This was another trip away with our first-year-apprentice hostelling friends. Since our first outing together in the spring they'd been to Ilam Hall and they wanted to go to the LD with us again, they're either keen, mad or both! Either way, it was a bargain weekend - we used more Tesco Clubcard tokens to pay for the accommodation, at the current 4:1 voucher/token exchange rate it kept costs down considerably.
The Thursday morning journey up the standard A5/M6 route was a pleasant surprise - no hold-ups anywhere! We made the customary stop at Ings to raid the Little Chef, pulled into Windermere for a bit of shopping and then pushed on to Buttermere YHA via Keswick and Borrowdale just to introduce the others to the delights of the drive over Honister Hause.
Having had negative experiences with room-sizes at Windermere during the spring, I'd specifically asked for decent-sized rooms at Buttermere and we weren't disappointed - we had plenty of space for the kids to tip their kit onto the floor in a haphazard fashion, as they do.
After getting sorted we headed off to The Fish for a hearty meal and a few beers before turning in for the night.
Friday dawned grey and damp but the outlook was fairly good even though the predicted snow wasn't going to become a reality:
Looking towards Buttermere
The kids at the hostel
Looking over Buttermere village towards Hen Comb and Mellbreak
We had planned a fairly low and short walk with plenty of bail-out options in case the weather turned and we had to get the kids off the fells in a hurry, so after the usual 3-course hostel breakfast we drove off to Scale Hill, where life must be really boring for 16.666% of the boy-racer squirrel population...
Discrimination against rodents
... and from there we headed to Loweswater and the start of the walk. We found a good parking place beside Church Bridge and got kitted-up for an ascent of Hen Comb:
Prepping at Church Bridge
The north end of Mellbreak
Fallen tree in Park Beck
Park Beck and Church Bridge
The section from Church Bridge to the ford was more interesting than the crossing of the ford itself - nobody fell in, probably because I had my camera ready:
Stone gatepost with O.S. benchmark and other symbols
Looking back after crossing Mosedale Beck
After gaining a bit of height the slope eased and the walking was easy for a while on a grassy track parallel to the ridge. There were things to see both near and far:
The Vale of Lorton
Pointing towards the improbably-famous Mosedale Holly Tree
Colourful mosses, grasses and toadstools
After gaining the ridge proper after the first sheepfold we had a snack-break at the gap in the fence. Next was the short pull up on to Little Dodd...
Heading on up Little Dodd
... from where the younger members of the party claimed that they could see a huge squirrel. It took us a while to figure it out:
The giant squirrel
The view of Mellbreak was impressive too:
Mellbreak from Little Dodd
Just beyond the final fence and just below the final pull to the top of Hen Comb we pitched the 4-man bothy for the kids and had a proper lunchbreak. Some of the party had done enough ascending and wanted a rest before going back down, so the mums went off to the summit while the others stayed low for a while:
Toadstool and moss
Geoff dons his "I'm in charge" Buff
After a while the mums came back and I went up to the top with Geoff and Ella. The views from such a low top were surprisingly good:
Geoff surveying the scene
Whiteside, Hopegill Head, Grasmoor and Whiteless Pike above Mellbreak
The fells around Buttermere
Ella adorning the summit outcrops
After regrouping and breaking camp our navigator opted to lose height sooner rather than later, so we headed down off-piste towards the old mine workings on the eastern flank. There was a lot of bracken to be negotiated, mainly pathless apart from the odd sheep-track, and getting closer to the improbably-famous tree was little compensation. Of course as we got lower the bracken got taller, until the youngest of our group was unable to see either over or though it:
Meanders in Mosedale Beck
More pathless bracken
The Pathfinder Corps
Eventually we got down to the beck and while the others had a breather the blokes went off to look for a suitable crossing-place. Finding no easy stepping-stones we decided to make our own, and spent ten minutes rearranging and adding to the riverbed. While performing this feat of civil-engineering, we discovered that the tussock-grass alongside the beck is a favourite place for weasels. Sadly I have no pics of any of this, as I'd stashed the camera in the pack in order to keep it dry in the event of an inadvertent dunking.
After we'd completed the structure we got the party across, the only incident was one dunked foot, nothing of any consequence compared to the next bit...
Our navigator, the one who had decided that off-piste was OK, had assumed that the ground on the far side would be the same as that on the nearside, i.e. firm and dry. Nope, not a bit of it. It was chest-high tussock-grass with knee-deep bog-holes in between. Geoff had to carry his youngest, and a couple of times they jointly face-planted the marshy ground as Geoff persisted in finding the deepest bog-holes. Of course, we all found it hilarious and did little to help him. Eventually we got to the fence alongside the Mosedale track and breathed a sigh of relief - it had taken us 20 minutes to cover less than 200 yards. Geoff added to his tally of woes by breaking a fencepost as he tried to lever his marsh-ridden frame over the metal railing, so we all laughed again!
Back on terra-firma we made good progress down the Mosedale track:
Looking down the Mosedale track
Looking up the Mosedale track
The summit-end of Hen Comb
The walk back to the cars was a leisurely affair and we spotted much that we'd missed on the walk-in:
Hen Comb ridge
Fungus 2 - so far, this weird one has defied all of my attempts at identification
Whiteside and Grasmoor
We were soon back at the cars and making our way back to the hostel where, after getting cleaned up and changed, we had a fine 3-course evening hostel meal (I can recommend the ribs as a starter).
Afterwards we declined a walk to the pub as the heavens had opened, so we stayed in, chatted over hot drinks in the lounge and then had an early night.
- Distance: 4.35 miles
- Ascent: 1381 ft
- Wainwrights: 1
To be continued...