Through the Viewfinder
And What Alice Found There
This August bank holiday turned out to be a busy one for me. Instead of relaxing at home enjoying the long weekend I spent 2 of my 3 days off hiking, but on the plus side I'm creeping ever closer to my goal of 100 Wainwrights so it's worth it! The first hike I did on the Saturday was Hart Side, starting from the National Trust car park on Park Brow (near Aira Force)...
The first part of the walk proved to be quite challenging but not because it was steep or rocky, but because it was so overgrown with bracken and nettles! Me and dad fought our way through the undergrowth with our hiking poles and the whole experience reminded me of my trip to the Amazon jungle, chopping my way through with a machete! However, despite the tough terrain we had excellent views of Ullswater right from the beginning of the hike so at least we could stop for a break every now and then and admire the views!
Once out of the bracken we headed through some woodland then up onto the open fell, where we saw the most caterpillars I've ever seen in the space of one day! Every few steps we'd spot another of the black and orange furry insects which I later discovered were Fox Moth Caterpillars. I counted at least 20 but there were so many that I actually stopped bothering to count in the end, I couldn't believe how many we saw!
Dodging the caterpillars we eventually made it to a large cairn marking the top of Birkett Fell, which had great views towards the Helvellyn range with the peak of Catstycam looming over the lower fells around it. From there we could also see the cairn marking the top of Hart Side - our destination for the day. We headed off across boggy ground and reached the summit within about 5 minutes. There were two cairns on the top so we took photos at both as we couldn't tell which was highest! There was also a third cairn off to the side which we sat next to for our picnic while looking over at Great Dodd, Stybarrow Dodd and Watson's Dodd - three mountains I am yet to conquer!
There seemed to be a good footpath off in the direction of Stybarrow Dodd but on this occasion we decided to go back down the way we had come up to get us back to the car easily. We dodged the caterpillars once again, made it across the bogs and fought our way through the bracken for the second time that day before finally arriving back at the car. The walk was about 6 miles long and took us just over 4 hours. The best thing about this walk was the unbeatable view of Ullswater as you make your way up towards the beginning, and being able to watch all the sailing boats on the water looking like a little toy town. You can see our route below...
The second walk I did on bank holiday weekend was supposed to be Blencathra via Sharp Edge, but for the second time now we have had to abandon due to bad weather. This time we parked near Scales on the A66 and made it all the way up to Scales Tarn before deciding against the ridge walk. The closer we got to the tarn the more the cloud dropped, so by the time we got up there we were in thick mist and couldn't even see the mountain straight ahead of us. We sat for a while at the tarn feeling defeated once again, but eventually agreed that if we were going to do Blencathra it had to be via Sharp Edge, and if we were doing Sharp Edge we wanted good visibility so we could actually enjoy the views from the ridge. So we turned our backs on Blencathra and decided to tick off Mungrisedale Common and Bannerdale Crags instead.
There appeared to be nothing special about Mungrisedale Common. As we walked further along the path the cloud continued to thicken to the point where the sky actually looked darker. Our fleeces and coats quickly went back on and when the path suddenly disappeared we wandered aimlessly around in the mist trying to find the top. Eventually we had to resort to using a good old map and compass to get ourselves to the summit (which was nothing more than just a flat bit of boggy ground, like the rest of the fell) and then the problem was getting back off the fell. There was absolutely nothing around to use as a reference point and even if there had been something there we wouldn't have been able to see it in the fog! There was one point when I genuinely wondered if the apocalypse had started to happen and me and Greg were the only ones left on the forever foggy Earth. I relied entirely on my compass to get us back to the path and eventually we were off the fell and back at the crossroads joining it with Blencathra and Bannerdale Crags, but with still no sign of human life I was still considering the apocalypse theory to be true.
Next up was Bannerdale Crags itself, which turned out to be even foggier than Mungrisdale! It got to the point where we stopped at the cairn to take the obligatory summit photos but just stepping back to get the picture and the summit nearly went out of view, just a few metres away! Needless to say we didn't stop long on the top and made our way down as fast as possible, and finally seeing some other human beings appear out of the mist and then disappear just as quickly! Dropping down into the valley the fog didn't seem to be lifting so we resorted to a very misty picnic by the side of the path. Eventually, once we'd dropped right back down to the valley floor we got below cloud level once again and could see further than just 2 metres ahead of us. The rest of the walk back was nice and easy, and we are already talking of going up that same route when we come back to do Blencathra someday. Our route is below...
I took a break from hiking this weekend and just went for an easy stroll over Scout Scar on Sunday which was nice. I also won't get chance to hike next weekend as I'm visiting some friends in Manchester, but the following week I'm hoping to get back to it. I'm now only 7 away from my target so if all goes to plan I hope to be done by October, so there's even a chance I'll get further than the 100 mark by the end of the year!