A Hard-bitten Walker on the Bowscale to Souther Fell Round

20 10 2019

Tue 17 Sep 2019
I’d been wanting to do this full round for ages and, as it was lovely weather this particular day, decided it was as good a day as any! As usual, it was mid afternoon before I set off so that ruled out adding Blencathra – as it turned out, that was probably a good thing…


All photos:
my Zenith manual film SLR
click on photos for full size/resolution

I parked up at the phone box at Mungrisedale where there was only one other car for a change. The ascent is my favourite in the area – up through Raven Crags. This is a great ascent track but, last time, I came down it instead and found it’s ‘orrid in descent – loose and very steep!

As soon as I set off uphill, my right knee started paining me. This is the weaker of my two knees. I didn’t know I had any weakness in my knees until I read my health magazine and it prompted me to try ‘lunges’. These completely wrecked my knee and I won’t do them again! I’m fine with squats but not lunges.

This rather bore out my idea that, if you’re a regular fellwalker, and ensure you tense the correct muscles during a walk, you don’t actually need to do exercises in a gym or at home!

I made sure I used my glutes, quads and calf muscles for the whole ascent so I think I minimised any further damage – I wasn’t going to give up on my round though. I have to say that, when not ascending, my knee was perfectly happy and the main ascent is over once you’ve finished the long few miles to Bowscale Fell’s summit (about three I think).

Interesting looking gill (in shadow) on the back of High Pike/Carrock Fell

I didn’t stay long on Bowscale’s summit (I rarely spend long at a summit as they’re generally very cold places, even on a sunny day) but headed off down for the col before Bannerdale Crags. I suspected these would be wet! I ran quite a bit of the descent as it’s at a nice angle…

Crossing the long col was exceedingly wet (it will be worse now) so I already had wet feet by the time I started the ascent.

Blencathra behind…

I took the path along the very edge of the crags as they are interesting from above and have a few interesting gullies which I might have a look at from below sometime…

Souther Fell in distance across Bannerdale

As I headed up the final climb to the summit, I found the path got too near the edge really (I think quite a lot of the ground has broken away and fallen down the crags) so I moved back to the normal path. I was going to have a look down the steep East ridge (which I descended once) but it meant a bit of a descent and re-ascent so I didn’t bother. I must ascend that way sometime though…

Steep East Ridge is the dark one on the left

There was then a superb track which heads to the col between Bannerdale and Blencathra – I ran a lot of this too. It was around 1800 by the time I reached the col so too late to tackle Blencathra (although it’s a nice, easy route from here and pretty short). With my knee being a bit dodgy, it’s probably as well I missed it out.

Sharp Edge/Foule Crag Silhouette

As I started the descent onto the left-hand of the tracks down the Glendaramackin River, I saw a pretty little black and white dog waiting with his owner who was rummaging in his rucksack.

I approached the dog with my usual care (after all, I’m hugely tall and it’s very small) and crouched down to extend my hand for it to sniff. It wasn’t keen as it was quite a nervy dog… in the end it had a cautious sniff of my hand and I managed to give it a quick stroke on the head. It wasn’t really sure though…

Then, I made a stupid mistake. Wanting to continue my route, I stood up and tried to pass the dog on the very narrow path. Of course, it thought I was making a lunge for it and promptly flew at me and bit my leg.

The dog had been lightning-fast and I had no idea it was going for me until I felt my leg hurting. The owner didn’t have time to react either. He was pretty horrified and apologised. I knew my leg was bleeding but, as I didn’t really consider it the dog’s fault (as it was nervous), nor the owner’s (he didn’t really have chance to stop it), I thought I shouldn’t make a fuss and continued down the path.

When I was out of sight, I rolled up my trouser leg to find a gaping and bleeding hole. I washed it as best I could in the beck and then spat on it (well, spat on my hand and rubbed it) – spit is, after all, supposed to be anti-septic… I was a bit worried as there was a flap of skin which I couldn’t really get underneath though…

I left one trouser leg rolled up (like a freemason) and continued my walk – my leg did feel a bit sore!

The valley path is very pleasant but, unfortunately, had gone out of the sun. I hurried along it, hoping to regain the sun on the ascent of Souther Fell.

Glenderamackin winding back to start

Luckily, after I’d ascended to Mousthwaite Col from out of the Glenderamackin valley, I met the sun again. It’s a long but gentle ascent up Souther Fell and it’s also exceedingly wet! It was nice to be on the fell again though as I haven’t done Souther in years.

Looking Across Mousthwaite Col to Scales Fell, Blencathra

As soon as I reached the summit, the sun went behind the fells behind me and it became very cold. I hurried on down the steepening ridge until I reached the fell wall.

All the way down, I was wondering whether the farmer at the bottom had relented and let people use Wainwright’s route of straight down the field to the pub. However, as I neared the wall, I could see a white notice and gathered he hadn’t and that it was still ‘verboten’. It was…

There is a long detour alongside the fell wall to the right which eventually reaches the Scales road. I have to admit to being rather irked at the farmer by the time I reached it. It was almost dark too…

Coming back up the road to my car, my knee started to moan a bit and I was glad to finish the road walking and sit down.

For the next week, my knee was absolutely terrible and, despite the weather being good, I had to stay off the fells after work 😦

Of course, the upshot of this walk meant I presented myself to Keswick Cottage Hospital after work the next day for my tetanus booster jab (after the dog-bite) which itched solid for 2 weeks!

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17 responses

23 10 2019
John Bainbridge

Long time since we’ve been up from Mungrisedale. Sorry about the dog. In his later years George Borrow used to walk with an umbrella and put it up as a shield against attacking dogs.

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24 10 2019
mountaincoward

I got bitten by a farm dog once passing a farm out the back of Grasmere. It obviously regularly bit passing walkers. I hung around to help my mother past it but, when she came down the road complete with wooden walking stick, the dog slunk off! It knew all about those!

Liked by 1 person

25 10 2019
John Bainbridge

Must say I always use a walking stick and poles on the high fells. Very useful in all sorts of ways.

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25 10 2019
mountaincoward

I find a stick or pole helpful for crossing rivers but otherwise they annoy me. I hate carrying anything much!

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22 10 2019
Blue Sky Scotland

Opps! Sorry Carol. Just looked it up out of curiosity. It is antibacterial after all. Pass ,me that slice of humble pie please.

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22 10 2019
mountaincoward

do you want custard with that? 😉

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21 10 2019
Blue Sky Scotland

An impressive walk. I have to rest my knees for periods every now and then off the large descents or they start crunching again. Fairly sure human spit is not antiseptic and dog/animal spit/licking only works for them as humans have lost that ability at some point in their distant past.

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22 10 2019
mountaincoward

Descents have never bothered my knees (or any part of my legs) – just ascents.

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21 10 2019
bowlandclimber

Don’t think I’d have been so sanguine about that dog or its guardian.

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22 10 2019
mountaincoward

I’ve always prided myself on my handling of animals – I got this one badly wrong – and all for a lack of thought before I set off. I could have easily gone off the path and passed it at a much bigger distance and all would have been well.

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21 10 2019
Alli Templeton

Good grief, Carol, that was a real adventure in more ways than one! Firstly, of course, the stunning and deserted scenery, which is always so impressive in your photos, but I did wonder about your tetanus status when the dog bit you and left a nasty hole! Very wise to get one asap. That must have been an awful shock, and on top of the knee problems. Not good. But despite the farmer blocking access, it seems to be a mightily beautiful hike and one way or another – you won’t forget it! Hope all recovered well. 🙂

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22 10 2019
mountaincoward

I’m pretty sure the farmer blocked access (years back) after Wainwright wrote in his book that everyone should take the route across his field to the hill. He upset quite a few farmers recommending people take the route he took up a hill when it wasn’t necessarily a right of way.

There was a funny somewhere about that once… Wainwright had in one guidebook that, at one point on a walk, you went through the brown gate or suchlike… The farmer met him some years later and told him off and then said “anyway, I’ve fixed you now – I’ve painted the bugger green” ! I thought that was pretty funny…

Liked by 1 person

23 10 2019
Alli Templeton

Oh that’s brilliant! At least it shows some creative thinking on the farmer’s part! Nice to see a bit of humour in an otherwise contentious issue. 🙂

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24 10 2019
mountaincoward

typical northern farming humour that!

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24 10 2019
Alli Templeton

I like it! 😀

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20 10 2019
Paul Shorrock

Nice route, shame about the dog!

I did the reverse of your route with Chris, about 15 years ago. We had thick mist above Bannerdale, and I used compass and step counting to get us off the hill. Nowadays I’m happy to use GPS as my primary Nav tool, especially as I can recognise the rare occasion it’s not accurate, but it’s comforting to be able to fall back on tried and tested methods like map and compass.
I’ve recently started using Harvey maps seriously, but always alongside the good old OS maps. For years I had failed to realise that the lack of super-fine detail in Harvey, allows you to pick out the bare bones of the land. Simples!

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22 10 2019
mountaincoward

I’ve never got on with Harveys maps. For one thing, if I don’t know a hill, I want to know its steepness most of all – I generally hate steep, especially on loose ground. I still find it uncomfortable viewing to descend something really steep – I still think it looks scary (although I’ve got better over the years). So the contour intervals throw me out on Harveys…

Never used a GPS – I dislike anything with a power supply or batteries really (especially outdoors).

But I generally don’t bother with a map in the Lakes nowadays though – there’s generally paths and I always know which paths are which now due to walking here so much. If I don’t, I generally know which part of the hill I can descend safely to get back to the required valley.

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