Let me start by saying this three day expedition to the back of Skiddaw was not to climb Skiddaw itself, I have done that before (many times), along with the other highest mountains in England! This trip was more of a field studies trip, like the ones you did at school but I was always too naughty to attend 😦
When I first started climbing the mountains of the Lake District, it was all about the height. To stand atop of the biggest summits with my arms held aloft in triumphant celebration. I didn’t care too much for the environment. By that I mean the geology and plant life of the mountains. They were there to be climbed was all that I cared about.
Over the last six months my mentality towards the environment has flipped on its head…My walking companions will vouch for that!!
I now stop and look at the rocks and plants with a new enthusiasm and a willingness to learn about them…..( I really wish I hadn’t been so disruptive in school)
So what brought on this change? Well since you ask, I have been training to become a Mountain Leader which will enable me to take groups and individuals of all ages on guided walks into the mountains. This trip was in preparation for my assessment in June/July this year.
So, on to the trip itself! On Monday evening, myself and my hiking companion Rocky Roo arrived in the Lakes and parked the car in the tiny village of Mosedale on the North Eastern edge of the National Park. Our intended camp for the night was Bowscale Tarn, approx 2.5km`s away ( a nice gentle start)
Arriving at the Tarn, the first thing to hit me was the drop in temperature! Note the frost dropping down off Tarn Craggs! I had anticipated a cold wild camp so was happy that I had taken my 3 season sleeping bag along with me 🙂
With the longer daylight hours it would have been nice to sit outside of the tent and enjoy the atmosphere and ambience, but it was far too cold. With the tarn effectively living in a basin the wind can funnel down and blow a constant stream of cold air onto you (which of course it did on Monday!!
There was little more to do after watching the dog swim for 5 mins than to retreat to the warmth of the tent to do a little study…
After a good night’s sleep (for the dog), we struck camp (leaving no trace) and headed off on our planned route. My plan for this leg was to do a little navigation work so I kept away from main paths for as long as I could before landing on the Cumbria way recreational footpath.
Skiddaw House (YHA) was approx 3km`s away but I could see it from the path. I had never been to this area before so of course I had to call in for a cuppa! I could see a hiker heading towards me from the house. This was the first person I had seen on the expedition so far, of course I had to stop and engage in conversation. His name was Edwin and he was over from Holland to hike the Cumbria way. His English was good but my joke about the lakes being a bit lumpier than Holland was lost in translation!! I bid him farewell but not sure he heard me as he ran in an easterly direction!
The sky was grey and menacing but the sun was still burning through which made for that uncomfortable situation when it is too hot for waterproofs, but too wet not for them!
Arriving at the YHA I was disappointed to see that it was closed for cleaning. Had I walked all this way for nothing?
The young lady saw me peering through the window and indicated that she would open up soon again. Half an hour later my mood was as grey as the clouds as I sat and patiently waited for my brew!
Moving on from the house we headed NW to seek out a nicely named waterfall on the map (whitewater dash). It did not disappoint!
At this point my plan was to hike up Little Calva and onto Great Calva, but a hasty change of plan, which I will not go into meant a change in direction 🙂
This was actually a good switch up as it lead me further North towards the gullies and passes around the Uldale Fells. It was good to get back off the beaten track and work on navigation again.
We worked our way back up to the high ground through a craggy gully below the aptly named Frozen Fell!! From here we ascended our highest point of the route, The Knott at 710M
The weather was truly awful at this point with driving rain and winds in excess of 40mph. We hunkered down in a sheepfold whilst I looked at the map to find a suitable location to camp for the night. At this point it was only 3pm, and I aimed to walk one more hour before setting up an early camp to escape the rain and wind.
My original plan when plotting this route was to camp somewhere between Little Lingy Hill and Great Lingy hill near to a water source. But coming to the conclusion that I had enough water to cook with by wringing out my socks we opted to spend the night in Lingy Hut on the Cumbria Way. I wasn’t sure if there would be anyone there or not, or how I would feel if there was other hikers in there? I am quite a shy creature and think I would have gone back to Plan A if there was. Thankfully we had the place to ourselves 🙂
I felt like we were cheating by staying in the bothy when the plan was to camp for 2 nights, but being a Mountain Leader is about making safe sensible decisions, and given the conditions out (which were worse than forecast), it was the right thing to do..
So as I said at the beginning, this was a field studies trip rather than an out and out adventure. A chance for me to spend three days out in the wild and better understand the upland environment. Here are a few of my observations…
It`s truly amazing what you see when you tune your eyes to it. So many plants and flowers grow on our mountains. Plants and flowers that I would have simply walked over without a second glance a few years ago! I don’t pretend to know what they all are yet, but I have a much better appreciation of their presence which has got to be a good thing 🙂
Day 3 was really just a slow descent day. Heading away from the bothy I kept looking back feeling quite sad after spending over 12 hours in there out of the elements… I did leave a few goodies for the next adventurers, which I believe is part of the bothy code?
The weather was a continuation of day 2 but less windy. I have a saying “Once you’re wet, You’re wet” and that pretty much sums up my attitude to walking in the rain 🙂
From the bothy we headed back up on to Great Lingy hill (just because I love the name haha), then onto Hare Stones. the clouds were thick up there and the rain began to get quite heavy again. Dropping down to Miton Hill and Round Knott something was catching my eye in the valley below. For all of the natural beauty of this place, there is no escaping the presence of human industry!
Heading down into the valley to investigate I came across the remains of an old mine..
Mining here has taken place for over 150 years and only ceased in 1981. It was mined extensively for Tungsten in the build up to WW1 to make ammunitions. I always find these places quite fascinating, and was pleased to have come across it today. If you plan to stay at Lingy Hut and follow the direct path up you will pass this 🙂
Back to the geology of the rock around here, the Skiddaw rocks are the oldest of the Lake District at 500 million years old, They are sedimentary in nature forming out of mud and sands on the bed of a sea that was here during the Ordovician period. If you are lucky you will find fossils of prehistoric sea creatures within the rock!
One thing I did learn recently is that the deep valleys that have been caused by many ice ages (the last around 10,000 years), where the moving rivers of ice have gouged out these valleys leaves traces of its path on the bedrock!
I am only just learning about the geology so some of this may be wrong haha!
So now I am back home dry and reflecting on the last 3 days of self discovery and learning. I only communicated with a handful of people whilst out there despite having phone signal for most of my time up there. I made the conscious decision to switch off from the world and social media, which we should all do from time to time for our own mental wellbeing.
To summarise my expedition….
This was to see where I sit on my Mountain Leader journey?
Can i spend multiple days and nights self sufficient? Yes I can
Can i safely navigate my way around the mountains in poor weather and visibility? Yes I can
Could I safely manage a group in a mountainous region? Yes I can
Do i understand the environmental aspects and respect the mountain environment? Well i am getting there 🙂
I am still not 100% convinced I am ready for my assessment in a couple of months, but I learn better under timed pressure, so we will soon find out.
I do regret not sticking in at school and attending them field trips. I`m sure I would know the difference between a dog violet and a regular dog by now 🙂
- One of them is a flower, but you probably already knew that 🙂
Finally, when I do live and work in this beautiful place that is the English Lake district, I`d like to live here please…..Not too much to ask is it haha
Thanks for reading 🙂