A Fusedale Circuit

27th February 2022

I can only say what a frustrating month February had been where we experienced weekend after weekend of stormy weather which hopefully will confine itself into the latter stages of Winter as we approach the start of Spring.

With a strong forecast on the cards the world was my oyster or was it? nah the wind was still causing havoc affecting summits above 500m so I aimed my sights somewhere in between and that's when I thought of the last time I visited three of the summits I'd be summiting today which was during a memorable night last June when David and I wild camped on Loadpot Hill summit, a night to remember as the saying goes, aye it was.

It wasn't just lured by Loadpot Hill but Bonscale Pike together with its fabulous views which on a clear day stretch beyond the northern end of Ullswater towards the distant Pennines. It's a steep haul from Mellgaurds but in conditions as I had today the rewards are plentiful soaking up the golden sun drenched wild grasses and from over the wind I heard the faint callings of a Skylark, surely a sign that Spring is just around the corner which despite being true, should be taken with a pinch of salt given how rapidly the forecast changes at this time of year.

Wainwright Guide Book Two
The Far Eastern Fells
Steel Knotts may well claim to have the sharpest summit in Lakeland, for the rock tor (Pikeawassa) that crowns the top is so acute that only the very agile walkers will be able to stand upon it,

Ascent: 2,151 Feet - 656 Metres
Wainwrights: 4, Bonscale Pike - Loadpot Hill - Wether Hill - Steel Knotts (Pikeawassa)
Visiting: 2, Gowk Hill - Brownthwaite Crags
Weather: Sunshine Throughout. Freezing Above The Summits With Maximum Gust of 42.7mph Highs of 7°C Lows of 1°C Feels Like -3°C
Parking: Car Park, Martindale New Church
Area: Far Eastern
Miles: 7
Walking With: On My Own
Ordnance Survey: OL5
Time Taken: 4 Hours 10 Minutes
Route: Martindale New Church - The Coombs - Mellgaurds - Bonscale Pike - Loadpot Hill - Wether Hill - Mere Beck - Gowk Hill - Brownthwaite Crags - Steel Knotts (Pikeawassa) - Birkie Knott - Lanty Tarn - Martindale New Church

Parking Details and Map
Nearest Post Code: CA10 2NF
Grid Reference: NY 435 619
Notes: There are actually two car parks at Martindale New Church one of which is next to the Church itself and on the opposite side to the car park there is off road parking for around half a dozen well parked cars. Parking is free at both sites.


Map and Photo Gallery


Arthur's Pike and Bonscale Pike from the Duke of Portland Boathouse, Ullswater 07:30am
Lakeland is still licking its wounds from the recent storms as I drove between the Rheged Centre and Pooley Bridge where debris from a breached River Eamont littered the A592. Despite the debris It was a quiet drive through so I thought if the lay-by behind the Duke of Portland Boathouse wasn't busy I'd stop to take in this classic view, I got lucky finding a photographers car who had set up at the roadside "won't bother you for long" I said and after taking a few shots I was on my way.

Ullswater and a distant Dunmallard Hill seen over Howtown 08:10am 1°C
I took my time driving along the Ullswater shore towards Howtown mainly because debris from the lake littered this road too. The sun hadn't breached the surrounding hill sides when I arrived at Martindale New Church where I was lucky to grab one of two last remaining parking places, not helped by a long wheel base motor home which had berthed horizontally at the parking spaces opposite the church selfishly taking at least three parking spaces while doing so.

Despite the temperature hovering just above freezing it felt mild and it was only the scurry of the clouds above which stopped me second guessing should I add my hat and gloves which I did anyway. Two walkers are kitting up at the opposite side of the car park who set off down the opposite side of the hause destination unknown. A solo walker snaps photos from the top of the hause then disappears towards the top of the steep zigzaged road and within seconds I had the place to myself again.

Views of Fusedale as I head towards Mellgaurds.
Ullswater opened up towards the north and despite seeing the wind ruffling its surface it was still nice and calm above Howtown. The solo walker who I'd just seen heading towards the top of the zigzags has appeared on the path up ahead who I gain ground on as he stops to take photos.

Views into the Fusedale Valley.
With Loadpot Hill seen left, Wether Hill centre left and Steel Knotts over on the right.

Approaching Mellgaurds.
I overtook the solo walker who'd stopped to take photos of the clapper bridge over Fusedale Beck where a 'morning' was exchanged,,,the chap starts to follow me but I then heard him run back, camera in hand to take more photos.

Sunlight over Hallin Fell, Place Fell and High Dodd with Gowbarrow Fell seen right.
The path up onto Bonscale Pike from Mellgaurds during the Summer months can be tricky to locate due to being overgrown with bracken. Sighting the path before you're upon it helps but if you do come a cropper turn around and locate the stone wall which points back through the field towards Hallin Fell, if you're stood opposite that wall you're stood opposite the footpath, even if you can't see it.

Mind you, within minutes of locating the path, you might wish you hadn't!

Steel End, Beda Fell, Winter Crag, High Dodd and Place Fell.
The path climbed steeply yet I was determined not to stop until until I'd crested the first grassy bank from where I could pant down on ground covered. It had been some months since I last climbed anything as steep especially straight from the car but I managed to ascend the steep gradient with controlled breathing and soon the grassy bank was reached.

Up ahead a stone cairn directs the walker south towards a series of steep zigzags narrowly cut into the hill side, it's here I feel the first pinches of windchill brought on by a strengthening wind which seemed to blow constantly from the direction of the Fusedale valley.

More views of Hallin Fell and Place Fell.
As I approach the top of the zigzags the wind is already causing my eyes to stream so I down pack and add a pair of sunglasses.

There are no false summits as the zigzag rounded its last corner just golden wild grass and beautiful blue skies.

Ullswater seen with an Eastern fells backdrop from Bonscale Pike summit cairn.
The windchill cut right through me and despite wearing Winter kit any exposed skin left to the elements quickly succumb to the windchill.

The classical view of Hallin Fell, Gowbarrow Fell and Ullswater from Bonscale Towers.
I dropped down from the summit where not only could I escape the wind but take in this brilliant view of Ullswater and Hallin Fell. I've sat here many a time eating my lunch but not today, the wind wasn't having any of it so I returned to the summit with thoughts of Loadpot Hill next.

Views over Ullswater.

Looking back on Bonscale Pike.
The chap I'd seen taking all the photo's earlier can be seen as a black dot having just reached Bonscale Pike summit.

Steel Knotts, Beda Head, Place Fell and High Dodd.
The Helvellyn range had been below cloud all morning which looks like it's starting to clear now while all the snow that fell during last week has begun a rapid thaw.

Views over the top of Swarth Beck towards Arthur's Pike.
Not seen in the photo but I can just about make out movement on the summit.

Loadpot Hill summit Trig Point.
The exposure of the ridge between Bonscale Pike and Arthur's Pike meant the wind could wreak havoc as I crossed the ridge and began my ascent on Loadpot Hill where warm thoughts of last Summers wild camp came flooding back. David and I had spent the best part of 4 hours circulating this summit and 2 more after sunset watching distant lights flicker as midnight fast approached.

Getting closer to nature.
For anyone who has wild camped in Lakeland returning to the area where for that night you were one with nature, the hill and all its elements that area somehow never feels the same again.

Frozen pool, Loadpot Hill summit.

Descending Loadpot Hill.
With views of Wether Hill, the splendid Red Crag to Raven Howe ridge, High Raise (Martindale) Rampsgill Head, The Knott, Rest Dodd, The Nab and finally Heck Crag.

From a larger frozen pool
I look back on Loadpot Hill.

And again...
...as I approach the summit of Wether Hill.

Red Crag, High Raise (Martindale) Rest Dodd and The Nab from Wether Hill summit.
Despite the brilliant sunshine there's not many out on the hill this morning.

The approach to Red Crag from the High Street Roman Road.
I I veer right soon and descend via the footpath alongside Mere Beck.

The view over the Rampsgill, and the Bannerdale valleys towards...
...Fairfield, St Sunday Crag, Birks, Dollywagon Pike, Nethermost Pike, Helvellyn, Striding Edge, Catstye Cam, Birkhouse Moor, Helvellyn Lower Man, White Side, Stybarrow Dodd and Place Fell.

Beginning my descent into Fusedale.

Gowk Hill, Brownthwaite Crag and Steel Knotts from my descent.
On the return leg now as I left the winds confined to the summits I decide to include Gowk Hill (seen left) and Brownthwaite Crag (centre) before todays final summit of Steel Knotts.

The Nab seen beyond the start of the Rampsgill valley with Heckbeck Head and Heck Crag seen above the Bannerdale Valley.
That's Place Fell seen distant right while lower foreground the distinctive red roofed former shooting lodge The Bungalow.

The Red Crag to Raven Howe ridge (left) Rampsgill Head, The Knott, Rest Dodd and The Nab from Gowk Hill.
I continued my descent towards the valley floor until I arrived at a metal gate over on my left, from here I passed through what looked like a newly built wooden sty and took in the gentle gradient up onto Gowk Hill summit from where the views into the Rampsgill valley were amazing.

Rest Dodd and The Nab from Gowk Hill summit.
With Heck Crag seen above the Bannerdale valley over on the right.

Impressive Loadpot Hill seen from the Ascent of Brownthwaite Crag.
That's Groove Gill carving its way down into the valley over on the right.

From Browthwaite Crag.
I take in the view towards Steel Knotts, todays final summit of the day.

Unlike Steel Knotts South approach...
...the north approach is a short, grassy mild ascent.

Steel Knotts (Pikeawassa)
Within no time I was stood at the summit taking in the views and so too were a couple whose voices I'd heard during my ascent. They were a very friendly couple who even offered me a cup of coffee from their flask before we got to sharing our routes "where you heading I asked" we're doing the five they replied ... with this I assumed they meant Hallin, Steel, Wether, Loadpot and Bonscale Pike so I Ieft it there.

They then asked me of my route to which I replied "more or less the same as you in reverse less Hallin Fell" "what time did you set off the girl asked?" "about 8am" I replied. The girl looked at her watch and said "it's only 11.20pm you must have been hitting it hard" "not really, or it certainly didn't feel that way" I replied.

The girl then looked at her boyfriend as if to say 'we need to get a move on' and after a friendly 'enjoy your day' I left them to their coffee. What worried me slightly was they were oblivious to how long their walk would take and more worryingly was they didn't know the names of the summits they were climbing just that they were the 'five' which would also be a worry god forbid they required the services of Mountain Rescue.

Bonscale Pike and Ullswater.
Seen beyond the Fusedale Valley below.

Place Fell and High Dodd.
Seen over Winter Crag (on Beda Head)

Gowbarrow Fell, Hallin Fell and Martindale New Church.
Taken during the descent of Birkie Knott.

Back at Martindale New Church.
The car park was full to bursting with cars arriving every few minutes only to turn around once they noticed that there was no available spaces. Martindale felt quietly chaotic but at least people were respectful and those who couldn't park seemed to just drive away.

The sound of childrens screams filled the air whose parents watched on as their children ran down the grassy slopes of Hallin Fell looked on by the odd Herdy or two. Between the hedgerows patches of Snowdrops blossomed between the fallen branches and debris from last weeks storms, a gentle reminder that Spring is almost here.


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