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Date: 29 Nov 2004
Start / Finish: Seathwaite in Borrowdale. Roadside parking.
Maps: Explorer OL4 & OL6: English Lakes North West & South West.
|Day 1||Base Brown & Seathwaite Fell||4 miles / 3040 feet (6.5km / 926m)|
|Day 2||Allen Crags & Ruddy Gill||3m (4.8km)|
A short circuit of the little frequented mountains South of Seathwaite, principally Base Brown and the much underrated Seathwaite Fell. The original plan was to return via the Glaramara ridge, but driving snow and dense mist made a descent by the attractive Ruddy Gill a better alternative!.
Sourmilk Gill looked impressive even from the road, tumbling down in a series of falls and cascades. Turning R through the 'arch' in the farmyard and crossing the footbridge, the path climbs steeply on the L of the gill and easy detours can be made periodically to get a more intimate look at the falls. Higher up, the rock was quite wet and icy and needed some care clambering up with winter weight packs.
At the top of the falls the path levels off at Gillercomb, and we surveyed the upper slopes of the first mountain of the day, Base Brown. On our last visit we followed the main path up Gillercomb to the col and did an out-and-back, but today we tackled the steep N ridge direct. Climbing towards Hanging Stone, we wondered if we had underestimated the steepness of the buttress ahead, but the obvious breach was not difficult at all, notwithstanding ice on the rocks. The ascent levels out at a small rise which gives a grand view of Borrowdale, and a final climb along the spine of the ridge gains the summit. There were superb clear views and the highest mountains still had a thin covering of snow - the Scafells, Great Gable, Skiddaw, Blencathra and the Helvellyn range.
A gentle grassy descent SW brought us to the col, where we slanted down S over trackless slopes to cross Mitchell Gill and reach the footbridge over Styhead Gill. We took the next objective Seathwaite Fell head-on, climbing E directly from the footbridge on the R of a boulder field. The ascent is pathless and quite steep but easy, and brought us to an attractive frozen tarn on the edge of the fell.
Seathwaite Fell is flanked by two major Lakeland highways carrying hordes of people bound for higher mountains, but few climb it. Wainwrighters visit the minor rocky N top, which is not the summit, but judging by the one faint path, not many explore the lovely tarns and rocky knolls that make this mountain so rewarding. Turning S to the first summit (632m), the top overlooks another picturesque tarn. Heading SSE, a larger tarn nestles below a rocky cliff and the second summit (631m) lies immediately on the R. There was a grand view ahead to the stern snow-topped cliffs of Great End from here, as mist started to gather over the Scafells.
A short walk S lies Sprinkling Tarn, where we joined the main highway SE and collected water at a small side stream of Ruddy Gill, then climbed to the windshelter at the col. The mist was really closing in now on a moderate wind as we climbed to Allen Crags, with one very brief clear view to the Langdale Pikes. We pitched here on the thin remnants of snow at the summit, which still persisted as the temperature was well below freezing. Shortly after pitching the tent it started snowing and the wind strengthened.
We were hoping for a temperature inversion in the morning, but it was not to be - the temperature actually rose a little in the night. We opened the door to a covering of snow and the mist was very dense. It was also very windy and snowing again!. There was nothing to be gained from continuing along the ridge in the awful conditions, so we backtracked down to the Ruddy Gill path where the temperature was higher and it turned to rain. Fortunately the wind was behind us for a change, which made the walking very pleasant, and there was plenty of interest in the waterfalls and cascades in the gorge, with the white ribbons of the side gills tumbling down from the edge of the Glaramara ridge. The photos didn't work today though. The mist was so thick and dark that the camera would not take without flashing, and the pictures were terrible!. The pitched path leads directly back to Seathwaite, crossing footbridges and joining the farm access tracks.