Upper Eskdale – the Difficult Route

11 11 2017

Wed 25 Oct 2017
This was a 2 Ibuprofen walk due to not being able to manage anything the day before on a simple riverbank walk in the valley! We were staying at our favourite hotel at Boot in Eskdale and I’d been looking longingly on the various photos on the hotel walls and on the map at Upper Eskdale – one of my favourite places in the Lakes which isn’t actually up a hill. I was longing to get up there once more…

Click on photos for full size/resolution – mix of my film and Richard’s digi (labelled)
I’d taken one Ibuprofen at around 0330 as the pain in my legs was keeping me awake but, on getting up for breakfast, thought I should really take another as that would probably be wearing off. So I popped another pill (hate doing that) and went down for breakfast.

We set off originally just planning to walk the west side of the River Esk – the opposite side to the normal Upper Eskdale track – and see if there were any interesting waterfalls to view as the weather had been very wet. I had no expectations of getting to Upper Eskdale at this point and thought it was unlikely.

We parked up at Wha House carpark and, not realising that the vehicle track just after the carpark went where we wanted to go, continued down to the road bridge over the river where we’d seen a footpath took off on our day before’s walk. This headed up a couple of fields but soon joined the vehicle track we’d seen – we wished we’d just used that – still, we could on the return.

We came out onto the track just by a little house sat alone in the fields which, by the looks of it, just gets used as a holiday cottage. Richard snapped a photo of it…

We found that the vehicle track went to Taw House Farm where it turned to a nice green track across his fields towards Heron Crag (my photos for a while now)

There is an old stone bridge, Scale Bridge, over Scale Gill just below a lovely waterfall…

Richard also took a shot…

and I took another looking downstream from the bridge towards Hard Knott…

The green track continued nicely for a while…

As we approached Heron Crag, our track descended to the riverside below it…

Richard went with his camera to investigate the huge boulders as we reached the river bank – as the going was rough and I didn’t want to annoy my leg, I didn’t…

He also took me a nice zoom of Eskdale Needle…

I continued to tread carefully along the wet, rough, slippery and stony riverbank…

As we approached the bend of the valley, I’d seen a lovely track rising through the bracken towards Upper Eskdale which was very near. Which side of the beck was it though? I went to investigate hoping it was our side as it looked nice and smooth for my leg


Lingcove Beck & Bridge – but was my path this side?

Richard was sure it was the other side of the river however and dropped down to the gorge for photos…

Richard clambered back up to join me – I was by now looking up the lovely path which was indeed our side of the beck. The gorge looked tempting but I knew it got very difficult near the top as I’d looked across at the path from the normal route many times! Richard didn’t want to continue uphill – he said I’d never get back down but really he couldn’t be bothered. I said it was a smoother route than the one alongside the river (which it was) and that there was a good track back down – also true.

After a bit of grumbling from him, I said we should at least set off up the gorge partway (meaning we should continue the whole way really) and look at the waterfalls – he reluctantly agreed.

Richard also got enthused about the waterfalls (his photo)…

The path continued easily upward…

But as we neared a small woodland, we could see it was about to become more dramatic! The path got very near to the edge indeed and we weren’t keen on the potential stability of the wet ground – I looked above us to see if there was anything else. There looked to be a higher path. We ploughed upward briefly and there was a higher path further away from the edge – the cliffs below were getting quite large now!


Richard’s photo looking across to the sensible path

Our new path once again headed for the very edge of the (now larger) drop and we again went off it. We decided to head very steeply uphill on the wet ground for an escape route we’d seen earlier… The escape route wasn’t much nicer as it was slippery and steep and, as mentioned, above a huge drop – we persisted until we reached safer ground where I went to have a look down at our path. It looked much better now – it had just been heading over a short awkward section when we left it.

Predictably, I decided I had to go back down for another go and left Richard to head back to the aerial path again. At some point, while he wandered about above, he took another photo while he waited and wondered whether I’d come back that way…

It was daunting redescending the steep ground to the path, especially with only one good leg, but I picked my way down slowly. Soon I was back on the aerial path and making my way further along. There were sections which were fine and sections which weren’t so fine. Some were loose and awkward but, with care, I got much further along the path, albeit rather tensely.

After quite a bit of up and down, I suddenly reached another awkward corner. This time it was very awkward and daunting indeed. The ground was just wet, tufty and slippery grass and very steep. I almost preferred the alternative and gazed up at it for a while – some rough and broken crag going steeply up above me. However, it was dripping wet and I knew my leg wasn’t good – was it the sort of ground not to tackle alone? I debated for a while but in the end, reluctantly, turned back to our previous escape route – now far behind me!

All the way back I wondered where Richard would have got to but, when I finally reached it I saw two things. One was that almost everyone else had turned back and gone up here – there was a path up it coming from this direction – and two, Richard was still atop the crag looking down semi-expectantly.

I reascended the steep grass and we sat briefly for a rest. I asked if he’d known I’d have to come back that way and he said he wasn’t really sure but hung around anyway. From where we rested, it was a simple matter to either go along the top of the crags for the spectacular views (I’d seen enough so didn’t bother) or just walk on relaxing grass around the back.

We strolled along the grass and headed round to try to see the exit from the gorge. I soon saw the path and decided to have a look at the corner from the other side. I first looked down the crag I’d have come up though – it was much further than it had looked and very nasty indeed – a lucky escape! The nasty corner is very short but I think you’d want a dry day and two good legs!


The river far below and the path heading into the gorge

I was delighted to have made it to Upper Eskdale though and, after plotting a route to the path back across the bogs (very short distance luckily), we started with our cameras at the views.


Upper Eskdale – I made it!

I always love the look of dark Bowfell behind Scar Lathing so took two photos!

Scar Lathing also looks nice in front of the knobbly Esk Pike…

I also have a total fascination with the little pointy peak of Pen below Scafell Pike so took two of that too…


Wish I could make it up there…

We were soon on the good track back which wasn’t bad for my leg at all – much easier than the riverside had been. Richard loved this split boulder with a tree growing out of it and took the next shot…

The path went for a quite a way before it descended just before Cat Gill. We went for a look at the gill as we could hear waterfalls…

The path zigzagged nicely down the beautiful fellside covered with golden bracken – I took my last photo looking back up…

We were soon back on the track passing through the farmyard at Taw House. My leg was still going pretty well and didn’t really start to stiffen until the long, hard vehicle track out from the farm. It wasn’t too bad however – the day before I’d had to drag it back up the road – this time it managed to keep walking without too much complaint.

I was euphoric that I’d made it up to Upper Eskdale and at least seen some real mountain scenery close-up – even if I couldn’t get up the high mountains any more…

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24 responses

19 11 2017
Simon Howlett

Magnificent walk Carol, love the waterfalls and the view across to Bowfell. I’ve been walking from Seathwaite/Stonethwaite recently. I’ve been popping the Ibuprofen too after falling heavily when descending Glaramara (sore back and left leg)! Feeling better now and back out on the fells I’m pleased to say 🙂

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20 11 2017
mountaincoward

Glad you’re recovering from your fall! I’m always terrified of even just falling over as I always seem to injure myself quite badly if I do.

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15 11 2017
tessapark1969

That looked very nice – but then I do like a good waterfall!

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17 11 2017
mountaincoward

It’s a lovely spot but the path the other side is far, far better!

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15 11 2017
chrissiedixie

Not a million miles away from where we were a couple of weeks ago! Real shame about the leg, hope you get it satisfactorily sorted soon.

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17 11 2017
mountaincoward

I thought that when I read your post – I’d actually been debating about coming back down Mosedale and then walking down the Hard Knott Pass but thought my leg wouldn’t do such a distance unfortunately.

Liked by 1 person

13 11 2017
Munro Ben

Upper Eskdale is definitely one of my favourite spots in the Lakes. Really admire your determination to keep walking. Knee and hip problems are such bad luck for walkers. I did meet a 76 year old woman on a Munro who could boast of two hip replacements. Here’s hoping your surgeon sees sense.

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13 11 2017
mountaincoward

I sort of hope he does – I’m also dreading the replacement too though!

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13 11 2017
bitaboutbritain

Wonderful. We need to get over that way again sometime – don’t really know it, but it’s less like IKEA on a Saturday than some places… Really enjoyed the photo-tour, hope the leg improves soon.

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13 11 2017
mountaincoward

The leg needs a hip replacement unfortunately and that depends on whether the surgeon wants to give me one!

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12 11 2017
Johann A. Briffa

Upper Eskdale has some of the most enjoyable and scenic walking in the lakes. Though I must admit I took the sensible path 🤣

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13 11 2017
mountaincoward

I think I might give the other another go in dry weather and with company – maybe Richard will give it a try next time – he’s still far braver than me!

Liked by 1 person

13 11 2017
Johann A. Briffa

Dry weather and good company make any path easier 😃

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13 11 2017
mountaincoward

Yeah – you’ve got to be careful if you’ve gone off on your own to do tricky stuff. I suppose Richard would have come looking for me eventually though…

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12 11 2017
Gaslight Crime

Grand colours.

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13 11 2017
mountaincoward

yes it was lovely – I didn’t manage to get any autumnal trees this year though as the light was always terrible and now the leaves have mainly gone

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13 11 2017
Gaslight Crime

My digi camera with more pixels is terrible at colour. Our more basic older one is better. Nothing as good as slides though.

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13 11 2017
mountaincoward

I’m struggling to find films nowadays which handle colour well. That and I think that developing chemicals don’t get much use now so are probably quite old and lead to bad results

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12 11 2017
Blue Sky Scotland

Impressive waterfalls.

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13 11 2017
mountaincoward

it’s been a pretty wet October!

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12 11 2017
mbc1955

At present, getting to Eskdale at all is pretty much impossible. My route of choice would be to start by Taw House, but to take the Cowcove Zigzags and approach Upper Eskdale via the higher level route: the Pike and Ill Crag rising above that shelving valley above the gorge is my all-time favourite Lake District sight. Maybe after that Lottery Win…

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13 11 2017
mountaincoward

I’m pretty sure that’s the way we came back down

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11 11 2017
mbc1955

I am seriously envious of you even getting that far…

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11 11 2017
mountaincoward

well if you’re ever in that area, the path the other side of the river is much easier!

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