Saturday, July 27, 2013

Mosedale Horseshoe & Solo Bivvy

Dates : 26th & 27th July 2013
Route : Mosedale Horseshoe (clockwise)
Wild Camp : Scoat Fell
Wainwrights : Yewbarrow 627m (2057 feet), Red Pike 826m (2710 feet), Scoat Fell 841m (2759 feet), Steeple 819m (2687 feet), Pillar 892m (2927 feet)
Distance : 17.6km (10.8 miles)
Height gained : 1387m (4551 feet)

Full kit list and some bivvy/tarp chat at the end

The Route - Clockwise

 I had wanted to explore some of the fells west of Wast Water for a while and the Mosedale Horseshoe seemed the ideal route. I'd heard the views from around Steeple & Pillar were stunning and ideal for a wild camp spot to watch the sun setting over the Irish sea. I was working Friday morning so it was a rush to get home, packed and set off to Wasdale. I arrived at 5pm having negotiated Wrynose and Hardknott passes rather quicker than I would have liked. Car parked a few miles from Wasdale Head, I set off up a bracken invaded path on the south side of Yewbarrow.


Sheep, Wast Water & the Scafells 

Wasdale Screes

 The views over Wast Water towards the Wasdale Screes and the Scafells in the evening light were stunning, and got better with height. As Dropping Crag & Bell Rib approached, the path became steep and unstable. The 'fix the fells' team had been active in this area and their efforts were greatly appreciated in the early part of this steep ascent but their work was ongoing and unfinished higher up. It was scramble up loose scree to skirt the rocky outcrop of Bell Rib on the left before emerging onto its 'mini summit'. The effort was repaid with great views along the length of Wast Water.

Looking back down the screes to Wast Water from just under Dropping Crag

Wast Water from Bell Rib

Looking through 'Great Door' on Bell Rib towards the Scafells

 Once Bell Rib and its gullies have been negotiated its easy going along a good path to Yewbarrow summit. All along the ridge are fantastic vantage points for the Scafells and the short walk took rather longer than expected due to numerous photo stops.

Onwards to Yewbarrow from Bell Rib

A Kestrel (I have been reliably informed) which was attending a nest on the lower crags 

The magnificent Scafells from Yewbarrow

 Once the summit is gained the views open up northwards towards Great Gable & Kirk Fell which were bathed in evening sunlight.

Kirk Fell & Great Gable from Yewbarrow

Red Pike (left) and Pillar (centre) from Yewbarrow 
 Yewbarrow summit panorama video - with dodgy commentry

 The onwards path that descends sharply down to Dore Head demands care & attention as it negotiates the steep 'Stirrup Crag'. Red Pike then dominates the forward view as the path climbs steadily up its south-west aspect. Looking back, its huge shadow was moving slowly up the flanks of Kirk Fell & Great Gable.

Red Pike from Dore Head - a steep path to the summit

Evening shadows on Kirk Fell

Paragliders over Great Gable summit

 The path climbs steadily upwards towards an obvious craggy peak but this apparent 'top' of Red Pike is eventually exposed as a false summit and the land continues to rise more gently upwards to the true summit 1/2 km further on.

Red Pike panorama looking back over Yewbarrow and beyond

The ridge to the main summit of Red Pike

Red Pike summit looking towards Pillar

 By this time the sun was getting low and I was keen to find a nice place to make camp. Having skirted Scoat Fell on its eastern side I came across a flat grassy col between Scoat Fell itself & Black Crag. It offered a perfect view of the sun setting beyond Steeple over the Irish Sea.

My Bivvy overlooking Steeple - mat inside bivvy for now

 I set the bivvy up and then settled down to watch the sunset while cooking and brewing up. Miraculously I had a good 3G phone signal albeit from the Isle of Man! I enjoyed a great 45 mins of twitter banter (mainly reminding me of feather pillows and pocket sprung mattresses) before deciding that the wind was getting a bit gusty and so put up a 'lean to' tarp for a bit of shelter.

 The sky soon darkened to reveal a perfectly clear night. I dozed off watching the stars, occasional satellite and a few meteors. I woke a few times and it took a second or 2 to adapt to the feeling of space above. This was my first time in a bivvy and I was enjoying the exposure. Not sure if I would be so keen in wind and rain but for this night it was a perfect choice and provided another new experience in the fells. There were some initial problems getting comfortable which I elaborate on under 'kit thoughts' at the end.    

The final set up

                                                  A quick video of camp

My view

The Silhouette of Steeple as the sun sets

All packed up and ready for Scoat Fell (left) and Steeple (right)

 I was up early next morning and by 5:30 was packed and ready to go. I quickly headed off to Scoat Fell and Steeple, keen to catch the sun rising over Pillar. It was a lovely scene watching the slowly brightening oranges & blues of the cloudscape. Two tiny figures could be seen milling around on the summit of Pillar. No doubt fellow wild campers enjoying the sunrise from their more lofty vantage point.   

Steeple from Scoat Fell

Sunrise over Pillar, from Scoat Fell

The view of Pillar from Steeple

Panorama east from Steeple

Panorama west from Steeple

Enjoying the view & surveying the route ahead to Pillar

                      Steeple summit panorama video with more dodgy commentry

 After soaking up the views I followed the obvious route towards Pillar. The two figures seen earlier were heading down towards me and we soon crossed paths. They had both bivvied on the summit and were now heading for Steeple and then Ennerdale. Pleasantries exchanged, I headed on.

Layers of Fells in the morning light, looking southeast from Little Scoat Fell. Fairfield in the distant centre

The Mosedale valley from near Wind Gap

 The going was easy until reaching Wind Gap following which the path became much steeper before emerging onto the surprisingly flat expanse of Pillar summit. I had been reliably informed that Pillar was a summit worthy of leisurely exploration as the best views were to be found around the perimeter of the plateau. I first wandered over to the Ennerdale side in search of the infamous 'Pillar Rock'. It wasn't hard to find. Westwards the vista extended from Ennerdale Water taking in the whole length of the Ennerdale valley. On the other side of the valley the mountainous ridge from Red Pike to Haystacks was in view. The superb panorama then continues along the Ennerdale valley towards Kirk Fell and Great Gable before continuing along to Great End and the rest of the Scafell Massif. Majestic scenery.

Pillar summit with Great Gable & the Scafells providing the backdrop

Ennerdale Water from Pillar

Pillar Rock overlooking the Ennerdale valley and High Crag

Pillar summit view southeast towards Kirk Fell, Great Gable & the Scafells

                                        Summit panorama video from Pillar

 I reluctantly left Pillar and headed down the east path towards Looking Stead, a large craggy mass overlooking the Black Sail YHA hut at the head of the Ennerdale valley. The path then descends steeply to the col at Black Sail pass.

The path from PIllar to Looking Stead

looking back down the Mosedale valley with Yewbarrow & Red Pike right

Pillar lit brightly in the morning sun, from Looking Stead

 I had intended to continue on up Kirk Fell from here but the legs were tiring and the ascent looked like a steep scramble which was uninviting while carrying an overnight pack. I therefore left Kirk Fell for another day and headed down the Black Sail Pass back to Wasdale Head.

Kirk Fell - the route up looking decidedly steep

The way back down the Black Sail Pass

A last look back at Yewbarrow

Mosedale Beck near Wasdale Head

Kit List

Shelter : Backpackinglight solo tarp (278g) & Integral Designs solo ground sheet (140g) Bivvy bag : Rab Ascent (600g)
Mat : Exped SynMat7 UL LW (595g) 
Sleeping Bag : Rab Alpine 400 (970g) and Rab silk liner (132g)    
Stove : High Gear Blaze titanium stove (48g)  + Primus 100g Gas Cart   
Pans : Evernew Solo-set (250g)
Rucksack : Osprey Talon 44 (1.18kg) 

Fluid : Deuter Streamer 2lt Bladder (185g) and 600ml Sigg bottle (100g empty) + Sawyer Squeeze filter (84g), 100 mls milk, coffee  
Food : Wayfayrer Tai Green Curry, Buttered Bread, Supernoodles,various sugary snacks.
Bits & Bobs : headtorch and spare batteries, Iphone + Anker 5800mHh battery,  victorinox knife, map & compass, basic first aid kit and Petzl e-lite, spork, various fold dry bags, flint & steel, plastic trowel.  

Camera : Panasonic DMC-LX7 & lowepro case.  
Clothes : Ron Hill wicking T-Shirt, Rab 100 wt fleece (250g), Montane lightspeed jacket (160g), TNF Meridian Cargo Shorts (190g), ME beany, Rab phantom grip gloves, sunglasses, Buff, Innov8 short socks. Hard Shell = Mountain Equipment Firefox jacket (320g) not used.
Trail Shoes : Merrell Moab Ventilator (680g pair)


 Kit thoughts

 I was pleased with all the kit but again I could make considerable weight savings if I tried. The sleeping bag was overkill for this time of year. I really need a lighter summer bag (or maybe quilt). The bivvy bag worked well with no sign of condensation, but I look with envy at lighter bags such as the Terra Nova moonlight at 180g and wonder whether there could be much difference in peformance & durability. 

 I really like the exped mat but it perhaps isn't the best choice for bivvying. I started with it inside the bag but as it is 7cm thick, there wasn't much wriggle room left inside. After getting up for an early hours comfort break I took the mat out of the bag which proved much more comfortable and roomy. The mat was therefore sat on the groundsheet which was only just big enough. It wouldn't have taken much for it to slide off onto the grass & stones. The solution I think is to either use a thinner mat inside the bivvy (but I love the comfort of the exped), use a larger groundsheet (but the mat would still get wet if it rains) or get a larger bivvy (the Alpkit Hunka XL would suffice at 500g). Any thoughts are welcome!

 The tarp worked well but the weather really didn't offer much of a challenge. I had previously experimented with a few different set ups in the garden (see below) and decided that this modified 'lean to' configuration was the best for the mild conditions. I also really like the 'flying V' which, with just 2 poles, allows for the use of a 'lifter' which makes a huge difference to the space underneath. This would be more suited to poor weather. A lifter would have provided much more space underneath my 'lean to' which was sagging quite a bit by the morning. Of course this would have required another pole/stick etc. Next time I might take a short length of bamboo garden cane for this job.

standard lean-to
modified lean-to
flying 'V'

 I was happy with the rest of the kit. This was the first outing for the Sawyer filter and it worked quickly & efficiently, saving considerable weight in water carry. Of course if I had a lighter sleeping bag, bivvy & mat then I could take a smaller rucksack and save more weight. Anyway thats it, any comments are always welcome. Thanks for reading.