We’re off again! I never expected – after we came down from Cat Bells in August – that we would not climb another mountain for two months. I thought we may miss a few weeks, but to sit at home and watch the splendid Indian summer pass us by was incredibly frustrating.
Hannah needed time to recover; it had been a hard push for her since we set out in January to climb these Wainwrights. On Cat Bells, the long walks and the 60,000 feet of climbing took their toll. So we hung our boots out to dry, and waited, and waited. Now, thankfully, we are on the hill again; happy on Harter Fell in Eskdale.
Scrambling up Harter Fell
Bit by bit, taking things slowly, on this surprisingly humid day in October, we set out in waterproofs and are soon down to shirts as we make a direct ascent for the summit – scrambling over the many outcrops that litter the fell’s north-west face. The established path leads up the southeastern side, but, as usual, Hannah was in the mood for some adventure, and so we wind our way over hillocks and rocks to reach the start of the scramble.
Some of these outcrops are quite entertaining, one or two quite exposed, and even one which name Little Striding Edge gives us a glimpse of future of things to come. Although this it is nowhere as exposed as the edge on Helvellyn, or as daunting, its outline does give Hannah a sense of the real thing.
Gazing across Eskdale
The view of the Scafell group from Harter Fell is outstanding. From Eskdale, the fells of Slight Side and Long Green lead onto the summit of Scafell, before the ridge drops into Mickledore and rises to Scafell Pike, the highest mountain in England.
My eye follows the ridge northwards over Great End, Esk Pike, Bowfell and finally onto Crinkle Crags. It would have made a superb photograph if the weather had been favourable, but with a ceiling of grey clouds and flat lighting it wasn’t worth taking; better to sit, nibble on some snacks, and take the time to make plans.
Scafell could become our half way peak; once we have climbed Harter Fell, Birker Fell and Hardknott. The route over Slight Side would bring us to the summit of the Lake District’s second-highest mountain and our 107th peak.
Secretly I hoped this would be possible, but it’s too early to tell yet, let’s get today’s hill completed and then see how things go.
Summit of Harter Fell
The outcrops ease into a scattering of boulders as we crest the ridge and the summit of Harter Fell comes into view. A final foray through some summit crags–there are three outcrops on the top–and we have made it. The middle outcrop, where we sit, eat sandwiches, and gaze upon the Coniston range, seems lower than the adjacent outcrop.
We investigate – necessitating a slightly technical short climb to reach the top – it is higher and we claim it as the summit. Behind us, the fell runs northwards over Birker Fell, Demming Crag and along the marshy ground to Horseshow Crags. Another path contours below the ridge, following the edge of the plantation and onto the Hardknott Pass road.
Our route lies over the tops, and after a tricky descent we come upon a delightful little tarn nestling in the side of the fell and affording fantastic views of Scafell.
Out comes the kettle and soon water is on the boil. This small tarn, in summer, could be reminiscent of hotel swimming pools in tropical countries were the water runs right to the edge, and the pool seems to be floating in the sky.
With the backdrop of the Scafell mountains it is certainly a great place for a swim and could indeed be one of the Lake District’s best dipping tarns. But for now, we sit back and enjoy hot chocolate in the chilly wind, while gazing upon, what I have claimed as, one of the best views in the Lake District.
Following the path home
As we head across the fell, the path becomes indistinct. One moment it heads away towards Horseshow Crags, the next it veers downhill.
I decide to follow my nose, or better still, the map; following the top towards Horseshow Crags and finally Hardknott Pass. Meandering through bogs, we come to a halt at a fence below Peathill Crag. I give up trying to find the path again, and we clamber irritatingly through the gorge and onto the road.
I had been hoping for an easier day – on our first outing for two months – but we have to take whatever the Lake District’s hills throw at us.
The walk was great, it was fantastic to be out again. We finished the day not as planned–I had intended to go to Hardknott Fort and back down to Jubilee Bridge–but Hannah is tired, and so we tread the tarmac back to the car, an easier and most probably quicker route.