Wednesday 28th and Thursday 29th October
The drive north took about six hours and as I neared the Lakes, the weather began to deteriorate. There was mist and light rain as I went over Kirkstone Pass. It was obvious from the roads and the streams that there had been a reasonable amount of rain. However, as I neared Brothers Water Inn the rain died down to a light drizzle.
I called in at the camp site shop to pay my fees. I was concerned that the camp site might be full as it was half term, but there was hardly anyone there. I had decided to use Sykeside campsite as a base, giving me the option of returning to my base camp tent (my Marmot Thor aka “The Fortress”) if the weather got too bad. It also meant that I had a safe place to leave the car. You can pay a fee just to park the car if you wish, but I like having the fall-back option, which, as it turned out, was a good idea.
Sykeside camp site looking towards High Hartsop Dodd
I put the tent up and then had to decide whether to go to Dovedale to wild camp or stay put at the camp site. As the weather was a bit iffy and I fancied having a shower, I decided to stay put. Dinner was a Mountain House Sweet and Sour Chicken, which was not bad. After a nice hot shower, it started to rain as I got back to the tent.
It rained intermittently through the evening and early part of the night, so I felt I had made the right decision in staying at the camp site. I certainly enjoyed my reacquaintance with the Exped Downmat and had a good night’s sleep. However, any thoughts of a lie-in were scotched by a loud conversation by a couple of blokes in a tent about twenty yards away. The joys of camp site life!
The morning, looking towards Hart Crag and Dove Crag before it clouded over
The sky was reasonably clear when I made my way to the shower block, raising my hopes for the prospects for the day. After my usual breakfast of a muesli bar and fig rolls, I packed the rucksack. I had brought both my old Aether 60 and Mariposa. I decided that I would use the Aether and everything went in easily with room to spare. I ditched a few surplus items as it seemed very mild. My hand-held scales suggested that my sack weighed 12.75kg without water, but including fuel and food for three days, hardly ultralight but not too bad.
I left Sykeside at about nine o’clock and decided that it looked more interesting to climb High Hartsop Dodd rather than go up Caiston Beck. By this time the tops were under hill fog and Dove Crag and Hart Crag were obscured.
From High Hartsop Dodd looking towards Brothers Water
The climb was steep but easy. I took it slowly to avoid early burn out. I was sheltered from the wind so it made the climb a bit sweaty. As I was in no hurry, I took a number of photos. The walk along the ridge to Little Hart Crag was pleasant and not too squelchy underfoot. The views across to Dovedale were attractive and it was interesting to pick out part of the route that I had used last November. It looked a good deal steeper than I remembered.
I passed a flat shelf, which would make a good high level pitch, although there is no accessible water nearby. I made a short detour to the top of Little Hart Crag, where the wind started to make its presence felt. On the short descent from the rocky outcrop I was feeling hungry so I stopped for some elevenses, sheltering behind the base of the crag.
High Hartsopp Dodd ridge looking towards Dovedale
Rather than a snack, I had wholemeal pita bread and Jarlsberg cheese sandwich to fortify me for the walk along the ridge as I guessed it would be quite exposed and it could be some time before lunch proper. As the wind had strengthened and I was about to move into the mist, I decided to experiment with my Quickfire Jacket over my Vasco Jacket. The climb up to Dove Crag was quite steep. I met two walkers coming in the opposite direction with their black Labrador. On the ridge I was into the mist, but route finding was easy as there is a drystone wall to follow. I was starting to hit the traffic now as I encountered a number of other walkers. I regularly encountered some strange patches of regurgitated red berries. I guess they were probably rowan berries probably eaten by sheep.
The wall leading to Dove Crag
The walking was a bit boring in the mist, but as I approached Fairfield, there was one of those magical moments when the mist clears to reveal a panorama of the fells. The clouds appeared to boiling around the hills but the tops were now clear. I took some photos of the unusual cloud formations. There were quite a few walkers on the top of Fairfield.
Clouds looking west from Fairfield
The strong wind made it feel quite cold so I decided to postpone a proper lunch until I was out of the wind. Rather than go down Deepdale Hause to Grisedale as I did the previous year, I decided to descend via Grisedale Hause. This is a slightly easier route down as it is not quite as steep or as long, although the path is quite badly eroded. Half way down I took out my trekking poles to steady myself.
Grisedale Hause and Grisedale Tarn
As I reached the tarn, it started to spot slightly with rain, making me decide to go on a bit further before eating. I passed several other people who looked like they were intending to set up camp at the tarn. After about half an hour I stopped to have some food, sitting on a large boulder.
Everything was going so well. However, I was looking up at the scenery when I stumbled and turned my ankle rather badly. I really should have been using my trekking poles on the stony path down, but foolishly I had stowed them. Although my ankle was sore, I could still walk reasonably freely, but I took extra care on the path down.
Middle Grisedale, I camped in the woods on the left
I started to look for a pitch, contouring just below the path, but there was nothing obvious and the wind was quite strong. My eyes turned to the woods on the northern side of Grisedale where the path flattens. The closer I got, the more promising it looked. I spotted a gate through the enclosing wall. Leaving my pack nearby, I had a good scout round the woods.
Down by the river, there were some good flat grassy pitches between some oak trees. However, it was a bit exposed to the wind and I was concerned that it was a bit too obvious. A bit further back from the river and near the wall, it was more sheltered and discrete. I decided to pitch there, between some widely spaced pines.
The western end of the woods
There wasn’t much deadfall, so I didn’t feel there was much danger of a branch falling on me. I removed a few twigs and cones and pitched the Comp. After a wash, I had dinner. The Mountain House Pasta Bolognese tasted better than a Waitrose lasagna that I had earlier in the week, although it didn’t have as much pasta as you might expect.
Disaster struck when I spilt a cup of tea over the porch groundsheet and over one sock. After mopping up, I made another cup of tea. Instead of taking my sock off, I put my fibre pile bivi boots on and within half an hour my sock was dry. These are real luxury and I love them!
My pitch amongst the pines
As I was relaxing, I discovered that I was being invaded by slugs. I must have picked off and ejected at least a dozen over the next hour or so. One even made it to the roof on the inside of the inner tent. Yuck. In the end I closed the inner tent door to guard against further intrusion.
The wind seemed to be getting stronger and it was roaring through the tree tops. Fortunately I was far enough inside the wood that the wind was quite diffuse as it reached the tent. Now and again there were a few spots of rain. I couldn’t get a mobile signal, so I had no idea what the weather would be the next day.
I woke a few times in the night and evicted a few more slugs. While my ankle was sore, it didn’t feel too seriously damaged. In the time that I was awake I began to think about the options for the next day.