WALK 200: Eel Crag (2,749 feet above sea level, number 296 of my second round) and Grasmoor (2,791′, no. 297). 9.5 miles, 3,000 feet of ascent.

Eel Crag
Eel Crag, viewed from the approach up Coledale.

On 29th July 2012, on walk 60b from Black Sail up Great Gable, I experienced what remains the worst weather on any of my Lakeland walks. On the tenth anniversary of that drenching it was good to be back in the Lakes on a pleasant, warm July morning, walking up Coledale and having plenty of time to inspect the route up Eel Crag ahead — as seen in this picture. That and Grasmoor, the two highest fells in Wainwright’s volume 6 (the Northwestern Fells) were the ones bagged on my walk today. This involved an interesting climb up Eel Crag’s “Shelf Route”, which is obvious on the picture (it slants up the fellside in parallel, visually, to the bank of green vegetation above the walkers’ heads).

And this was walk 200: and there’s a milestone worth recording. It’s taken thirteen years and ten days, since walk 1 kicked all this off on 19th July 2009. During that time, British politics has kind of spasmed shambolically forward in a series of progressively more insane steps, but the fells remain much the same. Read all about the latest expedition, with the usual crop of pictures, on the walk 200 page.

A view over to the summit of Wandope, from Eel Crag.

As of today, I have bagged 297 of the 330 Wainwrights in my second round, thus have 33 to go — meaning Grasmoor marks the point at which there is 10% of the second round remaining, or 5% of my double round of 660. Fell 300 approaches too, and I might engineer it so that milestone is reached on Helvellyn, but I doubt I’ll get this done in August due to other commitments. Most likely I will be back to pick this one up in early September.

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WALK 188: Water Crag (997 feet above sea level, no. 271 of my second round), White Pike (1450′, no. 272), Woodend Height (1597′, no. 273), Yoadcastle (1621′, no 274) and The Knott (1086′, no. 275). The first four are all in the Devoke Water circuit chapter of The Outlying Fells and the last, the Stainton Pike chapter.

Devoke Water and Water Crag.

Yesterday, 25th April, was a truly glorious day to be out on the fells. I had to drive again — the public transport options were never that great on a Sunday anyway, and certain key services still haven’t been restored despite a lessening of Great Fear restrictions in other ways. But hey, when did the Tory Party ever think about encouraging people to use the train. I got up at 5.30am and was striding out along the north shore of Devoke Water by 9 o’clock. And a very fine day’s walking it was, despite a lack of paths. Read all about it and see plenty more pictures of blue skies on the walk 188 page.

The Knott — the 5th summit of the day — and the Irish Sea.

The weather in April has been very fine but there is a forecast deterioration on the way. I’m glad I got out to Devoke Water though, for the fifth and, who knows, perhaps final time in my life: bearing in mind walk 101 as well, it’s certainly made an impression on me with regard to fine weather. Very few people get out this way; I had the felltops all to myself, despite this being a sunny Sunday. Highly recommended.

As of today, then, I have bagged 275 of the 330 Wainwrights in my second round, and so have 55 to go. Looking at the map, today was the last real chance I had to bag as many as five of them in a single walk; there are a couple of fours available (the future walks that will head for Helvellyn and Haycock might as well grab a few of their satellites along the way), but that’s all. And only ten of the remainder are Outliers.

WALK 187: Hallin Fell (1271′, no. 268), Steel Knotts (1414′, no. 269) and Wether Hill (2210′, no. 270). 8 miles, 2,780 feet of ascent.

117 days have passed since walk 186, during which time Lakeland has been off limits for reasons I’m not going to froth about here — though if you want more of the usual, see the commentary to walk 187, which could finally take place yesterday, 1st April.

The Nab above Martindale, seen on walk 187.

Thanks to the Great Fear manifesting itself in waves over recent months, I had managed only four Lakeland walks since the beginning of August, and none since early December. Since then, it’s been the County Tops project that’s sustained me, sticking to walks that have a vague proximity to home. But with the lifting of these stupid restrictions on safe exercise, I could finally return to Cumbria, and took Joe along for good measure.

Martindale is one of the most beautiful valleys in an area of widespread beauty, and the first two summits bagged today, Hallin Fell and Steel Knotts, are low-altitude but very much worth the effort, with excellent views of Ullswater and the fells around.

Wether Hill, the third summit of the day, is a grassy lump and not really something to get excited about in its own right, but it needed bagging and did mark two pleasing milestones: Joe’s 50th Wainwright, and my 600th, if you add my two rounds together.

Joe begins to slightly regret heading for his 50th Wainwright.

I have therefore done 270 of the 330 Wainwrights on my second round, and have 60 to go. Looking at what I’ve got left to do there are at least 23 walks left in the project, maybe up to 25 or 26. No way am I going to get this done by the end of 2021 as I once planned, but finishing some time in 2022 is plausible. And I do want to finish, rather than string it out forever — the transport options, one way or another, are starting to get tiresome and let’s not get 95% of it done (I’m on just over 90% of the double round) then go break a leg, or something.

Read all about today, and see the usual crop of pictures, on the walk 187 page. If the weather is reasonable I will try to go again next week, but even if that doesn’t happen, I intend to return before April is out.

WALK 186: Stickle Pike (1231′, no 264), Great Stickle (1001′, no. 265), Tarn Hill (1020′, no. 266) and Dunnerdale Fells (920′, no. 267).

Walkers and Stickle Pike
Stickle Pike from the south. Green Crag and, in snow, Scafell behind.

The first two weeks of December have not exactly been a productive walking time for me. Partly this is due to how work usually pans out at this time, but the weather is also responsible. This is rarely full winter (2010 was a notable exception, though) but it’s usually gloomy and cold, not designed to encourage the fellwalker.

Happily, 5th December 2020 was a fine exception to the general rule. It started off cloudy but by the end I was walking in full sunshine, and then spent an afternoon in Kendal bathing in more of the same. In the morning, I’d bagged four more Wainwrights: the three summits I had remaining in the Stickle Pike chapter, and then a bonus of the Dunnerdale Fells chapter, as Tarn Hill appears in both and is thus the only Wainwright to count double. Why? Well, it’s a complicated story, but for that you can read the fell pages.

The Duddon Valley (and cyclists), with Whit Fell in the background.

It’s a fine part of the District, though, and worth two chapters. Stickle Pike is surely the best-looking of all the Outlying Fells, and the walking is rugged without ever being difficult. A mountain in miniature, for sure. It’s just a shame that there’s no public transport to the immediate vicinity. Read all about it, and see more photos, on the walk 186 page.

As of today, then, I have bagged 267 of the 330 Wainwrights on my second round, so have 63 to go. I honestly don’t know whether today will turn out to be my last Lakeland walk of 2020: I’d rather it wasn’t, though it might be. Either way I will post a summary of the year before 2021 — a year I’m sure we’re all hoping will be different, at least — makes its way over the horizon.

Armboth Fell summit
The top of Armboth Fell, seen from the ridge — with a walker on it, amazingly.

WALK 185: Armboth Fell (1570′, no. 262), Great Crag (1500′, no. 263). 9.25 miles, 2,100 feet of ascent.

For the first time in seven months I took myself to the Lake District by train and bus, instead of car. And it all went just fine. The mental blocks we place in our minds about what we should and should not be doing can be overcome and if anything I now feel somewhat guilty about not having reverted to this state of affairs earlier on. Though some parts of the District (notably Ullswater and Patterdale) remain effectively out of bounds unless I drive myself there, but that’s another story.

Walk 185 instead saw me brave the swamps of what Wainwright calls ‘the swampiest ridge in the District’, at least for a mile or two, to bag Armboth Fell, and then Great Crag, two of the Central Fells. Inbetween there was the magnificent oasis of Watendlath, an Arcadian idyll which was seeing plenty of visitors on this pleasant day in mid-October. The walk might well have been better had neither summit been visited, but at least now I never need to do Armboth Fell again, at least. For reasons why I say this, along with plenty of photos and extra detail, consult the walk 185 page.

Watendlath Tarn and Great Crag
Watendlath Tarn, with Great Crag behind. A place to forget one’s worries for a while.

As of today, I have bagged 263 of the 330 Wainwrights on my second round, so have 67 to go. I hope to get back at some point in November, but that really will depend on a largely random coming together of good weather with one of the few available days I will have that month, thanks to work.

Kidsty Pike

Kidsty Pike, seen on the approach from the west.

WALK 183: High Raise (Far Eastern) (2634′, no. 256), Rampsgill Head (2598′, no. 257) and Kidsty Pike (2560′, no. 258). 8 miles and 2,200 feet of ascent approx.

The British climate is not known for its reliability, but there are some aspects of the pattern that can be depended on to some extent. Having a period of fine, settled weather in mid-September is one of its more pleasant traits and down the years has been exploited for walks whenever it appears.  2020’s Mid-September Settled Period has come along right on cue, and a couple of days ago saw me out in the Haweswater district again for walk 183.  This bagged three of the higher fells in the Far Eastern region: High Raise, Rampsgill Head, and Kidsty Pike, the latter being the undoubted highlight of the walk.  Read all about it and see more photos on the walk page.

Deer couple

May I present the deer couple, Mr and Mrs Slightly-Miffed. Seen near the summit of High Raise.

This was another walk done without the use of public transport, sadly. There are some signs of life in the train network but many services that were running up until the beginning of the Great Fear in March are still cut.  I will continue trying to get to the Lakes where I can, but now I have accepted that while my first round was indeed done without using a car, this second one has had to adapt to circumstances. Never mind.

As of today then, I have bagged 258 of the 330 Wainwrights in my second round, so have 72 to go. I no longer anticipate finishing some time in 2021, but let’s go with the flow. This walk was probably it for September, but hopefully before October is too old I will have returned to the Lakes.

Harter Fell in cloud

Harter Fell from Eskdale.

WALK 182: Harter Fell (Eskdale) (2140 feet above sea level, number 255 of my second round). 9 miles and 2,300 feet of ascent approximately.

A few weeks after re-bagging its namesake in Mardale, Tuesday’s climb of the very beautiful Eskdale Harter Fell brings to an end this little trilogy of walks completed during our stay in the Brook House Inn, Eskdale. (Or, if I add the walk I undertook in Longsleddale last week, a quadrilogy.) The weather was still rather dubious but this time that was not the reason why only one fell was bagged on the walk, as it was always planned to be done this way. It’s a very fine fell, with a remarkable summit (one of Wainwright’s ‘Top 6’, and rightly so), and superb views of the Scafell group above the valley head and the Duddon Valley, all the way down to the estuary.

Stickle Pike and the Duddon

Stickle Pike and the Duddon estuary, from Harter Fell.

On the other hand, this is not an altogether easy climb. Paths are not as prominent as you would think going on a study of the map, and there is an ocean of bracken to negotiate lower down in the summer. But it is worth the battle, and it was important to pick this one up during this trip as without spending time in Eskdale, it’s difficult to reach.  Read all about it and see more pictures on the walk 182 page.

Three summits is, perhaps, not a huge return from the time spent here but they all needed doing. As of today, then, I have bagged 255 of the 330 Wainwrights on my second round, and have 75 to go.  For various reasons, including the lack of suitable trains from home at the moment, but also having to recommence work (it happens…), I can’t see myself returning to the Lakes during August.  But four walks over a nine-day period has been enough of a fix, and September — with, hopefully, its usual better weather — is not so far away.

Longsleddale cottage

Deep in Longsleddale.

WALK 179: five summits in the Bannisdale Horseshoe (two unnamed [1771′ a.s.l., no. 248 and 1819′, no. 249], Capplebarrow [1683′, no. 250], Todd Fell [1313′, no. 251] and Whiteside Pike [1303′, no. 252]). 10.5 miles and 2,000 feet of ascent approximately.

It’s still proving very difficult to get to the Lakes by public transport.  All useful morning services heading north from Preston have been cut, for arbitrary reasons that if you ask me have nothing to do with ‘public health’ in the slightest.  Anyway, that’s a moan you can read on the walk 179 page if you really want to.  Either way, this ongoing problem obliged me once again to book a car out of the pool and drive, this time up the narrow lane that is the valley of Longsleddale’s only link to the outside world.  And this really is a time capsule, surely looking much the same as it did a hundred years ago or more.  It’s very much worth a visit, as long as you have the patience it takes to get there, even with a car.

Whiteside Pike

Looking down to Whiteside Pike, from point 1771′.

The five summits I bagged today were the last ones I had remaining, not just in the Bannisdale Horseshoe chapter, but in the whole swathe of land east of Longsleddale and Haweswater. If you had asked me some years ago which major sub-region of the Lake District I would first complete on my second round, the Shap Fells would not at all have been my prediction — but this is what has happened. I reckon there are 38 Wainwrights east of Gatescarth Pass and after today, I have now rebagged them all. It’s a fantastically lonely part of the world, and you very much need good weather — but this is land well worth exploring.  And it will certainly get you away from people, which is the point at the moment, I guess. (As well as the Bannisdale Horseshoe see also the Naddle, Crookdale, Wasdale and Wet Sleddale Horseshoes, Howes, and the Seat Robert chapters.)

Tractor and Lamb Pasture

View across to Lamb Pasture, on the other side of Bannisdale.

There will be more Wainwrights bagged very shortly as I’m soon off to Eskdale for a few days, a trip booked well before lockdown and which seems to have miraculously survived it.  As of today, though, I have bagged 252 of the 330 Wainwrights on my second round (Capplebarrow being number 250), and thus have 78 to go.

WALK 178: Branstree (2339′, no. 246), Harter Fell (2552′, no. 247). 7.75 miles and 2,300 feet of ascent approximately.

Drowned buildings

Drowned buildings in the reservoir of Haweswater.

Although most Britons seem in a perpetual state of denial about this fact, the weather is almost always worse in early June than it is in May. So it has proved this year: the sunshine of my last walk turning into a greyer, more somber vibe for yesterday’s trip into the Far Eastern Fells. Walk 178 was a circuit round Mardale Head, bagging Branstree and Harter Fell. The views of Haweswater were very fine, despite the large tidemark caused by the water level having dropped in the recent dry weather: enough to reveal some of the buildings higher up the valley, remnants of the village of Mardale Green that was here until 1935. Small Water, pictured here, is another highlight, being one of Lakeland’s best little mountain tarns.

Sheep and Small Water

On the descent of Harter Fell. Small Water immediately below.

Once again I cannot claim to have done this walk by public transport. It would be lovely if a daily ‘walkers’ bus’ ran from Penrith station and who knows, if it did perhaps there would be less of a parking problem at the head of Mardale. But even in normal times, this is just a fantasy I’ve been having. In the end I’ve decided that during this time of disruption I will use a car, but only to bag walks that are otherwise impossible by train or bus. That’s my self-rationalisation anyway.

Nearly halfway through 2020 and I have only bagged 10 Wainwrights, which is well down on my usual pace. I could say the reasons are obvious but actually it’s more that my walks have only been bagging one or two tops at a time. As of today then, I have bagged 247 of the 330 Wainwrights on my second round, so have 83 to go. It would be nice to get another trip in June but we will see how it goes.

Joe on Great Sca Fell summit

Joe on Great Sca Fell summit.

Walk 177: Great Sca Fell (2136′, no. 244), Brae Fell (1920′, no 245). 6.5 miles and 1,500 feet of ascent approximately.

Time to get out. My tolerance for sitting at home with a head like Munch’s The Scream has ended.

This is not the ‘new normal’, it is a horrible bout of paranoia that we need to learn our way out of pretty fast if it’s not going to devastate much of what gives life meaning and pleasure. But the fells are still there, even if The Fear has made it currently impractical to live up to the promise of this blog and reach all walks on public transport. I drove to walk 177 yesterday, that I admit, but that also allowed Joe to easily accompany me on his first Lakeland walk in about a year. Together we bagged two of the Northern Fells, Great Sca Fell and Brae Fell. Smooth, grassy slopes for the most part but great views, and the ascent of Roughton Gill added roughness and interest. Read all about it and see the usual crop of additional photos on the walk 177 page.

Approaching the mine

On the approach to the old mine at the bottom of Roughton Gill.

There were plenty of people out on this public holiday, even in this relatively remote and hard-to-reach part of the Lakes. And I can no longer see that as anything other than a good thing. Sadly it cannot be expected that the present government will do anything other than bumble about public transport and try to brush it under the nearest carpet as an inconvenience — why change policy when there is a ready-made scapegoat for failure? — but I have decided that for now, I will pick up walks which I could not otherwise do on trains and buses. I hope that normal service will be resumed soon, but it’s way out of my hands.

Walker and Skiddaw

View over to Skiddaw. The walker is approaching the (less than prominent) summit of Great Sca Fell.

As of today, then, I have bagged 245 of the 330 Wainwrights on my second round, and have 85 to go. I no longer expect to complete this by late 2021, partly because of all this chaos and also because the County Tops have taken over some of the burden of keeping me fit and sane, and I don’t want to go through all my available day trips too quickly. The situation is now open-ended. But weather allowing (and we are overdue some rain), paranoia permitting, I hope to be out again at some point before June is too old.