Looking down Mosedale, from Knott. Carrock Fell on the left.

Looking down Mosedale, from Knott. Carrock Fell on the left.

Date completed: 25th July 2012.  A year to the day since walk 41.

Weather conditions:  About as good as can currently be expected in this most dismal summer. Even if the south of England is currently having a run of good weather, the Lakes isn’t. However, a slight improvement in the general dampness saw it overcast today, warm and muggy, but at least, not raining, despite some threatening clouds. The fell tops were clear of mist.

Fells climbedCarrock Fell (2174 feet above sea level, no. 183), High Pike (2157’, no. 184), Knott (2329’, no. 185)

Distance:  14.75 miles approximately.

Criffell, from High Pike

Criffell, the southernmost Scottish mountain, from High Pike. Best shot I could get that encapsulated High Pike’s magnificent view.

Total ascent:  2750 feet approx.

Start and end points: Started at the end of the Mungrisdale road, where it joins the A66 and there is a bus stop. This was also the starting point of walk 21 (and isn’t more than a few hundred yards along the road from the start of the previous walk, walk 58). Ended at Bassenthwaite Chapel – another bus stop, on the X4 and 554 routes to Keswick.

Pub at end:  Last time I was in Bassenthwaite – walk 50 – I didn’t have time to patronise the Sun Inn and it wasn’t open anyway. I had even less time today but it was open, tucked away at the back of the village and not visible from the big green. I don’t feel it fair to properly review it, seeing as I passed through in record time, stopping for about 90 seconds took to sink a pint. But it was a good pint.

Great Sca Fell

Great Sca Fell, from High Pike

Route: This is quite a long walk although gradients and terrain are easy throughout with the notable exception of the ascent of Carrock Fell. However, it alternates between very easy going on good paths and hacking through heather or bracken with no paths in sight. There is also three and a half miles of road walking at the beginning – alternative paths are available for some, but not all of this section although I doubt they save any time – and a couple more miles at the end. There are no great excitements on the walk but there is one glorious moment, the view from the top of High Pike, which is worth the effort it takes to see. For several different reasons, this is not a walk to do on a misty day.

From the Mungrisdale road end, yomp up the road to the village and keep going through to Bowscale, repeating the beginning of walk 21. But stick on the road a little longer, across the double (old and new) Mosedale bridge and into Mosedale village.

Inside the Lingy Hut bothy

Inside the Lingy Hut bothy

I tried following the advice on Wainwright’s page Carrock Fell 7, but it didn’t really work out. Neither of the two routes up the fell’s southern face, as depicted on that page, are apparent from below, even though one of the paths is clearly marked on the OS map as well. I ended up struggling through Carrock’s range of natural defences – bracken, gorse, scree, heather – it was never a difficult climb but it is an awkward one, and things don’t get a great deal better even when the gradient eases. Paths up through the heathery, sloping plateau come and go, although the objective is obvious in clear weather. I got the impression most people who ascend Carrock do so nowadays via the route depicted on Carrock Fell 8, and to be honest, so would I, if I came here again. (Postscript: See walk 94.)

Both High Pike and Knott can be seen from Carrock’s summit and the line of the route is obvious, but the going not as easy as it looks, thanks to marshes – at least for a half mile or so. The worst patches are to the left. Nearer High Pike it does get better, and the section from, roughly, Miton Hill to High Pike then back to the shooting box on Lingy Hill is very easy going, and a good pace can be set. The highlight of the whole walk comes on the final steps up to High Pike’s summit, and the sudden revelation of its spectacular view: I would say this is the best view of all those fells that look north, out of the district towards Scotland and the Solway Firth.

Family approaching the summit of Carrock Fell

Family approaching the summit of Carrock Fell

Returning from High Pike back towards Knott, once past the old shooting box (now a sort of bothy, open to shelter anyone who passes), the path disappears again and after crossing Grainsgill Beck there is a tedious section, slanting upwards across the north face of the fell. But once on the path that follows the (indefinite) ridge, it becomes easy again. Good views open up to the south, especially of Great Calva, which looks good from this side.

From the summit of Knott, you could descend back to Mosedale, but I decided to push on to Bassenthwaite. The path leads down to the col (small pass) at the top of Hause Gill, then you should go right, through the attractive little ravine of the gill (the path crossing and re-crossing the stream several times). Things get a little confusing around the confluence of Hause and Burntod Gills, and it probably doesn’t matter much in the end if you go round to the left (you will end up coming down the Dash Valley), but I stuck to the path on the right side of the valley as you look at it, which did take me uphill a bit, over Brockle Crag, but nothing major.

This path is now following the first part of the route of walk 26, in reverse, round to Horsemoor Hills, down to Cassbeck Bridge then along the road through the forest to Bassenthwaite village. Remember, Bass Chapel’s bus stop is a few minutes’ walk from the village itself.

Sweet cicely

Sweet cicely, and insects, near Mungrisdale

Warming-up commentary:  Since the last walk, on 2nd July, the weather has, if anything, got worse. On Friday 6th July, Hebden Bridge was about one decent thunderstorm from flooding again – after a day of endless rain the river was a few inches from inundating the town once more. We breathed a sigh of relief, but not for long.

The following Monday, 9th July, was definitely the scariest weather experience I have ever had in my life (yes, even over the 1987 hurricane in the south of England, which saw my village church spire destroyed, but which I mostly slept through); a month’s worth of rain fell in three hours, from 1.15pm, leading to a flash flood a few yards from my house that I have documented on You Tube. I escaped, buggering off to the United States for two weeks (and, I admit, enjoying my visit, especially to New Orleans – I highly recommend it, if you’re in the area). But it was not a pleasant experience, and the impact of this double flood on the town has been substantial.

View west from Knott summit

View west from Knott summit, towards Bassenthwaite lake

On top of these direct problems the weather has been personally bothering me, getting in the way of walks, and I need to use this summer to do them! In the last few days it has almost been a personal insult to see the weather getting very decent in the southern half of the UK, including Hebden Bridge, but remaining cruddy anywhere north of about Lancaster. This is the one week in my life where I’m technically ‘at work’ but have managed to arrange it so that I’ve no fixed appointments in Manchester (or elsewhere) at all and in principle have complete flexibility to do a walk.

And I’m desperate to do one this week – not just to take advantage of this flexibility but also to warm myself up for what is a booked-in, two-day hike coming up this weekend. I’m booked in at the Black Sail youth hostel on Saturday night – four miles from the nearest road, this is a place I’m looking forward to frequenting in its own right, let alone the fact that staying there is going to allow me to knock off 9 of the remaining Wainwrights in about 32 hours.

But I don’t want that to be my next walk. I want one beforehand, I need to warm up, physically and psychologically, so I was keen to do one this week.  The weather forecasts are dubious, I had to rearrange things at work, but I went for it today.

Bowscale tarn

The very, very shy Bowscale Tarn, visible at the top of this image, nestled in its coombe.

The weather on the journey up from Hebden was awful. Not raining particularly, but with low cloud clamped over all the hills. That’s the worst weather to walk in, because it just means, you get no reward; no view from a summit, no good pictures to take, just cloud.  My planned walk was not one I wanted to do in misty weather: in mist and rain, give me a narrow and unloseable ridge, not a flat moorland.

I did have an alternative in mind, should the conditions have been intractable, but I didn’t really want to have to use it. I was lucky, though. In a slight alteration of the basic weather pattern of the last few days, it’s the south of the district (say, Preston to Shap) that has the low cloud and rain; around Penrith it’s not so bad. And Carrock Fell is visible from the bus ride in from Penrith, so I go for it, and in the end it’s probably the least cloudy portion of the whole Lakes.

As ever, I’m glad I walked. It’s not a particularly exciting walk, but it felt good, exhilarating and energising and enthusing. The undoubted highlight is the spectacular view from High Pike, a real humdinger, and all the better for only getting it in the very final seconds of the ascent. There were hints on the way up but only at the summit does it all stitch together into the complete picture. Definitely the best of all the out-of-Lakeland views I’ve seen, and there won’t now be a competitor – I guarantee it, knowing what I still have to walk. Carrock Fell is a mild disappointment going by the write-up Wainwright gives it, but never mind – I have a sense I went up it the wrong way.

Mungrisdale Common from Carrock Fell

Mungrisdale Common; doing its best to not look like (in Wainwright’s words) “a pudding that has been sat on”.

Despite that and other mild irritants (the intermittent nature of the paths got annoying), this was a good walk, better than expected almost, because of the weather. My knee feels fine and generally I feel it’s been good preparation for the weekend. It also bagged three hard-to-reach fells. I pray for a good weather forecast for the weekend but if I don’t get it – so be it. I’m booked in.

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