Hills: Red Screes, Middle Dodd, Little Hart Crag
When: 23 May 2015
Who: self, Stuart and the mountaineering minion
Also present: Glorious sunshine – as a result, sunburn..
Post walk drink: wine flights/ beer flights (see below)
Post walk watering hole: The Salutation Hotel, followed by the Ambleside Inn
Another weekend, another trip to the Lake District… with an unexpectedly good forecast! Unfortunately, the forecast was combined with the threat of industrial action on the railways, which on the day before – and indeed the day of – our trip was causing a certain amount of tension. We were again travelling up on public transport (I don’t have a car in London at the moment), and whilst there would be no issues getting to the Lakes, it looked as though getting back would be a serious problem. Virgin Trains had announced that if the strike went ahead they would not be running any trains on the Monday, and probably wouldn’t run anything until late on Wednesday. Grrr! This was not ideal – to say the least – given that I had a couple of major deadlines coming up. Ultimately we took the decision to book a one way car hire back from the Lakes, which was surprisingly reasonably priced. Of course, they then cancelled the strike.. but at least this way we had a bit of flexibility. The trip up on the train on Thursday night was actually remarkably smooth, and we were at the Salutation Hotel at around 10pm on Thursday night – and found we had been upgraded to a balcony room! A good excuse for a drink on the balcony as we watched it go dark.
Unfortunately, Friday was pretty miserable – the promise of a nice afternoon didn’t materialise in reality and we binned our original idea of some of the lower fells around Grasmere in favour of chilling out in the hot tub at the Salutation and getting some much needed rest. The forecast for Saturday, however, was glorious – although the suggestion from MWIS that it might be 5 degrees c at 750m was slightly concerning. We laid plans to do a circuit of Scandale, starting from Ambleside up Red Screes and then taking it from there, hopefully extending on to the Eastern arm of the Fairfield Horseshoe and picking off Low Pike which I had inexplicably managed to miss when I did the full Fairfield Horseshoe the previous year. There were plenty of other options, though, depending on time, conditions and level of knackeredness.
For no particularly good reason neither of us slept well – no idea why as there was nothing to be nervous about regarding the route. Had breakfast and eventually got going up the minor road leading from Ambleside up to the Kirkstone Pass. I have to say I didn’t enjoy this bit at all – the road is quite busy and not ideal to be walking on, and it was a relief to turn off on the clear path which angles up onto the ridge to Red Screes. The sky was blue, the birds were singing… what could possibly go wrong?
The sky was blue.. not something that frequently happens on our walks. And therefore we probably weren’t prepared for it… not having brought any sun screen. We were down to base layers very quickly and of course once at that point, however hot you are you can’t really take anything else off! It was a hot and sweaty ascent and I was making heavy weather of it… 5 degrees? It was more like 15! It took two hours until we crested the gentle rise that leads to Red Screes summit where loads of people seemed to be converging from all sides, the vast majority seeming to have come up what looked like a rather exposed, scrambly path from Kirkstone Pass. The views all round were pretty good, although for some reason lacking in the ‘wow factor’. I’ve done more of the Eastern Fells than any of the other sections of Wainwrights, so maybe I am getting view fatigue a bit, I don’t know.
We didn’t hang about too long, but made off down the Northern ridge in the direction of Middle Dodd. This is a nice spot, but one of those fells which don’t really seem to justify being classed as a separate hill – I guess it looks more like a hill from near Patterdale. The views however were good and at the time we were making good progress. We had a short break to take in the views, then pressed on, having decided to contour round Red Screes towards the top of Scandale Pass rather than go up Red Screes again.
Oh dear.. bad move! There isn’t much resembling a contour path, though I picked up a couple of sheep tracks which didn’t really amount to much. The ground was lumpy and bouldery and I probably did almost as much up and down trying to avoid awkward bits as I would have done if I’d gone back up the previous hill. Arrgh! Stuart made a better job of it than I did and waited for me just above Scandale Pass, I found the last bit particularly hard going as I went over on my right ankle. At the time it was fine and again we didn’t hang about but pressed on up towards Little Hart Crag. We’d lost a lot of time though and I wasn’t feeling too brilliant, but decided to press on to Little Hart Crag and then take a call.
Little Hart Crag is again quite a nice spot – it looks from the pass as though it will be tricky to get up but isn’t at all as a path skirts round the craggy bits. We had our lunch at the top and discussed what to do next – which needed to factor in a couple of things; I wasn’t feeling too good and Stuart had run out of water. If we had had some money on us then dropping down over High Hartsop Dodd to the Brothers Water Inn and calling a cab might have been an option, but neither of us had our wallets so that was out. The other options were: press on up the ridge towards Dove Crag and do what we had originally planned; or bail out down Scandale.
Given that the first of these involved about 200m of ascent, and the water issue (I had some left, but not loads) and that I wasn’t feeling great, we decided that the best option was to head back to Scandale Pass and take the path out from there. I went over on my ankle again coming off Little Hart Crag and this time it did start to twinge a bit so that basically nailed it. As it turned out the route down Scandale was actually a really pleasant walk, although it did seem to go on forever, particularly after passing High Sweden Bridge. Rather annoying that Low Pike had got away from me again, too – hoping this won’t be my Lake District ‘bogey hill’…
I was also starting to feel a little bit sore! On arriving back at the hotel it was clear that both of us were totally lobster with various tide marks indicating where sleeves, buff, watches and so on had been. A quick trip to Tesco for after-sun was clearly needed and the restorative dunking in the outdoor hot tub was too, although the hot water didn’t half sting to start with. Indeed I’m still a bit sore at the date of writing nearly a week later! We did feel better for the soak though and after that there was only one thing to do.. head for some post walk drinks. Wine flights (3 small glasses of different types of wine) was the starting point in the hotel, and after that we headed to the Ambleside Inn where I was persuaded to indulge in beer flights (1/3 of a pint of three different beers). One of them – of course – had to be Wainwright! 44 done now, although thankfully, I didn’t have 44 beers…