, admiring the bulk of distant Skiddaw whilst Alan replenished his water supply and Sue foraged for brown trout.
Making our way towards Rossett Pike, with a backdrop of Bowfell, Sue was intrigued and puzzled by a man in lycra who ran past. “Did you notice his white underpants?” she remarked. Turning around to watch him disappear towards the pass, there was a glint of white through the lycra. Perhaps he wasn’t wearing any underpants at all?
From Black Crags we admired the view down Mickleden.
Buck Pike summit, and its orienteering point in preparation for the following day’s event, came and went. We took another break on Rossett Pike, before Angle Tarn came into view and we descended past folk lounging in the sunshine beside the Tarn. Then on the climb up by Tongue Head, we met a cheerful group of thirty as they descended, apparently on a training walk for a charity event.
From our high point on Allen Crags, Keswick and Skiddaw shimmered in the distance, whilst to our left Sprinkling Tarn and the Gables glinted in the afternoon sunshine.
We were aiming to camp in the dip below us, nearly half way along the broad ridge to Glaramara. And so, over the final summit of High House we scrambled, before reaching a fine camping spot beside the eponymous tarn.
Soon the tents were up and brews were on, with the dome of Great Gable looming in the distance from the inside of our tent.
Tea brewed, we then enjoyed soup in the sunshine, any wind having disappeared, leaving us to admire the reflections on the glassy tarn. Nearby, a man and his small dog kept their own counsel, coming near us to watch the sunset but not deigning to pass the time of day.
High House Tarn - a brilliant spot to camp, with sun beaming into the tents whilst reflections danced across the tarn.
Sue knocked up a fish supper. I’m afraid to say though that the brown trout tasted very much of tuna.
Dusk arrived, and considering the clear sky, it was a lovely sunset.
With the others in bed soon after 8.30, I thought that was a bit early so my torch was dug out of my dry bag and I set off towards Glaramara, a couple of kilometres further along the broad ridge. The red sky behind Great Gable was stunning, and I wandered slowly over the intermediary summits of Lincomb Head and Looking Stead before visiting both tops of Glaramara in fading light.
The lights of Keswick glimmered far below as I paused to try to send a picture to my blog. It didn’t appear to transmit, but I later discovered that it had done, at the first attempt. It looks dark even then! (Here)
Unfortunately the introduction of a second draft email on the new S5 phone seemed to have resulted in the deletion of a long entry that I’d been writing during the evening, as I didn’t want to have to spend ages writing my ‘diary’ (this blog) when I got home.*
Never mind, it was a lovely evening, albeit once the last glimmers of red had disappeared it was pitch black. The only light in the sky for a while was a bright planet, Jupiter I thought – but it may have been Venus (either way it didn’t shed any light on the Glaramara paths), lounging above Great Gable. As I made my way carefully back to camp, navigating with the aid of this planet, the sky slowly filled with a myriad of pinpricks of light from a seemingly infinite array of stars.
I was surprised to see lights outside our tents when I got back soon after ten o’clock. Sue had panicked. When I had asked her to root out my spare torch I should have told her that I did intend to use either that one or the one that was already in my pocket, and that “I may be some time”. I do apologise (again) to Alan and Sheila for being woken by Sue, who thought I must have fallen down a hole (or something!). Anyway, luckily I was back before anyone else set off in search of me and did actually fall down a hole. It was great to be out on such a lovely night – that brought back many happy memories. Should do it more often!
Here's the day's route, 16 km, 1500 metres ascent, moving time 5.25 hours. (Those who didn't visit Glaramara walked about 12 km, with a bit less time and ascent.)
Sunday 19 April - we woke to a cold, cloudy day. Alan and Sheila's tent had shipped some ice overnight; it had been cold.
By 8.15 am we’d breakfasted and packed up. I think we’d kept Alan and Sheila waiting, but it’s not too shabby a time to have started, after having put our first brew on at 7 am.
We returned to the top of Allen Crags then ascended Esk Pike, with views towards brighter weather to the west (Eskdale), where the Scafells were bathed in sunshine.
It was pretty cool on Esk Pike, from where we admired views towards the Langdale Pikes and Windermere. After visiting the summit of Pike de Bield we ambled down to Ore Gap and the bouldery ascent of Bowfell, at the top of which we found an orienteering point and a number of competitors. These people, many in shorts, buzzed to and fro past us all day in search of ‘points’. We admired their fitness with a degree of envy.
Meanwhile, Sue and I had donned overtrousers to deter the rainclouds that were encroaching from the east, and to combat the cold, as we headed down Bowfell to Three Tarns and onwards towards Crinkle Crags. The overtrousers worked, and the threat of rain slowly subsided. It was bright and clear out to the west, with the Isle of Man seemingly very close across a narrow stretch of the Irish Sea.
After following the frequently cairned path over the summits of Shelter Crags and Crinkles numbered Two to Five, we averted our eyes from the excellent view down towards Little Langdale and concentrated on descending the Bad Step, described by Wainwright as “the most difficult obstacle met on any of the regular walkers’ paths in Lakeland”.
I’m usually nervous in such places, but not here – it’s really very easy, especially if you pass/throw any walking poles and rucksacks down to the bottom. Even Sue managed to get down without incident, though I have been entertained in the past by folk who don’t spot the easy route.
From between the First and Second Crinkles, Crinkle Gill leads down to Oxendale. You can see the dodgy weather to our east, but thankfully the rain stayed in sight but out of reach.
After wandering over our final (First) Crinkle, Sue and I headed across to Stonesty Pike, then back to the easy bump of Great Knott, before descending to join Alan and Sue near Red Tarn.
Runners were coming and going in all directions as we tucked into our lunches – tuna picnics for me and Sue; home made salads for Alan and Sheila.
The original plan had involved a there and back visit from here to Pike of Blisco, but we saved that for another day and set off down the paved path into Oxendale.
Here’s the start of the path, near Red Tarn, with Bowfell above Sue's head.
The end was in sight, but it was still a tiring descent to the valley, albeit still with fine views, especially looking across to Hell Gill and Bowfell.
Alan was with us. That meant tractor spotting. This David Brown was my favourite.
Sue prefers 'Lamb Spotting' – you’ll have to visit the slideshow for that picture.
By the time we got back to the ODG at around 2.30 pm, Sheila was desperate for a glass of wine, which she enjoyed in warm sunshine outside the hotel in between bouts of photography with a miscellany of cameras and ‘phones.
In fact we all enjoyed a tipple of our choice, and lazed here, taking in the ambience, for quite some time before an easy journey home.
Today's route - 14.4 km, 700 metres ascent, moving time 5 hours.
So, a successful little outing in excellent company, with Saturday being memorable for its perfect weather and a great wild camping spot.
I’ve uploaded a few more pictures (67 in total), and the slideshow can be viewed in a few clicks from here.
Alan has also written an excellent report and slideshow – here.
* For Samsung S5 users: I can only explain this problem, that has now happened to me twice, as arising from an accidental swipe to the left before opening the draft email. This gives a ‘Delete’ or ‘Undo’ option, and in the dark or in a hurry it would be easy to brush ‘Delete’ on the screen. Great care is therefore needed. On the other hand I’ve found some old drafts have been saved although the relevant emails have been sent and finished with. I like the phone, but getting the best out of it and avoiding certain pitfalls is something of a challenge. Next up – how to load my Anquet maps to the phone…