Spring has sprung early and the chance to hit the Lakes was upon us. We had been thinking of trying out one of the camping pods and due to repairs being carried out on our tent, we took the plunge and booked one at a site near Ullswater. We had arranged to help the Scout troop as our walking buddy, Dicko, is the leader. They were doing a navigational exercise in the Lakes on the Saturday so it tied in nicely.
On the thursday night I’d been on night shift and as usual Kel and me crossed at the door as she went out to work Friday morning. Knowing I would be hitting the road later I thought I’d struggle to sleep but I was soon snoring away as Kel was pounding her beat. Come lunchtime I was awake and after a coffee started packing the car so when Kel came back after 4pm we’d be good to go. She landed just after four and with smiles like half moons we set off for our favourite road, the west bound A66.
A couple of hours later we had arrived and unpacked and were in the site bar for a couple of pints before heading back to the pod for a night cap and bed.
I don’t know wether it was excitement or the early night but Kel was up and about just before 7am with the stoves blazing and a full English was on the cards. The weather was perfect and Hallin Fell was standing proud in the sunshine as we tucked into a cardiac arrest.
Pots washed, bellies full and lunch packed into our day sacks, we headed to Grasmere to meet Dicko and a mini bus full of Scouts. The journey was glorious and Blencathra had never been clearer, with my mate Sharp Edge looking ever inviting. However, our goal today was High Raise near the Langdales and we were soon pulling into Grasmere and phoning the bank to remortgage the house to pay for the car park.
This was our first proper outing with 4th Durham Scouts and it was quite exciting to see how they coped with a good walk and the challenges that come with it.
We set off with smiles all round and the banter was good. Along with Dicko we had two other leaders called Mike and Paul, also Sue (Dicko’s missus) and Richard (their son) so adult supervision was plentiful as we headed off through the town and up Easedale Road to join the path that starts at the small foot bridge crossing Easedale Beck. I
Iike being at the back and the chatter was pleasant as the Scouts trotted off with their assorted backpacks and equipment. When I say assorted, I mean the word to be taken in its broadest sense. I thought I’d seen the smallest daysack with Kel’s, but there were some the same size as my map pocket as I looked up the line of the enthusiastic adventurers crossing the bridge. I was pleased to see good walking footwear and not flossys or Nike’s. Anyway we plodded towards the New Bridge heading towards the base of Brinhowe Crag with a picturesque waterfall to the right. A short ascent took us up towards Easedale Tarn and the sound of something that would be common for the next 14 miles, the thump of falling Scouts! I’ve learnt to live with the usual ‘thump’ of arse hitting terra ferma after miles of hiking with Kel, however these came with a mixture a fits of laughter and the odd tear.
Easedale Tarn was a great sight with many other hikers stopping to admire.
The Scouts had already started to go ‘off piste’ in search of adventure under the watchful eye of us. Marsh land is very common around Tarns and is very well disguised by a good covering of grass, this didn’t stop one Scout sinking knee deep into a well sodden patch only to be pulled out, luckily intact with boots.
Socks changed and after a rest we looked forward to the busy junction between Codale Tarn and Stickle Tarn. This was a planned lunch stop and we settled before the right turn to Sergeant Man and ultimately High Raise. In March you try and think, or hope, Mother Nature might be kind and let you at have a good look from the peaks, again this was not to be. As soon as we had our butties in our hands, the rain started. The temperature had dropped somewhat and the drops were icy cold. The Scouts didn’t need telling to get their waterproofs on, all you could hear was the rustle of Gortex and other materials as we all dived into our daysacks and donned our kit. All fully water proofed we settled back down to finish our soggy sarnies. I was looking over Sickle Tarn and saw as sight I thought we’d seen the last of this winter. A thick scattering of the white stuff was falling over the water and heading our way. Within seconds it’s was snowing quite bad, not exactly a ‘white out’ but enough to make everyone pack any left food away and Dicko give it the big ‘wagons roll!’
We set of in the driving snow, heads down and water dripping off our heads. High Raise wasn’t yet in sight but I knew it was close. Even though the weather was evil, the Scouts were still very chipper and you could still here them chatting and laughing away as we sneaked passed Sergeant Man and caught sight of High Raise. It looked as though the sun was shining up on the summit, but we still had snow. No sooner had we started the boggy ascent the snow stopped and the hoods came down.
The summit was quite crowded so after a few piccys we set back off as the day was getting on. Then it happened again, the sound of the lesser toggled Scout hitting the deck. The snow had left a slippery legacy which wasn’t helped by soaking boggy ground. The Scout in question looked a bit shocked but back on his feet and joined in with the rest of the troop laughing at his mishap. We cracked on down the paths with the intention of meeting the junction above Grasmere Common and taking the right turn just passed the cross roads to go towards Helm Crag. But no sooner had the laughter left the air, another thud, then another. It was like ten pin bowling on the fells. Then, just when they were all back on their feet, laughter filled the air once more with one of the lads sinking knee deep, then to add insult to injury, was pulled out of the bog minus one boot. Oh how we laughed!!
Navigationally we then had a little blip. The path seemed to vanish, leaders and helpers had maps out and heads were being scratched. The rules say at least one Sat Map must be carried but that was in the hidden depths of Kel’s daysack, no doubt amongst the nations of crisps and chocolate. But we needed it as the weather had gone a bit over cast now and only a few hours of daylight were left. At this point I tried and experiment with my IPhone, I had downloaded an app for mountain folk with compass weather etc. I clicked on the map app and my position came up almost immediately. And when the Sat Map had picked us up, my IPhone was only about 100m out, and that’s a free app 🙂
Anyway we dropped down through Ash Crags and joined a path, but not without more slippery shenanigans and yet more Scouts covered in mud.
We reached the junction and carried on up and joined the path near Brownrigg Moss and headed east. I now thought it was a good time to carry on my barrage of gloating at Dicko about the fact we were going for a pint after the walk and he couldn’t as he had to head back to Durham. So Kel and me started discussing the Dog and Gun and what size portion of Goulash we were going to enjoy. It is a pastime I enjoy as every time he manages to get out and finishes off the walk with a pint, he always manages to bombard me with picture texts of his drinks, as I’m usually at work.
The weather had brightened up again and there were a few smiles along the line of Scouts as they negotiated the roller coaster of hills on the approach to Gibson Knot. This one of the boggiest stretches of the fells I’ve been up against and the Scouts started to have little competitions as to who could jump the widest bog. Of course it would end up with one of them knee deep but that prospect didn’t seem to dampen their fun.
As we got closer to the Knot the ‘IMapMyHike’ app which I’d set off at the start said we were at the 12 mile mark. That’s the last I heard of the voice who had been updating me with her pleasant mannered robot style voice since we set off. Battery dead!
Now we’d had a few falls, even the leaders had managed to end up on the deck once or twice. But one Scout in particular had seemed to make the art of not staying on your feet an Olympic event. When he fell, it wasn’t just a thump and stop, it was a thump and slide 2 or 3 metres resulting in him being covered head to foot in mud. But he kept on smiling and laughing and awaited the next Michael Flatley impersonation as he appeared to just surf off Gibson Knot and Helm Crag.
I’ve always hated the decent of these wondrous fells, and this one was no different. The steps down to the right of Jackdaw Crag gave my old war wounded right knee some hammer. My stick earned its pay for that stretch!
Once back on Easedale Road and the end was in sight everyone was all smiles, but to be fair, they were for most of the route. We met the small bridge we crossed at the start of the route over Easedale Beck which gave me a chance to wash the bog off my boots and the Scouts a chance to soak each other. We walked the last couple of hundred metres back to the car park and a last chance to remind Dicko our next stop would be the Dog and Gun.
The Scouts were still laughing and joking and generally in good spirits. From past experience I’d have put the walk nearer 14 miles with all the ups and downs and I was surprised they were enthusiastic about doing it again.
A great day out and four Wainwrights bagged, surprised to see the snow again but it added to the challenge for the kids and they took it in their stride. The leaders congratulated the Scouts on their achievement and their attitude, well done all round!
If you would like more information on 4th Durham Scouts, search for them on facebook or follow on twitter @4thDurhamScouts