Walla Crag, Bleaberry Fell and High Seat

28 November 2010

Having made a detailed plan for yesterday which didn't work out, I deliberately avoided much of a plan for today, particularly as the weather forecast was uncertain as to whether a deep low pressure system would bring snow and high winds to the Lake District or track further north. The morning dawned fine with only a further light fall of snow overnight, and I travelled to Ambleside where I got myself a set of Kahtoola Microspikes - a "small, lightweight and economical traction system for use on slippery winter terrain that will fit anything from running shoes to walking boots". Although the chap in the shop was very keen to point out that the gold standard was winter boots with crampons and an ice-axe, I took the view that anything had to be an improvement on just walking boots. I decided to take them for an exploratory walk up Walla Crag from Borrowdale, and see how I got on.

So, having parked in the snowy Great Wood car park, after a gentle ascent through the wood, the path then takes me more steeply up alongside Cat Gill. The spikes were hardly noticeable as an encumbrance, and seemed to give me excellent grip on this mixture of snow and ice.

Even when the way got steep with pitched steps, the spikes took it all in their stride and enabled me to move with confidence.

Approaching the open fell

The summit of Walla Crag (379 metres / 1243 feet)

The views were wonderful, across Derwentwater to the north-western fells

Looking down on the launch on Derwentwater

But what really caught my eye, and continued to catch it for the rest of the walk, were the snow covered Skiddaw and Blencathra

To the east, the northern end of the Helvellyn range

Along Borrowdale to the Scafells and Great Gable

Having got on so well with the spikes, I set my next objective to the south - Bleaberry Fell

The gentle ascent across Low Moss, with a steep final ascent onto Bleaberry Fell

Skiddaw again

And Blencathra from the top of Bleaberry Fell (590 metres / 1936 feet)

Looking across the northern end of Derwentwater to Bassenthwaite Lake

A panoramic view from Bleaberry Fell

As I'd got up here, it seemed a shame to descend too quickly on a fabulous day, and so I continued south, next stop High Seat. En route I passed this old marker stone.

On one of High Seat's twin summits (608 metres / 1995 feet)

A clearer view than earlier of the flat valley of Borrowdale seen centre extending towards the Scafells (centre left) and Great Gable (centre right)

A prominent cairn on the descent parallel to Ashness Gill. A route which appeared to descend steeply northwest from here led me astray for a while, and when it became too steep I climbed back up and found the easier route to the north-east almost down to the level of the stream before heading back west across the fellside.

Continuing the descent towards Ashness Bridge

Ashness Bridge - an endlessly photographed scene, though difficult to do justice today because of the huge disparity in light between the deep shadows here and the bright sunshine on Skiddaw.

A track then contours along the fellside back to Great Wood and soon to the car.

So, after 11.3 km wearing my new Microspikes, I am ready to wholeheartedly endorse them. The purists may say they're not as good as crampons, but they did very well for me, and despite a good deal of compacted snow and ice, I was surer-footed than I am on a summer walk.

Those little spikes made a huge difference, and though it wasn't necessary today, I could remove them very easily if, for instance, I needed to walk on tarmac.

Zoom in for more detail, or click to view larger map in new window

A day without a plan, and one which worked out wonderfully with a great walk on a great day, significantly assisted by my new purchase.

Total distance 11.3 km and 757 metres of ascent in 4 hours 44 mins



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Unless otherwise stated, all images copyright (c) Stephen and Lucy Dawson