The concept might have been simple, but the execution was not. Despite very poor running form, I decided to set a different sort of challenge that would involve exploration of some previously unvisited corners. A perusal of the map revealed a possible line due West from Shap Wells to near Cleator Moor crossing over 50 grid squares in the process. Only one line was possible without having to swim across lakes or dally with danger on vegetated cliffs, and that predicated a start from near Shap Wells. I allowed myself the luxury of a 200m deviance either side of Northing 102 and made plans for a bivvy before returning to Langdale for my lift home.
|Sunrise over Wet Sleddale|
|Another steep slope|
|Toiling up Glaramara|
I had come this way on my Lakes 2500s round and it wasn't any easier this time as I frazzled in the afternoon rays. A solo unsupported expedition is really tough when its like this - there's just no relief - and hydration is a major issue. After what seemed like an age I eventually reached the top, but the descent was scarcely any easier. Its a brutal descent beside Hinds Gill and my legs had gone, turned to jelly by the continuous effort and wilting in the sun. To make matters worse, it was obvious that my feet were going to be a real problem too. Having become wet and without a change of socks, the heat was creating pressure sores and blisters, such that every footfall was painful. From then on, I knew that I had a long day ahead - running was a distant memory.
|Great Hell Gate|
I elected to take to the screes that fall to the South of Beck Head, not fancying the White Napes, but the difference is marginal. All the scree in these parts is loose, run out and with my feet, highly unpleasant. But it seemed like nothing compared to what was to come. The traverse of the fellside 200m below the summit of Kirkfell was truly horrendous in my decrepit state. Each step was an effort to avoid slipping on the stones that now and then rattled down towards Wasdale Head. The route wove in and out of gullies across wide fans of unavoidable scree. Every now and then I would slip, jabbing my poor toes against a rock. Other times, a rock would end up on my foot and my legs felt as if they were being tortured with the tensing of muscles trying to stay upright. Once the ridge leading down to Wasdale Head was crossed, the terrain did ease, but by then my legs and feet had really had it. Without poles, I was reduced to a somewhat painful stagger down the steep slopes to Mosedale.
|The Gully on Red Pike|
With the major difficulties over, I even managed a shuffle downwards past Scoat Tarn and in to the shady hollow beneath. A quick skirt around the crags beneath Haycock revealed the Scafells in the dark red hue of sunset, with Seatallan similarly bathed in late evening light. It had long been clear that I would not finish before nightfall, such had been my excruciatingly slow pace from Glaramara, and never having considered that I might take such an age to complete the outward journey, I had packed just a reading light of a small Tikka torch with poor batteries. I therefore pressed on as best I could to make the most of the remaining light. Another steep descent and ascent led to Caw Fell and then it was dark. The Tikka was quite pathetic. After a few minutes I switched it off with no discernible disadvantage. In my tired state and poor light I then went too far right on the broad shoulder of the hill and ended up 1 km upstream of where I should have been. In the dark and without a usable light I elected to follow the path, along which I slowly stumbled, aware that the journey was drawing out ever longer. After a day of bone dry hillside, the only path was wet and I found myself sloshing through squelching bog every so often. Without being able to see properly I just had to plough through it all. On and on it went, until finally the track improved and I could make better progress. At 1am I reached the road that marked the end of my journey, prised off my shoes and inspected my poor feet. Blisters bulged alarmingly, but for now I could forget about them. I had a celebratory swig of juice, crawled into my bivvy bag and immediately fell asleep.
|Early morning light on Ennerdale Water|
In actual fact, the walk proved to be moderately enjoyable, at least for the most part. The early morning light on Ennerdale Water was exquisite, which is more than could be said for the slog up to Windy Gap in the heat of the morning. But by 1:30 I was sitting outside the ODG tucking into a well deserved lunch. It had been a gruelling weekend.