|Outline Map →||Route file →|
Date: 26 Jun 2007
Start / Finish: Eskdale Green. Small free car park on the main road by Giggle Alley Forestry Commission entrance (141002).
Maps: Explorer OL6: English Lakes South West.
|Day 1||Great How, Sca Fell & High Scarth||9.8 miles / 3680 feet (15.8km / 1121m)|
|Day 2||Cat Crag & Stony Tarn||3.0 miles / 570 feet (4.8km / 173m)|
|Day 3||Eel Tarn & Blea Tarn||6.0 miles / 760 feet (9.7km / 231m)|
Another circuit of Lower Eskdale culminating at Sca Fell and returning via Stony Tarn and Blea Tarn, this time approaching via Miterdale. This was a trip with no fixed plan, designed to take advantage of small good weather windows in a very wet and miserable June when Cumbria surprisingly missed the extreme deluge of other counties. We made route decisions as we went along and in the clear periods the visibility was excellent, although the northerly wind was really cold.
The first decision was the line of approach: we gambled that the clear weather would hold for an ascent of Sca Fell and we chose the quickest route which was the valley of Miterdale, a path we had not walked before. Once past the farmland and forest, this was a really good path alongside the infant River Mite and a lot better than we had imagined. Near the head of the dale the stream disappeared and reappeared further up, and the dalehead has a cirque of little rocky cliffs with a thin waterfall tumbling down. Above this the path becomes a bit vague as it approaches wet boggy ground, and we climbed a little higher to gain a drier line around to a grey looking Burnmoor Tarn and a better path to Burnmoor Lodge and Lambford Bridge.
Over the bridge we ascended the wet path a short way and left it to angle up the pathless slopes of Great How, a more direct ascent than we have tried before and not difficult apart from a short steep patch of bracken and rocks. The lovely tarns near the summit were not seen to best advantage today under the overcast sky but the views to the mountains were very clear. A straightforward crossing of Quagrigg Moss brought us to the foot of the south ridge of Sca Fell and a long climb of 1600' to the summit cairn. Although the sky was grey and the northerly wind was bitingly cold for June, the weather had held and the views were clear and extensive.
Descending back down the south ridge and clearing the boulder fields, there is a vague intermittent path that roughly contours ENE below Horn Crag to a saddle above the River Esk and Great Moss. Our objective was the adjacent small spur ridge, which doesn't even have a name on the map but is a splendid little area of rocky knolls and cliffs and not a trace of a path on it. The little dome of rock at the highest point of this spur has one of the finest mountain vistas in England, surrounded by the lower battlements of Sca Fell, the towering rock piles of Scafell Pike and Ill Crag, Bowfell and Crinkle Crags. The sun broke through as we moved S down the ridge to find a pitch with some shelter from the stiff wind, and we found a perfect spot next to a small tarn just before the ridge plunges precipitously at High Scarth Crag. For ease of reference we named the area High Scarth.
The promised weather front came through in the night, with the strong wind and lashing rain continuing into the morning. Expecting a greatly improving day, we decided to sit tight and it soon broke up into heavy showers and blew itself out, and we started the walk well after 11am. This is such a grand and unfrequented area that a lazy exploration day was in order, at first zigzagging around the marshy patches enhanced by the overnight rain. Making our way back around Cow Cove there were clear views across to the Crinkles as we joined the path into Cat Cove. The sun finally triumphed as we made the short ascent to Cat Crag, a nice little craggy top to relax and admire the grand vista towards upper Eskdale.
Below Cat Crag, Catcove Beck flows through a rocky gorge but first we walked NW across a rather boggy area to join a path on the far side of the beck and followed it round to the top of the gorge. Unfortunately the cleft is obscured by small trees and there is little to see from above, but it is a very pleasant spot.
From here we ascended westwards into Cat Cove to locate the inflow stream to Stony Tarn and picked our way down ribs of dry ground and across boggy bits to the northern shore. Crossing the outflow and climbing eastwards there was a lovely view of the tarn and Sca Fell beyond. Returning to the outflow and the path a little higher up, we continued SW a short way and made a good pitch among the rocky outcrops. The major tarns tend to attract wild campers, even the lesser known ones like Stony Tarn, and we didn't want to tempt fate by pitching on its shore.
There were a few short heavy showers in the night but the morning was locally clear, though the higher tops were enveloped in mist. Thin paths meander SW through the knolls and join the clearer paths around Eel Tarn, where we saw one tent pitched on the eastern shore and a turbulent morning sky, and we took the main path SW to join the bridleway track that hairpins back to a bridge at Gill Bank. Following this northwards until we were outside the intake wall, we ascended L to the outside corner and picked our way along to the good track leading to Blea Tarn, looking quite sombre as the murky grey weather stream was gaining hold.
A sketchy path continues around the reedy Siney Tarn and curves SW along a line of rocky outcrops to arrive at a ladder stile above Hollinghead Crag. Passing the stile, another thin path heads W to the forest and follows the edge to the fork in the track and the outward route.