A Fresh Escape (2)

Alarm…. zzzzzzz …. 4 am. Unzipping of the sleeping bag cocoon… then the outer shell of the tent. Still dark, but I can see it’s cloudy with no sign of any clear patches. Still, it’s the Lake District, things change quickly. Alarm reset for 5am.

Alarm…. zzzzzzz ….5am. Unzipping ritual repeated. Lighter, no less cloud. Not looking at all promising for that beautiful view of first light striking the dark bulk of Pillar above me. Alarm reset for 5.30am. Just in case.

Alarm…. zzzzzzz …. 5.30am. You get the picture. It’s a grey one. Sod it. I cosy back up into the sack and reset the alarm for 9am. A lovely long sleep (I really can sleep for as long as I like in my sleeping bag), a spot of breakfast, then a jaunt around the Mosedale Round, hopefully the cloud will begin to lift once the sun’s up.

9am. It looks bright outside through the tent walls. Unzipping ritual. Hmmmm…… lifting cloud? I can barely see the end of the guy ropes let alone Pillar. The cloud and mist has descended right down. I figure I have all day so I’m in no rush and snuggle back down for a doze. I end up snoozing til almost midday. Considering I went to bed at 8pm that’s some sleep catch up.

Around 12 ish I figure that if I don’t actually force myself out I will just sleep all day and probably be awake all night. I forcibly evict myself to find that the cloud has lifted, and now is only just covering the very summits. Not only that it looks to be lifting fast with patches of blue sky appearing. The wind is still swirling away so I tell myself it’s going to be a lovely wild afternoon walk in the sun, kick my arse in to gear and get moving.

Indeed it is. Packing away only takes about 5 mins and by the time I’ve walked around to Beck Head between Great Gable and Kirk Fell (which can’t be more than 15- 20 mins walk) the skies are largely sunny and visibility about as good as it gets in summer.

I can’t remember what the descent from Kirk Fell to Black Sail Pass is like, but in my mind it’s steep, so with all the gear I decide to take the path that skirts around the side.  I remind myself I must camp on top of Kirk Fell one day, such a large summit plateau. I follow a couple of other walkers along the path who prove useful as scale for a few stock shots I fire off.

dsc_8879Once past Black Sail Pass and ascending the first steepish scrambly bit of Pillar, the Mosedale Round comes into its own. It feels like a proper mountain walk, with big, wild, rugged, craggy views in all directions, particularly behind you over Kirk Fell, Great Gable and the Great End – Scafell range, as well as down into the Mosedale Valley towards Yewbarrow.

The path up Pillar, with the Mosedale Valley and Yewbarrow in the background

Me on Pillar, with the Scafells in the background

Apart from stopping to admire the views, you do get a chance to catch your breath on Pillar as there are a couple of flatter sections in between the climbs. I had in mind one of these for the evening’s camp, but more of that in a bit.

It was now a great day for summer walking, the strong winds keeping things cool even with the sun out and clearing blue skies, as well as adding to the wild atmosphere of the walk.

Once past the large flat summit plateau of Pillar and having a wander round to enjoy the all encompassing views I get the chance to test out my vertigo a bit with the drop to Wind Gap. It’s not that narrow, but it is quite a steep little descent with large drops of both sides. I tell myself there are actually footpaths off both sides and get on with it. Happily the wind is blowing directly into my face rather than trying to blow me off either side.

It’s then another steep little rocky scramble up on to Scoat Fell, then the climbing is pretty much done, a straightforward walk around to Red Pike and the descent into Wasdale. I decide against adding Yewbarrow on (although it should really be done as part of the round) as the afternoon is getting late, and I have to squeeze in a pint at the Wasdale Head Inn before deciding where I’m going to pitch the tent for the evening.

Approaching Red Pike from Scoat Fell

By the time I’ve skirted around Yewbarrow and doubled back to Wasdale Head, I’m about knackered. It’s the first time I’ve been out with all my gear for nearly two months, and that pack is heavy. I did stop to dip my toes in the water whilst admiring the Scafells on the way though:

The Scafell Massif over Wastwater

Bloody hell the pint tastes good. I have to restrict myself to one though, otherwise I know I’ll be there all night. Which will be fun, but I’ll wake up with a hangover and no photos.

So…… where to pitch. In my heart I know where I want to be – as close to the summit of Pillar as possible. Late evening light on the fells tonight, and hopefully a glorious sunrise in the morning. It’s another long old climb after a decent day’s walking though.

Whilst the pint and bag of crisps are fresh inside me, I load the gear back on to my back, get my head down and start the trek along the Mosedale Valley. At least a chunk of the distance I need to cover is along this fairly flat section. And if I don’t have the energy to make it all the way to the summit, the top of Black Sail Pass makes for an easier target.

Which is exactly where I end up. I’m pretty much exhausted by the time I get there, and the winds are still strong so pitching could be a bit tricky on the flatter exposed sections of Pillar I’d been eyeing up earlier on. Black Sail is still fairly exposed, but I manage to pitch in a small hollow next to a little rocky outcrop which takes some of the brunt of the wind.

It’s getting late, and as soon as I’ve got the tent up I can see there is some lovely looking light streaming down the Ennerdale Valley. I’m not going to have time to climb much higher before it’s gone, so set about trying to make the most of the scene in front of me. Nothing quite worked perfectly, but this stitched panorama of Ennerdale shows how nice the light was:

Ennerdale from Black Sail Pass

And with those few shots in the bag, it’s just a few mouthfuls of pasta then I snuggle down and am soon dead to the world, happily sandwiched between Kirk Fell and Pillar.

I’d forgotten to check sunrise times before I came out, but guessed at around 6am. So I roll out at 5am to promising clear skies, and begin climbing Pillar once again. Despite the sun being a bit away from rising, it’s light enough to climb without the headtorch. The winds have calmed overnight, and it proves to be a very peaceful walk to the summit, all the while eyeing up the increasingly glowing skies over towards Helvellyn.

Dawn colours over towards Helvellyn

Sadly all that colour means there’s also a fair bit of cloud over in that direction, which could scupper my usual ‘first light on the summits’ shots. This does indeed prove to be the case, and a fairly weak, hazy sunrise ensues.

The morning light is still pleasant though, so instead of my dramatic landscape shots I play about with a few more fun things which might sell as stock. Most involve me perching on the summit cairn whilst there’s no one else around to give me disapproving looks :)

Me posing on Pillar summit cairn at sunrise

And with that it’s just about the end of the weekend’s photography. A leisurely walk back down to the tent, and it even proves to be warm enough to sit outside for breakfast.

It’s already looking hazy for the day ahead so I decide to head back home for some rest and to get on with processing the photos.  But there’s just time for one more pic of the tent before it comes down and gets stowed away before its next outing, whenever and wherever that may be.

Wild camping on Black Sail Pass

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