Hills: Causey Pike, Scar Crags, Sail
Who: Me and the mountaineering minion
When: Monday 26 June
Time spent getting to hill: About 15 minutes (bliss!)
Time spent actually on hill: About 6 hours, including breaks
Weather: Quite warm; sunshine and clouds; not much wind
Bog Factor: None to speak of
One that got away: Crag Hill/ Eel Crag
Uses of the Arse crampon: 2
Hangover factor: Didn’t have one. Behaved myself for once!
Post walk drink: Tirril Golden Ale, Jennings Copper Hop, then Malbec
Post walk watering holes: Coledale Inn (Braithwaite) Royal Oak (Braithwaite) Royal Oak (Keswick).
After my somewhat insane day on the 25th June, where I had left the house in Bromley just after 7am in order to get the first train up to Penrith, and eventually ended up doing Grisedale Pike and Hopegill Head with a 1.45 start, it is fair to say my evening was relatively restrained. To be honest I was a bit knackered so a few drinks were had in a couple of Keswick watering holes along with a rather good Thai green curry in the Thai restaurant on the High Street. The forecast was excellent, so the pre walk drink consumption was pretty restrained in anticipation of another decent walk.
The only issue sometimes with a really good forecast is what to go for! As I was using public transport, I was also a bit restricted by what buses were available. There are loads of buses up Borrowdale during the summer and also the Honister Rambler which goes round a loop towards Buttermere. A few days out the forecast had been for a good morning then rain in the afternoon so the plan had that come to pass had been to get the first bus to Honister and do Dale Head, then drop back down over High Spy and pick up the bus back at Borrowdale. However with a better forecast it seemed a good idea to plump for something that would allow for the possibility of adding a few more to the tally. My tentative decision before hitting the pit was to head back to Braithwaite and tackle some of the hills I hadn’t done on the Western arm of the horseshoe.
In theory this was an excellent plan. However I had forgotten something which is that whenever I go anywhere near Coledale I always seem to be knackered and suffering from insomnia. I’d done Barrow and Outerside the year before after an appalling nights sleep and hadn’t slept brilliantly before the transport epic to get to Grisedale Pike the previous day. History was once again going to repeat itself! Although I was in bed by 10.30 and dropped off pretty quickly I woke up early (about 5.30) then failed miserably to get back to sleep. In theory this could have allowed me to get the 7.40 bus to Braithwaite and get an early start but I felt too tired and besides had paid for a cooked breakfast in the Youth Hostel. I think I had about 3 cups of tea with breakfast then sorted out my gear and shuffled off to Booths for fat coke and to wait for the next bus to Braithwaite which was not until 10.20. The bus was slightly late and in the end I got to Braithwaite about 10.40.
Inevitably with any walk one of the tricky bits is finding the start point. I took the wrong road after the Coledale Inn and ended up in someone’s drive. Fortunately it was an easy back-track to the road which heads straight up Coledale. This turns into a track just above the village and then into a decent path which heads straight for Barrow Door. I had come down this route after my insomnia fuelled trip up Barrow and Outerside and knew it was a good path at a gentle gradient with no difficulties. However I was making heavy weather of it; I felt really tired and the legs seemed to have no power in them. In that sort of situation there is nothing much to do about it but dig in and get on with it – it was far too nice a day not to try and do a decent walk. Fortunately, as so often happens, I started to feel a bit better around Barrow Door and the level path which contours round Stile End allowed me to get a bit of a breather. The hills I planned to do, starting with Causey Pike, were in view and looked very doable.
The plan was to take a path which cuts off up Causey Pike from near Outerside – although this required a bit of backtracking it wasn’t much and I hadn’t fancied the scrambly ascent up Rowling End. The path I took was a bit slidy in parts but the angle was ok and it got me up to the dip between Causey Pike and Scar Crags without too much effort. Once on the ridge it was a short and highly scenic walk over various bumps of the ‘Stegosaurus’ (which is what we have always called this hill) depositing me on the top shortly after 12. Despite feeling pretty dire I had made good time. The views from the top were absolutely fantastic and I chilled out for a bit on the rocky summit taking them in.
After a break, I was feeling much better and set off along the ridge to Scar Crags. This was a really nice ridge walk – it is narrow, but not so narrow as to feel scary although there are some pretty big drops. There is nothing difficult underfoot either and the views were brilliant so photo stops were a must. After the narrow bit the summit of Scar Crags is surprisingly wide as is the continuation of the ridge. More great views in all directions and a birds eye view of the ‘interesting’ path up Sail which was to be my next target.
This path is a bit controversial. It looks odd – there is no denying that – but probably doesn’t look any worse than the previous eroded mess. It is pretty good to walk on as the zigzags ease the angle. However you can see people are already starting to cut the corners which if it carries on will defeat the point. Unfortunately about half way up the zigzags two things happened; firstly my get up and go got up and gone and secondly my back started to hurt. The rest of the ascent up Sail seemed to take forever and it was about 1.45 when I finally popped out on to its flat top, with a cairn next to of all things a small puddle. Definitely a puddle rather than a tarn and a rather odd summit feature to say the least. The views were again excellent so I took plenty of photos and had an extended break to have my lunch while trying to make a decision about what to do next. The key question: should I go on to Crag Hill or not?
I have to admit I dithered. There were various factors at play. I still had plenty of time and it was a nice day. However the ascent looked as though a couple of bits of it were ‘interesting’. Had it been hill 2 of the day I would probably have gone for it but as hill 4, and given I had slowed practically to a crawl on the way up Sail, I was concerned it was a hill too far. Ultimately I decided sense should prevail and to leave it for another day – maybe with Grasmoor and Wandope. I started back down the zigzags towards Sail Pass from where I would retrace my outward route. I thought the path from Sail Pass would be easy and had been pitched…
Wrong! The top bit has been pitched but the path then degenerates into slidy scree. There seemed to be a couple of minor landslips and with a steep drop to one side the path gave the impression of trying to slide off the hillside. Having anticipated a straightforward walk out there were definitely a couple of bits where I had to take care and the arse crampon was used as a precautionary measure on 2 occasions – probably not strictly necessary but better safe than sorry. This bit seemed to take forever and I was delighted when the path flattened out near the back of Outerside and I then rejoined my outward route. Unfortunately my back was hurting and I had to stop and take painkillers (I always carry them in my rucksack) and have another break before the walk out. I was back in Braithwaite shortly after 4 and having just missed a bus decided to chill out and have a pint in the Coledale Inn. I then managed to just miss another bus so had another pint in the Royal Oak before getting a taxi back at about 5.30.
All in all a very nice walk with some brilliant views. It was a shame not to get to Crag Hill but it is not going anywhere and was the right call on the day. The rest of the evening was spent having an excellent pub meal in the Royal Oak in Keswick with a couple of glasses of Malbec. The forecast for Tuesday was rubbish and I had already decided that unless it was spectacularly wrong (which it turned out it wasn’t) I would be heading home early the day after. 2 great days on the hill and 5 new Wainwrights in total was more than enough with a dodgy back and a long journey to contend with. And maybe next time I head for Coledale I will get some blooming sleep!