Another Lakeland wander – Patience is a virtue

Force Ten Argon 200 wild camping
Starry night sky at camp on Esk Pike, Lake District.

They say patience is a virtue. And I’ll admit I can vouch for that bigtime when out on the hills of the Lake District. It’s easier said than done at times. My recent trip to the Scafells is testament to that.

Arriving in Borrowdale late one Friday evening I made my way up Grains Gill to make a basecamp somewhere – wasn’t sure the exact location, I was following my nose – but after some rambling about Allen Crags, I tracked back on the open fellsides and headed for an old favourite, Seathwaite Fell.

It was windy, cold and clag had enveloped much of the area to give a somewhat depressing atmosphere. Even so, I was optimistic that conditions would improve as the week wore on. And thankfully it did – and then some.

The following day, I left camp and plodded on in the thick, damp fog to Scafell Pike where I hoped to film the general public talking to camera about their experiences ascending the roof of England. For some reason, the hike there took me longer than I anticipated. I felt terribly lethargic and blamed my horrendously heavy rucksack from the previous day’s ascent. Not that it weight much on this wander as much of my kit was back in the tent. But I felt rather down and out.

Even so, I’m glad I persevered to the summit. There were lots of people up there on charity walks, which I’m keen to feature in ‘Life of a Mountain: Scafell Pike’. Despite the grim conditions, not one person declined to talk on video! And in truth that transpired to be the highlight of the day.

Wiping down my cameras and mics from moisture, I packed up and made my way back to Seathwaite Fell. Sod’s Law, the clag lifted once I hit Calf Cove and the ever revealing views boosted my morale and energy levels. I was hopeful the following day would be more fruitful.

Sunday saw me breaking camp and meandering around the nearby summits in yet more miserable pea soup, before deciding on another basecamp on Esk Pike. The summit in fact. To the north and close to the cliffs that overlook Angle Tarn I chanced upon some nice grassy ground to pitch the tent. It’s an exposed area I’ll admit but the tent I’m currently using brushed the strong winds off with ease.

F10 Argon 200 wild camping
Looking out of the tent at camp on Esk Pike.
Sawyer squeeze filter
Phone on charge. Signal was shite anyway.

Force Ten Argon 200
Tent of choice for this trip, the Force Ten Argon 200.

You can tell autumn is setting in now. The temperatures were close to 0c at night and the winds were biting cold.

It was while I was relaxing in my tent enjoying some TV I downloaded via BBC iPlayer on my tablet, that a call of nature forced me to leave the tent and take a wander outside. Woo hoo!! The winds had left and the skies were clear. Despite a bright moon, the night sky looked bloody awesome in the dry air. It was ethereal to say the least.

As some of you may know from nightwalking, that on clear nights with a bright moon, often you don’t need a headtorch. The light from the moon essentially reveals the world around in black and white. It was wonderful and just the tonic I needed.

I had felt rather down that day. Cussing my luck with the weather and frustrated I hadn’t got much video for my film. Footage I was desperate to get too.

Great Langdale at night
Looking to Great Langdale at night.
Wild camping, Lake District
The Force Ten Argon 200 under a clear night sky.

Monday morning soon arrived and again, I was punching the air with joy. To all points of the compass a perfect sea of cloud lay below me with only the highest ground peeping out to the blue skies above!

I frantically ran about, tripping on rocks, capturing all I could see on video.

The rising sun gently kissed it’s pink hues on the tops of the clouds before setting alight the rocky summits with an orange, fiery glow.

Job done, I enjoyed some coffee before reluctantly packing my video gear to leave camp and head down into the cloud. I was due to meet Carey Davies, Hillwalking Officer from the BMC and ex-writer for TGO Magazine.

Dawn Esk Pike
Dawn from Esk Pike.
Esk Pike and inversion
The summit of Esk Pike, a short stroll from camp.

Glaramara at dawn from Esk Pike
Dawn light on Glaramara from Esk Pike.

Wild camping Lake District
Can you see the camp?

Scafells at dawn from Esk Pike
The Scafells at dawn from Esk Pike summit.

Esk Pike and tarn
Looking to the unnamed tarn on flanks of Esk Pike. The source of water for my camp nearby.
Esk Pike with it’s own broken spectre at dawn! First time I’ve seen one this large.

Scafell Pike, Lake District National Park
Only the highest ground rose above the sea of cloud.

Bowfell and Crinkle Crags from Esk Pike inversion
Looking to Bowfell and the Crinkles.

Force Ten Argon 200 wild camping Lake District
What a day to wake up to eh?

Carey Davies
Carey Davies in the murk by Grains Gill.

Carey – like a kid at Christmas!

Carey was hooking up with me to talk about the BMC’s role in the area amongst many other things. Once we finished filming, he was keen to wander back up the tops with me to enjoy the cloud inversion. He was a like a kid at Christmas. He soon legged it up Esk Hause leaving my tired body behind.

After some more filming, I left him be to wander up Great End to take in a wider view where upon I strolled back up to Esk Pike where I had arranged to meet Lakeland Fellranger series author and friend to Alfred Wainwright, Mark Richards.

Mark had not wild camped before (or at least not for a very long time) and invested some serious money in backpacking kit with the intention of doing it more often. He couldn’t have chosen a better time to do so! Conditions were benign and relaxing. The views were superb and once the sun had disappeared over the horizon, we chatted over some malt he brought with him before retiring to bed.

The following morning brought more of the same conditions. It was very warm too. 20c+ in fact. After grabbing some more shots, me and Mark then headed off down the flanks of Esk Pike and elsewhere. Mark talked about Wainwright, his influence on him, what the legend was really like in private, his love of pen and inkdrawings and much more. We visited some of Mark’s favourite vantage points of the Scafells.

The walking proved quite arduous at times. Not so much due to the rough ground we carefully explored but down to the bloody heat. We were both sweltering under the sun.

Mark Richards, Lakeland Fellranger series
Mark Richards the Lakeland Fellranger.

Mark Richards wild camping Lake District
Mark Richards relaxes at camp on Esk Pike.

After visiting Bowfell we made our way back to camp to relax for the evening. I left Mark to enjoy a brief kip and took went for a wander around Esk Pike’s summit. Conditions were now changing. Gone was the clear skies above. High level cloud had crept in, and the fog below began to rise and move around the nearby tops.

Mark eventually joined me as we enjoyed a very atmospheric show of varying grey hues and mists rolling about the cirque that forms the old volcanic crater below the Scafells. It was a sight to behold.

As night took hold, we made our way back to the tents and retired for the night.

The following day brought a little sun at dawn but it didn’t last. Even so, we were both breaking camp and descending to Borrowdale anyway. I had planned to spend a couple of nights at one of the campsites in Keswick before heading on back home. Mark was giving a talk in Keswick concerning his Lakeland Fellranger series, and he kindly invited me to go along and film some scenes.

Dawn and inversion from Esk Pike
Pre-dawn colours from Esk Pike looking to the Helvellyn range.

Inversion from Esk Pike
More wonderful scenes at dawn from Esk Pike.

Angle Tarn, Lake District
A peep down to Angle Tarn below Esk Pike.

Mark Richards and the Scafells
Mark takes in a fine view of the Scafells.

The Scafells and inversion
Scafell Pike peeps above the cloud inversion.

Wild camping, Argon 200 and Akto
Our camp on Esk Pike.

The Scafells from Esk Pike
And so the cloud cleared from the Scafells….

Looking to Hard Knott and Harter Fell near Eskdale.

Filming Mark as he gives his talk in Keswick.

Dent brewery’s commemorative ale to celebrate Mark’s Lakeland Fellranger series completion.

Needless to say, Mark is now hooked on the joys of wild camping! I did try to calm his enthusiasm, explaining it isn’t always so pleasurable. Stormy nights are either a joy to sit out, or a nightmare or both! But he aint daft. It was nice to see his sheer delight taking it all in. A true fellsman at one with his beloved Lake District. That will be my lasting memory of this visit to the Western Lakes to be honest. As much as I like my own company in the hills, it’s always nice to share it with someone from time to time.

So, it really was a trip of ups and downs. I’m glad I stuck it out. Whereas the first couple of days or so didn’t weren’t very productive or particularly enjoyable, it soon made up for it with sunshine in the heavens.

Patience certainly is a virtue. I’m just as fallible as the next person but it’s experiences like that, I draw from with my work. On gloomy days in wind and rain, I dig deep and recall trips like this. It helps to motivate me and keep going. Not to give in, and always be optimistic.

I shall be back up there again very soon. And it’s a visit I’m really looking forward to. First off, I’ll be covering the Wasdale Head Show, meeting up with Eric Robson and (hopefully all being well) Joss Naylor and the local Wasdale MRT team too.

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