The Lake District was the magnificent setting for the Mid-Ulster Walking Club’s 2014 Spring Trip. Keswick provided a comfortable home from home during an active weekend.
Scafell Pike: On Saturday the goal, successfully accomplished, was to take 34 walkers to the highest point in England, the summit of Scafell Pike at 977 metres.
The walkers would all make their way up together via Grains Gill before dividing to follow diverging paths down. It would be a full day for everyone, with even the shortest route exceeding eleven miles.
Setting out from Seatoller the walkers came to Seathwaite farm where the farmer observed that so many people had come through there would be no room at the top of the mountain. Soon they were on the rocky track that climbs without pause beside the waters of Grains Gill, quickly opening up views back down over Borrowdale.
It was a cool day, extremely so on the higher ground, but dry and clear, ideal for walking. Reaching the cliffs of Great End they swept round to Esk Hause and climbed on up to the main Scafell ridge. As if its status deserved a little extra effort the way to their summit lay across an extensive boulder field and negotiating this wilderness of rock required care. A sharp dip and final climb brought them to the top.
It was a cheerful summit with indeed many people congregating there, pleased to have reached this significant point and savouring the wonderful panorama surrounding them, which embraces almost all of the major fells.
From here a small group would simply retrace their steps down. The rest descended some steeply treacherous ground to join the track that slowly wends its way round to Sty Head Pass. Here the hulking, brooding summit of Great Gable rose before them, a haven for rock climbers and a celebrated lakeland peak.
The evening was turning hazy and with time pressing most of the group now headed down the Sty Head track, past its lonely tarn, eventually to rejoin their outward route at the picturesque Stockley Bridge. But eight walkers made the sustained climb to the top of Great Gable (899 m) before continuing over neighbouring Green Gable and out the long spur to the top of Base Brown. Seathwaite lay far below and a steep descent followed, culminating in an enjoyable slip-sliding clamber down over tactile rock beside the tumbling waters of Sour Milk Gill.
Buttermere: On Sunday morning the walkers headed to Buttermere. In the early nineteenth century the fame of the landlord’s daughter at the Fish Inn, Mary Robinson, the ‘Beauty of Buttermere’, attracted visitors from far and wide. But the area has long been renowned for its natural beauty. The peaceful lake, fringed with woodland, enjoys an idyllic setting amid a dramatic surround of high fells.
Two walks were planned, one heading high immediately, one -the more popular- keeping low along the south side of the lake but then climbing up to Scarth Gap and hopefully rejoining the other walkers to summit Haystacks. Named for its distinctive profile this was the favourite mountain of Alfred Wainwright. Here he would have his ashes scattered, expressing beforehand a hope that any future walkers there might show a little extra courtesy to any grit in their boots.
Today unfortunately the weather was poor with light but unceasing rain and the high tops lost in cloud. It was perhaps at its bleakest as the main group began their ascent to Scarth Gap. With the prospect of zero visibility and scrambling on wet rocks they were eventually persuaded to descend and simply enjoy the serenity and more clement conditions of the lake shore circuit. The 35 metre rock tunnel, reportedly fashioned at the direction of a local landowner who could not bear to see his gardeners standing idle in wet weather, was an unexpected interlude before their arrival back at Buttermere village.
Earlier the other group had climbed up through Burtness Wood, beautiful in its spring foliage, on up to the secluded Bleabery Tarn and finally to the top of Red Pike. Resigned to the steady mizzle and mist they pushed on over High Stile (806 m) and High Crag. At Scarth Gap some descended but the rest, scrambling as necessary, made their way to the top of Haystacks at 598 metres.
Conditions were slowly brightening and their final descent down the head of the Warnscale valley with its copper coloured, scree-laden slopes and streams and waterfalls in full flow, was a delight. Gradually they dropped down towards the lake and the last stretch home.
Thanks: That evening all the walkers enjoyed an excellent meal together at the Skiddaw Hotel. The next morning most were content to take it easy before their mid-morning departure, but our respect goes to the three who met at 5 a.m. for an eight-mile trek before breakfast to climb Cat Bells.
This was a very successful weekend and thanks must be expressed to Carmel and Mary, for securing accommodation, to George for planning the walks and assuming, with Ronnie, walk leader duties, and to Ken for co-ordinating the general effort. Thanks also go to Richard, our local guide on Sunday and to Michael, our resourceful Quinn’s coach driver.
New Club members are always welcome. If interested please contact George (8778 4081) or Ken (07912383516). Alternatively, find us on Facebook or visit our website atwww.midulsterwalkingclub.org.