Monday, 26 January 2015

Rosthwaite Fell & Glaramara

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Route: Stonethwaite, Little Stanger Gill, Bull Crag, Big Stanger Gill, Bessyboot, Rosthwaite Cam, Dovenest Top, Combe Door, Glaramara, Hind Gill, Hind Crag, Seathwaite

Date: 26/01/2015
From: Stonethwaite

Parking: Small car park in Stonethwaite
Start Point: Stonethwaite
Region: Southern Fells

Route length: 5.7 miles (9.2 km)
Time taken: 03:39
Average speed: 1.5 mph
Ascent: 836m
Descent: 817m

Wainwrights on this walk:
Rosthwaite Fell (Bessyboot) (551m), Glaramara (783m)

Additional summits: Rosthwaite Cam (612m)

Other points of interest: The Combe

The ridge walk along Glaramara is very highly regarded as a fine route up a fine fell with interest to be found along the route. It's one that I've been looking forward to doing for a while though we'd have to put up with some changeable conditions during the day.

The plan was to hike up to Bessyboot from Stonethwaite before crossing the ridge to Esk Hause and return by Seathwaite Fell though, in this case, the plan didn't quite come to fruition as you will see later on.

As is quite common with a lot of my walks, we had access to two cars so we left on near to Seathwaite Farm to save us a few miles of road walking at the end of the day. The other we drove around to Stonethwaite, leaving it in a small collection of spaces next to the telephone box, a perk of being out on a weekday during the winter. The forecast had promised intermittent showers but a torrent of rain accompanied our short walk towards Stonethwaite Campsite.
A cloudy morning in Stonethwaite
Hanging Haystack and Allisongrass Crag
Shortly before reaching the site, a gate provides access through the fence onto a path that climbs parallel to Big Stanger Gill. It's not marked on the map (at least the version I own); we found it after a bit of web-investigation the previous night. Despite this, it's a substantial path with a number of stone steps that take the sting out of the steepness of the fellside.
The lower falls of Big Stanger Gill
A deserted campsite
The path climbs through the wood beneath Bull Crag and, as we climbed higher, the rain began to ease and we were finally treated to some views of Borrowdale stretching out beneath us. Big Stanger Gill isn't bad to look at either. The path passes between Alisongrass Crag and Hanging Haystack, now high above Stanger Gill, before it swings west and the gradient eases.
Big Stanger Gill
Looking down on Big Stanger Gill
The path climbs towards Hanging Haystack
High Crag through a clearing in the trees
Big Stanger Gill between Alisongrass Crag and Hanging Haystack
Big Stanger Gill
King's How and Grange Fell at the end of Borrowdale
Emerging from the steep valley path
A huge rock outcrop is typical of this area
The plateau above Stonethwaite is an interesting and equally confusing place with a number of rocky outcrops drawing the attention. There is a difficulty in determining exactly which one is Bessyboot though this becomes clearer as you continue on. I had read that Bessyboot was easier to tackle from the south, or the rear as we approached it, and it certainly looked quite formidable from where we were standing. We followed the base of the slopes around towards Tarn at Leaves where the rocky defences ease slightly and a quick climb reaches the summit.
The impressive nature of Rosthwaite Fell
Bessyboot's summit 
Bessyboot is an odd choice for a fell of note - a prime example of Wainwright's lack of classifications. It is by no means the highest part of what is known as Rosthwaite Fell - that belongs to the impressive Rosthwaite Cam. However, Wainwright considered Rosthwaite Cam too far from the village of Rosthwaite to truly be counted as Rosthwaite Fell and thus, chose Bessyboot as the summit. Despite this, Bessyboot does have a fine view towards Fleetwith Pike and across Tarn at Leaves to the craggy Rosthwaite Cam; our next destination for the sake of completeness.
Tarn at Leaves and Rosthwaite Cam from Bessyboot
Tarn at Leaves and Rosthwaite Cam once again
We made our way to Rosthwaite Cam, rounding Tarn at Leaves in the process. Tarn at Leaves is a delight, nestled amongst the confusion of rocks that litter Rosthwaite Fell. Despite the unusual name, its meaning or origin seem to be lost. It's a fair climb to Rosthwaite Cam and the going was slow as a result of some awkward patches of snow that were beginning to become more and more frequent though we made it to the cairn which can be found astride a tall rock.
Rosthwaite Fell
Sergeant's Crag
Climbing through the obstacles towards Rosthwaite Cam
Combe Head, Combe Door and Raven Crag
Bessyboot and Tarn at Leaves from Rosthwaite Cam
Combe Head
Fleetwith Pike
Atop Rosthwaite Fell
A look back down the ridge from Rosthwaite Cam
Thanks to a swirling cloud, it wasn't clear exactly what lay between us and Glaramara and the map is deceptive in its appearance. What appears as a fairly level ridge between Rosthwaite Cam and Combe Door, is in fact riven with obstacles and outcrops that made for slow progress. In fact, a number of these are sufficiently isolated to be classed as Birkett Fells, namely Dovenest Crag and Combe Door. Neither is it clear if there are any paths so we were left to find our own way to Glaramara.
The terrain between Rosthwaite Cam and Combe Head
Rosthwaite Cam is the obvious rock turret
Looking over Wool Gill
Wool Gill falls steeply into Langstrath
Combe Head
Things start to get decidedly more wintery
We crossed the top of Wool Gill which falls into Langstrath at an alarming rate before making our way south west, picking out a route that took us around Combe Door and to the rear of Combe Head. Glaramara (or what we could see of it) was in sight and still looked a long way away. Our route up to Combe Head had taken us into the realms of winter with a significant covering of snow impeding progress. Add a low cloud and a strengthening wind and it became a slightly more daunting prospect.
A fairly featureless landscape
Glaramara appears ahead
Glaramara loomed out of the clouds ahead, a seemingly difficult craggy face separating us from the summit. Carefully, we edged our way up. Thankfully we reached the top unscathed but the wind was blowing furiously making any moving around a challenge in itself. We quickly dived into the shelter which had been erected around the cairn before taking stock of our situation.
A steep, icy scramble towards the summit
In the shelter on Glaramara's summit
Glaramara's second summit - the photo obviously doesn't show how windy it was
It had taken much longer to reach this point than we anticipated and the walk along the full ridge to Allen Crags and Esk Hause was looking unlikely. It was starting to drift towards the late afternoon so we took the decision to cut the walk short and make our way back down the valley below.
Clouds form over the Western Fells
Retreating off Glarmara's summit
Comb Head
The top of Hind Gill
The quickest and most direct route back to the car in Seathwaite was down the path adjacent to Hind Gill which falls with a startling urgency. As soon as we'd made it a few contours lower, the wind began to ease and the clouds broke up slightly. It seemed that the direction of the wind combined with the temperature was conspiring to form a narrow band of cloud from the top of Pillar, completely smothering Glaramara. It was quite an odd sight.
Clouds stream off Pillar
Seathwaite backed by Dale Head and Seatoller Fell
Sun pours through the gap between Seathwaite Fell and Green Gable
Grey Knotts
Base Brown
Great End
The path steepens as Hind Gill enters a deep ravine and we had to be careful not to take a slip on the wet rocks, the result of which would have been a nasty fall. Down the route continues until it reaches the intake wall of the valley and the steepness begins to abate. Ultimately the path joins the popular Grains route to and from Scafell Pike. Here, it's a flat walk back along the valley to the farm where our second car was waiting.
Taylorgill Force through the zoom lense
Hind Gill
Great End
Seathwaite Fell and Great End
Looking up Grains from Seathwaite
So, a semi-successful trip, despite having to abandon it halfway. At least we managed to get a few new fells and the weather (aside from the wind) wasn't actually that bad. Though I was annoyed we decided to turn, it was the right choice in hindsight. It goes without saying I'll be returning for a re-run of this one to walk the whole ridge.