|OS Route Map →||GPX Route file →|
Date: 29 Nov 2019
Start: Cow Bridge / Finish: Patterdale.
Maps: Explorer OL5: English Lakes NE.
|Day 1||Bakestones & Dove Crag||4.2miles / 2207 feet (6.8km / 672m)|
|Day 2||Hart Crag & Hartsop above How||5.1miles / 483 feet (8.2km / 147m)|
A short 2-day winter circuit of the fells around Dovedale to the south-west of Brothers Water.
Late starts, short daylight hours and bus timetables greatly limit the possibilities for winter backpacks but the forecast was for clear and very cold days that made this little round most rewarding. We packed the microspikes but didn't need them, it was so cold on the tops that the thick frost encrusting the rocky landscape was dry and crunchy, not slippery at all. The ice was very patchy and easily avoided despite the recent heavy rains, it also helped considerably with the boggy bits.
The culmination of the round as the light was quickly fading was a superb pitch on Dove Crag.
From Cow Bridge at the north end of Brothers Water we started with a fine easy walk alongside the lake to Hartsop Hall with good views across the water to the fells. Here we crossed Dovedale Beck to enter Caiston Glen. The steady damp ascent alongside Caiston Beck was in sombre shade but was relieved by the cascades, flowing well after the recent rain.
At Scandale Pass we finally emerged in sunlight to a glowing landscape. Turning right we ascended to Scandale Tarn and took the path across Bakestones Moss to the prominent columnar cairn on High Bakestones giving excellent views. In the diminishing light we saw a few figures on the skyline betraying the position of the main highway of the Fairfield Horseshoe, a couple of stragglers still remaining as we arrived at the starkly white frozen summit of Dove Crag.
The sun was setting as we found a good spot and completed our pitch, a crescent moon the only feature of a crisp clear sky.
A necessary brief sortie in the night revealed a splendid clear starry sky and the Milky Way, but on opening the door pre-dawn, considerable cloud seemed to be threatening the day. However as we were striking camp, wearing every layer we had, its progress weakened and we anticipated another sunny day later, though the northerly wind had picked up overnight. The flysheet was thickly encased in frost and, despite shaking it vigorously before packing, some sizable chunks would persist in the folds until we arrived home that evening.
The remaining clouds presented a fine sunrise and a familiar bluish cast graced the frosty landscape.
At the col before Hart Crag we turned and saw a figure approaching us from behind at speed, clearly a fell runner. He stopped briefly to talk to us, probably wondering how the hell we were up here at this time, and was surprised when we told him we were pitched on Dove Crag and had just started walking. He had started from Ambleside and said his car stat had indicated a temperature of -5°C, it must have been considerably colder up here and it felt like it.
The cast of the light now tended more to red as we reached Hart Crag for more great views.
The steep rocky descent of Hart Crag's north-east ridge surprised me last time I was here but I clearly forgot, this time it was enlivened by patches of ice and progress was very slow. In hindsight we should have circled around from the summit to follow the easier grassy line a little to the south. We eventually reached the foot of the rocky nose and started the long undulating ridge to Hartsop above How, the red colour of the marsh grasses standing out in the chilled greens and grand views all around.
The descent from Hartsop above How first crosses the minor hump of Gale Crag and hugs a wall to the edge of the trees at the north end of Deepdale Park. Here the rearward view is dominated by the towering St. Sunday Crag. As expected we met quite a few walkers making their ascent.
Arriving at the A592 we took the footpath across Deepdale Bridge to Lane Head, then northwards to rejoin the road for the final walk along the verge to Patterdale.