Sleeping under the stars

I returned to Ennerdale to walk the south side of the Ennerdale Horseshoe that I had cut short a few weeks previously due to bad weather.

I parked at Bowness Knott and walked along the shores of Ennerdale Water before crossing the River Liza, walking up through the trees and eventually along the long, broad ridge leading onto Haycock. I love this path up Haycock, it reminds me of Scotland with the trees, heather and narrow, rarely used path. Haycock always surprises me too as I think of it as a minor summit but it is actually only 3 metres shy of 800m and is wild, rocky and quiet with wonderful views over the Western Lakes.

The broad ridge over Scoat Fell to Pillar is another well kept secret with views over Steeple into Ennerdale and also over to Wasdale, Red Pike, the Scafells and Gable. The descent off Scoat Fell is rough over huge stone blocks and then after Wind Gap there is the long climb up to Pillar.

Pillar is probably my favourite Lakeland mountain. It’s remote and takes a while to ascend from anywhere. The paths are still in a relatively good state as it’s quite remote and is only the 8th highest hill in the Lakes so not on a lot of tick lists. It’s still a respectable height though at 892m and takes it’s name from Pillar Rock, a large rocky outcrop on the Ennerdale side with lots of long, traditional rock routes, all facing north and taking a while to dry out. I’m yet to climb on Pillar Rock and haven’t even done Slab and Notch route, a classic grade 3 scramble and allegedly the easiest route to the top of Pillar Rock.

After Pillar is the long and gradual descent to Black Sail Pass with views down to Wasdale Head and Wastwater. The wind increased at this point and I was blown about on the steep and scrambly ascent of Kirk Fell. Just after the top of Kirk Fell I stopped to take some photos and I happened to turn around and look back along the path I had come along. There, 100m back along the path, was half of my tent where, unknown to me, it had fallen off my rucksack. What chance thought made me look back at that point? I could so easily not have noticed until much later and then I would have had to retrace my steps, possibly in the dark.

It was after 4pm now and the hills were quietening down as they usually do at this time of day. After Beckhead Tarn I ascended the steep north west slopes of Great Gable, again blown about by the blustery wind. I had the summit to myself but didn’t stop, instead continuing down the steep and loose path to Windy Gap. Then north west underneath Green Gable crag and round to my campsite at the top of Tongue Beck at the head of Ennerdale.

I was in two minds about whether to camp and was half tempted to walk down and sleep in the car. It was forecast to rain early the next morning, I wasn’t keen on a wet walk out with a wet tent and I still had 2 hours before dark. But I had carried my camping gear round with me all day and it was a stunning place to camp, so I set up camp in my usual spot. It was the right decision, I wouldn’t have had much sleep in the carpark if the empty Durex wrappers found next to my car the following morning were anything to go by 🤣.

I sat outside my tent in my big thick winter sleeping bag and watched the sun go down. I have 2 sleeping bags, a lightweight 1 season Rab bag and a heavy 4 season, Mountain Equipment bag. I had packed away my Rab sleeping bag for the winter and dug out my winter sleeping bag and I was lovely and warm. It was a beautiful sunset – the black outlines of Pillar and the High Stile ridge silhouetted against an orange sky with small grey and pink clouds drifting slowly southwards. It’s at times like these that I love wild camping. It was a dry night so I lay down on my mat outside the tent, watched the mist start to swirl in over Great Gable and slept with the feel of the breeze on my face.

I was woken by raindrops on my face at 6am. I quickly packed up before things got too wet and walked off the hill through the mist and rain by the light of my headtorch. I had breakfast outside Black Sail hut, still closed to the public, and then walked down Ennerdale along forest tracks back to the car.

Published by alpinejane

Explorer, hill walker, mountaineer, backpacker, scrambler, Mountain Leader and lover of wild places

One thought on “Sleeping under the stars

  1. That was a close thing nearly losing the tent! And I had no idea the Bowness Knotts carpark had turned into a dogging site! 😦 My Mum & Dad camped in their van there one night and think they saw a UFO – whatever it was, it was silent and lit and ascended behind their van – scared the hell out of them! Still wish I’d been there with them to see it though!

    I like Pillar to look at when you’re looking at the north face but I think that it’s a disappointment as a walk as you miss out all that stupendous scenery. I still have the ‘High Level Traverse’ to do sometime…


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