Bowscale Fell & Bannerdale Crags

Date: 14 April 2019                        Weather: 5’C, overcast, windy

Height gain: 2,100ft                      Distance: 6.9 miles

Time taken: 3 hours 50 mins      Wainwright count: 72 & 73 of 214

Route:  From Mungrisdale village hall up to Bowscale Fell then along the ridge to Bannerdale Crags and back the way we came.

It’s a cool and overcast day but we haven’t been out on a proper walk for a few days so we decide to stretch ourselves beyond 2,000ft of ascent and take on Bowscale Fell, Bannerdale Crags and Souther Fell.  The cloud is high enough for some views, although we know that the predominant view today will be of magnificent Blencathra above us.

It’s the first Sunday of the Easter holidays so we are concerned about parking at Mungrisdale but there are spaces left in the large parking area by the village hall, although it is busier than we would normally see out here. We get our boots on together with warm layers, waterproofs, thick gloves and hats – the wind is chilly even down here.  We set off up the road beyond the pub and through a gate into the bowl of hills all around us.

There looks to be a couple of routes past Bullfell Beck and we follow a path to the right which is an alarmingly white colour and made of an unusual looking thick stone.  Repairs following Storm Desmond were completed here in February and everything looks very new.  We pass three young people, two men and a woman probably in their late teens, in what at first glance looks like jeans and hoodies who are sheltering by a rock face.

We take the right hand path and start our climb upwards.  The gradient is gentle and we’ve ascend the first 400ft without stopping – I’m feeling on good form today.  As we stop for a quick gulp of water the three teenagers pass us.  We swap hellos and one of the young men asks which way to “the highest point, via Sharp Edge” – we assume they’re aiming for Blencathra.  We point them to the col above us and then say they will see the path to Sharp Edge on their left when they get there.

As we climb the wind gets stronger and it’s very cold.  This is not a day to be on Sharp Edge and we worry for the three young people.  We drop into our usual pattern of short upward bursts and short stops and the teenagers walk for longer sections before a longer stop and we leapfrog each other several times.  The more we see of them I can see that they are wearing good fleecy layers and are carrying water – but they all look cold without waterproof jackets on.

As we get to the end of the valley the gradient steepens as we head up to the col.  The teenagers should really start to pull ahead now – but they have a long stop halfway up so they only just reach the col before us.  They head off left towards Blencathra and we head right to the top of Bowscale Fell:


The wind is really battering us now and it feels incredibly cold.  We have only seen the three teenagers on the way up but as we approach the top a beeline of people are coming up here from the direction of Blencathra.  One guy is in shorts – he must be freezing.

We can barely stand up on Bowscale’s summit so take a few quick photos before heading back down to the col:


We’re ready for lunch but there’s not a lot of shelter from the biting wind – we finally manage to find a nice wide peat hag and tuck ourselves into its rim to give us some shelter.  We eat our lunch in relative comfort, but taking off gloves to get to grips with our pasties isn’t pleasant – my hands are freezing.  As we munch we see the girl from the party of three come flying past us, head down, as she makes her way back to the path we all used to come up.  There’s no chance of her getting lost on the very clear path so we don’t worry about her too much.  We are concerned about her two friends if they really are going to try Sharp Edge – really not a good idea today.

We set off again into the freezing wind and along the shoulder of the ridge towards Bannerdale Crags.  It’s an easy ascent of 180ft but I’m getting so cold I’m not thinking very clearly.  About three quarters of the way up we meet the two lads from the party of three on their way down and we stop them to chat briefly.  They had decided that Sharp Edge was a bad idea but wanted to get to the top of something today so had decided on Bannerdale Crags while their friend, who was on her first hillwalk, had decided to go straight down out of the cold.  They were keen to get after her and soon hurried away. So no need to have fretted about inexperienced, underdressed young people – it seems teenagers can make good decisions after all.

We quickly get to the top of Bannerdale Crags ourselves:


The views of Blencathra are up close and it looks as stunning as always, but there are also good views of the Coniston fells peeping out to the south-east of us:


I’m really struggling with the cold now and need to get out of the biting wind (checking the weather records later show a -12’C windchill today).  We agree to abandon Souther Fell for another day and head back the way we came.

It seems to take us an age to reach the col and pick up the path we came up on but once we reach it we make a swift descent and my senses start to return as we get some shelter from the wind.

This is a great walk and I was in good shape on the ascent so it was a shame to miss out on bagging a third top, but I don’t remember feeling that cold in a very long time.  I wouldn’t have expected it today given the relatively benign conditions at ground level – the wind and lack of sunshine really does make a difference in colder weather.

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