|the famous Hanging Stone on Base Brown|
My knee has been feeling good so I thought a little test run, returning to the wettest place in England, was in order. I had hoped to climb Base Brown on my last visit to Seathwaite but low cloud had put me off. The route I took today was a little over three miles and was a perfect re-introduction to fell-running with the steep climb up and gentle run back down the Gillercomb Valley.
|the red arrows are at five minute distances so you can see that they are closer together on the climb up to the hanging stone and then they spread out from the summit onwards where I was running most of the time.|
|3d map showing an attractive extension to Green Gable, Brandreth and Grey Knotts|
|Sour Milk Gill with Base Brown to the left|
The route I took today starts from Seathwaite Farm where the path turns right through Farm Buildings. This junction is easy to miss, although there is a signpost pointing through.
Once across the River Derwent, an attractive ladder style, at a much lower angle than is usual, leads to the steep and winding path up the fellside. The path goes along the left hand side of Sour Milk Gill, climbing steeply.
At one point, the path disappears and some basic scrambling is required. The way through is easily identified by the smoothing of the rocks created by the many people who have previously trod this way. Before long, the path mellows and this is the point to head away from the path towards the Hanging Stone. Various hanging stones can be seen from the ascent but once it is in sight, there is no mistaking the stone that Wainwright mentions.
Undertaking this climb, one gets the distinct impression that Base Brown is falling down. There are huge slabs of shattered rock all around.
Climbing up through these slabs, I was soon right below the famous Hanging Stone. Before you get here though, you also pass the Fallen Stone, a huge slab of stone that has fallen from the crag. Or, as Wainwright puts it:
"a tremendous mass of rock that must at some time have fallen from it, although silting now gives it the appearance of a natural outcrop. It has been badly fractured in the fall, and identifiable fragments from it can be found lower down the slope."
I had a bit of a climb around on the Fallen Stone. There are some little caves nearby created by large boulders falling together. A useful spot to shelter or a possible wild-camp location but nothing too exciting.
|big rocks falling down from Base Brown|
|The Hanging Stone in the centre with the Fallen Stone to the left|
|The Fallen Stone|
|looking back down a river of boulders to Seathwaite|
|The Hanging Stone|
|from above, the Hanging Stone and looking beyond to Seathwaite|
From the Fallen Stone, I climbed under the Hanging Stone and around to look over the top. It was windy at the top and this stopped me from getting too close. From here it was a mostly grassy climb to the summit of Base Brown.
On the way to the summit, I passed this perched boulder, also mentioned by Wainwright in Base Brown 4:
"Sixty yards further up the ridge a large rounded boulder has come to rest on a number of smaller ones."
So far, Seathwaite had not lived up to its reputation and the weather remained dry. My knee was holding up well and I was considering my onward route options. The most obvious was to continue to Green Gable and then along the ridge to Brandreth and Grey Knotts, returning to Seathwaite via the wad mines. An alternative was to turn left from Green Gable, taking the steep descent path down Aaron Slack, taking the Styhead path back to Seathwaite. However, when I got to the top of Base Brown, the cloud was down and I thought best not to push things with my knee so I turned right before climbing up to Green Gable and took the pleasant valley path down Gillercomb back to Sour Milk Gill.
|Base Brown summit cairn. Looking east to Red Gill on Glaramara|
|and up to Green Gable, Great Gable in cloud|
|really nice run down Gillercomb|
|recognise these two rocks?|
The path was steep in parts and has been pitched. The rock was slippy and wet so I took my time but got a nice little run going where it leveled out. I think I made a good decision going this way, it felt just the right amount of distance and steepness to give my knee a test. I do want to return and do the other route over Brandreth and Grey Knotts though.
Just at the point where the path curls around the crag that hosts the Hanging Stone, with the Fallen Stone beneath, I did a big slide across the wet grass, a bit like I was scoring a try in a rugby game but without a ball. I'm sure it was very funny to watch, I was laughing as I was doing it, but I don't think anybody was around to witness it. A little bit further along and I was at Sour Milk Gill. Here the path goes steeply down and I had to renegotiate the scrambling area. Luckily, the rain had stayed off and the rock was relatively dry so I was soon back on the pitched path.
|steep scramble down|
|Sour Milk Gill|
Back at the car and my Salomon Speedcross 2s were bubbling away (got to remember to rinse them better when I clean them in the kitchen sink). I changed my shoes, got back in my car and the rain started. Perfect!