Saturday, 27 October 2012

A walk to Glaramara, our own RAF display and a tumble.

Mondays and Thursdays are holy days for me now, they are my two days of the week where I set out to walk in the company of fellow retirees and former colleagues and 25th October was such a Thursday. We will go out irrespective of weather as a general rule, to do otherwise means our level of fitness would suffer and others may have work commitments on other weekdays. We met at my house at 07.30hrs and set off for Seathwaite, a 45 minute drive coming from the Carlisle area. The weather reports boded well and we were not disappointed with the morning's early display as we headed down Borrowdale, the morning mist thinly lining the lakes surface.

Catbells beyond a serene Derwentwater.
It is difficult to resist a turn onto Kettlewell car park and thus we turned to take in the view of Catbells, across the lake. As we progressed further along the valley after this impromptu stop we were enveloped in the mist yet could make out the fell tops through this thin veil. One could only imagine the view of Borrowdale and Skiddaw you would get on such a day from Castle Crag, but that was not our destination so we continued on. We headed deep into the valley, turning left for Seathwaite and we were some of the earliest there. We parked very near to  the farm and took in the views of the broken mist on the fells all around, the dogs were keen to make a start and the three of us set off towards Stockley Bridge for my favourite route to Glaramara. Most people take the Combe Gill route to this summit but I much prefer the more challenging and shorter Hind Gill route. It is accessed by turning left at the gate just prior to the wooden bridge that crosses Hind Gill, this bridge being approximately half way toward Stockley Bridge from the farm. Be warned, it is directly up and will tax weaker legs, though if you wish, frequent stops will be rewarded with stunning views to Taylorgill Force and Seathwaite Fell for those who take the time to turn.

Seathwaite Fell and Taylorgill Force, enveloped on it's plateau by the morning mist.

The farm hidden in the receding mist. Seatoller Fell and Grey Knotts as the backdrop, Dalehead on the distant horizon.
Both the above pictures were taken on a stop to remove outer clothing as the route up was pumping the heart, a real calorie burner. We continued on along the path which had quickly crossed the gill so we were holding this to our left. You go through a gate in a wall running horizontally along the fell and continue up, the steepness not relenting though at times on true rock, not grass routes. When the path finally begins to diminish in it's steepness you suddenly realise it seems to have disappeared. If you still hold to the line of the gill though, you will finally meet up with the more common Combe Gill route as it winds it's way up and beyond Thornythwaite Fell. We took a shortcut angling slightly to the right, as our summit was in sight.

Looking back to Base Brown, Green and Great Gable beyond the Seathwaite Valley, Hind Crag framed by the remaining wisps.

Two of the team of three, summit ahead.
This is a lovely fell with excellent views of Borrowdale and Skiddaw opening up prior to the summit.  There is a slight sting in the tale just prior to this summit though, a final scramble up a rocky outcrop before a 360 degree vista opens, taking in The Langdales, Bowfell and Great End to the east and south, to complement the previously mentioned northern views. This scramble can be avoided either to the left or right though the actual marked path takes you up through this.
Scramble route to the summit.

The summit cairn to our right from the scramble. 'The Beast' was first up and waits for the rest of the party.
Once on at the summit we took a bait stop at the horseshoe shelter just by the cairn. It's worth the time in good weather to take in these views. Those who think of the valleys of Langdale, Wasdale and Borrowdale being great distances apart are thinking as a car driver. As a walker they are actually quite close and it dawns on the inexperienced when at this summit.
Great Gable and the view to Wasdale.

Our next summit was to be Allen Crags, then to move on beyond the valley junction that is Esk Hause to Esk Pike, before turning back to take in Great End, intending on dropping down The Band to Sprinkling Tarn, onto Seathwaite Fell and finally back to the farm. I say intending as we never managed this final fell, but more of that later. Glaramara is an easy fell to get disorientated on, there are a number of false summits that walkers aim for which can draw you away from the marked path. I mention this as there is one rocky outcrop where the path way is easy and any other is a possible fall, so do this fell in good weather if not used to it. We reached Allen Crags and the southern view, which was temporarily obscured, returned and opened up our route to Esk Pike.
Allen Crags summit achieved.
This was for Ruth, a former colleague, her first time on these fells, which had been the main reason for this as a chosen route. That said though, as we say, "A walk is a walk, is a walk" and the varying views are tremendous. It may not be a classic, 'Wainwright bagging walk' but why should it be? Although we were engaged in tidying up some summits Ruth had not been on, for us other two it was a 'miles in the legs' walk, we were after all, out in 'God's gym'.
 We moved off to pass Esk Hause where two wild campers were perched. This Hause is the classic fell pony route for the three valleys of Borrowdale, Langdale and Wasdale and is the highest hause(high point between two valleys) in the lakes. Consequently it is just a short uphill section to Esk Pike, this normally being associated with the Langdale valley/Bowfell range.
A further Wainwright summit, Esk Pike viewing the southern side of the Scafell range.
This was our furthest point we would be from the start, we then turned back heading for Great End and Seathwaite Fell. It was now that we were to experience our finest moment of the walk, shortly to be followed by our worst one. Two to three minutes of walking, returning broadly down the path we had ascended on, we heard the roar slowly building and realising what it would be I quickly moved for my camera and was in position for the crescendo that was two phantom jets arcing through Esk Hause, banking to head toward The Great Moss and Hardknott Fell area before disappearing in what seemed but a moment, along the Duddon Valley.
RAF jet viewed from Esk Pike, Great End to the right.

Roaring away on an 'Op', heading toward The Great Moss', another jet soon to follow behind.
 Throughout 28years as a police officer I've been to a number of tragedies where these have crashed usually with fatal consequences. We held great respect for the pilots and the risk they put themselves to, training within this mountainous terrain to hone their skills if ever they are needed in a real incident. It must be fun though and the ultimate 'boys toy'!.
 Once out of view we put away the cameras to move off down the rock descent and then it happened. The next step taken by Ruth was a slight misjudgement where she caught her foot on a rock protrusion, tried to redress, lurched forward to hunt for a foothold and tumbled down toward jagged rocks below her. This was bone breaking terrain which she hit, bounced, rolled and fell further onto more jagged rocks before coming to a stop. You could see she had tried to get an arm out to break the fall and on both bounces had managed to do so, though I don't know how she did. Think of any bone in the body and you could easily break it with such a fall skull included, but as we dashed to her  she was conscious, and capable of moving all her limbs, though clearly dazed. She insisted on standing and was in a great deal of pain though thankfully only muscular, mainly to her upper thighs and the back of her knuckle. Having tumbled, that was a positive result on what appeared as an obvious MRT incident. Despite strong suggestions from us she refused to call it a day and make our way down, insisting on moving on to Great End. She was satisfied it was just bruising and wanted to keep moving. I've come to know this young lady over the last 10yrs and the way in which she drives herself to achieve anything I hold in the highest regard. She was in pain but continued on with nothing more than an Ibuprofen tablet to dull it. We got to Great End summit and finished our bait with one final stop at the cairn.
Ruth in blue and this is after the tumble.

The central gulley of Great End as viewed from the top.
Great End summit.
It was clear that the pain was kicking in at the cairn and time was starting to be our limiting factor, so rather than The Band steep route off toward Seathwaite Fell, we decided on the longer but more gradual route off via Calf Cove and back to the farm by Grains Gill. This missed out Seathwaite Fell, but it's still there for another day for her to set her sights on.

Looking toward Grains Gill, Derwentwater in the distance.
The weather was closing in, having had the best of it in the morning and the route down was uneventful, returning to the car after just over 5 hours walking. This was 15kms and just over 1200m ascent, so a decent trek out, though not a big one, by our normal standards.
Seathwaite Farm as viewed on the return leg.
 Now a walk in company is not a walk completed until you've supped some ale and this we did at the Scafell Hotel Walkers Bar at Rossthwaite. It can be a little 'samey' but there is a good selection and it is always well kept beer. A good walk, a very eventful day. How's Ruth I hear you ask? That lady was walking having completed a night shift and was back in on nights that very night. As I said, I've a great deal of respect for that lady, 'driven' is what she is.


  1. Well written Ray and huge respect to Ruth, obviously a tough cookie! She must surely have been aching all over after that fall. I did slip once on an Esk Pike rock and banged a knee, seemed a bit slippy up there. By the way, what would have been your descent route from Seathwaite Fell?

    1. Martin, when you go up the Styhead Tarn route there is a bit of a gulley around NY228106. If you follow that it is safe and a slightly worn 'path'. Basically follow the gill either up or down & you'll be right. We went up it a couple of weeks ago and it near enough fetches you to the cairn. Ruths fine, she's a tough young lady.

    2. Have only just seen your reply, ok Ray thanks will check that out, its a nice top that Wainwright :-)