10 October 2010

The Lake District

Approaching Grisedale Pike
Over the years there is one place on Earth that has held a particular affection for me, the Lake District in the NW of England. Since the age of 17, when I first visited the Coniston area on a geography field course, this has been the place that has lured me back year after year.
The hills aren't very high, the loftiest, Scafell Pike, just 978m, a point that wouldn't even register in the Alps, but it's a place where I've built my mountain skills, got lost, got scared, got enraptured by the colours of the fells and the play of the light. It's also where Wordsworth and Coleridge got poetic...but I haven't gone that far...yet.
So, it's about time I added my UK mountain forays to the blog, this time capturing a quick visit in early October to walk the north western fells and climb one of the higher fells that I've never got around to, Grasmoor (852m).

Early morning above Braithwaite
One thing I won't do is describe any route here in detail...the Lakes are one of the most popular visitor spots in the UK and there are countless guides, the best of which remain the Wainwright series of pictorial guides, published between 1955 and 1966, and now being updated by Chris Jesty.
So, to the day.
An early start from Braithwaite, a sleepy village nestling below the Whinlatter Forest Park, with a climb up through bracken before reaching the steeper slopes of the summit of Grisedale Pike 791m. A bit of a puff to start the day, but what a reward, the low sun bathing the approach in a warm glow, swirling clouds in a stiff wind brushing the ridge, and then, a Brockenspectre*, also known as a 'Glory', which is a greatly magnified shadow of the observer (in this case, me) cast on the cloud surfaces opposite the sun.

Stumpy gets spiritual !
Onwards to Coledale Hause on easy paths, and passed by fell runners, before turning west to ascend the straightforward slopes to Grasmoor, albeit in a viciously strengthening wind and dense cloud. But, the reward came as I approached the top: with clouds steaming over into the Lorton Valley below, they parted like curtains to reveal a manificent view across to the Gables and the mass of Scafell and Scafell Pike, rising almost transcendentally above the valleys below, each of them still closseted with early morning cloud. Magical.

View from Grasmoor southeast to Great Gable and the Scafells
Reversing my steps and back into the gloom, I then headed east to ascend Crag Hill 839m (trig point), cross the narrow ridge of The Scar to reach Sail, and then descend on newly constructed paths, only here regaining views, in bright sunshine, as I dropped below the clouds hugging the higher elevations of this ridge.

Consequences: new footpaths to cope with increasing numbers of fell walkers
Here, on the western ridge descending from Causey Pike
The other purpose of this walk was to break in new boots, so with sore feet I decided to come off the ridge, missing the fine top of Causey Pike, and head for Braithwaite, passing under Outerside and hopping over the nice little fell of Barrow 455m (as good as the famed Cat Bells for all round views of the north western fells, and easier to climb).
In all, with plenty of photo stops, 5 hours.

Looking back to the route, the walk having started on the right, and descent via the fells on the left
Picture taken from Barrow, above Braithwaite

* Brocken spectres
The "spectre" appears when the sun shines from behind a climber who is looking down from a ridge or peak into mist or fog. The light projects the climber's shadow forward through the mist, often in an odd triangular shape due to perspective. The apparent magnification of size of the shadow is an optical illusion that occurs when the observer judges his shadow on relatively nearby clouds to be at the same distance as faraway land objects seen through gaps in the clouds, or when there are no reference points at all by which to judge its size. The shadow also falls on water droplets of varying distances from the eye, confusing depth perception. The ghost can appear to move (sometimes quite suddenly) because of the movement of the cloud layer and variations in density within the cloud.

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