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Harter Fell / 2 days / 14 miles (23km)

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Date: 30 Dec 2008
Start / Finish: Eskdale Green.
Maps: Explorer OL6 English Lakes SW.

Day 1Harter Fell6.0 miles / 2190 feet (9.7km / 667m)
Day 2Hardknott pass & Eskdale8.1 miles / 520 feet (13.1km / 158m)

A quick end-of-year trip with the hope of a high level pitch above an inversion.

The forecast was hard to read and we were not really sure what conditions to expect on the fells, just a lot of cloud and very low temperatures which suggested a good possibility of an inversion. The conditions on the tops turned out a lot better than expected, as we saw from the long walk up the Eskdale valley, nevertheless there was a fine inversion below the pitch on Harter Fell on a superb clear morning which rounded off the year on a splendid high note. Virtually all the snow had gone, just a few white flecks remaining on the Scafells.

Day 1 - Harter Fell

Approaching the Lake District in grey fog we were not much wiser about the felltop conditions, and we decided on a long valley walk out to Harter Fell along the Eskdale Trail. Later as the mist thinned we saw that the tops were clear after all, but this is a pleasant route roughly following the course of the River Esk and the frosty rocks and clear water added local interest to the walk.

The River Esk
The River Esk (30 Dec 2008__11:00:34)
The Scafells from the Eskdale Trail
The Scafells from the Eskdale Trail (30 Dec 2008__12:33:30)

Opposite Whahouse Bridge we turned to climb steeply on a thin path near Spothow Gill, which joins the main path from Jubilee Bridge at a gate. The mist was gathering visibly as we approached the summit crown of Harter Fell and the temperature dropped sharply as we entered its lower wisps, but we managed to capture one shot showing the Scafells from the pitch before the greyish white mantle gained hold. A thick frost rapidly formed on the tent and we hoped for all that cloud to sink below us overnight.

Approaching Harter Fell
Approaching Harter Fell (30 Dec 2008__13:15:27)
Pitch on Harter Fell with the Scafells beyond
Pitch on Harter Fell with the Scafells beyond (30 Dec 2008__15:18:00)

Day 2 - Hardknott Pass & Eskdale

We opened the tent door to a beautifully starry dark blue sky and the faint image of a white sea below. There wasn't a breath of wind and we hurried to get everything packed away before the approaching sunrise, giving us plenty of time to capture the superb scene from every angle as the landscape awoke and the colours changed in the emerging light. The cloud level was quite low this time allowing many peaks to protrude from it.

Predawn sky and inversion
Predawn sky and inversion (31 Dec 2008__08:08:07)
Far south-western fells and inversion
Far south-western fells and inversion (31 Dec 2008__08:16:33)
The Scafells and Bow Fell
The Scafells and Bow Fell (31 Dec 2008__08:17:29)
Predawn sky and inversion
Predawn sky and inversion (31 Dec 2008__08:18:36)
Sunrise over the inversion
Sunrise over the inversion (31 Dec 2008__08:35:37)
View south west over the inversion
View south west over the inversion (31 Dec 2008__08:38:50)
Black Combe and the Stainton Fells
Black Combe and the Stainton Fells (31 Dec 2008__08:57:20)
Early sun on the inversion
Early sun on the inversion (31 Dec 2008__08:57:37)

The descent of the north-eastern slopes was a grand walk in the crisp sunshine and we noticed the cloud level rising relative to the hills, a process that happened surprisingly quickly. All too soon we entered the wall of cloud and a world of thick frost and bitter cold.

Arriving at Hardknott Pass we were surprised to encounter a passing Land Rover whose passenger waved to us, probably a casual greeting but perhaps a gesture of 'wish us luck...' as they started their descent of the legendary steep winding road - rather them than me!. There had been no rain for days but there were still some formidable sheets of thick ice across the road. We walked down the grass verges of the road, taking advantage of a few obvious paths that cut across the bends, and arrived at Jubilee Bridge and the start of the path that contours across the hillside to join the outward route.

The Scafells & Esk Pike
The Scafells & Esk Pike (31 Dec 2008__09:17:46)
Hard Knott, Bow Fell & Crinkle Crags
Hard Knott, Bow Fell & Crinkle Crags (31 Dec 2008__09:17:58)
The inverted cloud begins to rise
The inverted cloud begins to rise (31 Dec 2008__09:23:11)
Descending into the cloud
Descending into the cloud (31 Dec 2008__09:45:19)