Another Mosedale Another Horseshoe

Fell ponies by the roadside at Mosedale by Andy Wallace Andy FellwalkerThis is my last chance for a long walk before the days get too short. The walk I have in mind is the reverse of one I did a year ago and navigation will be awkward with the route spread over four different maps, I will take my 1:50000 scale map to show the whole route.

It was raining again on the journey north, it had stopped by the time I got to Keswick but mist was still covering the hills. There were several cars on the little road to Mungrisdale, far more than usual and I suspect I know what is going on. I drove up past Mosedale and back to Mungrisdale, past a small herd of fell ponies on the other side of Mosedale and eventually I decided to park at the old Mosedale Bridge.

The mist seemed to be clearing and the sun was coming out, it was beginning to feel quite warm as I walked towards Mungrisdale through Bowscale to Undercrag. There is a track on the right that goes past a wooden hut with a sign bearing the name Bull Fell (I think) and shortly afterwards the steep path to Bowscale Fell rises steeply up on right. The start of the path isn't obvious but you can see the green path rising though the brown, dying bracken.

The Tongue and Bannerdale Crags by Andy Wallace Andy FellwalkerThere were lots of people around, as I suspected they were gathering to watch or take part as spotters for a fox hunt, it was a very warm ascent and my jacket came off even as the mist came in again. With all those spotters with their walkie talkies the fox doesn't stand much of a chance if the mist doesn't stay around. It seems to be a very sociable occasion, what a shame they can't enjoy the fells without killing something.

You climb steeply upwards through bracken on a muddy path, above the mist I could see the crags of Bannerdale flanked by Souther Fell and The Tongue of Bowscale Fell. As the gradient eased the mist came in, there is rough grass and the wet ground has been churned up into areas of swampy mud where the faint path disappears for a while. There are piles of stones marked on the map, I passed a couple and had been walking for a while, was I at the summit yet? It had become cold enough to put my jacket back on while I had a bit of a wander around trying to decide which pile of stones I was at.

Bowscale Fell by Andy Wallace Andy FellwalkerSuddenly there was a brief glimpse of Bowscale Tarn below so I knew I wasn't at the summit, I passed more piles of stones but was I at the summit yet? I followed a route that should lead towards Bannerdale Crags but there was more climbing to be done, then I knew I was on the way to the summit. The shelter cairn is much more substantial than the others that I passed but it only gets credited as another Pile of Stones on the map.

There were lots of people around who kept appearing from out of the mist, I was beginning to wonder how I would navigate across Mungrisdale Common. From the summit of Bowscale Fell there is a faint path in the right direction, south towards Bannerdale Crags. There were brief glimpses downwards of Bannerdale valley in its autumn colours and of the mist shrouded crags at its head. After walking on the edge above the valley to avoid a swampy ridge you reach a viewpoint cairn above Bannerdale and there is a short walk over to the summit of Bannerdale Crags.

View of Sharp Edge from Bannerdale Crags by Andy Wallace Andy FellwalkerSuddenly the mist cleared and there was blue sky to the north, Sharp Edge was silhouetted against a large bank of mist, it looked steep and scary. Warmed again I took my jacket off again. The way to Mungrisdale Common is now obvious, you follow a faint path from the summit of Bannerdale Crags to cross Blackhazel Beck on to the least distinguishable fell in the Lake District. I followed the faint path over rough grass until I realised I was going downwards, I decided to head west over the wide wet grassy plateau trying to avoid the many wet springs.

I was in theory heading towards the highest ground but there isn't much variation in height on Mungrisdale Common, it was a muscle tugging slog through the lush wet vegetation. When I put my glasses on I could see a single dark spot in the middle of the green desert, that should be the summit cairn because it is the only non green spot on this wide plateau. I walked over to it through more wet vegetation until I got to the neat cairn, it is a surprise to see six paths meeting at the cairn and radiating from it.

Mungrisdale Common summit by Andy Wallace Andy FellwalkerI intended to make a beeline towards Great Calva, I followed one of the paths that set off in the right direction but it soon turned to the left and led me to the other cairn on Mungrisdale Common. The path carried on following the contours, I didn't want to take a wide diversion so I headed down over the fairly easy gradient on tussock grass at first, towards Skiddaw Forest. I intended to try and take shortest route but as I got lower down the ground became wetter and reeds replaced grass in places and I began to remember this place.

I remembered the trouble I had last time getting across the stream that I was heading towards, I should have followed the path along the contours at the cairn to get to a point where I could cross the River Caldew. Oh well, I decided carry on and see how I got on, the ground was still getting wetter, it seemed a long way over pathless wet grass, reeds and pond plants and then a really swampy area before reaching the river.

Salehow Beck and Skiddaw House by Andy Wallace Andy FellwalkerSalehow Beck was too wide and full to cross of course, I walked upstream but it wasn't getting any easier, the banks of the stream are swampy rather than wet. I was beginning to wonder if I was going to have to go all the way back up to the Skiddaw House path when the fence on the other side of the stream crossed over it. I crossed the stream my feet on the wooden fence support while hanging onto the top wire of the fence. I was still heading for Great Calva and had to cross a larger tributary of the River Caldew so it was a good job the fence was there again for me to cross it.

Then there was heather as far as the eye could see, it was above my knees at first and particularly strenuous and difficult to get through. The heather hides what is underfoot and hangs onto your legs, it is hard enough without having an endless slope to climb. I eventually reached the Cumbria Way path that I used last year to get to Skiddaw House, after crossing it there is still an endless climb to an ever far away horizon through pathless heather. Looking up to the skyline the view was the same, there was no relief and the grassy islands in between the heather were springy and even harder work.

Great Calva path to Little Calva by Andy Wallace Andy FellwalkerThe heather gave way to wetter ground with more grass and mud, there are a couple of wooden posts alongside a grassy strip but it wasn't the path I was looking for. As the grass ended I set off across more wet vegetation and eventually I came across a small muddy path which did seem to head upwards to the rocky summit of Great Calva. From the surprisingly pleasant, rocky summit there is a muddy path down by the fence until it gets lost in a broad muddy swamp mid way between Great and Little Calva. Without going over to Little Calva there is a styal over which you cross the fence and the path promptly disappears into another muddy mess.

I headed straight ahead towards Knott as the path went left, the drier and more direct route eventually ended at steep gullies and I had to go left then anyway. You eventually reach a col before the climb towards Knott, a steep green climb and I was expecting to hit the six hour syndrome, my calf muscles frequently complain six hours into a walk about yet another steep green climb. Anyway it wasn't too bad and it wasn't too far before the gradient eased to a straightforward walk across a green plateau to the summit of Knott.

Looking towards Carrock Fell from Knott by Andy Wallace Andy FellwalkerFrom the summit there was a view towards Carrock Fell surrounded by a cloud inversion, it was nice looking but not helpful for the navigation I had to do. There was a faint path heading into the mist with unfamiliar outlines seen in the gloomy conditions. I was going down featureless and pathless grass but it was obvious that I wasn't going towards Carrock Fell so once again I walked across long wet grass until I found a faint path. I followed the path for a while before putting my glasses on and I was able to see a familiar wooden hut on the other side of the col, then I knew where I was. I followed the faint path until I found the real path coming down from the summit of Knott that was wetter, muddier and steeper the lower I got.

Then I was climbing again on the path towards Great Lingy Hill, I could see High Pike and had considered including it in the route but I didn't have enough time. The old shooting hut is well preserved but musty smelling inside so probably not frequently used these days. If you follow the path it becomes a green track, to my surprise a pick-up truck drove past me, the green track then becomes a good track fit for farm vehicles. I should have checked the map but I just assumed the track would lead to Mosedale so the path on the left would go to Carrock Fell.

View of Carrock Fell from Drygill Head by Andy Wallace Andy FellwalkerI was forcing my legs as quickly as possible up another pathless grassy slope, it was getting close to going dark and I wanted to get on the path downwards while I still had daylight. The summit I got to was not what I expected, I realised I must be on High Pike, I had wasted energy and daylight getting to this summit. I had to walk down again, the track must be right way, but after walking along it for a short while I realised I was going north and in the wrong direction.

As I was trying to work out where I was was I saw Carrock Fell through the mist, I had to walk back to the High Pike junction of paths where I saw another muddy path on the left and set off along it. I passed the unmistakable Drygill Head where I had a spectacular misty view of Carrock Fell. By now it was misty and gloomy, the path was wet and muddy again, the mist cleared half way across to Carrock Fell when I got a view of a fine sunset behind High Pike.

Sunset over High Pike by Andy Wallace Andy FellwalkerIt was nearly dark at Carrock Fell summit, too dark to appreciate the antiquity of the old British hill fort, I needed to find the ridge path before it got too dark. At the summit cairn I found my head and hand held torches before setting off, I was going to need them soon. I found a small path through the heather, heather is more resilient than other vegetation and it means you get narrow muddy paths through it. The peaty mud is extremely slippery when there is a lot of water about especially where there are rocks showing through the eroded peat.

I switched on my torches as I got to the steep ground that I was expecting. I was glad to see the lights on the road below because I was in the right place but the fact that I could see them showed how steep the way down was going to be. I was able to follow the path until I came to loose rock and scree, I kept going down even though I had lost the path and after a struggle over rocks I got to the bracken. I was zig zagging through gaps in the bracken at first but not really losing much height, as I reached a tree I realised I just had to get down, forcing my way through steep bracken, it clung on to my legs as I was hanging on to it with my hands.

Carrock Fell summit by Andy Wallace Andy FellwalkerI was extremely glad to reach the road at 7pm. Wainwright recommends that you don't climb Carrock Fell in mist, I recommend that you don't descend in the dark and I would suggest that nine and a half hours is too long a walk for this time of year.

Andy Wallace 23nd October 2004

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