My friend Andy and myself have, for about fifteen years, had an annual camping trip to somewhere wild and beautiful in the UK. The mission criteria:
- Tackle at least one serious mountain (by UK standards)
- Wild camp, off the beaten track and up high, if possible
- Get out and back in a weekend.
This spring we hoped to accomplish this with a brief expedition to the Lake District and a visit to a ‘secret’ valley.
Up with the larks and over the pass
Living in London any decent bit of mountain in the UK is going to be a very long way away so we made a very early start and we were on the road by 6am and in the Lake District by lunchtime. After a quick lunch in Ambleside we made our way to the start point the other side of Hardknott Pass.
If you have not been over this famous road it is worth doing at least once although it is not for the nervous or feint of heart and definitely not if you have Acrophobia (and not Vertigo as a fear of heights is often called). I have to ‘fess up here and say that I wasn’t driving and it scared the crap out of me. Almost unbelievably those crazy Romans decided to build and man a fort at the top of the pass. This must have been a pretty tough posting!
It was well into the afternoon by the time we got walking but, as ever, it is fabulous to be surrounded by such lovely countryside even, as it was now, in the rain. We headed up the Esk valley never straying too far from the River and lovely waterfalls until we got to the ‘secret’ valley (Great Moss) at the base of Scafell Pike.
Obviously there is no such thing as secret in such a walked area as the Lake District but this is the less used route to the tallest mountain in England and I was hoping that we would be the only campers. Our timing was unintentionally perfect as we just got the tent up amongst ‘Sampson’s Stones’ just as freezing sleet started to lash down and drive us into shelter.
As ever when wild camping it never seems to odd to just get in the sleeping bag and go to bed once the sun has gone down, in this case about 8pm. The beauty of no TV!
It was a cold night but worth it to wake up to snow (or frost) capped hills all around us and it felt like a magic spell had been cast. The original plan had been to leave the heavy packs at the campsite and do a quick sprint up to the summit of Scafell Pike and back. The snow capped hills, however, looked a bit menacing and i’m sorry to confess that we wimped out on the final assault.
Instead we took a leisurely walk back down the way we came before taking a little pleasure drive around the the district. It would have been great to have had another day or two up here but our family commitments can be tough at times.
I love beautiful landscapes and in particular mountains and other rugged areas so although this was a very brief trip it has re-fueled my spirit for a bit.
A great trip and a bit of the lakes i’d be happy to go back to, particularly as i’ve not actually climbed Scafell Pike itself but feel that I should.