Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Pen from Eskdale

insipid crew

After a big run yesterday, a nice walk was just the ticket to stretch my legs out.  David had planned a walk to visit Pen, a subsidiary peak on the quiet eastern side of Scafell Pike.

Here is the route we took:

I was walking today with David, a mate I met through the I Love the Lake District Facebook group.  David's very knowledgeable about the Lake District and a great photographer.  He has a Facebook page as Wainwright Fellwalker showing off some of his photos.  Also along for the walk were Stephen, one of David's mates from work and Billy, someone else he had met through Facebook.

scenery starting to open up
After a slight false start because Billy left his camera in the car, we set off along a track signposted Birdhow, taking a left turn through a gate after about 3/4 of a mile up onto the fellside.

Following a well trod track a bit further along level ground, we turned left again and took a path heading more directly up the fell.

It turned out that we turned a little too soon as we ended up on the opposite side of Scale Gill than we had expected to be.

We continued to climb, finding an appropriate place to cross over the gill before working our way over or around a number of smaller crags which hid and then revealed unfamiliar views of some of the most familiar fells.  Bowfell, Scafell, Scafell Pike, Crinkle Crags came into view and then disappeared again as we climbed and descended on the way to Great Moss.

Slight Side - the blunt end of the Scafell range

Bowfell to the right
Dow Crag is the flat cliff in the front, Pen is just above this

David getting his feet wet across Scale Gill
We eventually got to flatter ground and found that the path went through a building that we thought must be an old settlement.  It turns out that it was just a sheepfold, a multi-sectioned sheepfold, bust a sheepfold non the less.

Just a bit further on from here are Sampson's Stones, a group of huge rocks, the size of small houses, set in a nice little circle at the base of Cam Spout Crag.

My first thought on seeing them was that they would be popular for bouldering.  I think that if they were not an hours walk from a parking place, they would be inundated with crag rats clambering around all over them.  A quick google seach when I got home revealed that they are considered one of the best locations for bouldering in the uk.  We had a bit of a climb around on them, messing about, posing for pictures before we moved on.

Cam Spout Crag on the left, Scafell Pike and Ill Crag.  Dow Crag visible under Ill Crag

looking over Great Moss to Esk Hause, Lakeland's highest pass

upper Eskdale Valley

Sampson's Stones.  Our route to Pen can be seen along the lefthand side of Dow Crag

better picture - worse subject ;)

close up on Dow Crag.  Pen is now prominently sticking out of the top

Cam Spout/How Beck Waterfalls
As we got around the side of Cam Spout Crag, more views opened up.  Mickledore and Broadstand came into view as did the hollow on Scafell containing Foxes Tarn.

The path up Cam Spout looked intriguing and is something that I would like to explore in the future.

After crossing How Beck, the instructions were to climb so that's what I did.  It was steep and before too much longer we were climbing through snow.  There were some deep drifts but the snow was ok in that it was not icy or over slippery.  It felt safe enough, it just took a while to blaze a trail through it.

Broadstand and Mickledore

Stephen taking the safer route

River Esk snaking back along Eskdale while I wait for the others to catch up

a lot of snow on the way up to Pen

it's always easier when you have footprints to follow

summit of Pen, our objective for the day

From Pen summit over to Esk Pike, Bowfell and Crinkle Crags

heading down to join Little Narrowcove
From Pen we had some decisions to make on the way forward.  Snow and remaining daylight hours were considerations.  It's hard to get a party of four to completely agree.  I'm usually up for a hard slog or an adventure but being among people who knew the terrain much better than me, I stayed quiet and let others take a lead.  We eventually decided to press on to Little Narrowcove.

Little Narrowcove is an indentation on the side of Scafell Pike that provides an option of a way up or down to/from the col between Scafell Pike and Broad Crag.

We would have to drop down from Pen to join up with the Little Narrowcove route but not all the way to the bottom.  Dropping down from Pen, the snow was very deep in places and I began to wonder if we had made a wise decision.  A little bit further on however, the snow seemed more uniform and it was fairly easy to work out a route joining up with the Little Narrowcove path.

Little Narrowcove - route is in the centre
I enjoyed the climb up Little Narrowcove.  It was hard work but I really enjoyed it.  Although this is by far the quietest side of Scafell Pike, there were some footprints to follow in the snow.

I led the way and eventually got to the col between Scafell Pike and Broad Crag.  As soon as we were at the top, the weather changed.  I'm not sure if it was because it was more exposed here or because of an actual change in the weather.  Cloud was rolling in onto Scafell Pike.

We were tantalisingly close to Scafell Pike summit.  I would estimate about 300m away.  I looked up and saw people struggling with the descent down to where we were.  Some were equipped with spikes, others were not but in general, it was clear that it was icy and very windy from this point on.

It didn't take too much deliberation for us to decide to head back down the way we came.  Going up to Scafell Pike would have meant a lengthy traverse of high ground.  David and I had spikes with us but Stephen and Billy didn't so it was definitely not wise to continue.  We turned around and headed back out of the wind.

heading up Little Narrowcove - looking back

at the col, looking towards Lingmell

cloud coming in

It was tough going on the way down Little Narrowcove.  I had decided to wear shorts and the snow had an icy crust to it which was cutting my legs as I stepped into it.  The snow had also disguised gaps between the stones and we all managed to find somewhere that our leg would get stuck on the way down.  After cris-crossing Little Narrowcove beck, we eventually got to the bottom and headed along the flat boggy ground to the river.

I asked the others if we were crossing the river.  When I was told that we were, I strode across, not caring that I was getting wet.  The water was actually warmer than the deep snow that we had been walking in.  I think the others decided this was the best action to take and followed across.

From this point, we had about four miles to walk across the wet, boggy Great Moss.  We crossed the river again and took a slightly different path back.  This again opened up different views of the famous fells which we enjoyed on the way back.

Dow Crag and Pen

and again over an unnamed tarn on Great Moss

Scafell range

Cam Spout Crag with Sampson's Stones below

across the valley - Hard Knott

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