Lorton: The rain comes in
The rain comes in over the Vale of Lorton (Whiteside in background). Last blue skies of the day, at noon.

Date completed: 17th October 2012.

Weather conditions:  It started off quite well: windy and autumnal, but with good light and the promise of clearing conditions. It didn’t last, unfortunately. From about noon onwards – in defiance of a decent weather forecast – it was grey and wet again. I also came as close on this walk as I have to being caught in a thunderstorm.

Fells climbedMellbreak (1676 feet above sea level, no. 209), Hen Comb (1661’, no. 210).

Mellbreak has two summits; the northern of the two counts additionally as a Birkett (1,670′, #329 on that list by altitude).

Mosedale and Robinson
The wet and weary wastes of Mosedale, on the way down from Hen Comb. Robinson is the fell in the background.

Distance:  9.25 miles approximately. I must admit I was anticipating a rather shorter walk than this, which is one reason why it felt tough.

Total ascent:  2800 feet approx.

Start and end points: Started at Lanthwaite Green, served by the #77 bus and the starting point for walk 15 and walk 37 as well as this one. Ended at Buttermere, served by the same bus. This bus will run until Nov 4th this year and then stop until late March, even though I believe it would see enough business to at least run at weekends over the winter.

Pub at end: Perhaps surprisingly, this was only the second walk to end in Buttermere, after walk 16 (Pillar), but I didn’t have time to revisit the Fish Hotel nor the Bridge Hotel. No drink until the Agricultural Hotel near Penrith station today. But that is a decent pub.

This autumn’s Great Fungus Moment

Route card: Click here to download a route card which includes an elevation profile (how hilly the walk is), waypoints with grid references, and a summary map.Route Card for walk 67: Loweswater Fells (East)

Route: This is the route I followed, but I present it here without entirely endorsing it. I probably made it at least three-quarters of a mile longer than it needed to be, so there are quicker ways to bag these two fells (one of which I suggest in the text below). The ascents of both fells bagged are surprisingly tough: the difficulties of Mellbreak perhaps can be expected but Hen Comb, though it doesn’t look much, was a tiring climb too. Maybe I’m just getting old. It is also a very wet walk underfoot, one of the wettest I’ve done: you will need good, waterproof boots.

Repeat the opening stretches of walk 37 as far as Park Bridge at grid reference NY144205. That is – go down the side of Lanthwaite Green farm, double back in the woods to reach that great viewpoint at the shore of Crummock Water (which delivered again today, as you can see), go round as far as the Pump House, then bear right, through the fields and over the second (not the first) gate/stile, then round by the river until you come out to the bridge.

Sunbeams over Crummock Water
Sunbeams over Crummock Water: version 1

This time, however,  instead of turning right over Park Bridge, go straight on, past Low Park (the large white building ahead), through its yard then up the path at the side of the barn with the light blue door. This climbs slightly through the woods then swings to the right, round the butt end of Mellbreak, which by now is towering rather impressively overhead.  Keep going round for a while, then look for the path up to the left,  and begin the ascent for real.

It took me half an hour to get up to the north top of Mellbreak from this point – so it’s not a long climb. But it is a hard one. You can avoid the first scree slope by bearing to the right, but not the rest. It narrows into a scree gully that’s quite a tough climb (and it doesn’t get any easier if you take what looks like an escape to the right). The less-than-fit and young children won’t be able to handle this.

The 'peep around a corner' view
The ‘peep around a corner’ view, on the ascent of Mellbreak

At the second promontory – it’s fairly obvious – do check out the ‘peep around a corner’ view mentioned by Wainwright on page Mellbreak 5.

From that point the north top is not much further on, but do remember this is not the actual summit of Mellbreak (though it has a cairn – two, in fact – where the south top does not). The walk to the south top, the true summit, is not difficult, but the depression between the two is quite pronounced so there’s more climbing to be done yet I’m afraid. The true summit is rather disappointing compared to the north top, lacking a cairn and not being very pronounced.

Scale Force
Scale Force. Difficult to get an impression of it on a single photograph, but it is certainly a very high waterfall.

At this point the quickest way to Hen Comb would be to return to Mellbreak’s saddle, and go down to Mosedale from there then straight up the slope of Hen Comb. The reason I didn’t do this was that I was worried about being able to cross the valley. It is obvious from the pages of Wainwright – and a simple visual survey – that it’s boggy down there and he specifically warns about access to Hen Comb after heavy rain, which we have certainly had. So I decided to swing round much further to the south and come up the south slope of Hen Comb. But with hindsight I would not do this again. I still ended up having to tramp through a lot of boggy ground – only by this route, I did a lot of it twice. It probably added a good mile or so to the walk as well. And though the east slope of Hen Comb looks a stiff climb – so’s the south slope. No, I think all I did today was give myself a longer and tougher walk for no real reason, so bear this in mind if following in my footsteps.

However you get to the top of Hen Comb, you can leave it either down to Loweswater or to Buttermere. I chose Buttermere mainly for bus timetable reasons. Head down to the south and get across the beck onto the path that comes down from Floutern Pass and heads for Scale Force. This path is intermittent but reasonably easy to follow – but what it also is, is wet. Really, very wet. It doesn’t get any better past Scale Force either (which is worth a look).  You squelch across a field, bearing generally to the right of the head of Crummock Water below, and the path gradually asserts itself out of the swamp.

Mellbreak, from Lanthwaite Green
Looking over to Mellbreak, from Lanthwaite Green

Then take the first main path to the left, up and over the stream of Buttermere Dubs, and follow it through the fields to Buttermere village.

Damp and draining dash commentary:  We are at the contractual obligation stage. I have to finish this whole project by mid-January at the latest – and ideally, by Christmas. I have four walks to do. I have to do some walks. QED.

However, add the following point into the equation: this is Worktober. It’s always, and I mean always, the busiest month of my working year. A mark of this is that I’ve worked the last three Sundays and I’m working next Sunday too. Finding a day to keep free to potentially do a walk is not easy at this time of year.  Even Saturdays are mostly out.

The weather is, to think of a kind term. volatile. October started with a fairly decent run of weather but I couldn’t find a single day round then to walk and since the weekend it’s been mixing in sun, rain, wind, chill – pretty much everything.

Rain over the Vale of Lorton
Another picture to reinforce that ‘Rain over the Vale of Lorton’ vibe. Looking north from the ascent of Mellbreak.

So why am I trying to squeeze in a walk at the moment? One factor only. Stagecoach. The ‘summer’ bus service ends on 3rd November (actually the 4th, but Sunday journeys from anywhere distant are out). I have two fells left that can only be reached by a bus that only runs in the summer. I have to get this walk done by 3rd November. It’s really very simple. If I don’t, the whole thing buggers up.  And I don’t like buggering things up.

Well, the forecast was decent. Just what I wanted in fact: last I saw it was going to be wet until 10.30am but then pretty good through until tea time. Fine by me. I can’t possibly start this walk until 10.45 and I absolutely have to be back at Buttermere at 15.25. The weather is on my side. Or so it seemed.

Mellbreak and Crummock Water
Crummock Water, and Mellbreak, from the south

Now let’s bring in the human factor. In order for all this to have a chance of working today – a day on which I have to be home by 8pm, no choice – I first of all have to depend on Virgin Trains to run their 07.53 Preston – Edinburgh service on time: at least. no more than 5 minutes late. You’ve heard about this factor before. I won’t say any more except to invoke this – it’s leaf-fall season. There. You understand. If they’re late – I blow it, I’m not home until 10, my whole week is screwed.

Blow me down if they didn’t do it, and run the most punctual autumn Virgin Trains service in my own personal history. Good for them. I’m in Windermere on time. I can do this.

Crummock Water and sunbeams
There’s that theme again, Crummock Water, sunbeams, etc.

Quite chipper at this point I await the next key piece in this jigsaw – the 09.07 bus from Windermere station to Keswick. This is usually a fairly reliable service. But not today. Today it’s late. It gets later. It gets to 09.15. I have an 8-minute window in Keswick. I’m getting worried. And, incidentally, it’s still throwing it down – a terribly dull and grey day in Windermere.

Eventually the bus turns up at 09.20. And, to be fair to the bus driver, she sets a cracking pace, none of this ambling up Dunmail Raise, we get thrown healthily about the top deck and she makes Keswick bus station absolutely punctually. I’m on the #77. It leaves punctually. I’m gonna do this. Cool 🙂

Graystones, from Mellbreak
Finally, a view of Graystones, which I went up back in March in total mist cover.

The bus is 5 minutes late at Lanthwaite Green but what the hell. I can be up and down these two fells in three and a half hours, surely. That gets me back to Buttermere for 2.25pm and home by 7pm. And I know I’m about to hit a great viewpoint, that one down by Crummock Water and  lo and behold, it delivers today. Great light. Great morning so far.

OK, at this point, as you can imagine, I was feeling pretty good. This stream-of-consciousness stuff is going to get boring pretty soon too, right?

So… the rest of the day involved:

Whiteside, from Lanthwaite Green
Whiteside, from Lanthwaite Green; when the sun was still shining…
  • a bastard of an ascent up Mellbreak, which immediately, and definitively, makes a late entry into my ‘Tough Little Bastards’ shortlist of fells (like A Wainwright I will be offering a few of these lists at the end of my project, something to look forward to I am sure)
  • actually, a little bastard of an ascent up Hen Comb too, which was a lot harder than I expected
  • a walk that was really, really wet underfoot, particularly in its second half: I might even nominate it wettest so far
  • weather that was not at all in accordance with the forecast – that is, it was shite
  • being the closest I have been yet to being in the middle of a thunderstorm while on a summit and therefore the highest conductor for some distance…. er, no thanks
  • a lot of really really tight public transport connections that I don’t want to talk about (which have, however, delivered me to and from home on schedule – despite the stress).

At the end of all this I was knackered. All in all I’d felt it became an obligation, something that I simply had to get on with, rather than enjoyable. I felt better later once I knew I was going to get back home by 8pm, mind. And that really was the last truly logistically difficult walk in the full set.

List of 'The Western Fells'
List of ‘The Western Fells’…. all done. And the hardest volume of all if you ask me.

This also means I’ve finished every fell in Wainwright’s volume 7, The Western Fells. By some distance it was the last volume I got started on, with Fleetwith Pike getting it going as late as fell #43 in my project. Hen Comb finished it. I’ve got to say, I think it was the book with the hardest fells in it, yes, even over volume 4, Great Gable, Pillar, High Stile, these were all hard climbs, and so were some  smaller brothers like Yewbarrow and, today, Mellbreak. (And Fleetwith Pike, now I think about it.) Other fells were not physically intimidating, but just so remote, like Lank Rigg, Caw Fell, Seatallan – all hard to reach and not much there when you do. Yes, tough volume. Definitely the hardest.

The ultimate point is that I couldn’t not do this walk, and today was the second-to-last chance to do it. Well, I’ve done it. I have three walks left all of which can be done on any day of the week except Sundays. I’m gonna do this.


One Response to “Walk 67: Loweswater Fells (East)”

  1. […] to when. I took a stab at it today and got rather wet and tired for my pains, but I have done it: walk 67 saw me bag the last two fells from Wainwright’s volume 7, The Western Fells – Mellbreak […]

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