Sunday 22 June 2014

Summer Backpacking in the Lake District

Terry filming the temperature inversion from our third camp

Derwent Water shone, the trees glared green, the steep path was dusty underfoot, sweat poured down my face. Just over a year since my first visit I was climbing up beside Cat Gill in the Lake District towards Bleaberry Fell to camp again with Terry Abraham and Mark (of Mark’s WalkingBlog and, very recently, @markswalking). The air in the trees was still, stuffy and humid and it was a relief to reach the open hillside and a gentle breeze. Soon I reached the others and our camp site looking across Borrowdale to the North-Western Fells. 

Camp on Bleaberry Fell

Dusk came slowly with a gradual fading of the details of the hills and a deepening pink wash over the western sky. Just a few days from the solstice and there was no real darkness, just enough for a few stars to appear. Dawn was softly beautiful too with a warm cast over the land that hardened and brightened as the sun rose higher. 

After sunset, Bleaberry Fell

Heading south along the broad ridge over rounded summits with stops for filming, the purpose of this trip being to start work on a film about backpacking in the Lake District, I marvelled at the landscape spread out around us, both its beauty and its compactness. To the north the Solway Firth was visible, to the south Morecambe Bay. Eastwards the distinctive summit of Ingleborough in the Yorkshire Dales was prominent. Only to the west did the hills seem to stretch far, though I knew this was not so. There was cloud this way too, rolling over the Western Fells.

Camp on High Raise

On the side of High Raise we made our second camp, looking out over Langstrath to ranges of ragged hills. Here we were joined by Dan Richards, son of Mark Richards with whom Terry is also making a film, who arrived late in the evening on a mountain bike. Again dusk and dawn were magnificent, the land bathed in the warmth of the sun. The breeze mostly faded away and the following day was soon hot and growing hotter. Sunhat, shirt sleeves and sandals weather. At Stake Pass, where we stopped for water and food and more water, my thermometer recorded 42°C in direct sunlight. To the west though the clouds were still rising and falling over Bowfell and Esk Pike. 

Terry approaching Angle Tarn

Angle Tarn was half in sunshine, half shaded by the clouds. I’ve always found this a magical place. I first came here on a school trip. I was about eleven years old. I’d never been to the Lake District before, never seen hills like this. A lake below a cliff. Just wonderful! It still is.

From Angle Tarn we took the well-worn (and now well-repaired) path up and down past Sprinkling Tarn, the false Esk Hause* and Styhead Tarn before camping not far from but out of sight of the last with a tremendous view down Wasdale and across to the Scafell range. Here we were joined by another friend of Terry’s, Philip, so for the second night there were four shelters pitched. It’s been quite a while since I camped with so many people.

Our third camp, looking to the Scafell range

As the sun sank behind the western hills a faint haze could be seen in the valley below, a haze with a distinct upper edge running along the hills. Philip had just said that he’d never seen an inversion when the haze began to thicken and in just a few minutes had turned into a dense white mist that filled the valley and billowed up the sides of the hills, a quite magnificent sight. Over a few hours the temperature inversion rose and fell, with the lights of Wasdale Head coming and going, before it faded completely.

The clouds sank on the hills though and early morning was cloudy. The sun started to break through later, just as Terry filmed me in my role as BMC Ambassador for Hillwalking for a piece for BMC TV. Richard Fox of Fix the Fells arrived, also to be filmed for the BMC, then Mark and I packed up and wandered down to Borrowdale, leaving Terry to relax in camp for the day before heading down to Wasdale. 

The weather and the light and the company made this a wonderful trip. I’m looking forward to seeing Terry’s footage.

*At least that’s what I’ve always known it as. Neither Terry or Mark had heard it called that before.


  1. Lake District is a nice place for camping. I have been there few months ago during my nyc niagara tours with my friends. It is a popular holiday destination. It is famous not only for its lakes, forests and mountains or fellS but also for its associations with the early 19th century poetry and writings of William Wordsworth and the other Lake Poets.

  2. I have read your post. very nice. We love camping. We either take the full on experience with a tent or hit a cabin, mobile home. We would be camping year round if we could. We never really have a plan when we decide to go either so that makes it all the more fun. It is awesome unplugging from the high speeds of life to be able to unwind with outdoor life.