Wednesday, 17 July 2013

Trip Report - A few days in the Western Fells - Part 1

At the end of June I had a few days off work so decided to head to the Lake District and target a number of the Western Fells I haven't been to before. My route and camps changed a little from those planned and I had a couple of minor kit failures but had a brilliant few days which included something new for me, wild camping and walking with others.

Wainwrights completed: 19 - Fellbarrow, Low Fell, Burnbank Fell, Blake Fell, Gavel Fell, Hen Comb, Mellbreak, Starling Dodd, Great Bourne, Grike, Crag Fell, Yewbarrow, Red Pike (W), Steeple, Scoat Fell, Haycock, Seatallan, Middle Fell, Buckbarrow. 

I've never really thought of myself as a peak bagger or list ticker but over the last couple months I've decided to complete the Wainwrights. There are a number of reasons for this but I guess the two main reasons are to encourage me to explore the areas of the Lake District I haven't visited before as well as to help give my multi-day trips a little more structure and hopefully make planning them a little easier.

I've completed a number of Wainwrights in the past but have kind of decided to start from scratch and am now working roughly to the rule that If I haven't got a photo of or from the summit then I need to go and get one. With this in mind I decided to head to the Western Fells which is an area I know reasonably well but which had quite a few never before visited Wainwright Fells.

With my car ditched by the side of the road I set off with an unnecessarily full backpack and headed towards the Loweswater fells. The weather was dry with a light breeze and not too warm but there was plenty of clouds lurking in the sky so I had a feeling I might be getting wet before the day was out. Prior to this trip I hadn't been to any of the Loweswater fells so it was nice to be out somewhere new and given the low stature of this group of fells It didn't take long before I reached my first summit of the day, Fellbarrow. Wainwright describes the scenery here as pleasant but unexciting which I'd have to agree with.

Fellbarrow Trig Point

After a brief pause at the summit I took the short ridge route South towards my next Wainwright of the day, Low Fell. Low Fell stands at just 423m but it's position amongst the surrounding fells allows it views comparable to much higher fells, with the view Southeast towards Crummock Water being the most picturesque.

The view Southeast from Low Fell

I descended Low Fell in the direction of Loweswater arriving at the road near Crabtree Farm. From here it was a short walk to the shores of Loweswater before starting the ascent of Burnbank Fell. The ascent starts with a steepish but short slog up through Holme Wood before emerging close to Holme Beck above Holme Force Falls. From here the path takes a right hand turn and follows the contours around Burnbank Fell, soon arriving at the much photographed bench which overlooks Loweswater.

After taking a couple of my own photo's and having a quick sit down on the bench I continued along the path until I reached a stile. Once over the stile the path takes a left and the ascent continues, Burnbank Fell stands at 475m so it wasn't long before I found myself the summit. As with Fellbarrow the scenery here is pretty unexciting so I quickly continued and followed the fence line up to the highest point of the Loweswater Fells, Blake Fell (573m) before dropping down slightly to the second highest of the group, Gavel Fell.

Burnbank Fell looking towards Blake Fell

Blake Fell Summit Shelter

Gavel Fell

I carried on South from Gavel Fell until reaching Grain Gill where I took a left and headed due East following a vague sheep track towards Hen Comb,  Wainwright describes this next fell as rising from desolate moorland with extensive tracts of marsh that serve as a moat. I'd read this section of book seven a couple of times so was expecting the ground to be a little moist, what I wasn't expecting was to be knee deep in the stuff at times, thankfully the bog wasn't of the smelly variety. After battling my way across Whiteoak Moss and beginning the ascent of Hen Comb I took a short rest by a fence and had something to eat before continuing to the summit.

Rest stop

Hen Comb Summit 

From here I headed North in the direction of Little Dodd before turning East and making my way down to Mosedale Beck where I decided to top up my water supplies. After collecting some water to filter it was here I had my first of a couple of minor kit failures. Whilst taking one last gulp from my hydration bladder the end of the bite valve somehow detached itself from the tube and fell in to the nearby beck never to be seen again. This left me unable to close off the bladder so every time I lent forwards my pack would put pressure on the bladder and water would spill out from the end of the tube. Thankfully I had a water container with me which I normally use around camp so I was still able to carry some drinking water. After filling up I started up the steep ascent of Mellbreak, there was a fell race on so it was fairly busy on Mellbreak, as such I didn't stay up there too long, just long enough to visit both tops before descending from the South top towards Scale Beck.

The Mosedale Holly Tree

Northwest from Mellbreak North Top

Crummock Water & Buttermere from the descent of Mellbreak

By now I was beginning to tire which made the ascent up the the side of Scale Beck hard work and slow going. By the time I made it to Little Dodd the weather had taken a turn for the worse and there wasn't much to be seen.

Little Dodd

From here the weather continued to worsen and the winds strengthen and so after a brisk walk over Starling Dodd and Great Borne I doubled back slightly and decided to descend towards Ennerdale to make camp. In hindsight this was an error and I'd have been much better off finding a pitch higher up however this was the longest walk I'd done in quite a while and having headed up to the Lakes after a busy few days at work to say I was tired was a bit of an understatement, as such my decision making probably wasn't at its best and I ended up with a rather ropey looking pitch for the first night. 

With the Trailstar up as well as my new Oookworks inner (a lifesaver in the midge infested woods) I had something to eat and soon crawled in to bed for the evening. Despite its appearance the section I slept on was pretty much level and after listening to a few tunes and reading a little I soon nodded off and  had a good nights sleep, getting up once through the night to answer the call of nature before waking again at around 6am. 

After some breakfast I had a look through my route for the next couple of days and decided to change plans a little in the hope of meeting up with a couple of Twitter contacts, @munro277 & @atkypne. I'd been in touch with them in the days prior to this trip and they'd mentioned they'd be over in Wasdale on the following day. I decided it'd be good to meet up with them so I planned a new route for day 2 which would lead me back to the car so I could move it to Wasdale ready to head home a couple of days later.

Other than taking in Grike and Crag Fell day 2 changed completely. The weather wasn't great with occasional showers and transient pea soup but it was still an enjoyable walk (mostly) which started with a bit of a slog around the Northwest end of Ennerdale Water before making my way up the side of Ben Gill towards Grike summit.

Ennerdale Weir 

Grike Cairn and Shelter

I took a short break in the shelter and was soon joined by a couple of chaps from down south. We got chatting and after a bite to eat the three of us made our way to Crag Fell together.

Ennerdale Water from Crag Fell

From Crag Fell I returned to the shores of Ennerdale Water, from here I  struggled to find the path (I'm guessing it isn't used much) I needed, I eventually ended up finding it and it took me through possibly the most unwelcoming 1/2km of the Lake District, with numerous 'Keep Out' and 'Private' signs, as well as a 1/2m wide nettle strewn barbed wire enclosed footpath which terminated at the delightful gate shown below.

From here I followed the footpath up past Floutern Tarn before turning North and making my way through the Mosedale valley back towards the car. 

Towards Buttermere from near Scale Beck

View towards Low Fell from Mosedale

I was pretty tired again when I made it back to the car and my feet were sore as the last couple of km were a pretty uninteresting yomp along the road. After a bite to eat I drove round to Wasdale ready to meet up with @munro277 and @atkypne on the following day which I'll cover in Part 2, hopefully up in the next couple of days. 

It was a great couple of days taking in a number of fells I haven't visited before, despite their low stature there're some great views to be had from the Loweswater Fells. 

Thanks for reading


Day 1: 28.26km. 2000m Ascent. 1840m Descent.
Day 2: 26.89km. 821m Ascent. 986m Descent.

Route Profile Day 1

Route Profile Day 2


  1. Looks like a fun few days Matt, stunning piccies once again mate.
    How was the Gorilla? I've been house bound for two months trying to do some exams for work, I've not had mine out yet.

  2. Cheers Shewie, it was a cracking few days, almost done writing up part two...

    It was the first time I've used the Gorilla but first impressions are good, held everything needed for 5 days and carried well. Did have a bit of an issue with the shoulder straps rubbing on my collar bones so I'll have to see how I get on with it, not heard others mention this so it might just be my anatomy, time will tell!

    Best of luck with your exams mate, give me a shout when you're all done, be good to get out some time