Many of us of a certain age have a ‘bad back story’, mine was being blown over many years ago on Glencoe’s iconic Buachaille Etive Mor. Last week I managed to aggravate this by over exerting myself with long handled pruners; as you do. Not the best preparation for a day trip to the Lakes however walking has always seemed to help so after dosing up on Ibuprofen I headed west with my mate Alan.
We had discussed routes in the pub the previous night and favoured a start from Seathwaite up over Base Brown, one of my missing Wainwrights. As usual there was a certain fluidity to the route plans, the most ambitious being Base Brown then Green & Great Gable, Kirk Fell, a pint down in the Wasdale Head Inn, back to Styhead Tarn, then Seathwaite. This was Plan A, while Plan B, C & D were shorter variations depending on progress.
We make a good start parking very close to Seathwaite farm followed by the hardest part of the day trying to put socks & boots on without bending. After more than a few girly yelps of pain we set off turning west through the farm buildings passing the campsite, crossing the bridge & following the path up Sourmilk Gill.
First time for me up this route, the path goes straight up the middle in the pic above keeping left of the stream with a touch of easy scrambling, gaining height quickly. We heard a cuckoo proudly cuckooing which always makes me think of some poor Warbler suffering from it’s parasitic nesting habits. As the ground levelled on Seathwaite Slabs my back was already knacking (as the saying goes) this despite the Ibuprofen which didn’t bode well at all. This wasn’t helped by my heavy sack (also as the saying goes) with 2 litres of water & lots of apples etc in case of a hot day. I’d already had to lie down a couple of times to rest & we’d hardly got started.
I trudged up the gently rising path through Gillercomb before reaching the skyline & switch back path up to the top of Base Brown and a new Wainwright. The weather was strange, a mixture of sun, cloud, dark threatening cloud, hint of drizzle & warmth. It was certainly a T shirt & shorts day which meant the people of the Lakes were treated to the incredible view below…..
Yes indeedy a bit of manly eye candy for any female fell walker. The other views were hazy yet giving an interesting angle on familiar landmarks. Alan had done this one long before the days of Wainwright bagging and mentioned how quiet it was back then, I’m sure we could hear the Hovis theme drifting through the winds of time. Regarding wind, Alan had been strangely quiet except for a quick fart at 1,000ft.
After another lie down we continued on up to Green Gable which would be a magnificent viewpoint if not for the imposing hunk of Great Gable blocking the south. The twin views of Ennerdale & Buttermere are still worthwhile – however I needed another lie down. Now at this point I’d like to mention my shorts because for a while I had never imagined wearing shorts in the hills again, due to the need to wear less than sexy wraparound knee supports. However I trialled this exciting combination successfully in the quiet Cheviot hills, where no one can hear you scream! It was a freeing experience, it felt right, it just felt right! Having worn revealing Ron Hill tracksters for years I’d become used to strange looks from the ladies blatantly checking out my penis area, part of me misses that, probably my penis area. I’ve considered dangling my penis out of my shorts to recreate those halycon Ron Hill days, but for now I’ll remain happy attracting eyes to my nether knees. Note my pride in the picture below as the kneecaps poke seductively out of the sweaty neoprene. I even rolled my shorts up for this one.
Anyway back on Green Gable Alan had been very sensibly pointing out the timing options for the rest of the day. We could go straight down & across to Kirk Fell & maybe, just maybe nip down to Wasdale Head for that pint, or up to Great Gable then possibly Kirk Fell but no pint, or…..etc. Of course I wanted to do it all, anything for that pint, however walking up or down seemed to hurt whilst lying down was good. I took another Ibuprofen and we sensibly decided to curtail the day on Great Gable. I thanked Alan for his patience and we both relaxed having removed all time constraints then strolled down into Windy Gap for the pull & scramble up to Great Gable. Last time here the scramble was annoying but this time I stowed my poles in my sac which made all the difference, although stretching still hurt producing the odd yelp & swear word. Yep a man in shorts & knee supports with Tourettes.
The top was littered with people arriving/leaving in all directions so we carried on up & over to the south side just below Westmorland Cairn, where it was incredibly peaceful & gave much better views down Wasdale (cloud permitting).
We spent around an hour up here & only saw 2 people, quite staggering considering the intense popularity just a few hundred yards away. Great views just below here of the Great Napes & sounds of jangly metal bits from climbers. The grass is also nicely shaped to cup your aching back if you fancy a lie down. We discussed bygone days.
The cairn was (according to Wikipedia) erected in 1876 by two brothers named Westmorland to mark what they considered to be the finest view in the Lake District. You can see small areas of fine whitish powder dotted round the cairn which are ashes scattered at this special place, so please mind your feet!
We fleetingly considered going down to the Climbers Traverse, then one back twinge later immediately chose the straightforward option nipping back up to the summit then descending south west along the well cairned path straight down to Sty Head. Uniquely one of my Pacer Pole tips snapped in half, which definitely doesn’t improve grip.
Stopping briefly at the Tarn we noted far more people about than normal, then remembered this was an early descent for us, we are normally still up there, late start, late finish 🙂 To make things a little more interesting we chose the alternative way back to Seathwaite via Taylorgill Force. This path starts at the Patterson Ford footbridge & follows Styhead Gill to the west side instead of the east, staying much closer to the stream.
The path starts to get more involved with some hands on moments where you need to take a little care skirting the waterfall which is hidden from view on the Greenhow Knott path.
We were glad we tried this with plenty of time on our hands as usually by the time we get to Sty Head we just want to get back down to the car as quickly as possible. This route would be more fun in ascent and without dangly walking poles 🙂
A pleasantly slow painful (for me) hike in a pretty awesome area, only one new Wainwright and a new way down to Seathwaite. I still had 2/3 of the water left so had been carrying that around needlessly, one week later the back’s still bad & I’ve just washed my knee supports.
- Sunday 9th June 2013,
- Start/Finish Seathwaite – park by side of road as near Farm as possible
- 8 hrs (starting at 10.45am, finishing 6.45pm), v slow inc over an hour on Gable
- 7.2 miles (11.6 km)
- 2,700ft (823m) of ascent
- Beer stop – Scafell Hotel 6 x 1/3 pints of different ales between us
- Food stop – Mill Inn, Mungrisdale food Sun till 9pm, Pesto Chicken good
- Apologies for mentioning the word ‘penis’, it is after all a sensitive area
- For a longer version of this route I returned months later;- Kirk Fell Circuit from Seathwaite, via Green Gable, Great Gable, Sty Head and a pint at Wasdale Head
- Thanks for reading
CLICK on the map below for the interactive Route on Social Hiking;-