Blown away on Barrow and Outerside

19th December 2015

It was a last minute email between David and myself which saw us arrange this walk. The forecast looked much better on paper than it actually turned out which saw us take on mother nature's gales and gusts, and well, there's only going to be one winner there.

This walk, or something very similar to it had been penned some weeks ago with winter and shorter walking hours in mind, we could well have extended the route but after fighting 50mph winds helped along by 70mph gust by the time summits had been reached we had both had enough, but, mother nature had a surprise for me before it would let me leave but I'll get to that later.

Todays walk starts off in my favorite village of Braithwaite which is of course still cleaning up from the devastation left behind by Storm Desmond, as David put it what we saw as we walked through the village left us speechless and cameras were left in their cases as we both agreed, taking photos of other peoples misery just didn't seem right.
Wainwright Guide Book Six
The North Western Fells


The main eminence in this subsidiary ridge is the abrupt summit of Outerside, and its position is such that it looks down into the vast pit of the head of Coledale and up to the exciting skyline of the surrounding ring of peaks.

Ascent: 1,890 Feet - 577 Meters
Wainwrights: 2, Barrow - Outerside
Weather: Heavy Rain Turning Overcast, Stong Winds and Gust upto 70mph - Mild. Highs of 13°C Lows of 12°C
Parking: Braithwaite Village
Area: North Western
Miles: 6.5
Walking With: David Hall
Ordnance Survey: OL4
Time Taken: 3 Hours 45 Minutes
Route: Braithwaite - Braithwaite Lodge - Barrow - Barrow Door - Low Moss - Outerside - High Moss - Stonycroft Gill - Newlands Pass - Stair - Uzzicar - Braithwaite

Map and Photo Gallery


Looking back over Braithwaite from the start the ascent on Barrow 10:42 13°C

Seeing that todays walk was a relatively short one we had arranged to meet at the slightly later time of 10:00am in order to get ahead of the rain which I'm sorry to add, did no good. David was already there parked outside Braithwaite School and so too was another walker who was kitting up besides Davids Car. I arrive bob on 10:00am although when I left Wigan I was somehow running some fifteen minutes ahead of schedule which was narrowed due to speed restrictions caused by high winds between junctions 38 and 40 of the M6

Since leaving the M6 I drove along the A66 with my wipers going like the clappers, Great Mell Fell was seen through a thinning cloud and so too was Clough Head, it was only Blencathra's lower bracken covered slopes which I managed to see as I drove through Scales in a long line of steady moving traffic. There was a huge earth mound at the junction for Braithwaite, so large it covered the whole grass area and was probably about ten feet in height which wasn't the best of sights to greet you but I guess it was nothing compared to what we would see as we walked through the village a little later, it turns out that the earth mound was the result of Coledale Beck being dredged.

There was still some scattered debris left behind by the retreating flood waters around the School area, mainly long grasses that had been washed down from the slopes of Whinlatter, other than that, north of the river Coldale, Braithaite looked to be returning to normality. The wind howled and at one point I had to close my boot for fear of it being ripped off by the sudden gust which throughout the day, would catch us by surprise at every opportunity. With cars locked we headed out passing the School and thereafter the Royal Oak before making for the bridge over the River Coledale which is where the reality of what happened here hit us leaving the pair of us almost speechless.

I wasn't comfortable with taking pictures of other peoples misery, in fact I'm struggling to write about it. The clean up was almost over and the street around the Village Store looked clean...too clean even which is probably due to efforts by locals and the Council. We stood on the bridge and surveyed Coledale Beck, a woman with a Black Labrador passes out for a morning walk, we smile at each other as she heads into the Village. From what we could see from the bridge the water had broke the banks washing away the wooden access bridges which were no where to be seen, not even a trace of foundation. Looking east out of the village debris fields and tide marks littered the whole area, a silver Citroen Picaso had been dumped close to the waters edge, it bearing all the markings of being at least semi submerged, it was a write off but more importantly it was someone's means of getting the kids to school and now, it just sat there waiting to be recovered. From the bridge we could gather who had, and who had not been affected, who were the lucky ones and who not. The coping stones that decorate the top of the bridge were covered in silt suggesting that the water had come over, but I'm lead to believe that this is a result of it being thrown there when the Coledale burst its banks.

David and I turned to one another and just looked, we didn't need to talk, the destruction was all around to see. After leaving the bridge we walked past one of my favorite buildings in the district in Braithwaite Village Store which also bore the same tide marks as the cottages within the vicinity. Inside all the stock had been cleared out with the exceptions of a few gifts items left behind on the window sills, the floor had been ripped up and three feet of plaster had been removed from a section of the interior wall, this I suspect was done on the behalf of insurance estimators.

Behind the Village Store sofas lay out in the street along with half a dozen full skips, the road here didn't look as normal as it did around the Village Store, here traces of silt are still evident underfoot, tide marks up to three feet in height line the white washed cottages and gardens have been simply washed away, there were no signs that the occupants had returned, there were no lights in fact the only sign of life was the brooms left outside the front doors that had been used in an effort to keep out the flood waters.

We left the centre of Braithwaite behind where the road started to rise ever so steadily flanked by more cottages, which I guess, were the lucky ones. Here the weather took a turn for the worse and it started to rain heavily blown along by strong winds and gust, David had already told me in a previous email that he had been suffering from flu and that despite really wanting to get out today, his chest was already starting to tighten up, we had a chat about options and in fact whether or not we should carry on with the walk but David was persistent, lets just see how we get on, and well make it up from there.

Storm clouds during the frequent downpours.

After passing through Braithwaite Lodge the heavens opened, first it was squalling rain that hit us head on, then the rain fell more heavily and increasingly persistent. David had opted to wear waterproofs but I naively had put trust in the forecast and besides my Gaiters, I was wearing my everyday Montane walking trousers, soon they were so wet the outline of my legs could be seen through the soaked material. On a positive note however, I was wearing my baseball cap which helped to keep the rain of my face, couple this with my hood which I had tied down, at least my head wasn't suffering too much.

We persevere through the rain as David coughs his way up while I try to offer my sympathies, which was hard as we both couldn't hear ourselves think over the deafening wind.

Views over Swinside, Skiddaw, Latrigg, Blencathra and Clough Head, most of which are under low cloud.

Distant views back down the ridge towards Braithwaite, Skiddaw and Bassenthwaite.
It's hard to imagine that just three weeks ago all of these fields were under water and Bassenthwaite and Dewent Water looked like one big lake.

Grisedale Pike, Stile End, Outerside, Sail and Crag Hill from Barrow summit.

It has been quite some time since (we) had both experienced wind and gusts as strong as what we had encountered on the ascent of Barrow, the forecasters had predicted 50mph winds with 70mph gusts, I think that we can both claim that they at least got that part of the forecast correct as the ascent was touch and go at some points, one of which was the point at which I lost my hat, but I was quick enough to recover it before it got blown off the summit altogether.

Between the gust we managed to lay down a plan, David apologises if it seemed he was holding me back due to his coughing and feeling less than his best, I apologised for dragging him up here in the first place. It was agreed therefore that we would head out to High Moss which is the area where the path seems to end in the left of the photo, in the meantime Paul if you would like to summit Outerside I'll meet you on the other side, our timings should be spot on.

Ascent on Outerside.

After leaving Barrow our thoughts turned to the route ahead, mine was to head first over Low Moss before summiting Outerside, David would then meet me at the top of the Stonycroft Gill path on't other side of the summit.

Our paths split soon after passing Barrow Door, not before the strong gust saw us dig in our walking poles in order so we didn't take off such was the power of the wind. I headed out over Low Moss which was drier than I had expected, looking back David got smaller before he disappeared as his path dipped below me. There was a null in the wind which gave me time to breathe and wipe my eyes which had been constantly streaming due to the wind, one last look back saw David fighting the same wind, he looked like Captain Scott at one point with both his walking poles way out in front of him holding on for dear life.

Within the null I was able to resume taking photos, here looking back on Barrow and Stonycroft Gill.
David can now be seen again on the path in the lower right of the photo.

Skiddaw from Outerside.

Once I had reached the final exposed area of the summit I too was back in the firing line fighting the gust walking almost bent over double, it is only a matter of a few hundred feet but it felt much further as I clambered myself into a cluster of boulders which at least gave me sheltered purchase if only for the split second it took me to take this photo.

The wind was making light work of any lingering cloud that had previously clung to the summits as I could now see Grisedale Pike, Whiteside, Grasmoor, Sail and Crag Hill, but the sight and sound which impressed me most was the two waterfalls gushing down Force Crag, so loud I could even hear them over the 70mph gust.

It was time to leave as I trace my way descending the south westerly with views now over High Moss, our meeting area. The gust caught me once more causing my hood to billow so violently it almost choked me, I simply needed to get down, the lower I got the easier it was to descend with a trot, soon David emerged from the corner of my eye, he too was struggling to stand up, instead opting to kneel down and wait for me.

Views over High Moss towwards Sail, Crag Hill and Coledale Hause.
I've never been air borne...but all of that was about to change.

The landing place.

Although David had righted himself from his kneeling position when I rejoined him the gusts here were more frequent and stronger than what I had experienced on the summit of Outerside, David asked 'how was it up there' and I reply, mate the wind was so strong it stripped the saliva out of my mouth, on a positive note we would now be heading back to Stonycroft Gill with our backs to the wind which I wasn't sure, was a good or a bad thing.

It turned out to be a bad thing.

No sooner were we ready to stride out a powerful gust blasted down the valley knocking David like a steam train a powerless twenty feet, David managed to stay on his feet saying afterwards that 'he had no choice other than to just go with it' I however wasn't so lucky as it threw me off the path making me air borne for a split second, I land twisted a foots length away from the sheep fold.

David rushed over fearing that I had at least broken my right leg which was tucked up behind my back, my landing so violent my pack waist strap had become unfastened as David just looked at me and said 'you ok, don't move'

I think for a split second I was in a little shock, David checks me and asked was I sure I was ok, think so mate what the f### just happened, we need to get out of here David says, it's time to go.

David helps me up as I dust myself down still not believing what had happened, during my 'air borne event' through the corner of my eye I saw my cap being catapulted away like a scene from the Wizard of Oz, I've had that cap all through summer and it had accompanied me through my Harry Griffin two thousanders, and now it's probably on Walney Island.

Descending Stonycroft Gill.

Still, the strong gusts persist each time causing us once again to dig in, gust at times caught us by surprise and tumbled us along the track although I'm glad to report this time we managed to keep upright. It was evident that the path above Stonycroft Gill had in places been washed away either by landslip or more commonly, by the power of the water as it drained from the hill sides, here rocks the size of your fist or a football had been washed down the path or ejected into Stonycroft Gill itself by landslip, it sure is a sorry sight which I'm sure will take a long time to recover.

Down in Stonycroft Gill itself more evidence of just how much water was flowing on that first December weekend, as you can see in the photo the Gill twist and turns, evidence here would suggest that the Gill burst its banks by up to twenty feet in places each side.

One of the many trenches along the Stonycroft Gill path.
The path is passable with the exception that you may find yourself walking in trenches like this one, which on a day like today can fill with flowing water which we had already witnessed. If venturing out please be advised to take care as the paths are extremely unstable in places.

Views over Stonycroft Gill towards Causey Pike.

Cat Bells seen over Stair.

The topic of conversation was split between the destruction left behind by the storm and just how long the North West and indeed Cumbria would have to endure before we see the light at the end of the tunnel, one thing for certain that we both agreed on was just how good it felt to 'get out'

We are about to join the Newlands Pass seen below which will lead us back into Braithwaite, despite stating the obvious this is a lovely way to end a walk and todays was no expception.

Landslip close to Stonygill Bed & Breakfast.

Heading back to Braithwaite via the Newlands Pass.

A calm had descended as any traces of wind were confined to the valleys where the sound of gusts riffled through the pines, but, here on Newlands Pass we take in the last few miles in a relative calm even joking about recent Christmas doo's that had been attended. The Pass is busy with cars as we stand aside and let them pass, one owner of a olding Transit van stops to ask 'have we seen any hounds pass through here'

No sorry mate, there's nothing here but a stiring wind.

Braithwaite Village Store.

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