Sunday, 4 November 2012

The Last Wainwright and a Celebration.

During the course of this my first year of retirement, I've been assisting a friend to complete the Wainwright Peaks. We were joined part way through by another retiree who initially joined us for fitness, then assessed how many he had to do and decided to complete the others also. This left us in the situation where we they had both done similar numbers, but separate fells, so it's been a hell of a walking schedule to try and bring some unity to what needed completed. My original colleague then had an accident which has rendered him out of action for about three month, so this left the two of us still standing to finish the round. It was never a classic start so it wasn't going to be a classic end either. The end was to be Mungrisedale Common and Wainwrights dismissive comments are well known, yet it is in the list and therefor has to be done. Now Blencathra's main fell body has had my footfall on hundreds of occasions by all routes known to man, except Mungrisedale Common and I was about to find out why.
 Before viewing the Wainwright list I would not even recognised it as a fell though knowing that area well I did expect the views to be good from it's 'summit' cairn. To use the word 'summit' is an insult to other fells for without the cairn one would not know what to aim for and in mist could wander aimlessly trying to find a point to say you had actually been there.
 We had a plan; set off from Mungrisedale, head via The Tongue path, arc round Bannerdale Crags to the Hause between Bannerdale  and Atkinson Pike(the lower section of Blencathra's 'Saddle') and head out for Mungrisedale Common cairn. There were to be five of us, Steve, Ruth, Karl, Catherine and myself, not to forget the two dogs, Dillon and Holly 'The Beast' also making numbers up. It was tight in the estate but we all crammed in, backpacks and a change of clothing included, well you've got to look smart(ish) in the pub.
 After half an hours driving we parked at the village hall as the small car park was already full. This route to Blencathra is a favourite and in poor weather, an exercise walk as I know it intimately.

The Mill Inn with Souther Fell, legend of The Ghost Army.
Heading for The Tongue path.

The Tongue, Bowscale Fell to the right with Bannerdale to the left, Glenderamackin river to the left of the path.
Although Souther Fell was not on our route I mention this as a scene of local legend and folklore. Such stories say as much about an area as does the landscape and a knowledge of both for visitors is essential. Souther Fell is renowned for it's Ghost Army and for further reading you can check this knowledgeable account.
 As you leave the hamlet of Mungrisedale you get the above view of The Tongue. It makes me snigger every time I see it as it is the classic, symmetrical mountain we all start off painting at school at the tender age of 5yrs. The weather was sunny though not altogether clear and soon we were about to feel it's turn.

Looking back on Mungrisedale from below The Tongue.

Again looking back, this is the path up The Tongue whose summit can be viewed on the left, Souther fell receding in the centre of shot.

Bannerdale Crags corrie path.
The above three photographs show the abrupt change in the weather we experienced with some of the first snows of The Lakes autumn season. You are protected by the Skiddaw Massif as you ascend The Tongue path, but once at the top are then exposed to the biting wind and it's time for further layers of clothing to cover all parts of the body. We branched off just before Bannerdale summit and headed for the path intersection below Atkinson Pike, hoping for the weather to clear so Sharp Edge would come into view.

Atkinson Pike, Foule Crag and Sharp Edge.

The intended path for Mungrisedale Common, Skiddaw in cloud, Great Calva summit on the right.

The weather did abate and on cue the Edge came into view framed by the morning low autumn sun. Catherine had been here with us once before but had to settle for descriptions, now she could see it and all the better for that, she just needs to actually do it now, but not today. The third photo is our path to The Common and if you can see a summit here you're a better man than me, though when walking you begin to pick out a dot on the horizon that is the cairn.

Karl and Ruth striding out along the 'path'

Looking north to High Pike (left), Carrock Fell (centre) and Bowscale(right).
This summer has been the wettest on record, the autumn has been little better and yes you've guessed it, the path was a peaty quagmire. With good boots that thankfully didn't sink below the lace ties, well not mine anyway, we waded our way to the cairn. This is no exaggeration and unless to really have to, I recommend you save this for a period of long dry weather or a freezing winter to turn The Common to an ice sheet. Now we are at our last Wainwright, where's the photo? Sorry, I went for the conquering cairn shot and the battery was flat! In compensation though I had an unfinished bottle of Ardbeg Whiskey that I'd packed along with a proper glass and this was duly dispatched by all. We headed back on much the same path though decided to go to The Tongues summit and off the steep decline for a change. In wet weather it was slippery but without major mishap we were back at the car, changed and in the Mill Inn for a couple of beers to celebrate further, well you've just got to haven't you? It was a 13km walk with 560m ascent, not a bad little walk though we would normally walk much further and higher. It was not the end of the day though as it was quickly home for a change, then straight down into Carlisle for a CAMRA beer festival for three hours then onto our injured colleagues retirement function for a further three hours. A tough day and I felt it at the end, though it wasn't through the walking. (Enjoyed it all though).

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