We waited. On the summit of Honister Pass the rain blew in, the clag covered us and I peered through driving rain towards Grey Knotts. I couldn’t see Grey Knotts, it was Obscured by Clouds – which would be a good record to listen to, while waiting, if I had headphones. . . ! Instead we settled for tea and a bacon buttie in the cafe, while it sheeted it down and we watched rain travelling up the pass on the wind and dropping down the other side in torrents. Our last visit here was on Hannah’s birthday when we did the Via Ferrata, and previous to that we had got soaked on Dale Head.
Wainwrights and weather
Today’s Wainwrights: Grey Knotts, Brandreth and Green Gable where beginning to become a forlorn hope. I gave it until 11am and then decided to move somewhere else, but where? The cloud was all around us and none of the tops were visible. Hannah had brought her friend Lucy for a day out. The forecast indicated that the rain and cloud would lift about 10am and then sunshine for the rest of the afternoon. It was late, the sun was still in bed. Sunday – having a lie-in. We gave up and got back into the car.
Travelled out of Keswick I glanced at Skiddaw, the top-half was still asleep under cloud. It was getting brighter though, and optimistically, as we continued south along the A591, I peered through the window at the steaming fells. Images of mountains flashed through my mind; maybe we could find one that lies under the cloud. My thoughts raced ahead of me and mapped our route, hills on each side. Then I remembered Raven Crag; a little crag, alone, separated from its big brothers by the hidden valley of Shoulthwaite Gill. It is one of the hills I was saving for a bad day when the fells were out of condition. All is not lost, as least we will get one Wainwright done today.
Raven Crag is the haunt of the rock climber and has been restricted until now because of nesting Peregrines. It is great to see this amazing raptor with its dynamic diving pattern making a comeback to the Lake District fells. The area around the crag is also home to the book by W G Collingwood called ‘Thorstein of the Mere’ (A Saga of the Northmen in Lakeland), published in 1895.
Our path winds through woodland, steadily climbing, crossing forestry tracks and onto the open fell near Castle Crag – an Iron Age hill fort – which commands views over Shoulthwaite Gill towards High Tove, High Seat and Bleaberry Fell – three fells which will start our high-level traverse to finish over Silver Howe and Grasmere in the future.
Plagued by midges
On the summit we experience the annoying midges for the first time this year. So far we have escaped these little pests, but today on the humid wind they were out in force and eating our lunch became an ordeal. Hannah and Lucy tried in vain to protect themselves by wearing hats and gloves. Lucy even wore her shorts on her head to hide her face.
Thoughts of Skye flashed through my mind. I remember once drawing the short straw to make breakfast by Loch Coruisk, it was purgatory. Even zipped tightly in a fleece, balaclava, gloves, socks over trousers it still didn’t keep the little blighters away from damp, morning flesh and the heat from the stove only aggravated them more.
The excellent views from the cairn overlook Thirlmere and across the valley onto the summits of Clough Head and Great Dodd, which now lie just under the cloud base that still covers the ridge and the farther peaks of the Helvellyn range.
Castles and cracks
Sunlight plays along the valley, crosses the road and rides up the hillside spotlighting Castle Rock (Castle Rock of Triermain). A large crack has recently opened up on its North Buttress and a large chunk about the size of a bungalow has shifted out by about 7cm. Obviously climbing has been suspending on this section but no doubt there will be many new climbs should it fall away.
Lunch was speedily eaten, and running from the plague of midges we made our way back through the woodland to the car. The day had been saved but, in typical Lakeland style, the sunlight travelled with us all the way back to Kendal and by the time we got home the sun was burning out of a clear, blue sky.