From: Powter How
Parking: Layby at side of road
Start Point: Powter How
Region: North Western Fells
Route length: 4.8miles (7.7km)
Time taken: 02:37
Average speed: 1.8mph
Wainwrights on this walk:
Barf (468m), Lord's Seat (552m), Broom Fell (511m)
Additional summits: None
Other points of interest: The Clerk, The Bishop
Route: The Clerk, The Bishop, Barf, Lord's Seat, Broom Fell, Aiken, Beckstones Gill, Beckstones
These are just a few of the words that I should have read and decided that today was not a fell day. Today was a gear shopping day in Ambleside. Or a day to simple accept defeat and head home. But that would be cowardly. I've heard many people say that if we decided to go out only when the weather was nice, we'd never go out, such is the fickleness of our island's weather. That said though, the forecast did make for an easy decision to abandon the Coniston Fells and head to areas un-explored, the Lord's Seat group.
Chosen primarily because the fells lie underneath 600m, the Lord's Seat group; including Barf, Lord's Seat, Broom Fell, Graystones and Whinlatter, seemed like an ideal choice for a pretty miserable day. I'd also wanted to climb Barf for a while and investigate the Bishop on its slopes but more about that a little bit later.
After bidding farewell to the YHA in Coniston, we made the trip north to the shores of Bassenthwaite, almost to the location of my previous days endeavours. Dodd definitely looked less wintry today, but no chances were to be taken given the forecast. The axe and crampons were coming with me this time.
There's plenty of space for 4 or 5 cars in a large layby at the foot of Barf, that's where we ended up leaving ours. Though tempting, the even bigger parking area on the other side of the road seems to be privately owned by the Swan Hotel so we avoided it, just to be safe. Now, the decision on how to tackle Barf. Two options are presented, a longer, steadier climb up through the woods alongside Beckstone Gill or an all-or nothing tramp straight up the scree. Wainwright seemed particularly tenacious in making Barf as an impressive sounding a fell as possible; 'no fell small or large presents such an aggressive profile'. His words, not mine. And straight up that profile we were heading.
|The profile of Barf through the trees|
|The Clerk, now donning a white coat of paint|
|The Bishop stands away up the steep scree slope|
|Dodd across the end of Bassenthwaite|
|Looking towards Keswick and the Eastern Fells|
|The Bishop of Barf|
After pausing for a much needed breather at the Bishop, we ploughed steadily on, climbing up towards the seemingly insurmountable Slape Crag. As the weather men and women had suggested, the wind was starting to pick up, though we were reasonably sheltered from it by the mass of Whinlatter. It had also started to sleet making everything that bit more slippery and perhaps perilous, especially the short, exposed scramble that's required to breach Slape Crag.
|The Bishop looks over the valley of Beckstones Gill|
|Looking towards the Eastern Fells|
|The climb is still very steep towards Slape Crag|
|A short, awkward scramble is required to climb over the rocks|
|Maybe the weather forecast wouldn't turn out too bad? Sunshine over Coledale|
|The wooded Whinlatter|
|The path follows a contour towards the head of Beckstones Gill....|
|After a trudge up the bracken we found the main path. And the bad weather|
|The path leads to the summit|
Back to Barf though, the summit is capped by little more than an outcrop of rock, reminiscent of Gridesdale Pike. I'm sure I could probably fool even the most eagle eyed Lake District veterans by putting that picture up instead of the one belonging to Barf. I can assure you though that the picture below is definitely Barf and is certainly mine. The photo would nearly spell the end of the photography for day as you'll see in a moment. View-wise, nothing for us today but Skiddaw provides the focal point on a fine day.
|Barf's summit outcrop|
|The undulating path towards Lord's Seat|
|The snow was falling quite readily now|
|Lord's Seat emerges from the gloom|
|A view back to Barf|
|The post atop Lord's Seat|
|Broom Fell presented the next objective|
|Looking back towards Lord's Seat|
|Fighting the wind on the ridge|
Unfortunately, there's not handy escape route from our location, we'd have to retrace our steps to the slopes of Lord's Seat and then drop back to the car via Beckstones Gill. That meant a further half hour battle with the wind. Never have I felt so exhausted while covering so little distance. It took the best part of half an hour to get to the fence to the south of Lord's Seat and finally, into something resembling a bit of shelter and a chance to catch our breath.
|The ridge leading back to Lord's Seat|
|Barf and the edge of Whinlatter Forest|
|A very soggy forest path|
This walk was exhausting despite covering less than 5 miles. It just goes to show how difficult conditions can be in the winter, even on the lower fells. I'm glad we didn't attempt a trip up into Coniston, that would have been foolhardy and downright dangerous. It's been a difficult few weeks to get any decent walking in, thanks to the turbulent weather we've been receiving. I normally like the winter months but in this case, roll on Spring.