A Glorious Day in Eskdale

Until this trip I had never visited Eskdale; a mixture of laziness and familiarity with the more easily accessible surrounds of Borrowdale, Langdale, Patterdale, and the other eastern honeypots of the Lake District must have caused my eyes to flash over that mass of tightly knotted contours on the map.

Actually that’s not quite true, I do remember diving the Hardknott Pass just after passing my test driven by some twisted logic that as it was the steepest, and therefore hardest, road in the UK, I must immediately challenge myself against it. Having made it back down the 33% hairpins with brakes and body panels intact I promptly forgot about it until recently when the thought of a long rambling approach to Sca Fell came to mind.


The Esk tumbles down from the Great Moss

Well I’ve been missing out, Eskdale is glorious!  I’m sure it was partly the stunning late winter high pressure weather, a cloudless blue sky and snow dappled peaks that brought out the best in the landscape, but, Ennerdale aside I don’t think I have felt so remote in the Lakes so quickly after leaving the car.

My route took me from Jubilee Bridge along side the Rive Esk with its myriad of waterfalls and deep plunge pools, perfect for a bit of wild swimming, up onto the Great Moss a broad valley ringed by high peaks. Here there is little if any sign of human habitation, a little piece of wilderness with faint paths and bridge-less rivers to be forded more like Scotland than one of England’s busy national parks.


The Great Moss

From the Moss I scrambled up alongside How Beck Falls (Cam Spout) which cascades in a series of steps down the steep hillside (and is now firmly on my winter tick list). Above the waterfall the path climbs up towards Mickledore and Broad Stand but before reaching this I turned left up a narrow gully to Foxes Tarn and a steep pull op scree to the summit of Sca Fell.

Patches of hard snow covered the summit with deep post holes from accents under more challenging conditions forming an easy staircase up the last few meters. For a few precious minutes after arriving I had the summit to myself and was able to enjoy view of snowcapped mountains out to the horizon. Skiddaw and Blencathra where prominent to the north, their peaks dusted with white above the greens and browns of the valleys below. To the west the sea stretched out to the horizon with the Isle of Man visible in the distance.


Cam Spout

I had seen nobody on my long walk up, enjoying the isolation and the chance for a skinny dip in the river, and now was somewhat shaken out of my solitude by the arrival of about 40 hikers within 5 minutes who had all made their way up the southern ridge of the mountain. This somewhat threw me out of my reflective mood and I beat a hasty retreat back town towards the Moss.

I have not enjoyed a day in the hills more for a long time, and wonder what else I’ve missed so close to home.




Skiddaw and Blencathra


Langdale Microadventure

With the mountains of the Lake District still capped with spring snow I plodded up to the top of Side Pike as darkness quickly descended around me. Fortunately it was not too steep a climb carrying full overnight and photography kit; the hill is diminutive but boasts fantastic views over the Langdale Pikes which was why I had chosen it for the weekends wild camp. I managed to get the tent set up with the last rays of warmth fading from the sky, pleased I have brought my winter sleeping bag with me as the clear sky suggested and delivered a cold night.


As tea cooked on the stove the stars bust into life throughout the blackness above, Orion and Sirius prominent to the south, and I spent about an hour trying to capture a tent lantern picture; something I have seen others do but which I found to be quite a challenge, juggling camera settings and trying to focus in darkness.

After a good nights sleep I woke to a brilliant sunrise; a warm glow on the hills which gave way to the first rays of sunlight catching the white snow and then dappling the upper slopes of the Lansdale pikes with a gentle morning light.