Saturday, 21 July 2012

(Scafell Pike? Errrr, nope)...... Eskdale

(Before I start, our tent is brill, perfect for two, and Langdale is as stunning as ever.)

Peter had worked out a brilliant route to get up the highest mountain in England - Scafell Pike.  We’d decided that the 13 mile walk from Langdale was too far, but if we drove around to Jubilee Bridge at the bottom of Harter Fell in Eskdale, we could have an enjoyable and easy walk up Eskdale to Cam Spout Crag. From there we could get up to Scafell Pike by going to Broad Stand and across. A 10 mile walk where the last mile or so would be the most difficult and where we would gain two thirds of the height.  Perfect.

I should point out that to get a car from Langdale to our starting point is an achievement in itself.  The road is just a single track lane up and down hills that get as steep as a 1:3 climb and with hairpin bends to make your hair curl.  It does have the benefit of tarmac…. mostly….. But the holes in it were probably responsible for a fair amount of car suspension damage.  Fortunately there are loads of convenient passing places, most drivers took a bit of care, and Peter drove.

Anyway, we arrived with only minor damage to the car spoiler, parked in a lay by, booted up, and set off.  
The start of our walk.  Eskdale, with the mighty Bowfell dead centre
The weather was brilliant, lovely and sunny.  The valley was lovely to walk along, with the river alongside us, and straight ahead, the imposing sight of Bowfell.  It was great to be there.
Bowfell is still ahead.  Lovely
And again.  Awesome

Looking back along the river Esk, to Kepple Crag I think
We happily strolled along, me taking pictures, Peter filming the waterfalls, until we got to Tongue Pot. Here, we saw a large group of teenagers with guides all dressed in wet suits and apparently working their way up the valley by climbing up the river and all its waterfalls. It looked fun.
Tongue Pot.  The water is so clear here.  A lovely spot. 
Then we noticed another group of 5 young men nearby.  These guys were not climbing the waterfalls; they were jumping from the cliffs alongside into the plunge pools below!  We stood and watched, amazed.   I tried to get a decent photograph, but this is the best I could do.
Tongue Pot Leap......... Crazy!
Then there was the little packhorse bridge, Lingcove Bridge and the lovely waterfall nearby.  We filmed and photographed, immersed in our surroundings, enjoying all the new and delightful sights around us.  The wetsuit brigade carried on up the river, we watched a little more and then walked on.
Lingcove Bridge 

Waterfall on Lingcove Beck, just beyond the packhorse bridge
A little bit of a climb next over Throstle Garth (sounds like the name of a bouncer!) and Throstlehow Crag following the River Esk up to Great Moss and Cam Spout Crag. 
I liked it there.  We were on a great flat plain surrounded by the Crags and Mountains of the Lakes.  It was a bit wet n boggy though, and we struggled to find a dry route through some patches. 
Looking across Eskdale, Scafell Pike looms ahead
We reached Cam Spout Crag and the How Beck Waterfalls and looked for a way to cross the river.  We missed the fording point, and wandered up and down for a few minutes trying to find a way over.  In the end, we decided to take our boots and socks off and paddle across.  It was only a few inches deep, and the water was very clear, easy to see what we would be standing on.
Peter went first.  “Oh, this is lovely” he said, with a few “oohs” and “ows” because of the sharp stones underwater.  He stepped on the other bank and turned round to watch me cross. 
I put one foot in the water……….. All the muscles in my toes, foot ankle and calf suddenly retracted in distaste…. 
I put the second foot in the water; my poor little feet and tootsies couldn’t tolerate it. They screamed in pain at the cold, “Oh My God……… It’s FLAMING FREEEZING!” I screeched at Peter, “How could you say this is lovely?”
I couldn’t stand it; I had to get out.  I stood on the bank glaring at Peter across the water.  How on earth was I going to get across? I walked barefoot up river, but couldn’t find a fording point.  I came back to the point where Peter was sat on the opposite bank.  I was not happy!
Peter in the meantime was completely stunned by my refusal to paddle across, completely bewildered, he tried to encourage me. “Here’s not so bad”, he said, “Or maybe this bit”…….. To me however, that water was so cold it hurt! But there was nothing for it, I had to go across. The water was so cold I couldn’t think about anything else, not even taking the next step ……………
I got to the bank and leapt out. We decide to sit, have a bite, and let our feet (and socks) dry in the sun. My feet throbbed at me in indignant recrimination, but eventually returned to their normal state and I was able to get my boots back on. Peter could not understand why I had turned into a big girls blouse and found it all so difficult. I couldn’t understand why he hadn’t? But we were done with that now, so what next?
The River Esk under Scafell Pike and Ill Crag.  Who'd have thought one little river could've caused so much noise
Fed and watered, our next challenge turned out to be the scramble up Cam Spout Crag alongside How Beck Waterfalls.  This was not necessarily what I thought we would be doing, but we were here now, and I do sort of like scrambling.  The waterfalls were really lovely; the top has a flow that looks like lightning streaks, and the bottom half gushes over in a torrent.  Wonderful.
Top section of How Beck Waterfall.
Lower How Beck Waterfall
The whole waterfall at Cam Spout Crag.  The section on the right is our scramble route up 
Up on top we started up the path towards Broad Stand. I looked up. I checked my GPS. I asked Peter what the time was. I looked up again.
Looking up to Scafell Pike from the top of How Beck Waterfall.
Looking over Eskdale
Our next problem was me.  I am very slow at getting up hills.  People tell me that I will get better the more I do, and this may be true.  But I am still slow at getting up them hills. Above us, there was over a mile in distance a very steep 1800ft ascent, and the time was 3:15pm.  We had been taking it easy and enjoying ourselves so much that we'd taken over 5 hours to get to where we were..  Now, if we were at the top, it would take us an absolute minimum of 3 hours to get back to the car, probably more.  Allowing for driving time to etc, that left just about an hour and a bit to get to the top and still be back to the Sticklebarn in time for a cooked meal
For many people, this would not be a problem, but I know how slow I am. I knew that if we went for it, we’d be lucky to get back to the car before it started to get dark.   Peter was more optimistic and I wanted to give it a go, but I didn’t want to risk us wandering around in the dark or, much more likely, to miss our supper.
The views from the highest point of our day
So, regretfully, we made the decision to turn and follow our planned route home.  This did mean we would have to climb down the Cam Spout scramble, (not something I wanted to do) but it’s all a learning curve isn’t it?
Looking back - Scafell Pike is still there behind us
It did take us over three hours to get back.  We arrived at the car at about 6.30pm and we took the rollercoaster back to Langdale.  Yes we were back in time for supper at the Sticklebarn, feeling a little bit disappointed, but  I wasn't going to give up that easy.
We checked out the maps and routes whilst waiting for our meals, and agreed that Coniston Old Man can wait.   The weather forecast wasn't brilliant and it would mean a bit of a drive from Langdale, but we decided to try again from Wasdale Head in the morning.
Scafell Pike here we come.......  (Take two).


  1. Love the shot of Bowfell at the head of the valley and the pack horse bridge...

    Good luck with Take 2!

  2. Love the photographs . . .so beautiful! But O-o-o-o-oh! I am on tenterhooks - did you make it to the top of Scafell????