Sunshine and Lightning on the Rooftops

Full distance of 17. 4 miles with 2188m height ascended, four cups of coffee and two melted dairy milks

As the weekend drew to a gradual close, the majority of the traffic was drifting away from the Lakes, cars and vans packed full of happy punters heading back to their respective corners of the country after a weekend of summer sunshine. I felt smug to be going against the grain by heading into the mountains, it looked like I’d have the place to myself for a few days. Past Ambleside the smugness shifted to frustration due to having to reverse and squeeze past the aforementioned traffic on the steep, twisty narrow lanes. Karma?

monday route

The car was ditched at Cockley Beck and I went to live a simple life for a few days carrying everything I needed on my shoulders with no agenda other than to wander at my own pace in the daytime and lay down and sleep when I felt tired. I headed up Mosedale to camp out for the night, the evening sky had hazed over and become smothered with grey clouds, all of which lent a moody edge to the sharp craggy skyline. There was barely a breeze up on Gait Crags so I was free to pitch the trailstar with the door facing the highest summits in the country. At 9:00pm it was warm and still enough to sit out and cook up a meal on some nearby rocks in the dwindling light before crawling into the tent for the night. The last time I camped in the lakes it was ice axe and crampons weather and a losing battle to stop my fingertips from freezing in the bitter wind, tonight a sleeping bag felt unnecessary.

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Dawn brought clear blue cloudless skies, the clarity of the air felt almost wintry showing the scafells in fine detail. The morning dew was instantly dried away as the sunlight crept over Bow Fell, I sat out on the rocks soaking up the sunshine, and brewed some coffee with some banana and chocolate muffins (homemade I’ll have you know). Not bad for 08:00 on a monday morning.

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It was only a month after solstice so there was plenty of time to get some miles in, The day began with an uphill walk to the summit of Esk Pike, the heat was intense and I made good use of a clear spring just before joining the main track to Great End, a few tiny figures were already visible in brightly coloured jackets on the surrounding summits. Stopping for a coffee on the summit of Scafell Pike I encountered a small crowd including a first time fell runner who had legged it up from Wasdale, it was nice to see all ages from kids to grandparents out enjoying the day.

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A steep downhill scramble on scree towards Piers Gill was quite hairy with a big pack but made for a quick way of joining the corridor route. The day grew even hotter so I made a beeline for a few shallow pools to have a quick dip and stop for some Ainsley Harriott cous cous (Ainsley comes everywhere with me, sometimes on the dark lonely winter nights I talk to the picture of him on the packets).

Great Gable and Kirk Fell dominated the view on the way down, I had a bit of time to spare so made for the top of the former taking the steep rocky track past Styhead Tarn. The day had hazed over again, the surrounding hills stood as dark grey shapes with no detail despite the bright sunshine. A friendly lady with an eyepatch ran up from the other side and we spent some getting our bearings by naming the distant summits.

Over the next few hours the sunlight virtually disappeared, this was a relief after 8 hours walking with a heavy pack and the cool shaded air was welcome. I felt myself hit a bit of a wall walking up towards Bow Fell, fortunately my local greengrocers have been selling caffeine energy gels for ridiculously cheap (24 for Β£3!).

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I camped high not too far from where I’d stayed the previous night, there had been forecasts of heavy rain with storms so I was conscious of not having to walk too far to get back to the car if the weather was to turn. This involved a quick dash down to the valley to get some water after pitching higher up. The evening light was a real treat, shafts of sunlight poked through the grey cloud, the sun briefly lingered on the horizon before checking out for the night.

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I’d pitched the trailstar really low just in case the weather came in during the night, I have to say this is one of the best bits of kit I’ve bought, I love how versatile and simple it is, easy to pitch and holds its own in all weathers.

Speaking of all weathers, a loud thunder clap woke me at about 07:00, sticking my head out of the front door into the misty morning there were some monstrous cloud lurking to the south. I was camping quite high at nearly 800m so wasn’t too keen on the idea of getting swamped by thunder clouds. I opted to make a quick coffee and then get the hell out of dodge. A second and much louder crack of thunder put that idea to bed as the storm came in far quicker than expected. The sky had turned almost black whilst heavy showers and wind reigned blows on the tarp, flashes of lightning and thunder became synchronised. I was conscious that the tarp is held rigid by two trekking poles, one at the centre and one at the door, so essentially two metal rods poking out of the ground and a ring of metal tent pegs in the middle of a lightning storm, talk about a sitting duck…

After an appropriate amount of swearing I decided to pull some waterproofs on and pack up as quick as possible and run back to the car. I prefer to keep my near death experiences till after breakfast. At one stage a fork of lightning struck some ground little more that 100 metres away, I wish I’d had my camera ready but was too focussed on not dying. Sorry.

As the weather eased off and moved north I managed to get a few shots of the storm cloud that had had me for breakfast. I’m just glad I hadn’t worn my tin foil suit.

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