Hills: Souther Fell
Classification: Wainwright (119)
When: Friday 31 May
Who: Me and the mountaineering minion
Distance: About 4 miles
Time: 2 hours
Weather: Cloudy, but above summits. Rain at times on the way up which got heavier on the way down.
Post walk drink: Malbec
Post walk watering hole: The Salutation Hotel, then the Lily Bar (also Ambleside)
Uses of the arse crampon: One – a return!
Mishaps: Traffic, weather, and having to work… again.
After my damp, foggy walk up Longlands Fell on the 30th May, followed by an afternoon of work, I did at least manage to have a reasonably relaxed evening including a decent Thai meal in Ambleside. The weather forecast for the following day was a little bit better (although not by much) but I had again had the email of doom which meant I would need to work for at least some of the afternoon. In fact I ended up working first thing in the morning and then again in the afternoon as the forecast seemed to indicate the weather would be worse earlier on than it would be later… so once again, I needed something which would suffice for a quick blast, and once again I was faced with chasing the weather North. I did feel it was slightly ridiculous having to drive from Ambleside to the Northern Fells when I was staying in Keswick in a few days time, but I have got to the point I have done most of the hills near Ambleside that fit the definition of a ‘quick blast’ – the obvious exception being Stone Arthur which is (at the moment) the only Wainwright I have had to turn back on and if anything is asking for trouble doing a bogey hill on a marginal day is!
So it was back in the car and off to the Northern Fells again. I’d earmarked Souther Fell as it seemed a decent one for a day which promised to be marginal at best and it had a clear path up it from near Scales. I left the hotel at about 9.30 and was hopeful of a quick blast up the A591 and A66 to park at the layby near Scales. Well you can guess the rest! There was a horrendous tail back on the A66 which turned out to be due to roadworks in the exact lay-by I had hoped to park in, so not only was I running about half an hour behind schedule but I had lost my parking spot too. Fortunately there is a slightly rough car park up the Scales road which has plenty of space (just after the White Horse pub). I was starting to feel this was another day which was not going to go to plan but geared up and set off up the minor road, heading for where the path goes up Mousthwaite Comb – the start point for two routes up Blencathra via either Scales Fell (looks ok) or Sharp Edge (eek).
At the start of the walk the weather was pretty much ok with a few spots of rain on and off and I got some decent views as I plodded up the path. For the most part the path is pretty good, though it was quite wet at times. However just before the top there are a few bits which require negotiating a couple of rocks and where a slip would not be nice as the path goes close to a big drop. I made decent time up this bit though and it wasn’t too long before I was at the col and could turn off up a clear enough, though boggy at times, path up Souther Fell. The clouds were coming and going on the higher fells but mine stayed clear. Hooray!
The ridge is quite undulating and is one of those where you think the next bump has to be the top only to realise it’s not. A prominent cairn off the path is obviously not the summit and the path weaves through some patches of pretty major bog (though still nothing like High Tove proportions) to eventually pop out at the true top which has an incredibly small cairn on a rock. With the cloud base above me though at least it was obvious it was the highest point and it would be really easy to miss it in the mist if straying from the path. The views were decent but it had started to rain so the waterproofs were on for the descent.. at least up to a point!
I headed back via the viewpoint cairn for a bit of a different view then – as the rain started to get heavier – I headed back to the col as quickly as I could, knowing I was going to need to take my time over the slightly awkward bit at the top. Sure enough this was swimming with water and quite slippy so the arse crampon got deployed on one bit as a precautionary measure. Once over the awkward bit though the rest of the descent was fine although having stupidly neglected to put on my waterproof trousers again I was getting seriously soggy. I don’t like wearing the things as I have a tendency to overheat and I have also dropped two dress sizes since I bought them so suspect they are not flattering but in situations like this I should probably forget about what they look like and just wear the bloody things!
I was back at the car about 2 hours after leaving it and once again it was a case of head back to the hotel, get the work done before chilling out in the spa and over the inevitable post walk drinks before Stuart arrived by train at Windermere later that evening.
Not a classic walk by any means but it was a good choice for the day. And at least I got a view!