|OS Route Map →||GPX Route file →|
Date: 30 Dec 2008
Start / Finish: Eskdale Green.
Maps: Explorer OL6 English Lakes SW.
|Day 1||Harter Fell||6.0 miles / 2190 feet (9.7km / 667m)|
|Day 2||Hardknott pass & Eskdale||8.1 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.