Carrock Fell to Meal Fell
The recent wet weather had continued all week and it was almost certainly going to be another wet day, although it was dry when I parked at Mosedale Bridge. I walked the short distance into the village of Mosedale and started walking along the mine road going up the valley towards the old Carrock mine. I didn't walk too far along the road, as soon as I had got past the few houses I was looking for a way to climb Carrock Fell. I couldn't see any way through the tall, dense bracken so I turned right and walked along a muddy track by the side of a wall, looking for clues about which way to climb the steep and densely vegetated slope.
I found a vague, footpath-looking mud slide and decided I had to go for it; there was a gap between the bracken at first but I ended up forcing my way through fully grown, wet bracken. I was going back in the direction I had walked, a few feet higher than the wall, when I came across a vague path, or at least a gap in the bracken; I had to start climbing or give up. I was just above the place I started at the wall corner, and I found a definite path going upwards through the bracken; I certainly didn't see any signs of a way through from down there.
It was steep and muddy, although the path did take a zigzag route, but only because it was heading towards a steep gully. I gained height quickly and was soon looking down on the rooftops of Mosedale; I was still uncertain whether I had found the proper route until I came across the tree mentioned by Wainwright over forty years ago. There was still plenty of bracken to get through, although the path was a bit more obvious and not quite so muddy, at least until I got above the bracken line.
Once I got past most of the bracken it was still as steep, but the bracken was replaced by scree, heather and gorse. The path was difficult to see and follow in a number of places, no wonder I had problems finding it on my way in the dark down three years ago. It was varied and interesting anyway, before the mist thickened and the gradient levelled off; after passing a large rock outcrop the path was barely visible on the plain heathery plateau. I passed some ruined buildings, or maybe they were old sheepfolds, maybe I was on a faint path; it was definitely misty and I definitely needed my compass.
Carrock Fell has an interesting array of natural rock and man made structures, some more ancient than others but all indistinguishable in the mist; the only obvious landmark is the summit cairn. The mist turned to drizzle as I reached the summit of Carrock Fell, the visibility was bad enough before but it turned worse. Apart from being slightly scary being in a place at a time when nobody else would dare to be there, it was an ideal opportunity to test my compass navigation on a hill that I'm not really familiar with.
There was a faint path, but paths lead you where they want to go, you have to still make your own way. It was wet and muddy; after walking across featureless grass for quite a while I came across a cairn on a grassy mound, and shortly afterwards I came across a junction of paths. I opted for the fainter right hand branch, but after trudging over rough wet moorland I was starting to wonder if I was walking in the wrong direction. I eventually came across the good track that I really wanted to find, although it was impossible to tell exactly where I was and which direction I should go.
I turned left and kept looking for signs of footpath to High Pike as I walked along the track; after a while I turned back and retraced my steps, maybe I should have turned right when I got to the track. Walking back along the track, I saw faint path in grass that I hadn't seeing while walking in the opposite direction; I followed it for a while but I wasn't convinced so I turned back when I reached a swamp. Shortly after getting back on the track I came across a small cairn and a fainter path heading into the mist, that I also hadn't seen before.
I took a bearing and was prepared to navigate through the gloom to High Pike, but the path became more obvious as I gained a bit of height the ground became drier. It wasn't too far and not too strenuous to get to the summit of High Pike, with its shelter cairn, triangulation column and distinctive seat made out of slate.
I retraced my steps back to the track and again turned right to follow it towards Great Lingy Hill, the track deteriorated into a wide wet and muddy path. The only landmark on this route is an old Shooting Hut, it was a welcome confirmation that I was going in the right direction. I decided to carry on very swampy ground, descending slightly to a very soggy bottom from where I had to pick a path to get me to Knott. I chose a barely visible path, one of several going off in different directions; I was walking over grass that was almost ankle deep in surface water.
I eventually reached the flat summit of Knott, with its cairn and nearby flattened pile of stones; there were absolutely no clues in that mist about where to go next, I was on a wing and a compass bearing. There was a barely discernible descent and re-ascent, I didn't notice the downs and ups with concentrating on navigating and splashing through the sodden grass. I eventually found signs of a faint path that became slightly more obvious as I got closer to the summit of Great Sca Fell; it looked remarkably similar to the summit of Knott except for the extra pile of stones that I has.
Still on a compass bearing, I found a faint path that descended a fairly steep grassy shoulder to a grassy col; I started to ascend towards a cairn, from where I could see the summit of Meal Fell and made my way over to it. This is another interesting summit, it's difficult to tell again how much of it is man-made and how much is simply natural variations along the short ridge.
I descended in the direction of Trusmadoor, I had thought about crossing over to Burn Tod but, given the time and conditions, I decided to retrace my steps back up to Great Sca Fell and Knott. It was easier said than done because I lost the path in a swampy area and didn't find it again until I was nearly at the summit of Knott; I had to trust my compass again in some very untrustworthy conditions.
From the summit of Knott, I set off back towards Coomb Height, intending to find a direct way down to valley of River Caldew. After splashing through the wet grass on a barely visible path across featureless ground in zero visibility, I found myself on a muddy, but obvious path. My compass told me I wasn't going in the direction I wanted to be but the terrain and conditions gave no clues about any alternative route; I felt that at worst I would end up going back to Carrock Fell.
Eventually, I saw something appear out of the gloom, it was the Shooting Hut; at least I knew where I was, but I hadn't noticed anything like a path going downhill that might be mistaken for The Cumbria Way. I had crossed a small stream a short time before, and thought that maybe it was the one shown on the map that the path followed. I walked back to the stream, and more in hope than expectation, I started to walk splash my way downhill by the side of it. After getting past the swampy area I found myself on a faint path, as I lost height I got below the cloud-base and could see my way down to the Caldew valley.
It was a nice afternoon all of a sudden, I was walking down a very pleasant gill and could see a lot of the old mine road that would take me back to Mosedale. Eventually I reached a rough track, that led me through old mine workings on either side of the stream until I reached the road, a proper well-maintained tarmac road that doesn't seem to have any purpose these days. It was almost as though visitors were welcome to drive up the valley but I passed one of Dalemain Estate's notices that made it clear you were there on sufferance, and not to camp or park too long; I'm sure they would prevent everybody from venturing onto their land if they could.
The road was level and easy walking until it inexplicably climbed up about twenty feet before the final descent to Mosedale. As I was walking back along the road towards the car, I obviously looked bedraggled and tired because somebody stopped to offer me a lift.
© 2003 - 2013 By Andy Wallace. Reproduction of this work in whole or in part, including images, and reproduction in electronic media, without documented permission from the author is prohibited.