The usual battle on the M6 didn't happen - the drive up was a sedate and rainless affair, mainly due to those excellent "average speed" cameras set up along the many miles of carriageway-widening scheme works which aims to provide us with four lanes each way by first cutting us down to two. Borrowdale YHA was reached at a reasonable time, and I got the pick of the bunks in the dorm - needless to say, I nabbed the one by the radiator. While I was sorting the gear the rain started and became so strong that I decided to stay in the hostel for the evening meal instead of paddling to the nearest bar. This turned out to be a shrewd move, as the three-course hostel fare was excellent, the lamb hot-pot being the best I've had for a long time.
After an evening of chilling and route-planning, I'd decided that the objective for Saturday would be Ullscarf via Greenup Edge, with the option of doing a one-eighty and extending the route to include High Raise if time and conditions were favourable. I packed the kit accordingly and hit the sack early.
Next morning I was up bright and early. The rain had stopped and things were looking good. After a hearty three-course YHA breakfast I donned the pack and ventured outside, just as the rain started again.
The walk through Stonethwaite, across the bridge and up Stonethwaite Beck, was sodden underfoot but for that first half-hour I was comfy using the Rab VR Climb as defence against upper-body wetness. It all changed as I passed Galleny Force, however, as the gods put the weather-machine into overdrive. The rain suddenly got much heavier and an evil wind started chucking it down the valley. As predicted, the Rab Corrie jacket had to be wielded in anger for the first time. I've never seen so much water running down the fellsides...
The run-off had submerged the path in many places, which meant that crossings were dodgy affairs, not so much because of the depths but more because of the force of the water. I waded the worst of the crossings as I slogged up the Greenup Gill path as far as the confluence of Greenhow and Mere Gills but there I found the water impassable without both danger and loss of dignity. After heading upslope alongside one of the two Mere Gill tributaries and finding no better options for crossing, I decided that my best option would be to change the plan and attack the fell directly, rather than via the Edge. It didn't look too steep on the map - just a few bits of 45 degree stuff, easy to zig-zag. So up I went.
Well, it was a knackering experience, all the better for the ground being slippery enough to ensure that the adrenaline never stopped flowing. I found just one small level place, near the top of the steep stuff, where I dared to stop and take some pics. I'm glad that I went up that way though, as it's a great place from where to view the glacial features of the hanging valley and the proper proportions of Lining Crag without it all being distorted by perspective:
The view down to Eagle Crag and Borrowdale wasn't too bad either:
From there on it was a marshy trudge to find the ridge's line of wireless fenceposts, which crosses the summit and hence was a good guide in what was now the base of the clouds. After 20 minutes of alternating clarity and wind-whipped clag I found the summit-cairn and stopped to take pics:
Then I did a one-eighty and headed back towards Greenup Edge, into the wind-driven stinging rain and weighing-up in my mind the option of extending to High Raise. Occasionally I could make out the path up there from the Edge, but it was mostly clagged up and didn't look appealing. As I neared the decision-point deep in the flooded marshes atop the Edge it started hailing big-time, which made the decision obvious - a dignified retreat to Lining Crag and a descent from there seemed much the more sensible thing to do. After slopping and wading to the big cairn overlooking the way down to Greenup Gill I found the path and set off to Lining Crag.
The views from the Crag were impressive during occasional breaks in the cloudbase, and I took some pics, but soon it was time to continue the descent. And that's where it all started to go bad...
There's a made-path down the side, where the crag meets the fellside. It's near-enough a straight-line down at a severe angle and due to the incessant rain it had become a cascade (it's the stream that you can see in the first pic of Lining Crag above). The rocks used for the path have been set at a slight angle downslope so that they don't retain water, but that just makes a slip more likely in descent. And that's what happened, several times, straight into the cascade. One particular slip ended in a twisted knee which I thought was going to be a day-wrecker, but it held together quite well and didn't cause any major hassle. By the time I got to the base of the crag, I was utterly soaked and the pack was full of water. Luckily all of the important kit was in roll-top liner-bags.
At the base is a small grassy flat where two couples were having a breather before their attempt to go up the path. They didn't have much of an option as they were practising their "Coast-to-Coast" route, bound for Grasmere via Greenup and Far Easedale, but I'm sure that they thought twice about this section having watched my antics. We chatted for a few minutes, during which I told them about the conditions on the path and up on the Edge. After a few more minutes I left them to it and started off towards the valley just as the rain started to ease.
The descent was uneventful until I got to the stream that had blocked me on the way up. The level had dropped by a couple of feet and I judged it safe to cross, but I underestimated the force of the water and was swept off the submerged stepping-stones and ended up standing in three feet of white water. It was a very effective way to clean the mud off me boots. Walking further, I grabbed a few more pics in the improving conditions:
I was beginning to think that I would make it back to the hostel with no further hassle, as the wind had dropped and the rain had stopped, so I paused for a breather at the bridge just above the confluence with Langstrath Beck, where there is a magnificent view of Eagle Crag. My poor camera skills don't do it any justice whatsoever:
I started back down the easy last few miles just as the weather kicked in for the last time. The wind had done a one-eighty and was now full in the face, and the rain started stinging again.
And did I care?
Not one bit.
I was wet, yes, but I was warm and happy. There was no point in avoiding the streams and flooded paths, so I just waded and splashed through them, just like a big kid. Great fun! Even the livestock seemed to be enjoying the weather:
Right at the end of the walk I dragged the camera out again for a few more pics before the light failed. The views from the hostel grounds are quite good - much better than shown in these shots :
Back at the hostel my gear took up a good chunk of the drying-room. I even had to get the warden to put my camera and lenses in a safe place to dry, as they were wet through. Later, while sat in front of the open fire, I put a tick against Ullscarf on my Wainwrights list and then double-checked the total number visited so far.
One-eighty, of course.
To be continued...