A window in the weather


Setting out on the lane through the Kentmere Valley.

Just once in a while there is just one fine day in a spell of poor weather which makes it worth heading out on a full days walk. Between doing a set of early shifts and starting on a set of night shifts, I have timed it just right to head up to the Lake District for the day.

The clocks had just gone forward meaning it was great to have that extra hour of daylight at the end of the day, so on this day I opt to walk the Kentmere Circuit in the south eastern edge of the Lake District.

It’s a misty start to the day as I leave Macclesfield but I decide to go for it. North of Preston I am greeted by blue skies and as the Lake District comes into view there is a dusting of snow above 700 metres. Conditions for once look almost perfect.

Reaching the Kentmere Valley I am confronted with a problem as all available parking has gone and no chance of parking anywhere near the village church at Kentmere as intended. I start to drive back down the valley looking at every spot where I might leave the car. I do in the end find a spot about a half mile south of the church but this will add on a mile to my already long hill walk and now I have thoughts of ending the walk in the dark so it may mean making the walk slightly shorter.

The track at the start of the ascent up the Garburn Pass.

It is 11.15am before I set off under hazy blue skies on this near perfect morning. Setting a pace, I soon pass Kentmere Church and made for the ascent up the Garburn Pass. With hardly any breeze it is feeling warm and no need of a coat. With the top of the pass gained by noon I am rewarded with an excellent view west to the snow clad summits. The skies to the west are beginning to cloud up with the onset of a front coming in later in the day and so I will need to keep an eye on this.

My lunch stop on Yoke with the view west towards a snowy Helvellyn.

Heading north, my first objective is the 706 metre summit of Yoke but taking a short cut to join the main path I end up in a watery bog and I have to divert. It is turning out warm despite snow on the ground as I gain height. A few other walkers are about and mostly heading the same way as me and some I will see several times during the day. It is 12.45pm when I reach the summit of Yoke and now it’s time for lunch. I am a bit behind my intended time but at least I can cut the walk short when I reach Nan Bield Pass later in the day.

The view north from Yoke towards Ill Bell.

The view north from  Froswick towards Thornthwaite Crag.

For the afternoon my next summits are Ill Bell 757 metres followed by Froswick 720 metres, both with snowy paths on the north side which require some caution. A steady ascent then takes me up to Thornthwaite Crag 784 metres. It was now well into the afternoon and the snow at lower levels is gradually melting. After a brief pause and a request to take a group photograph of a small party I now set off towards High Street which at 828 metres is the high point of my days walk. There are many people on the summit and I have to wait my turn to visit the trig point. The summit boundary wall has snow caked up to the top of the wall in places. By now I am losing the sun as thicker cloud is nudging in from the west. The view from the summit is still good with Scotland visible to the north as well as Ingleborough and Pendle Hill to the southeast. Having taken a few photographs I set off now across the snowy wastes to Mardale Ill Bell and encounter some deep snow on the eastern flank which sends me on a slide. Down at Nan Bield Pass it is now decision time as to whether to head down the Kentmere Valley or take in the last two summits of Harter Fell and Kentmere Pike. Despite being behind schedule, I decide that I have enough daylight to do the last two intended summits comfortably.

On High Street and the highest summit of the day and by now frontal cloud is spreading in.

Setting out to cross the snowy wastes from High Street towards Mardale Ill Bell.

A winding snowy ascent leads up to 778 metre summit of Harter Fell and on top I stop to have the rest of my snack. The area is largely deserted now except for one other walker that reaches the summit after I leave.

A view down to Small Water with Haweswater beyond. the Pennines are clearly seen in the distance.

Kentmere Pike and the last summit of the day.

My last objective of the day is to bag Kentmere Pike 730 metres. The ridge path, which is boggy in parts leads south before veering southeast across the snowy wastes. I am careful not to slip as the snow is of a wet nature and not all that deep. At Kentmere Pike, I hop over the wall to visit the trig point before rejoining the path south east along the ridge and again I encounter boggy areas. The sun has now gone and the cloud is thickening and it is looking quite grey to the west and northwest. I am confident with the amount of day light I have left to complete the walk, but the light is beginning to fade despite it still not being yet sunset. I walk over Shipman Knotts on a good path but this veered off west later and lower down I have to contour across the hillside to rejoin my intended route. Turning left then right I skirted around to the right to join a path crossing rough ground and later fields to descend towards Kentmere once more. At the upper edge of the village I join a narrow lane which leads back to the car still with some daylight.
With a meal on the way back at a motorway services and an hour’s nap in the back of the car once I get to work I am ready for the night shift.