May 03 2014

Walk 83 – The Kentmere Horseshoe

Kentmere Horseshoe

route: yoke, ill bell, froswick, thornthwaite crag, high street, mardale ill bell, harter fell (mardale) kentmere pike & shipman knots from kentmere
Date: 3rd may 2014
distance: 12.8 miles
ascent: 3841 feet
time: 7 hrs 40 mins
walkers: dave, david, jane, luis, marc, roger, ryan, sandra & simon

With our annual Easter walking weekend behind us it was time to focus firmly on the final build up to our Lyke Wake Walk challenge. The penultimate prep walk was a long awaited return to the Lake District to tackle the Kentmere Horseshoe. It had been a little over two years since we last visited and I had been looking forward to it, although I was a little apprehensive too. Everything in the Lake District is bigger, steeper and harder than anywhere else we have walked, or so it seemed from memory. So much so that as we pulled into Kentmere to find nobody else in attendance and no parking spaces I was a little relieved. Out came the map and I began to look for alternative routes that weren’t too far away and would be a little shorter and easier. The sole reason for this was as the walks have become longer I have found myself feeling a little guilty over disappearing for full day leaving Leanne to look after Abigail. I had left before they woke up and I would just be back in time to spend half an hour with Abigail before she went to bed. As I flicked through my map Vidal arrived and the alternative route was no longer an option. We found alternative parking thanks to a very kind local who instructed us to park on his land and a couple of minutes later Jane, Marc, Roger, Ryan and Luis appeared as if by magic. It turns out they had parked half a mile away and walked to the arranged meeting point. With thoughts of missing my girls pushed to the back of my mind, we took the team shot and headed off on our quest for 9 more Wainwrights.83rd Walk 183rd Walk 2The initial few minutes were easy enough before the path starting to head upwards and things began to get a little more difficult. The usual group of strong climbers found themselves to the fore and slowly began to disappear into the distance as I found a pace I was happy with and engaged plod mode.83rd Walk 383rd Walk 483rd Walk 5As the path snaked up the hillside in front of us the gap continued to grow, to such an extent we lost sight of those leading the way. Joining me and taking a more leisurely approach were Sandra, Jane & Marc who all seemed on top form judging by the amount chuckling we were doing. As the path crested a little rise we were confronted by a large puddle and beyond that small mound, on the other side of which we found a cairn surrounded by the rest of the Badgers. Also, concealed under a flag of St George was a transponder or whatever they are called. There was a big fell running event on over the weekend and this was one of the check points for each runner to register their arrival ensure they didn’t take a shortcut.83rd Walk 683rd Walk 7After a short rest we continued once more, but now we had the front edge of our ridge to aim at. Sometimes I find it helps to have a target in sight so you can manage your effort, whereas other times I like to just walk without the obvious route in front of you. Today, I found myself favouring the former and I was happy to know that a good half hour of hard work would result in us reaching the first of the nine Wainwright’s on today’s walk.83rd Walk 8We had soon stretched out and were walking in various smaller groups, each finding a pace that suited them. Up ahead I could see the leading group had reached a gate and were waiting for everyone else. We used this point to have another five minute breather before making our final effort to the top of Yoke.83rd Walk 983rd Walk 10We had already decided prior to starting the walk that we wouldn’t be able to spend lots of time at the summit of each of our 9 intended targets. In dry conditions we would often have a sit down and take in the surroundings whilst having a chat and a snack. If we spent just 15 minutes at each that would add over two hours to an already lengthy walk. We spent five minutes at the top as we took some team pictures and a few of the surrounding view of the horseshoe, including Kentmere Reservoir which sat in the valley below us. Then without warning I took an apple from my pocket, had a big bite and set off on my way gesturing to Sandra to come with me. We would no doubt hold the gap on the descent from Yoke but I knew the others would soon catch us on the climb up to Ill Bell, and so it proved.83rd Walk 1183rd Walk 12Again the summit of Ill Bell came and went without us staying too long. With a slow stream of other people about we didn’t have trouble asking somebody to take a group shot for the archives and the once again I began the sharp descent to the col that runs between Ill Bell and our next destination.83rd Walk 1383rd Walk 14It wasn’t a dangerous descent but you certainly had to be careful where you placed your feet and concentrate rather than gaze around at the scenery. Finally the path started to level a little and ahead of us we had a clear view of the path running up to the summit of Froswick.83rd Walk 15As with the previous two peaks the ascent sorted us out into smaller groups and I found myself walking with Sandra, Jane and Marc, the last two of those who were no doubt here through choice. This suited me as Marc had some Jelly Babies which he shared around, much to the delight of all. Sandra stopped for a rest and I kept on plodding in order to take my rest a little further up when I really needed one. It was only 75 yards or so further on when I stopped and filled my lungs. I turned to check on the other three behind me and saw they had followed soon after. Behind them was Ill Bell and to the right Windermere could be seen in the distance.83rd Walk 17Froswick came and went as we repeated the formula from earlier. Slog up one side then saunter down the other before the path began to rise again and the others would disappear into the distance. Once again I found myself with Sandra, Jane & Marc, who dished out another round of Jelly Babies. I looked back once again as Sandra neared and had a similar view to earlier with Windermere in the distance. I could still see Ill Bell but this time it was poking out from behind the peak we had just come off.83rd Walk 19By now we were heading towards the far end of the horseshoe and the psychological milestone of halfway. Ahead we could see the path begin to climb and then split. To the right would be the traditional horseshoe route round to Mardale Ill Bell, to the left was Thornthwaite Crag. We would be going left not only to tick off Thornthwaite Crag, we would then go on to High Street, which is the highest of the 36 of Wainwright’s Far Eastern Fells. We reached the fork in the path where we went left and soon reached a little plateau. Up ahead we could see the summit of Thornthwaite Crag which would be our lunch stop.83rd Walk 2083rd Walk 2183rd Walk 21aAs we stopped for lunch it was clear that we were at the highest point of the walk so far as the wind was blowing in from the West. The conveniently placed wall allowed us to get some shelter whilst we snacked on our sandwiches and other goodies. Vidal had brought about 8 chocolate bars with him and attempted to set up a little tuck shop although he had no takers. It soon became apparent that even with the wall for shelter my body temperature was getting colder and after a quick conversation I realised I wasn’t the only one… time to move once again.

Next stop was High Street and the high point of the walk. This along with our current location of isn’t part of the traditional Kentmere Horseshoe, but it seemed such a shame to be so close and not visit a couple more summits. That was even more so for High Street which we almost visited a couple of years earlier after leaving Kidsty Pike. That particular day it was cold, snowy and some of the gang decided that the four summits we did on that day were enough. It didn’t meet with universal agreement at the time but we knew it would give us a reason to come back, and so it proved. We left Thornthwaite Crag and began the gradual climb ahead of us. To our left we had a view down to Hayeswater but it wasn’t that that was attracting our attention. Near the summit of High Street a rescue helicopter was circling a coloured smoke canister and looking for somewhere to land. After a minute or two it set down causing us to wonder what had gone on. If we got a move on we would find out soon enough…83rd Walk 2283rd Walk 23Despite our best efforts the helicopter was airborne and away before we could get there. We watched as it flew a mile or two before setting down near another smoke canister which led us to believe it was a training drill. With the excitement over we focused solely on the task ahead of us and made our way to the trig point on High Street. This was my first trig in the Lake District but by the end of the day I would have bagged two.83rd Walk 2583rd Walk 2683rd Walk 27That was our outward journey complete and regardless of whether it actually was half way or not it is hard to get away from the thought that you were now on the way back. That isn’t to say that I wasn’t enjoying it, but it had been harder work than we had been used to lately. Since the arrival of a baby Badger and with another on the way it was hard to find as much time for the full day walks as we did a year or two back. The lack of serious walking had no doubt affected my walking fitness, but as ever I am not afraid to get stuck in and tackle the longer rambles. As we made our way to Mardale Ill Bell we were given some respite from the continuous ascending or descending of the first half of the horseshoe as we followed a nice gradually path towards summit number 6 of the day.83rd Walk 28The easy terrain didn’t last too long though and not long after taking our pictures at the cairn on Mardale Ill Bell we were confronted with a drop down to the Nan Bield Pass before the climb up to Harter Fell.83rd Walk 29The descent wasn’t going to be a problem and as much as I knew the climb was going to be the last big one of the day I wasn’t really lucking forward to it. The temptation of the clearly visible escape route down to our right grew with each step I took closer to the climb. Ahead of us was probably half an hour of hard slog (speaking from a personal point of view), whereas to the right was a lovely looking gently sloping (downwards) path that skirted Kentmere Reservoir and would take us back to the car, and in turn home.83rd Walk 3083rd Walk 31I suppose if there was a decision to be made it was when and not if the climb started. We reached the shelter where the Nan Bield Pass crosses the route we were on and a few of the gang took five minutes to have a chat. I chose to continue on in the knowledge they would soon catch me once they got going again. I began the climb taking short steps and going well within myself taking the approach of the tortoise rather than the hare. Every so often my legs began to tire and I stopped for a minute before plodding on once more. By now the others were on their way and they began to pass me one by one.83rd Walk 3283rd Walk 33With normal service resumed Beaky, Roger & Luis had vanished into the distance with Vidal and Ryan somewhere not far behind. I walked with Ramblo and once again we were accompanied by Jane and Marc who was still dishing out Jelly Babies. In truth the climb didn’t seem so bad as we broke it up into little chunks by stopping often, sometimes for a breather but more often than not to take in the surrounding view. The day was overcast and pretty chilly but the view was still amazing. To the north east we could see an unnamed tarn below us with Haweswater snaking off into the distance. To the south west we had a clear view of the ridge we had walked earlier which towered above the reservoir. The effort it takes to reach these places is always small compared with the pleasure of the view. It isn’t just the view but the feeling of being away from city life is good for the soul and never fails to refresh me mentally.83rd Walk 3483rd Walk 35The ascent continued interspersed with more stops for “viewing the scenery”, photos and Jelly Babies and with each step we neared the flatter summit plateau. Finally we reached Harter Fell and spent a well-earned 10 minutes sprawled out at the summit cairn.83rd Walk 3683rd Walk 3783rd Walk 37aThe rest was nice but I knew there was still a couple of hours walking until we got back to the car and after five minutes I gave Ramblo a nudge and we set off. A couple of the others shouted “see you then” or words to that effect as we headed for the summit after which the walk is named, Kentmere Pike. The ground beneath our feet was nice and spongy without being boggy which was nice, especially after a few rocky sections earlier. It was also nice as I imagine that it could be quite wet at time along this part of the walk but fortunately not today. After a slight descent but not much to write about (even though I just did), we began the short shallow pull up to Kentmere Pike and it was about this point the rest of the gang began to catch us. Needless to say I was amongst the last couple to reach the summit but who cares?! Certainly not me! If this was a competition I would be here, the Badgers are all about enjoyment and team work.83rd Walk 38For some reason I felt the greatest sense of achievement upon reaching the trig at Kentmere Pike than I did on any other summit. It wasn’t the highest, as that honour fell to High Street, and it wasn’t even our final summit of the day but for some unknown reason I felt like I had achieved something when I climbed the wall and touched the trig point. It may be the knowledge that even though there was one more Wainwright to tick off, it was considerably lower than our current position and I believed everything to be downhill from now on. Whatever the reason at that moment I felt good 🙂 As we gathered around the trig Jane climbed back up on to the wall and took a team shot as some us took a picture of her. Moments like this will last long in the memory and I like to think the others felt the same.83rd Walk 3983rd Walk 40Once again our stay didn’t last much longer than a couple of pictures and a quick swig of my coconut flavoured dilute squash. Shipman Knotts was the ninth and final peak of the day and we made good progress spurred on by the fact we were nearly done for the day. I don’t mean that to sound as if we couldn’t wait to finish and that we don’t enjoy our walking, merely that after the best part of 10 hours away from home it is always nice to know you are heading home. The 20 minute stroll to Shipman Knotts wasn’t taxing at all, in fact the only thing of any note was the world’s steepest ladder stile!83rd Walk 4183rd Walk 42We reached the lowest of today’s nine peaks and as is customary we chilled for a little while. People were offering their snacks to everybody and a half of us ended eating a Baby Bel, then placing the outer case on our noses for a picture. The reason for this I don’t really know, but we giggled, then giggled a bit more, then after a spot more giggling we set off for the car. I suppose you had to be there to appreciate the funny side.83rd Walk 4383rd Walk 44The final descent was for the most part gradual although there was one reasonably steep section that caused my legs to burn a little as I tried to stay upright. Once down this we followed a track for a little while before we came to a road that would lead us back to the tiny hamlet of Kentmere. Away to our right we could see the first half of the horseshoe we were just completing, and it looked a long way away. No wonder my legs knew they had worked hard.83rd Walk 4583rd Walk 46As we neared our start and therefore end point, we said goodbye to those who had parked in a different location and we made our way back to the car. I wasn’t sure exactly what I thought of today, I had enjoyed it there was no doubt of that. Another fact I couldn’t dispute was the fact it had been tough in places, but not to the extent it ever felt too much. I suppose in a way it was a perfect step up as we looked to prepare for the Lyke Wake Walk that was just over a month away. As I sat in the back of the car my thoughts flickered between what I could glean the walk we had just done and Leanne and Abigail who I was looking forward to getting home to. By the time the two hour journey ended I was happy enough with my days work and sure that I would be fine come Lyke Wake Walk day, although I had no illusion it would be easy. My head had processed enough walk data for now and I was happy to go back to step through the door and be plain old dad again 🙂

Sir Edmund


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