The day dawned fair and bright as promised on the forecast. My days off had fallen perfectly. Both Monday and Tuesday were due to be warm and sunny-for the time of year the temperatures were pretty good. I was trying to decide the best area and had been wanting to head up to Ill Crag near Scafell Pike for a while. My plan was to go from Langdale as I wanted a long walk in as I had all day. I chose the bivvy as the skies were due to be clear though it would still be a little chilly at night. I was going to risk the 2/3 season Mountain Hardwear Phantom 32. It’s pretty good down to zero. I packed my primaloft trousers and down jacket as a backup-a cold bivvy makes for a very long and miserable night!!!
I set off from home feeling happy and optimistic about the night ahead. The traffic in Langdale was joyful…NOT!! I stopped at the shop at Chapel Stile to get a ‘treat’ for later on with my hot chocolate…A twix was purchased I grabbed a couple of bananas for the walk up as I hadn’t had lunch. It was 1,30pm when I got to the Old Dungeon Ghyll car park. For the first time this year I would be in my skort and a strappy top!! Bliss… The winter had seemed long and I was ready for spring.
I locked the car and headed for the Mickledon track. I had double checked everything in my pack. All I had to do was get water from Angle Tarn on the way past.
I looked over the stone wall just past the first gate and the Herdwick lambs I saw must have been hours old. They were tiny and wobbly on their legs. They were bleating at their protective mums as I looked on. I got the odd ‘foot stamp’ off a couple of mums as if to tell me to keep my distance!!!
The walk up the valley was a breath of fresh air-literally. The larks were singing and the hogs bleating at one and other as I passed. The climb up Rosset Ghyll is the first real barrier but the zig zag of the path takes the sting out of it. The pools on the way up looked inviting but I knew I couldn’t stop as I was keen to get high as soon as possible. My attention was soon drawn to some voices that appeared to be arguing? I could hear but not see them. I stopped and had a listen and my eyes were drawn up to the area below Cambridge Crag/Great Slab. This is quite a way off but the voices echoed through the rocks. It was clear that the female was very unhappy at having been dragged up the most arduous and horrible ascent to the Great Slab. She had promptly sat down and was clearly not happy about continuing.. The male was walking back down to her and desperately assuring her it “wasn’t much further”! I’m glad I wasn’t in his shoes. As I turned to continue on my way I could clearly hear the argument continuing until the voices faded…. Soon I was nearing the top and the short plateau before the drop down to Angle Tarn where my pack would suddenly get heavier! The steam was flowing well so I filled my 2 Platypus bags with a view to filtering my water later whilst decanting into the Jetboil. I stopped and chatted to lad who had 2 lovely collies. He had just lost his wedding ring between Crinkle Crags and Bow Fell! He was contemplating how to tell his wife… Ouch!!!
I was soon on my way again and the views started to open up. The view of Great Gable from Esk Hause is one of the finest in the Lakes. Its vast dome towering above Styhead Pass. Stunning.
I stopped just beyond the shelter behind Great End and drank some water and had a banana. I could refill my bottles at the stream here which I had completely forgotten about! I will remember next time. I considered my options here. I was being drawn back to Esk Pike as I haven’t bivvied on that side. But the other half of me wanted to go the Ill Crag. I continued as I still had a lot of time to spare. I hopped from boulder to boulder reminiscing earlier walks and runs from years gone by. The path then levels out and Scafell Pike comes into view. I broke left from the path and headed to my first choice. On arrival there were a few descent grassy patches but I wasn’t too inspired by the view! Despite being ‘high’ it was a little difficult to get a good panorama. I shouldered the pack again and headed for Broad Crag, which soon ended up being a walk to Scafell Pike! I still wasn’t happy! Too many people…. The views to Scafell were amazing and the East Buttress looked magnificent, but I wanted more peace that the Pike was going to offer. It was the right decision as you’ll see later. I came back down the ridge after putting a couple of layers on-the wind was chilly now. Back up onto Broad Crag… I found 2 brilliant slabs of rock here-both ample to take a bivvy bag but I still wasn’t content with the aspect!!!! I am very particular! I looked toward Great End and new that despite protests from my now aching and pained back I was going! I negotiated the boulder field..Again…retracing my steps and memories until I was finally making the short pull up to the summit. Great End appears to have 3 summits. A south an east and a west. I went to all of them looking for a suitable spot. I chose a place on the East summit-it was a little stony but I had my groundsheet to protect my bag and mat.
Soon I was set up but I STILL wasn’t happy. I couldn’t see Gable or Esk Pike! So I moved again….. I half packed and half dragged my kit to another spot and after much deliberation and swearing at myself I settled right on the South summit. Again it was stony but my Exped Downmat would deal with any protrusions.
At last I could relax and get a brew on. I went through my usual routine of ensuring everything was exactly where I needed it. I had a perfect view of Gable and out to sea. The domed cairn of Scafell Pike was silhouetted against a sun filled sky . Perfect. I watched the path below and didn’t see another soul. The air was starting to cool as the evening drew closer and it was dinner time. My tummy was grumbling and I was looking forward to my new found dinner concoction.. Rice, Dolmio Tomato and chilli sauce and pepperami! Almost ‘a La Carte ‘
I had brought my wine with me and I started warming it gently. The sun was hazy and was sinking slowly towards the sea. The air grew chilly and it was time to get wrapped up for the evening.
The light on Gable and Pillar was stunning and I watched the shadows grow as the sun finally sank.I did my usual bit of dashing around for photo’s… The last stragglers were still on Scafell Pike and could be seen heading back down the tourist path to Wasdale. At last I had the hills to myself. It was silent with just a gentle breeze whispering through the grass and rocks..
The stars appeared one by one. There would be no moon tonight. It was the wrong time for it so it would be a darker night. I finished my wine and decided it was time for bed. I was tired and my back was shouting at me to lie down. I did my teeth and headed back to the bivvy. I looked at the pike as I thought I heard voices…and behold – 3 Peaks Challenge lot were approaching the summit. Thank God I hadn’t stayed there. That would have ruined my night! I could hear them clearly through the night air. I slipped into my bag hoping they wouldn’t stay long as their noise was a little annoying… Eventually I watched the stream of headtorch lights heading back toward Lingmell Col and I was alone for the last time. I snuggled down into my bag. It was going to be chilly through the night. I curled up on my side looking towards the twinkling lights on the coast. That was the last I saw till dawn. I slept through sunrise!! I really should set my alarm
Sun…again…lovely! The wind was much cooler today and my body was refusing to get out of my bag! I stayed put whilst I had my coffee and porridge. My bag was covered on dew and I angled myself into the sun to dry it out before it was time to pack. I spent a good hour lying around and taking in the views. The first groups of the day were on the Pike. I could see them climbing onto the summit cairn and posing for their group photo’s..I had definitely made the right decision. I think if i do bivvy there it will be in the depths of winter!
It was that time again! Packing. I forced myself out into the cold and started to stuff, deflate and roll!. Soon I was looking at the stony ledge that had been my home for the night and contemplating the long walk back to reality. I went back the same way as it was easiest-my back was really playing up so fastest route back was wise on this occasion. Plus I would have time to go climbing in the afternoon if I made good time. The walk back was lovely and peaceful. I only saw 2 people until I got to Mickledon it itself. I helped a couple who had already got themselves geographically displaced only half a mile from the car! I set them right…My good deed for the day
Another great night on the hill I thought…Time to go climbing…