The rain overnight was ferocious, but the wind wasn’t too bad, although this might have been just perception as the Scarp remained rock solid throughout. If I had been in the Laser Competition, it would have been much noisier.
After first light, the rain slackened and became intermittent. During the night I had some concerns that might pitch might become flooded as I could hear the rushing water nearby. However, when I poked my head out of the tent I was still well above the level of the river. Despite this, the rain had turned the Esk into a raging torrent from the gently meandering beck of the previous day. It occurred to me that crossing it might be a bit of a challenge.
By around six o’clock the rain had more or less stopped and I had breakfast. I opened the door for the view. The clouds were constantly changing in a never ending dance with the mountains. Sometimes they blotted the view completely and at other times, they lifted to reveal the impressive cliffs of Dow Crag and Esk Pike. I also saw Cam Spout at its best. Every so often there would be a surge of water which hurtled out over the waterfall, suggesting a spout. If I had been on the other side of the river, I would have climbed up to have a closer look.
The next few hours were spent gazing out of the tent door at this ever changing scene. I was in no hurry to move on. A group of lads turned up at Sampson’s Stones. After pitching their tents, they ascended the slope to the crags, presumably for a bit of climbing.
By eleven o’clock, the weather had improved substantially, so I had lunch and packed. I was off just before midday. Instead of following the river, which was difficult as it entailed crossing a tributary, I decided to skirt eastwards around Great Moss. I was glad of the Gore-Tex over-socks as the ground was very wet.
It was hard work, with a certain amount of backtracking to find a reasonable route, but eventually I found a path below Gait Crags along the side of the valley, which was a bit drier. The respite was only temporary as opposite Little Narrowcove, the squelching resumed with renewed vigour. I gave up trying to avoid immersing my shoes and adopted a speed strategy.
I was beginning to get a bit concerned that I wouldn’t find an easy place to cross the river. I needed to get to the other bank to follow the path up to Esk Hause. Fortunately after a confluence, there were some boulders that made a crossing reasonably straightforward.
The climb up the Tongue was easy and nearly dry underfoot. However the passage through the gorge near the top was quite arduous, hopping from boulder to boulder and crossing the beck several times. I was being extra careful because I was unsure of the grip of the Roclites.
However, there were no mishaps. The higher I climbed, the stronger the wind and I was grateful for the hood on the Lightspeed jacket. Eventually I reached the Hause to be greeted by a break in the clouds and some sunshine.
I headed towards Allen Crags and then turned east in the direction of Angle Tarn. I met a couple of other backpackers coming in the opposite direction. The path was easy with mainly pitched slabs, although, again, I was careful on the wet rock. At Angle Tarn I had a brief stop to look at the crags and have a drink. Then, I headed down to Langstrath, following the beck that issues from Angle Tarn.
Where the beck hits Langstrath proper I had a major problem. I just couldn’t see a way across the raging beck. After about 15 minutes of fruitless searching and a bit of boulder hopping, I headed down towards the confluence with Allencrags Gill.
This looked fordable, so I took off my socks and over-socks. I figured it would be better to wear my Roclites as they were wet anyway. This was the one time where I was actually pleased that I had opted for the Roclites rather than the Fastpackers.
Using my walking pole as a third leg, I crossed. It wasn’t too bad. On the other side I dried my feet, squeezed out my shoes and put on my socks and over-socks. I was amazed that my socks were only damp, rather than soaked.
By now the sun was shining pleasantly. There were a number of small stream crossings and some patches of marshy ground, so my shoes remained wet. The wind freshened appreciably, which surprised me as I thought that Langstrath would be sheltered.
I was on the lookout for a pitch but couldn’t find anything so I crossed the bridge over Tray Dubs. This was the real Tray Dubs, not the waterfall that I took for Tray Dubs when I was last here, and mighty impressive it is too.
It was well after five o’clock and I was beginning to get worried that I would have to go much further down the valley. Fortunately, just after the bridge, on the western side, there was a reasonably flat site that gave some protection from the wind.
The tent was up in a jiffy and water boiled for Pasta Bolognese. The weather was becoming progressively cloudier, suggesting that it might rain overnight. However, in the late evening, the clouds dispersed and the wind dropped.
After a good night’s sleep, I awoke to find there had been no rain overnight but the cloud had returned and looked threatening. I decided to return to Langdale via Stake Pass, partly because my ankle was a bit sore from turning it the previous day but mainly because the lure of a shower was irresistible.
Breakfast was over quickly. I surprised myself with the speed of my packing and I was away by 8.30. I figured a leisurely stroll should see me back to Langdale by lunch time.
While the climb up Stake Pass is not very inspiring, the views back to Langstrath and the spectacular waterfalls of Stake Beck maintained my interest. I felt a spot of rain, so I put on the pack cover and resumed my climb.
Further up, the path was being restored, making the climb a bit tame, although it was clearly needed as the erosion on the lower path testified.
Near the top of the pass, the valley widens out to form an impressive drumlin field. Indeed, if you know what you are looking for there is plenty of evidence of glacial erosion and deposition in the Langstrath and Mickleden area. As an ex-geography student I rather enjoyed indentifying these as I went along.
As I reached the summit of the pass, I could see Bowfell capped with cloud. As usual, Mickleden was dark and mysterious. However, Langdale was dappled with sunlight. Perhaps the weather would hold off.
On the zigzag path down to Mickleden, I met numerous walkers toiling upwards. Passing the ruined sheep enclosure there were three tents not very subtly positioned for a wild camp. The path back to the camp site was quite rough on my feet. I stopped briefly to remove my Gore-Tex socks to give my feet some air.
On the crags below Harrison Stickle there were some climbers scaling one of the rock faces. By noon I was back at the camp site and after a quick shower I had lunch. Returning to the Thor for a snooze, disaster struck. As I closed the inner door one pole snapped. I tried to detach the pole but in doing so it ripped the roof of the tent. After removing the pole I patched the hole with some duck tape.
It was lucky that I had enough tape as it rained overnight. I spent the rest of the afternoon lazing around and writing up some notes. It had been an enjoyable and interesting stroll. Although I hadn’t walked a great distance, the camp beneath Scafell had been a wonderful experience and I intend to return soon.