Sunday, 26 July 2015

Seathwaite Fell & Sprinkling Tarn

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Route: Seathwaite, Taylorgill Force, Styhead Gill, Seathwaite Fell (Wainwright), Seathwaite Fell (Great Slack), Sprinkling Tarn, Grains, Stockley Bridge, Seathwaite

Date: 26/07/2015
From: Seathwaite

Parking: Roadside at Seathwaite Farm
Start Point: Seathwaite Farm
Region: Southern Fells

Route length: 5.6 miles (9 km)
Time taken: 03:08
Average speed: 1.7 mph
Ascent: 616m
Descent: 612m

Wainwrights on this walk:
Seathwaite Fell (601m)

Other Summits: Seathwaite Fell (Great Slack (632m)

Other points of interest: Taylorgill Force, Sprinkling Tarn, Stockley Bridge

We definitely stole this day (or morning) on the fells from under the nose of the weather gods. We'd been forecast a drab, rainy day but, with seconds to spare, the rain decided it wouldn't be arriving in Lakeland until midday - plenty of time to get out and about in the fells and the ideal opportunity to finally nab Seathwaite Fell and to complete the Southern Fells - an opportunity not to be missed.

We left the cars close to the farm in Seathwaite, looking much quieter today than usual, and made our way onto the lower slopes of Base Brown with the path leading towards Taylorgill and its amazing waterfall. Despite this being one of three main routes from Seathwaite towards Styhead and Scafell Pike - it's by far the quietest and easily the best. Routes up Grains Gill or around Greenhow Knott don't come close to this one which includes a fine view of Taylorgill Force, some mild scrambling and a clamber up alongside the cascading Styhead Gill not far from its emergence from the tarn that gives it its name. That is how I would summarise us getting the to the point of actually climbing up onto Seathwaite Fell and is illustrated by the photos below.
The steep slopes of Base Brown
Seathwaite Fell peers around the corner
Grains Gill
Hind Crag on Glaramara
The scramble towards Taylorgill Force
Taylorgill Force
Looking back down to Grains
Taylorgill Force
The route up from Seathwaite

Styhead Gill beneath Seathwaite Fell
Styhead Gill
Cascading waters in the stream
From the top of the falls, a number of routes towards Wainwright's summit are obvious, consisting of a pair of rock-filled gullies that present a direct and straightforward way onto the top of the fell, the choice is yours. We went for one directly ahead, partly due to the fact we saw someone coming down and partly because it gave us the most direct route to the top. After a grassy, pathless start the ground steepens as you clamber up the rocks within the gully, emerging at a large collection of boulders a short distance from the summit. Despite the impending rain, it was still warm and muggy in the gully and we were glad for the stiff breeze that met us at the top.
Green Gable
The rock-choked gully leading to the summit
Wainwright's summit
Wainwright's summit is some 30m lower than the true summit of the fell, that close to Great Slack. Despite this, the prominent top offers a peerless view of Borrowdale and, conversely, is displayed proudly from the valley below so it does make some sense. Completing the southern fells inches me closer and closer to completing all the Wainwrights - less than 20 to go now.
Seathwaite Fell summit
Glaramara from Seathwaite Fell
Looking along Seathwaite Fell
Like Rosthwaite Fell, Seathwaite Fell comprises of many humps, bumps and outcrops and you could spend a whole day just nosing around the one fell. Sadly, we didn't have all day as we were rapidly approaching the time when rain was forecast to arrive so we quickly crossed over the Great Slack (which I think has the better view of the two tops) before making our way across to Sprinkling Tarn.
The tarn is a popular spot for wild camping, there are any number of nooks an crannies around to get a tent behind. It is also popular for anglers as it has a population of trout.
Wainwright's summit
Great Gable and Aaron Slack
Great Slack - the highest point of the fell
Lingmell and the ominous Piers Gill
Great End
Once called Sparkling Tarn, it is regarded as the wettest place in England, receiving over 5,000mm of rainfall annually. Fittingly, it was as we were snooping around England's wettest place that it started to rain - almost to the forecasted minute. No point hanging around.
Sprinkling Tarn
Sprinkling Tarn
Great End over Sprinkling Tarn
After popping the waterproofs on we crossed the head of the deeply ravined Ruddy Gill and began the long descent down the flagged path towards Seathwaite. This is one of the other main routes towards Scafell Pike that I mentioned earlier, following Grains Gill from the idyllic Stockley Bridge to Esk Hause, the highest of the Lakeland foot passes. We were doing it in reverse and, fortunately for us, the rain was on our backs. The same couldn't be said for people walking up this way.
Ruddy Gill
Looking down into Grains
Ruddy Gill
Footbridge crossing Grains Gill
Heading back to Borrowdale
We took a moment to give some directions to an already damp looking group who were out for no other reason than a wander around. I admire that, given the fact that it was now lashing it down. That said, their two dogs looked slightly puzzled by the fact they'd been dragged out to get a good soaking rather than curling up in front a fire somewhere.
Stockley Bridge below Seathwaite Fell
Base Brown
It wasn't long before we made it back to the car, completing what was a very enjoyable walk. I've had some bad luck with the weather this year so it was nice to get out into the fells even though the forecast had originally predicted a total washout. It goes without saying that plans in the Lake District often have to change at the very last minute.