Late Home – 214 summits in 214 days
I wanted to do something special for the summer solstice, our longest day, though the weather was having other ideas. Low cloud and warm summer rain will be great for wild mushrooms, not so good for solo mountain adventures. A brief window of respite was promised in the early evening, so I made plans for a jaunt after work.
Setting off up the steep climb from the National Trust car park near Blea Tarn, I followed the fell running trod worn down in the bracken by Three Shires runners. Horse flies droned, danger when all went quiet and they’d settled on my skin to inflict their painful bite.
Purples of heather and wild thyme, alive with white tailed bumble bees, cloud and shadow bringing the Langdale Pikes into sharp relief. Views stretched out in every direction from the summit of Lingmoor.
Steeply back down, dragonflies dancing in the air, a distant sandpiper piping, the shining tarn fringed with bright white cotton grass. I never did find the fell race trod through the bright green sea of bracken.
So it was hard work wading steeply through it, stumbling on hidden rocks up the flanks of Blake Rigg, the rocky Pike o Blisco summit worth the effort.
Wild bilberry up the climb of Cold Pike, a relief to be off eroded paths on my straight line route to the top.
Leg sapping bogs, wet with recent rain. The crumpled ridge line of Crinkle Crags, a lonely orange tent near the summit. I’d been looking forward to the next section, a wilderness navigating route, steeply down on a tussocky ridge by Rest Gill, the bulk of Scafell way in the distance, wading streams, picking a line, thinking like a red deer. A harsh clash of pebbles in the cliffs above my head. A male ring ouzel calling out in alarm from it’s nesting territory.
Skirting round the wide levels of Great Moss, gingerly testing the bogs, cutting across a narrower section to the noisy waterfall of Cam Snout. Then a climb towards Mickledore, the sheer streaked wall of the East Buttress of Scafell.
Loose rock and pouring water in the narrow gill to Foxes Tarn. Cloud building higher up, the dimmer switch turning. Thick, blanket cloud at the summit, a freshening, cold westerly.
Rock hopping through boulders, trying to find the grassy line, visibility down to a few metres. Then like an island looming out of the cloud, the distant mound of Slight Side, my sixth and final Wainwright on this run.
I knew the hardest part would be the return leg. Tiredness was creeping in, and it would be another wild run through unfamiliar terrain, reading the contours on my map and on the ground. First a plunge down loose scree. Then a bonus, a recent trod, broken with stud marks, no doubt from the recent Great Lakes fell race. I lost the trail wading through the thigh deep, refreshing upper reaches of the River Esk. Picking it up again around knolls and through bracken to part company, as I jumped across the narrows of Lingcove Beck, slicing the rock into two bubbling waterfalls.
Cloud was now heavy and dark, reclaiming the peaks, sinking lower with the fading light. With no food in my pack, I upped my pace, realising there may be a 9pm food deadline at the Three Shires Inn. Into the wetlands of Mosedale, cutting the corner, crossing barbed wire fences with long grass hiding rocks and recently planted rowan trees. Contouring down to Wrynose Bottom, the single track road eerily quiet, everyone at home no doubt watching another disappointing, boring England football match.
A wheatear for company, then an enormous bird of prey, labouring against the wind, heading my way. The hope of a golden eagle transforming into a heron as it flew above, legs trailing out behind.
Finally, I reached my van and took off my wet shoes and socks, throwing on dry clothes, a ten minute countdown before the food curfew at the pub. I arrived with one minute to spare, only to find they’d stopped serving at 8.45pm!
Oh well. Dinner tonight would be a packet of peanuts and a pint, and I’ll be a bit late home.
6 Wainwright summits today, that’s 184 down, 30 to go.
© Graham Patten
Monday 20th June 2016