Saturday, 30 August 2014

Far Eastern Fells - A Howtown Circuit

As part of this year's Wainwright Society Challenge, I made my first journey into to wilds of Howtown and beyond to explore the outer reaches of the Far Eastern Fells.

The purpose of the challenge walk was to tackle one of the ridge routes between two fells, as described in Wainwright's Pictorial Guides, as well as raising money for the Brathay Exploration Group. There are many high level ridges that are almost as legendary as the fells themselves, but I decided to pick a less obvious one. The walk between Arthur's Pike and Loadpot Hill is serene rather than sensational, and whilst other fells will have been rammed on this weekend, I had the place to myself here which was a great feeling.

I started off just outside of Howtown, heading back through the huddle of houses and welcoming pub before hitting the lower slopes of Bonscale Pike. After initially following the path that slants its way up the fell, the guide suggested that there was a more direct ascent to be made, and so I went for it. It has to be said this wasn't a path but a straight slog up the side of the fell, a hands and knees job.

Not the best ascent it has to be said, but my frequent stops to catch my breath were rewarded with the Ullswater opening up behind me. In addition, I made the summit in no time and this meant most of the hard work had been done for the day.

Bonscale Pike and Arthur's Pike both have a lot to offer. As long as you stick to the paths their ascents are relatively simple, and perched on the shores of Ullswater they offer great reward. What's more, both summits are embellished by spectacular beacons, stone handiwork from times gone by.

It is a simple walk from one to the other, with a dip between the two when crossing Swarthbeck Gill, and all the way you are accompanied by fantastic views. I will definitely be revisiting these fells!

From Arthur's Pike I then struck "inland", headed on the wide track that follows the gradual incline of Loadpot Hill. This walk now became one of solitude and serenity, as I did not see let alone encounter another soul in this path, which in the Lake District is a very rare thing. It felt almost like the North York Moors here as I crossed the sprawling mass of land that is Loadpot Hill and Wether Fell. Neither are especially scenic but a look at the map and the references to stone circles, tumuli and Roman forts tell you that this is ancient land and steeped in history. As this is also the route of the High Street Roman road, the path follows in notable footsteps.

Wether Hill has two areas of minor prominence which count as its summits and again, whilst not being especially spectacular, this place is not lacking in atmosphere.

I had originally planned on heading back to the car from here, but I had made good time, so I decided to head down into Martindale and up Steel Knotts. I'm not really sure why, but I decided to jog down the steep path, giving me the tiniest of insights into the world of a fell runner. It meant I covered ground quickly, pausing at a ruined house in Martindale for a spot of lunch.

Steel Knotts is a great little fell, with a craggy summit bearing the magical name of Pikeawassa. Perched just above Howtown, the views from here are as spectacular as you could wish for. From here it was a steep but straightforward descent back to Howtown, sadly still no stop in the pub, but a big smile on my face after a great day in the Far Eastern Fells.