Wednesday 25 April 2018

Post-Walk Ramble about a Pre-Walk Daunder

Still smiling, camped below Scafell in Upper Eskdale in the English Lake District 
I thrust the last sixpence of my pocket money into the shopkeeper’s hand and snatched the bar of chocolate from her. I rushed outside, hastily tearing the paper and silver foil off. I chucked the chocolate into the bin and examined the inside of the wrapper. My heart sank. It wasn’t there.  My head dropped forward and I walked dejectedly home with a heavy heart. And then I saw it. Shining in the gutter.  A tanner. A bright sixpenny piece. With a shameless lack of guilt I picked it up and raced back to the shop and bought another bar. My sunken heart now leapt as the wrapper came off. There it was. The golden ticket, bearing these words:

Lord Elpus and The Stringpuller invite you to attend their annual Pre-Walk Daunder.

If you wish to come please gather with the other Daunderers at the Wasdale Head Inn in the magnificent English Lake District by 7.00pm on Thursday 19 April 2018.

Be there or be square.

PS No fit bastards unless they are both Mad and Bad.

PPS No ultralight gear allowed.

And so it was that I gained the last coveted place on the most sought after backpacking event of the year. The famous annual Pre-Walk Daunder, a limb and gear shake up before a lesser backpacking event known as the TGO Challenge. And I wasn't even going on the Challenge this year.

Billy No Mates camped at Wasdale Head Inn awaiting the arrival of the others
The forecast was for wall-to-wall sunshine. But on the Friday morning we woke to clag and so visited the Inn for bacon butties. The sun arrived, the clag disappeared, and the Lake District did 'sunny spring day' in its own unique way. Nowhere else in the world can do it like this. The ultimate joint enterprise, the combined work of nature and man creating perfection.


Looking back to Kirk Fell, Great Gable and Scafell
As the Lake District did its own thing so did the seven Daunderers. Within an hour the first schism had occurred and we were in three separate groups. Andy and Robin raced ahead. Phil, Alan, Mick and Judith walked some and sat down some. With rather more of the latter than the former. I could not keep up with Andy and Robin and could not sit down as much as the others, and so walked on my own from Illgill Head to Whin Rigg, where I found Andy and Robin, lying in the sun waiting for me. We decided on an optional route extension to Irton Pike before heading to the pub beyond Eskdale Green for an unwise pint before the last climb of the day.

As we were getting ready to leave the pub the others arrived. By now, being in full Daunder mode and mood we decided not to wait for them and left to find our camp spot, which was two or three killy o'metres further on, involving a 250 metre height gain to get us over the hill. Not much in the scheme of things but we'd now been on the go for over eight hours. I was glad to be on the move again. I was done in and more than ready for a brew, food and sleep.

Andy and Robin on Whin Rigg

Looking towards Water Crag. On Friday night we camped near the sheepfold just visible in the centre of the photograph

A man on a mission. Andy on the lookout for a decent spot to pitch

Safely pitched for the night
Saturday and another fabulozy sunny day. Mick decided to add his own route variant and skirted around Water Crag as we went over it. We met up with Mick on the way to Rough Crag and the seven of us walked together for a few killy o'metres. Al realised that this was not authentic Daunder behaviour so went off alone as we diverted to the Stanley Force waterfalls.  As agreed, he kindly waited for us further on; but we unwittingly varied our own route and so missed seeing him until we arrived at the Woolpack Inn at lunchtime.  Al was standing in the doorway, empty pint glass in hand.

Lunch at the Woolpack Inn, Eskdale
The schisming continued after lunch. Robin, Mick, Judith and I headed up the beautiful Eskdale Valley, whilst Phil, Al and Andy stuck to the planned route over rough ground. The Upper Esk is a joy. Remote, wild and full of gorgeousness. There were some splendid waterfalls, none more so than the sweat that poured down Mick's face in the afternoon heat. Robin led us to a spot on the edge of the Great Moss, just across the stream from Cam Spout Crags. Andy bowled in about half an hour later, with Phil and Al a few minutes after. 

Upper Eskdale

Upper Eskdale
Camped on Saturday night in Upper Eskdale, opposite Cam Spout Crags on Scafell
Thunder rolled all around us at bedtime. This is known as a bad spot for electrical storms. We lay in our tents listening to the crashes, and to the ferocious rain and hail storm that battered silnylon and cuben fibre. It's not good to be up in the mountains during an electrical storm but there was nothing we could do. The worst passed in about an hour and after that it was possible to sleep.

Judith on the 'causeway'
I had been slightly apprehensive about the first part of the route for Sunday morning, expecting to have a long tedious wade through large amounts of bog to get to the climb out of Great Moss and up to Esk Hause. Fortunately, we found a small path near the east bank of the Esk, that in places seemed to have been raised in the distant past to form a small causeway. This took us over the worst of the terrain to the site of the final schism of the trip.  Andy, Robin, Judith and I decided to go trackless up and over The Tongue to get to Esk Hause; the others followed the path by the stream.
Robin just below Esk Hause, with Judith emerging from the cloud in the background
Descending through the clag from Esk Hause to Sprinkling Tarn

Rain showers had been hitting us since our camp spot. As we got higher the clag came down, the wind became quite wild and the rain close to torrential for a while. Andy hared on ahead. Judith was happy to potter on behind. Robin and I followed Andy, albeit at my much slower pace. No more photographs were taken after Esk Hause. The weather was just too awful to bother. But awful in that satisfying way - after two days of superb sunshine the rain and wind felt right. They added to the experience and, perversely, to the enjoyment. Robin and I headed past Sprinkling Tarn to Sty Head and then down the superbly situated path to Wasdale Head. And we did not talk about gear once. No. Not once. Honest. When we got down the Inn was open. And it was good.

As always my thanks to all my fellow Daunderers for their excellent company, and for Phil for planning everything, including a route which could not be bettered. Except where we chose not to follow it. 

Pouting for the Camera
Al, Phil, Robin, Mick, Andy, Judith and Fellbound
Photo courtesy of TGO Challenge Legend Alan Sloman