Date: 1 August 2019 Weather: 21’C, sun and cloud, still and humid
Height gain: 1,539ft Distance: 7.4 miles
Time taken: 5 hours 15 mins Wainwright count: 91 of 214
Route: From the Calder Bridge to Ennerdale Bridge Road, parking at Whorl Gill and walking down to the River Calder along the side of Whoap up to the col then up Lank Rigg, back over Whoap towards Crag Fell then picking up the good track below Grike over Blakely Rise and back down to the road.
We decided it was time to tackle the long drive to Ennerdale and tick off three of the Western Fells – Lank Rigg, Crag Fell and Grike. Lank Rigg was one of our last walks in round one – number 200 walked on the first day of our May 2015 holiday. Apparently S really struggled that day – for some reason I have no memory of the walk. Today it was my turn to struggle – in fact I don’t remember ever feeling worse on a hill walk.
We were up early, breakfast eaten as quickly as we could and homemade pasties were warmed in the oven (in fact too warmed, S put them in when he put the oven on before I was even downstairs) and cakes were brought out of the freezer.
We set off on the interminable drive on the A595 around the bottom of the national park, taking in every tiny place it can find as it twists and bends it’s slow and frustrating way to Ennerdale Bridge. The journey is going as well as can be expected until we catch up with a truck transporting a mobile home which struggles up the inclines and has to stop and pull in if anything of any size comes the other way. Finally at Calder Bridge we turn right for Ennerdale Bridge and park up on the side of the (very beautiful) unfenced road a couple of miles before reaching Ennerdale Bridge. It’s taken us an hour and 45 minutes – about 15 minutes longer than it should have – but feels like a lifetime.
We boot up and set off along a track and quickly start to head downwards towards the River Calder. The landscape around is very green with rounded mountains above us – I always think of its more rugged landscapes when I think of the Western Lakes so it isn’t what I was expecting:
We reach the river and debate whether to head straight up the nose of Lank Rigg, head along the valley for a path up its side or walk towards Whoap and pick up a path that skirts just below Whoap’s summit to a col which we expect the valley path to end up at. The direct route doesn’t look too difficult, but about 800ft of unrelenting grass. I can’t see how the valley path starts its rise so we decide on the Whoap path which we can see clearly all along its route.
We start the ascent and I’m already not feeling good – very breathless for some reason. The day is still and humid and S is being eaten alive by flies which are drawing blood. We slowly climb less than 100ft and my mind is taken off my woes for a few minutes by a frog whose jumping I catch in my peripheral vision:
After only another 100ft I have to take a break on a scattering of rocks. I drink water and try to cool down, S provides the local wildlife with more tasty snacks, even through his t-shirt. We move on and are soon on what we now find is a very narrow sheep track along the side of Whoap. S finds it tricky but it’s working well for me as the height gain is very gradual. As we move beneath the summit of Whoap parallel with the valley the path up on that route becomes obvious to our right – it’s steeper than the one we’re on but also broader – a good choice for any future ascents.
We reach the col and have about 300ft of steep climb on grass to reach the top. It’s not difficult, but I’m struggling to climb 25ft without stopping by this point and feel rather shaky. The party of three we had seen trotting along the valley earlier catch us up, two 50 something women and a 20 something man. They’re discussing whether someone (the young man?) should study maths, which he loves, at Uni or do an accountancy degree as that’s what he thinks he’d like to do for a job. We say a friendly hello as they pass us, I recommend the maths degree (to quizzical looks from them!) and we swap info on our respective planned walks.
They live in Cockermouth so this is local walk for them and they were looking for something easy on a warm day (easy???!). We say we’ve made a long journey and don’t get into the Western Fells very often, they lament not seeing much of the Southern Lake District. They had off again and are at the top and pass us again on their way back down before I’ve managed another 25ft of ascent.
Eventually I almost crawl to the top – barely 1,000ft of ascent has taken two and a quarter hours. But we’re finally here:
We flop down for lunch – I definitely need food and am hopeful it will sort me out. We munch through our somewhat cremated pasties. The views are pleasant, though a little hazy and best if you don’t look south to Sellafield. The views to the east are good and, as Wainwright says, you can see Blencathra from here (to the left of the trig point).
After food, water and rest we start to head for Crag Fell, which means back down to the col and then up 200ft and over the top of Whoap. It’s not difficult, but food hasn’t sorted me out and I inch my way painfully up the flat looking rise – the path in the middle of this picture:
S wants to call it a day and head back down from here but I can’t handle the thought of abandoning mission when we’ve driven all this way. It’s only 400ft of ascent up Crag Fell then 150ft up Grike so I keep heading north in the general direction of Crag Fell. We’re wandering on pathless hillside until we reach the depression at 1,300ft. The terrain is strange here with what looks like the remains of brunt trees around us:
The views are quite a surprise, though – we can see across to Grassmoor, Eel Crag, and some of the lesser known Western Fells.
I’m feeling no better, in fact feeling very shaky given I’ve been going downhill. There’s an obvious track running alongside Crag Fell but it’s high point is 200ft above us and I’m not sure how I’m going to get up it. We sit and drink water and cooling down a bit seems to help. We start along the track and thankfully I plod along and make upwards progress reasonably well. I don’t think I have Crag Fell in me, though, so we carry on along the track and don’t turn up for the final ascent to its summit. I can’t believe I’m abandoning mission so close to the top, but I really do feel terrible.
The path is easy to walk on and the views behind us are good:
We get to the high point on the path and stop for afternoon tea on some good rocks. The top of Grike is 150ft above us – I feel like I could get up there but it seems pointless to leave Crag Fell on its own so we leave the pair for another day.
The sun beats down on us as we drink water and eat (very good) cake. I’m not feeling quite as dire as I was earlier in the day but I’m certainly still not on good form. We keep following the path until Kinney How where we turn right and head up 100ft to the top of Blakeley Rise – irritating that it’s in the way but not the end of the world.
We look across to Lank Rigg and see the promised late afternoon rain showers are on their way:
We descend the final 300ft down the bumpy hillside and limp our way across the road and to the car. It starts to rain as we set off home – I would have welcomed that rain at any point on today’s walk. Was it heat that made it so tough – we’ll never know. We have an uneventful (and slightly faster) trip home but I don’t feel great at my failure to complete today’s planned mountains – but we’ll be back, next time on a nice cold day.