Thursday, 24 January 2013

Snow, a cave, three Wainwrights & two Patterdale pubs.

17th January saw four of us set off toward Ullswater with an intent to walk but the route not yet defined. We travelled down the length of the lake and as two of the group had not been to Priests Hole, we settled on Cow Bridge car park as our commencement point for the walk. Priests Hole was an admirable goal, though The Kirkstone Pass Inn and The Brotherswater Inn were also high players in why we chose a route up to Dove Crag before turning left for Kirkstone via Red Screes.
 The weather looked reasonably clear without rain and perhaps some thin snow, the valley bottoms were clear yet one didn't need to look too high before the snow line started. We set off along Brotherswater, passing Hartsop Hall en route for the lower path of  Dovedale. In the snow this is tricky to keep to and the higher path following the wall line I had previously found much easier.

Passing Hartsop Hall, the view to High Hartsop Dodd.

Looking to Dove Crag with Priests Hole in view.

 We reached the bridge over Dovedale Beck and crossed here and after a little while the path steepened and there was a need within the group to alter the clothing layers. This becomes a steep fix the fells route to Houndshope Cove and whatever the speed you walk you will feel this in your legs. It is also a good route to take regular breathers and turn to admire the view of Patterdale from here.

Dove Crag and Priests Hole in cloud.

Looking back into Hartsop, from the Houndshope Cove ascent route.

We had donned our trail spikes here, for ice as well as snow covered the steps of this route. After a hard push up we reached the erratic stone that denotes the turn for Priests Hole.

Houndshope Cove erratic, looking back to the High Street range.
There is just something about this erratic stone, out of place in the landscape yet occupying it for many thousands of years. I always take the time to take in the view from here. We turned and the route to the cave was relatively uneventful bearing in mind the ice and snow. Having been up to it a number of times I am well versed in the with the track when covered in snow, though the ice axe was also 'at the ready'.
Priests Hole, looking across Hartsop above How.
No one was occupying this and we had a small break for a coffee and a sandwich here, before pressing on for Dove Crag. As we reached the ridge of the range the icy wind hit us with no protection from the fell, though thankfully the temperature was not too low to really freeze the bones. Our intention was to get to Little Hart Crag and then Red Screes before a decision on whether we had time to continue past Kirkstone Pass Inn for Caudale Moor.

Pressing on for Dove Crag.

Checking on the time, a decision to be made soon.
 At the Hause of Scandale Pass we came across a group of eight who had set off from Cow Bridge at much the same time as we had though they had taken a different route. It was here that one of the group recognised Holly 'The Beast' and I was pleasantly surprised to meet a person I had met on an earlier group walk on Skiddaw. These surprises help make a day memorable. Nice to see you there Ria. Part way up to Red Screes we polished off the rest of our bait, sheltering behind the wall.
 After Red Screes it was obvious that the snow was slowing our normal pace and one of our group had not been out for a couple of months. To have continued on after The Kirkstone Pass Inn would have been foolish, so the decision was made to head for the car after Kirkstone Pass.

Descending Red Screes, the pub just coming into heavenly view.
This steep descent was tricky in ice, though we made it down. The benefit of calling an end to the fell tops was that we could indulge in two pints here and not just the one, which we duly did.

A misted lens view of the first pint.
We still had the pass to descend and although I have never been on it I was aware of a permitted path on the north side of the road, still a suitable distance from the road itself to let the dog off the lead for the most part. This descent had the added benefit of taking us past The Kirk Stone, after which the pass takes it's name.
The Kirk Stone.
This was a steady descent, uneventful except for the views of the valley. We passed over a bridge and joined the Scandale Pass path at the valley bottom, passing through the ancient settlement marked on the ordnance survey map. We once again passed Hartsop Hall and were back at the car park of Cow Bridge.
View back up the valley from Cow Bridge car park.
Well, a good walk and after one further pint at Brotherswater Inn the day was complete a good socialising walk with friends, 17.5kms with 1100m ascent in six hours, a decent walk out in snowy conditions.

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