|Outline Map →||Route file →|
Date: 19 Dec 2006
Start / Finish: Seathwaite in Borrowdale. Good roadside parking.
Maps: Explorer OL4 & OL6: English Lakes North West & South West.
|Day 1||Seathwaite Fell & Esk Hause||3.8 miles / 2530 feet (6.2km / 771m)|
|Day 2||Great End, Allen Crags & Looking Steads||3.2 miles / 880 feet (5.2km / 268m)|
|Day 3||Glaramara & Thornythwaite Fell||4.2 miles / 270 feet (6.8km / 82m)|
Another leisurely circuit of the fells at the head of Borrowdale for the short winter days, starting with a direct ascent of Seathwaite Fell and culminating at Great End, and exploring a new descent path from Glaramara across Thornythwaite Fell.
Great End and the Scafells were capped with snow and we had our first wintry pitch of the season. After weeks of miserable rain and wind, the forecast had predicted settled conditions which suggested the possibility of inversions. We have seen many weak inversions from our high level pitches but this was our first excellent one, a rare and superb spectacle.
We took the Stockley Bridge route that climbs around Greenhow Knott where Taylorgill Force could be seen, though it was not as impressive as expected given the copious amounts of recent rain, in fact the level of streams and water generally was no higher than usual for December. Where the path levels out we climbed left directly to Seathwaite Fell, a lovely and little frequented area of knolls and tarns covered by gleaming ice in the sunshine where one could spend hours pottering around. As we reached the secluded rock encircled tarn that nestles below the south top, mist started to form above the highest peaks and at Sprinkling Tarn the tops were engulfed.
Climbing by the towering cliffs of Great End in mid afternoon, we met a couple of fell runners who asked if this was Scafell (sic). We indicated the general line to Scafell Pike and mentioned the awkward icy boulder field en route: they later wisely turned back when they lost the 'path'. The winter solstice was approaching with sunset due around 3:50pm and white mist was shrouding the high peaks, yet later still at 3:15 we saw one walker ascending the snow and ice covered rocks towards Scafell Pike, stopping periodically to consult his map. We cleared an area of snow below the dome of Great End and made an excellent pitch in the misty white landscape.
We were really hoping for a good inversion this morning, but morale was low when we opened the tent door in the darkness to find our head torches reflecting off the thick mist once again. However the gloom was miraculously lifted as the light came and the high mist disappeared, revealing a breathtaking sight: below the snowy rockscape was a stupendous inversion. An ocean of dense white cloud stretched to the distant horizon in the east with small boiling plumes occasionally rising around the protruding black mountain peaks. The rising sun added a further element of red and orange light on the glistening snow and illuminated the peaks in the west.
The Great End summit plateau gave excellent views of the inversion to the north, just as dense but not as continuous, with Skiddaw and Blencathra standing proud in the distance. Returning to Esk Hause gave a final view of the spectacle and it was on to Allen Crags. This ridge is one we could explore time and time again amid the many delightful tarns and knolls, and there are still interesting rock cliffs for future trips. We made a good pitch on Looking Steads just as the mist rose dramatically and enveloped everything.
This morning had a different character, there was still some inverted cloud intermittently visible in Langdale below the dull skies, but dank mist was the order of the day. It was coming and going on Glaramara (mainly coming!) and there were no views today from this summit. We made our descent via the Thornythwaite Fell route, not being misled by the various cairns below Glaramara, and the mist cleared enough to see the arc of rocky tops across the valley from Combe Head to Rosthwaite Fell. We picked up the clear path that leads down to Combe Gill where we returned along the Allerdale Ramble route to Seathwaite.