Saturday, May 27, 2017

6 Soggy Wainwright's around Bleaberry Fell

Date: 19th May 2017
Start/Finish: Ashness Bridge, Derwent Water
Wainwrights: Walla Crag, Bleaberry Fell, High Seat, Raven Crag, Armboth Fell, High Tove
Distance: 12 miles
Height Gained: 3222 feet
Time Taken: 7 hours with plenty of brew stops

The Route: Clockwise from Ashness Bridge car park

This walk is really best done after a long hot summer. Or you might enjoy bog snorkelling, in which case you will be fine at any time of year. I thought I might risk it after the recent spell of dry weather but I was wrong. The whole of the Ullscarf plateau is like a giant sponge of sphagnum moss, peat hags and saturated grass tussocks ... which doesn't make for pleasant walking. I don't mind having wet feet but it is hard work to continually pull your feet out of a gloop that doesn't want to let go. I exaggerate a little. It's not like this all the way round. Indeed my feet were 'mostly' dry up until the area around Armboth Fell. Its just unfortunate that this is large area.

I set off at 6 am, mindful of the forecast which basically said 'great til early afternoon, then rain and possibly thunder'. It's a pleasant stroll from the car park at Ashness Bridge up to Walla Crag. The views over Derwent Water are lovely, and keep improving with height until the best view is reserved for the summit .... which is just how it should be.

Ashness Bridge

Cat Bells over Derwent Water

Walla Crag summit

Walla Crag views over Derwent Water ...

... and over Keswick to Skiddaw

Bleaberry Fell dominates the onward view southwards and its a good path for most of the way. 

Bleaberry Fell

Bleaberry Fell views over to Skiddaw and Blencathra ...

... and over to Cat Bell & Maiden Moor

It's a straight-ish path to High Seat which did involve some acrobatic peat hag hopping in an attempt to keep dry feet.
Being pretty close to the most central area of Lakeland, and being fairly lofty, the views from the summit are extensive. You can see nearly all of the high fells laid out in a sweeping 360 degree panorama.


Views to the Scafell range

Now you could just take the straight path to High Tove and then call it a day but I really wanted to bag Raven Crag and Armboth Fell, as they are temptingly close. So I headed eastwards from High Seat through the progressively squelchy tussocks until joining the land rover track towards Raven Crag. The forestry commission have been busy here and have laid down an extensive wooden path all the way up to the summit. There are signs warning of the dangers of leaving their path due to logging activity, but there wasn't a sniff of anything going on today.

Raven Crag

The Forestry Commissions' 'decking' 

Raven Crag summit 'platform'

Summit views of Thirlmere Dam


Rather than re-tread my route along the 'decking' back down Raven Crag I rebelliously ignored the warning signs and went 'off path', heading through the pine glade back down the fell. Having survived this perilous ordeal I rejoined the land rover track heading south. From the moment a faint path leaves the land rover tracks to head for Amboth Fell, the terrain becomes increasingly soggy. 

My initial tactic was to stand on the tussocks and hop over the wet moss in an effort to keep my feet dry but before long, first one, then the other foot had sunk above ankle height and my trail shoe shod feet were soaked. At that point the tactic changed to marching purposefully through the sodden terrain and then even taking pleasure in deliberately stepping through the deepest bogs. I know, rebellious eh! Two kilometres of saturated drudgery later, I arrived on Armboth Fell summit which is mercifully a dry raised rocky platform and therefore the ideal place to sit down and have a brew, as unfortunately, there is more splashing and sploshing to be endured on the 'path' up to High Tove.

Armboth Fell summit looking towards High Tove (left) and High Seat (right) ...

... and back over the 'sponge' to Raven Crag

High Tove summit

High Tove views to Ullscarf

Watendlath Tarn

The viewpoint at Ashness Wood

Panoramic view of Derwent Water

So that's 6 more Wainwrights to take the total to 166. I still need to climb Ullscarf and the surrounding fells but I think I will reserve that until the end of our long hot summer. I'm an eternal optimist.