High Rigg isn’t the biggest fell AW climbed and wrote about, however the views are quite amazing in good weather, however this fell was chosen by Kel and I because the weather was poor with low cloud and also it was our first climb since injury had blighted our Wainwright conquering quest.
We’d planned two weeks of Wainwright bagging as our holiday and we were both excited as we’d not put ‘boot on fell’ for more than a year. We landed at the caravan with all our routes planned and full of energy to start our marathon fortnight. The weather forecast wasn’t too great so a small fell and short route was the best plan of action. High Rigg is fairly isolated in relation to adjacent fells so a quick up and down was ideal for us.
We packed the car in the pouring rain but hoped it would ease off before we hit St. John in the Vale for the start of the walk. Parking in the church car park we put on our boots in a fine drizzle. I don’t really mind the rain, we’ve got used to it, it’s the wind and rain mixture that makes a day in the hills very testing, and this day we would be tested. The church of St. John’s in the Vale is quite remote with only a youth centre as neighbours. It’s a gorgeous little building that’s well-kept and has a very handy car park to boot. Wet weather kit already donned we walked up the right hand side of the church straight into a steep climb up a grass ascent. Before long, the church was below us and the views should’ve been cracking…. Should have!!
The rain had picked up dramatically and the wind was blowing it sideways from right to left and before long we were both dripping with water. Now when you look at map OL 5 at High Rigg, you’ll notice that there is a severe lack of footpaths on this hill. If you do plan to walk it, have a look at AW’s routes as they are very accurate and way better than the OS map. The path, luckily, is very clear and it wasn’t long before we’d topped this fell and didn’t want to go back down the way we came up as that would’ve ended the day. Instead, we decided to head south east to stretch the day out even though the wind was blowing the rain up every orifice. The path still clear but the marshy land around Paper Moss and Moss Crag was getting fuller and fuller as the rain hammered down to a point where visibility started to become more and more limited as even the sheep were hiding in the crags laughing at us. At the bottom of Moss Crag the wall is crossed by an almighty, well used wooden style. The rain had made this very slippery, but watching Kel negotiate it made me smile, it was like watching a cross between Bambi on ice and an old woman learning to use a Zimmer frame for the first time. Once Ena Sharpels was safely back on Terra Firma I hopped across the obstacle and we had five minutes break while Kel snorted a Snickers bar and said her water proof trousers may not be doing their job, or in her own words, “Me knickers are wet!”
We carried on and passed a lovely mini tarn which had no name, there looked to be a few places that would be nice for a wild camp around it, ill bear it in mind. It had gained in volume due to the rain, so we had a little paddle to get around the east side of the water. I thought this may be the start of the decent but it seemed to be up and down and Kel’s chin seemed to have dropped for reasons she’d explain later. Eventually we hit Wren Crag and the decent was upon us. This was typical, the rain stopped and we had a clear view of Thirlmere and surrounding fells. The decent was semi covered with a mixture of evergreens and Oak trees. The midges had made an appearance and the rain had nicely lubricated the exposed tree roots, happy days!! I’d gone in front as Kel still is very cautious about her ankle and I occasionally have to hold out a helping hand for support. But I felt dry and in good spirits and had a spring in my step. Now regular hikers will know what I mean when you see a small rock and think it’s a good footing, however you place your foot on it and it didn’t have the friction you’d expected. This happened and I thought I was ok and regained my balance, but the correction didn’t exactly go to plan, my right boot gets stuck in the bottom of the left leg water proof bottom and I braced myself for a nose dive into the ferns and a quick route down the last few hundred yards. But with a pretty nifty two step I managed to regain my balance and re-joined the path, just!
The path joined another path that is actually marked on the map and we started our return leg north back along the side of the hill. The sun had started to shine and St. John’s beck was a welcome companion as we walked in the wooded area up to the tractor grave yard that is Low Bridge End Farm. This cheered Kel up as she’s a bit of a tractor freak. She takes the mick out of me for liking birds and butterflies, but at the end of the day, she likes tractors!! After dragging her away from virtually climbing on a Fordson Major we carried on up the path to Sosgill Bridge and a field full of cows and a bull. The path showed a route through the field but seeing as there were calves present we decided to back track and creep up the fence line. I wasn’t in the mood for running from a one ton beef burger blowing bull snot all over Cumbria, so a quick, but careful walk saw us out of the field incident free.
Safely behind the dry stone wall we stopped for a break. Kel decided to inspect her under clothing and by dropping her water proof trousers she revealed the result of the driving rain on the summit. She was soaked to the bone, the water proof bottoms I got her for Xmas two years ago had finally thrown in the towel. Bless her, she was dripping wet, her trousers looked as if she hadn’t even bothered with waterproofs, but had not said a word. She removed the bottoms and in an attempt to dry off we carried on the last two kilometres back to the car.
The last hundred metres were midge ridden but were made better by watching my ‘squelching’ wife trudge up the last incline to the car. Our timing wasn’t great, as we arrived at my trusty Aygo a bus load of kids were making their way to the youth centre. They were very unimpressed as the driver had dropped them a ¼ mile down the hill and there they had to carry their belongings up the steady hill ha ha.
It was not the best day weather wise but the sun had appeared at the later stages revealing Blencathra, which AW stated was one of the highlights of the walk. I enjoyed the day and I thought it was an ‘interesting’ return to Wainwright bagging. Made more interesting as I nearly put the car in a ditch when Kel told me she didn’t want to go the pub afterwards!!