Lake District – Scales Tarn & Blencathra

Where weather is concerned, sometimes you win and sometimes you loose. It would be excellent if you could have cloudless nights spent star gazing after witnessing an amazing sunset, you would then get a reasonable amount of sleep before it was time to wake to watch the sun rise once again while enjoying a coffee. That would perhaps be my preference anyway, I guess not every trip can be that way and looking back at my wild camping history it seems pretty rare indeed. One thing is for certain though, no matter what the weather does, time spent with friends amongst hills will always be good no matter what Mother Nature has to offer. This week I headed for the Lake District with my friends Graeme and Andy to have a look at what a typical British summer had in store.

Route Map – http://www.shareyouradventure.com/map/perma/51375/iframe

Graeme and I had hatched the plan a few weeks earlier, we set a date that worked and it was only a few days before that we picked a route (thanks for the suggestion Alex Atkinson @Atkypne). On the day I meet up with Graeme at MacArthur Glen near junction 28 of the M1, we then picked up Andy who had flown in to Manchester airport at 6am and got the train back to Derbyshire. He only had a few moments to pack his kit before we arrived, understandably he slept most of the way to the Lakes having flown half way around the world in the last 24hrs.

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I’ve mentioned in a few previous posts that one of my main concerns when picking a route is parking, if I can find a good spot to leave my car for a few days then the route plotting can commence. As my walking in the Lakes has been limited to certain areas I’m always wary about the parking situation when heading for a new places, I love being car free but when travelling away from Derbyshire it’s easier to take my own wheels. We were heading for the northern fells so after some tips (thanks again Alex) and some googling we chose Mungrisdale as the start/end point. We arrived there in good time and managed to find a nice spot near the phone box. We got kitted up and headed off after depositing a parking donation in the honesty box.

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Our first hill of the day was going to be Bowscale Fell, so we climbed the gentle path along the northern side of Bannerdale. The weather was looking promising until we reached the top of the path near NY 332 302, it was from here that we could see what Mother Nature had in store. Coming our way was the darkest, dirtiest looking bank of cloud that we could see was dropping huge amounts of moisture below it. The monster was fast approaching and we just had enough time to chuck our waterproofs on before the hail hit. Within seconds we were getting pelted by huge bits of hail and the planned trip up Bowscale Fell was cancelled in favour of heading south towards NY 327 291 and dropping down a little. Naturally I got my GoPro out and filmed the action, the footage doesn’t do it justice really but you’ll get the idea. Andy and I were once walking in cloud on the northern edge of Kinder Scout and got caught in an unforeseen hail storm, that storm had some added thunder to spice things up a little. The thought of being struck by lightning at any moment certainly wakes up ones senses and sends them in to overdrive 🙂

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Thunder and lightning had been a concern of mine in the days leading up to the trip, some agencies had forecast it, some hadn’t but we decided to go anyway. High wind was predicted too so we had made a call beforehand to avoid camping on summits just incase. I must admit it was my paranoia about the lightning that got the better of me. With that in mind, after our fun and frolics with the hail we decided to camp near Scales Tarn. A nice relatively sheltered pitch would do the job and it would mean we would pitch earlier rather than risk running out of daylight if climbing Blencathra took longer than expected.

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We arrived at Scales Tarn, pitched up and then began brewing up. I was in my Wild Country Zephyros 1, Andy was in the guest tent (aka my Karrimor X-Lite) and Graeme was in his Lux Mini Peak. During the pitching of my Zephyros I managed to damage the eyelets for the centre pole and subsequently bent it, not wanting to snap the pole I left it as it was and forced a pole sleeve over the worst bit of the bend. Graeme had issues on his shelter as one of the doors zips had broken. The cheapo Karrimor tent was unscathed.

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I must admit it was a rather windy night but I got quite a lot of sleep, I credit that to my Therm-a-Rest NeoAir Venture WV sleeping matt which has been a god send. I purchased it a few months ago and I have been cursing myself for not upgrading sooner, it was relatively cheap and is perfect for me. Andy had slept ok due to being massively jet lagged anyway. Graeme had a bit of a broken nights sleep due to his door flapping about during the night. Check out his video to see his account of the trip.

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Somehow I managed to break the zip on my Zephyros while exiting to grab water for a brew. The zip pull snapped off in my hand, maybe I was being too heavy handed, either way that will need attention before I can use the tent again. I’ve hammered it for over 2 years and not looked after it as well as I perhaps should have, it’s done well to with stand my neglect for so long 🙂

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After packing away we headed off up towards the summit of Blencathra, the wind was very strong indeed today so we decided against risking Sharp Edge with large packs and opted for the less extreme approach from the southern side of the tarn. It wasn’t long before we were up in the cloud and making our way along to the summit.

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The wind was pretty ferocious and the rain had been coming in and out during our ascent but we made it to the summit in what seemed like no time at all. No views to speak of today due to the think cloud so we decided to push on instead of lingering in the clag.

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As we descended of the western flanks of Blencathra we eventually ducked below the cloud line and were treated to stunning views down towards Keswick and the surrounding hills.

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Once down in the valley we decided to make another call, head up towards Skiddaw and face another onslaught due to the strong winds or meander through the valley up towards Skiddaw House… We chose to meander and have a relatively relaxed day of it.

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We picked up the Cumbria Way and followed it up to Skiddaw House where we stopped for a lunch break while the rain had stopped. It was here that we had to make another decision…. We had checked the weather and another torrent of rain was heading in from the west, it was due to arrive in the late afternoon and hang around for the majority of the night. I personally didn’t fancy a night in a windy/rain storm with a broken tent and Graeme’s tarp wasn’t in great shape so we decided to save the hills for another occasion. Skiddaw will always be there so we will just have to plan another adventure and return again soon. Graeme has already climbed Skiddaw on numerous occasions but I’m yet to tramp up to its summit.

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Once we had arrived back in Mosedale it was only a short walk along the road back down towards Mungrisdale. Ominous looking dark clouds had been building on the western horizon for the last hour and it was going to be a narrow escape if we made it to the car in time. Low and behold, just as we were walking the last 100 or so metres back to the car at Mungrisdale the heavens opened. We quickly got changed out of our waterproofs and jumped in the car, I utilised the phone box and got changed in there as it was absolutely chucking it down.

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In a way I was very glad indeed that we decided to stick to the valley today, I was very impressed with the walk from Skiddaw house down to Mosedale as this time of year it was such a green and tranquil place. We walked for a good few hours and didn’t see another soul which was great, I’m very selfish you see, I love having the hills/valleys to myself 🙂

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We drove away and made our way back to the A66 and when we got to the junction at Blakebeck we got a glimpse of the weather down toward Keswick…. At that point I was extremely glad we had decided to cut the adventure short and save the remaining hills for another day. I love walking and wild camping, I don’t mind walking in rubbish weather if it’s a day walk or if I have to… I had numerous bad weather experiences in Scotland in our early days of hiking so I feel I’ve earned my wet weather badge 🙂

As always, thanks for reading, watching and viewing. I’m hoping to return to the Lake District for a winter wild camp with Graeme once the snow arrives, perhaps some time in the new year.

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