Tuesday, 22 February 2011

A Windy Walk over Place Fell

14th February 2011

There was little apprehension of the weather being bad in the Lake District as we drove up the M6, it was more a factual resignation that we would get wet sometime during the day. We hoped that the rain and snow promised would be late in the afternoon and we would just miss it.

We stopped at the best bacon butty van in Cumbria. Dave and Pete's in the first lay by on the A590  Kendal road after Junction 36. Our usual bacon and sausage changed to spam and egg that sizzled and spattered on the griddle plate as we exchanged banter with the two lads that own the van.

"It's going to be bad weather." They said pretty conclusively.

Looking at the grey mass of cloud that obliterated every inch of view of the distant fells, it was hard not to agree. But, as the last moist smidgen of spam and egg was wiped from the corner of my mouth and my mention of going west to Settle and the Yorkshire Dales was dismissed by Keith of being wimpish, we decided on Place Fell at Ullswater.

Keith orders heavenly delights

The usual optimistic it might get better wasn't quite appropriate as we ploughed through thick cloud over Kirkstone Pass and down to the Car Park at Hartsop. NY409130. Amazingly it wasn't raining, that is until we put on our boots and walking clothes and started to walk away from the car. Then it rained, really rained and it was back to the car and under the shelter of the back door we put on full waterproofs.

" At least the rucksack will be lighter." Keith always puts an optimistic slant on every setback.

Light !!!! Rain as we set off

I had bought a hand held Satmap Navigation unit the day before and this was to be its test run. I had only about an hour to read the instructions but it seemed easy enough so after setting it up I hung it around my neck. We took a normal map as well as batteries don't run out on paper but this high tech baby was capable of guiding us to Africa. After a while I checked it and sure enough on the OS map screen there was a circle showing where we started and another circle showing where we were 1.7km along the path to Place Fell. Fantastic!!

It was really pouring down and we both decided that cameras would remain in the rucksacks today. We would still do our route but it would be wet and miserable. Then without warning it stopped raining and the sky cleared.

Gateway to the fells
We stopped now and cameras out we grabbed some shots expecting things to change back to rain but they didn't. Well not for a while. I left my camera slung around my neck, not very comfortable but I thought I would keep it out as long as I could.

The path from Hartsop heads basically Northwest following the valley of Ullswater and at NY407140 it crosses Angle Tarn Beck that tumbles from Angle Tarn almost 1000ft above. Here there is waterfall that from a distance looks dramatic but doesn't quite live up to the billing close up, even in heavy flood. It could be the big tree that sits in the middle of the fall than lessens it appeal and makes it hard to get a decent photograph.

Angle Tarn Beck
The walking was really easy at first on the route then at NY405146 it starts to climb steadily up to Boredale Hause NY 407156. The weather was fantastic going forward and not so good looking back. The contrast can be seen in the following photos.

Looking back at Keith on the climb

Looking forward to Glenridding

It was hard to believe such a beautiful view had appeared so soon after tumultuous rain and it lifted our spirits. The climb became pleasant as we watched the light dancing down the valley picking out the greens and russets of the vale and the pure whites of the distant snow on the mountains. What could be nicer we thought as the increasing gradient steadily took us up and out of the valley. The wind began to get stronger which was only to be expected with altitude but then as we turned to look back at our route up the path we got a surprise.

Approaching Snowstorm
It was snow coming straight towards us at high speed. The fleeting thought we had a few minutes ago of coming spring was replaced by the definite reminder that winter was still here. Within seconds we were blasted and all views disappeared into a white curtain. Gloves and hats were on, cameras under coats and with the help of the wind on we went. The path really steepened up to Boredale Hause NY407156 so wind assistance was appreciated.

Here is there is a Cairn NY 407157 and meeting of paths which gave us the various options. One was go back, not an option. Two was follow the path to the left and drop off down to Patterdale NY 391161. This also was not an option, or we could make our way to the cairn at NY 408157 and drop off to Boredale Head NY 418169. This would be a low level route that we could have taken that would have eventually led us to Ullswater and on to the path back to Patterdale and Hartsop.

We of course decided on the remaining option to go straight on and up Place Fell in driving snow.

Snow starts to stick as Keith climbs Place Fell

The wind got stronger and stronger and the path got steeper but the snow stopped. Above us blue sky flashed through cloud as we reached the rocky knoll on which the triangulation pillar sits. NY405169.  I went first and almost turned into a human kite as the full force of the wind hit me. It was hard to stay on my feet and I held on to the pillar as I negotiated my way to a sheltered spot to wait for Keith.

Keith being blown backwards Place Fell summit
It was his turn to feel the blast and me being a true mate took a photo as he grasped the pillar in a fight to stay upright. We got into the lee side of the rocky summit and managed to get out of the full force of the wind. As we dropped a little lower the summit sheltered us and gradually the power of the wind abated.

Looking down to Glenridding from Place Fell summit
The clouds were scattering now and glimpses of far fells appeared glowing as shafts of sunlight haphazardly waltzed their way across them. Sometimes they caught the rising cloud from the valleys which refracted into mini rainbows that followed the dizzy dance to the horizon.

A splash of colour

The splendour of the ever changing views was truly breathtaking and it was a pity that I had to concentrate on my camera, not sadly to take photos but to delete a load of images I had left on my card from my last time out with it. I always check before setting off that I have a clean card but with the heavy rain today at the start I didn't.

Just before I filled my card. Photo: Keith Butterworth
It was a bit fiddly as I needed to keep todays photos so had to delete old images one at a time. The stop did give me time to check the Satmap, not that we needed to as we knew where we were in relation to the area but just for a nosy. We were staggered as we were feet away from a small tarn near Hart Crag that was showing on the Satmap screen. Unbelievable accuracy though I would always keep a paper map and compass as a back up in case it failed for some reason.

Over the Rainbow. Photo: Keith Butterworth
Camera now ready and with improving weather over us at least we carried on down the fellside. I say at least as to our right swirling snow showers spun down Boredale and in the far distance the high fells of High Street were obliterated by thick cloud.

Snow Storm in Boredale
Yet when the showers past we were left with a spectacular canvas that stretched to Penrith and beyond. Keith doubted Penrith had seen any rain all day as it looked bathed in permanent sunshine. We were bearing North East all the time now as the path descended towards Garth Heads NY 427185.

Garth Heads
We decided however just as we reached a point near Sleet Fell at NY 418184 that we would cut across the fell and took a bearing to the path junction at NY417191 from which we could then take the main path back along the edge of Ullswater to Patterdale. At the junction there is a barn and under the shelter of its porch we ate a late lunch. The only four people we had seen all day passed us as we ate. Two heading to Patterdale, two the opposite way to Beckside NY 423196. It was quiet except for the sound of Scalehow Force Waterfall just up ahead of us roaring its way to Ullswater. We passed its lower reaches as the path to Patterdale crosses its waters over a footbridge NY 415191. Here we though of taking some photographs but the falls looked better higher up the fell and we felt better not bothering to climb up to see them.

It was easy going now along the good path. Ahead we could see grey heavy cloud and anticipated that sometime before we reached the car we may get some rain. Near Silver Bay at NY397182 the path splits and we took the path to the right to keep on the lake shore but ventured out onto the headland as the view up the lake to Patterdale was not to be missed.

View up Ullswater
High on the opposite side of the lake the high fells of St Sunday Crag and the Helvellyn range flitted in and out of snow showers. We carried on to a point where we stood opposite Glenridding on the far side of the lake.

Glenridding is a picturesque Tourist village nestling peacefully under the Helvellyn massive. A haven for walkers , runners and mountain bikers all year round and in summer its bustling jetties are alive with yachts, boats of every type and crowded ferries. Campers, caravaners and youth hostellers, hotel and bed and breakfast guests all are catered for here on the Ullswater shore. However step back to around a hundred years ago and the scene would be completely different.

The area above Glenridding held Greenside Lead Mine the profitable mine in the whole of the Northern England and possibly one of the deepest. Imagine now the scene looking from our viewpoint. The noise from the mining would pervade every valley, dust and smoke would be rising above the village and the jetties and roads would be the arteries taking the valuable produce to the whole world. This was one busy place and fortunes were made and probably in the latter years of the 1960's lost.

We were now subject to a heavy rain shower and the feel of lets get it over began to infiltrate our thoughts. We had got to the point when even the best boots began to feel damp and the drum of water on our hoods began to irritate but a bit of tiredness does have that effect. We tramped on though passing through some nice places.


We also met a very nice lady taking her Trail Hounds for a walk. An old Lakeland sport though now the hounds follow a trail of aniseed laid over the fells instead of foxes.

A very nice dog walker
Soon we reached the point were hours ago we started the climb to Boredale Hause. Further down the path Angle Tarn Beck looked dramatic again. A white ribbon against the russets and browns of the wet fell side it tumbled down.

Angle Tarn Beck from Dubhow

Familiar paths in pouring rain exactly the same scenario as when we first walked them in the opposite direction, led us back to Hartsop and the car park. Now incredibly the rain stopped as we reached the car. You couldn't write a script for that happening.

The view when we got back minus rain

Technical Bits:

Elevation and Distance Graph

Time taken:   5.5 hrs including Photography

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