Screes, Scrambles, Stairs, Slopes and Sponges – It’s not all plain sailing!
Published 08 May 2016
I have summarised the latest walks below but for the benefit of followers who have not walked the fells or other moorland areas I have also added some jottings on the surfaces we walk on.
Underfoot in the Fells
Before I started fell walking I had images of farm tracks, grassy slopes and some rocky scrambles. What I had not bargained for was the amount of water there was in the hills and what a big factor it is in deciding which route to take. The fells are basically large sponges which soak up the rain which eventually finds its way to the reservoirs and the taps of the North West of England.
When paths are viewed on a map or even at a distance, the line of a path will often appear illogical but given that most have been used for hundreds of years, they go that way for good reason. Generally the diversions from straight will be to avoid the stiffer climbs and waterlogged areas; neither are good for pack horses or human legs.
If you vary from the well trodden paths, particularly in wet weather, you will find out why they take the route they do.
I have pasted below some pictures of the various types of terrain and paths to show you what you can expect.
- An idyllic grassy path going up through the currently dormant bracken
- A path through heather although you will often share such a path with the stream.
- A grass and loose scree slope to indicate a typical gradient. Slip on wet grass or loose rock and you will find yourself several metres lower down.
- A rock scramble. Great fun if your legs are long enough and there is no large drop below you.
- Stone staircase. Usually built at great expense where the path is getting particularly worn. In higher locations the bags of stone are delivered by helicopter.
- A water break across the path. Water takes the easiest route down which is often the man-made path. These breaks divert the water from the path and down the slope.
- Moss underfoot. If you have to go this way the best approach is to plan your route in advance and then move quickly.
- Stepping stones across the beck. Take care on wet rocks.
- A style built into a wall.
- A ladder style.
25 April; Hen Comb and Gavel Fell
Two Wainwrights in the Loweswater area walked from Whins in Ennerdale being the nearest access point from home. The fells themselves are not spectacular but it was a challenge to reach them via the damp Flautern pass. The moss picture above was taken that day.
The following week I returned to this area to climb Mellbreak which was beyond Hen Comb from my direction. A far more attractive fell, saddle shaped with heather on top.
27 April; Buckbarrow and Seatallan
Buckbarrow is a great climb with several rocky outcrops to explore. I walked north 1.5 miles along the ridge in the face of an icy wind to the top of Seatallan which was an unremarkable grass dome. After lunching in a small shelter I then dropped down the eastern side, out of the wind, to take a leisurely stroll back down Greendale.
28 April; Dore Head
Rain and snow was forecast from lunchtime with poor visibility so I went out early to reconnoitre Yewbarrow, a fell that is known to be challenging. I followed the lower slopes along Nether Beck. “Lunchtime” came early because at 10am it started to snow and by the time I reached Dore Head there was a light carpet. The snow stopped and the mist lifted giving me some good photos.
I left Yewbarrow for another day and trudged back in the face of heavy rain.
04 May; Burnmoor Tarn
When we were house-hunting in February, we were in Eskdale with a couple of hours to spare so we walked from Boot on the old coffin trail towards Wasdale Head. We went back to make a longer walk and reached Burnmoor Tarn, returning via Eel Tarn.
This four hour walk on open moorland was relatively flat and marred only by one or two boggy areas on the way back.
I hope you will be able to join me next time.