I had a remarkably good journey north with no hold ups. The nearest to a problem was on the final stretch on the A66, where a truck had dropped a plastic pipe and the traffic slowed to drive round it. It had been glorious sunshine all the way and I arrived at Braithwaite at just after 3 o’clock.
I had nearly finished pitching the Fortress (my Marmot Thor), when Jeff (aka Trentham Walker) arrived. Not surprisingly he picked out my tent immediately! Jeff was going to accompany me on Wednesday’s walk before heading back to Keswick. He arranged to leave the car at the camp site, but I pitched my tent to ensure that I had a place to get back to on Saturday, anticipating that the camp site would be very busy as the Keswick Mountain Festival was taking place that week.
Before setting off we had a cup of tea in the café. I managed to catch the weather forecast on the TV, which suggested the sun wouldn’t last, that Wednesday and Thursday would be a bit mixed but the weather would improve towards the weekend. Was my weather jinx going to strike again?
On the way to Stoneycroft, the view to Catbells
Thirst suitably quenched and loins girded, we set off for Stoneycroft Gill, about two miles away. We wandered down the country lane past the wonderfully named Uzzicar and up the mine track to a secluded pitch that I have used before. Very sad, but Jeff and I immediately fell into conversation about backpacking gear. It turns out that Jeff is as bad as me when it comes to buying gear, except that he tends to flog his surplus on E-bay, whereas I horde mine.
The idyll at Stoneycroft
I was slightly concerned that someone might have got to our pitch before us but it was empty. The combination of sun, flat ground, short grass and a babbling stream made for an idyllic pitch. After dinner we saw a few walkers and runners pass on the track above. As soon as the sun disappeared below the ridge, it was noticeably cooler. After a bit more conversation, it was time to hit the sack.
Wednesday 19th May
Overnight there was some intermittent light rain but it had stopped by the morning. The temperature remained above 12c in the tent and there was virtually no condensation, helped by a slight breeze.
Jeff was rather quicker at packing than me, but we were away by 9 o’clock. It was cloudy but mild, with some hill fog. We headed over to Robinson via the road and a farm track. After High Snab, we climbed High Snab Bank, which was a bit of a shock to the system as it was a steep pull. After a little way along the ridge, we decided to have elevenses and take in the view over Newlands towards Keswick and Skiddaw. The trouble with the Lake District is that at every turn there is a beautiful view, which makes for slow progress, especially when you are an inveterate snapper like me.
View from High Snab Bank towards Little Town
However, we exercised some discipline and only had a modest break, although long enough for me to eat two pita bread and cheese sandwiches. The next steep section required some modest scrambling. The rock is quite polished and I was glad that it was dry.
Nearing the summit, we entered the hill fog, although visibility wasn’t too bad. At the summit cairn we met our first fellow walker of the day, closely followed by two fell runners. We caught occasional glimpses of Buttermere and surrounding fells through the clouds. I polished off the rest of the cheese and pita bread. The weather seemed to be closing in, so it was time to press on.
The view down Little Dale
Although the cloud was thickening, the walk to Dale Head posed no navigational challenges. However, by the time we reached Dale Head the visibility had reduced markedly and the wind had freshened. After the obligatory summit photos at the summit cairn (the most shapely in Lakeland, we agreed), we headed down to Honister Pass.
The continued deterioration in the weather and spots of rain generated a discussion of whether it was worth continuing to Haystack, especially as the navigation above Honister was likely to be challenging. Also deterring us was the prospect of limited or no views and the probability of rain at higher elevations. I suggested that we might head over to Langstrath.
Honister Pass from Dale Head
We repaired to the café at the slate mine to consider our options. In the café, we were served by a rather sour antipodean girl. While we supped our tea and ate chocolate rice-krispie cakes, we were asked twice whether we were “Coast to Coasters”. The negative answer appeared to take the wind out of the sails of an elderly gentleman, who had clearly lined up an avenue of conversation about the C2C.
Despite a brief and tantalising glimpse of sun, the hills remained resolutely shrouded in cloud, so we decided that Langstrath was a good option. This appealed to me as I had never walked in Langstrath before. However, it did mean completely rearranging the middle two days of the walk, which I mulled over as we meandered down the pass.
Borrowdale from Honister
Our route now coincided with the C2C as we descended into Borrowdale. We avoided the siren calls of an ice cream at Seatoller. As we passed through Rosthwaite a lady asked us why we weren’t camping there (she owned the rather Spartan camp site at Rosthwaite). I mumbled about heading over to Langstrath, but Jeff who had had a bit of a run in with her before, regaled her with the story of when he had last been at the camp site and had been accused by her of doing a runner. I kept in the background in case things turned nasty.
Bleak How, Langstrath
After this little interlude, we walked on to Stonethwaite, where we crossed the river. Nearing the turn south to Langstrath, the river became more interesting with boulders, water races and falls. The entrance to Langstrath is almost hidden, but crossing the footbridge back over the river, we were there. Almost immediately I spied a potential pitch on the bluff above the river confluence. However, I suggested to Jeff that I leave my pack with him and scout a bit further up to see whether there was anything better.
A few hundred yards further on there was indeed a better spot. Although not entirely flat, it was secluded, quieter and had better water access. Indeed, it was yet another beautiful place to camp.
The tents were up quickly, meals cooked and rudimentary ablutions were performed. The breeze picked so we repaired to our tents, satisfied with a good day’s walk despite the change of plan.