Walking Hartley & Gate Crags, Eskdale

1 03 2021

Tue 6 October 2020

The day before we did the walk in the Brant Rake post, we decided to take a mosey up to the Devoke Water Hills proper (Outlying Wainwrights) – the great thing about staying at Boot in Eskdale is that this is one of the many hillwalks you can do right from the hotel door.  Even though the Devoke Water hills were the aim of the walk, of course I had my eye on others – I never tell Richard this though in case of a revolt…

Gate & Hartley Crags from Boot village

photos: a mix of my Zenith manual film SLR and Richard’s digi-thing…

We particularly love the old mining (railway) line trackbed which goes out of the back of Boot village near the old corn mill so we set off along that.  This passes behind the Ravenglass & Eskdale Railway terminus at Dalegarth, behind the old cottages there and joins the valley road at the end of their drive…

View from the old trackbed (my film photo)

We were now past the road which we needed to take for our hills so we turned back along it until we reached the turnoff to the carpark for Stanley Ghyll.  If you ignore the carpark, this turns into a rough vehicle track going up onto Birker Moor – a couple of miles of easy ascent and quite dry underfoot…

At the farm near the end of the track, we were suddenly diverted onto the open moor – presumably the farmer didn’t want disease-ridden folk going anywhere near his farmyard.  Fair enough but the diversion was fairly cr*p – we noticed most people had left it as soon as they were outwith his farm boundary and followed the wall to rejoin the end of the track.  We wished we’d done this as we ploutered upwards on the wet and trackless fellside to join the fell road…

The magnificent Great Crag from the junction (Richard’s digi)

Straight opposite where the track comes out onto the fell road there is another rough vehicle track going to Devoke Water.  We briefly set off along this until, after a quarter of a mile or so, a track sets off to the right rising gently up the lower slopes of the first fell – Rough Crag.

The mist was quite well down and the ground was horrifically wet – neither of these things make Richard happy and he kept wanting to turn back – I insisted he continue… By the time we reached the summit of Rough Crag (a very short time as it’s an exceedingly easy ascent), I was hoping the mist would hold as I knew that it looks a deceptively long way to the next hill of Water Crag and I expected further revolt.  Unfortunately it was clear and Richard wasn’t happy – however, we continued…

It’s a lovely short and easy walk between the two fells and we were soon at the summit of Water Crag.  Richard took photos…

Rough Crag from Water Crag (Richard)

My two film photos from the day I first ascended these two hills…

Richard’s photo of Devoke Water from Water Crag

Now, from here, I’d have preferred to go back up Rough Crag to reach the road but Richard didn’t want to do the easy reascent so we ploutered across the trackless and wet wasteland to the Devoke Water track just above the lake – I found it quite fun in a perverse sort of way…

Devoke Water from the bogs between the hills (Richard’s photo)

Incidentally, as we returned along the Devoke Water track to the fell road, we noticed that, as you draw more or less alongside the summit of Rough Crag, there is a much shorter and drier trackless ascent straight up the fellside – worth bearing in mind when the fells are sodden…

We were soon back to the fell road where we took off back down our track for Eskdale – there are two routes and so we took the alternative for the return.  I liked the light on these trackside trees so got Richard to take a photo…

A lady who read my previous post of my walk to these hills e-mailed me to ask about Whincop packhorse bridge as she was interested in it and asked if I had a photo.  I didn’t at the time so got Richard to take these for her – we probably didn’t have a map with us so we weren’t sure which bridge it was but there were two so he took both.  I preferred the first bridge myself which turned out to be Ellerbeck Bridge…

Ellerbeck Bridge

 

Whincop Bridge

I now decided to put my furtive plan into action… I’d had my eye on Hartley and Gate Crags for years and, at Whincop, we were en-route to both.  I announced I was off up them – Richard, not unexpectedly, declined.  I told him there was another route down next to Stanley Ghyll and showed him the start of the (very wet) track.  

Richard took this photo of Hartley Crags splendid-looking ridge at my request on our way down the track two days later when we went back up looking for his hat!  A lovely day but, of course, the day we had to go home (it’s always good weather when we’re going home!)

How can anyone resist a fell with a ridgeline like that?!

We split up at the start to his path and he stayed around taking photos for a while…

2 Herdwicks playing ‘King of the Castle’!

I took a photo before starting my ascent…

Richard followed my progress for a while…

You can see me on the ridge here just before the steep bit

And I was amazed, and just a bit perturbed, at the level of detail a digi-zoom can give – intrusive or what? 😮

I was going like a train and was soon bombing along the long ridge of Hartley Crag above what looks like quite fierce climbing crags – not sure if anyone does climb them but I think they must.  It was a great ridge and not far to the summit.  I didn’t hang around but headed straight down for the col between Hartley and Gate Crags.  Gate Crags looked a little harder of access but I soon saw an easy gully through the crags so I was soon up.

From here I had a little explore of the steep face above Eskdale as I’d seen an interesting gash in the hillside and wanted to know if I could get to it.  The ground was horribly steep though and the grass wet so I decided to investigate from below sometime instead…

I cut back over Hartley Crag and descended the ridge to where I’d left Richard.  I’d decided to go back via another route though which passes below the crag… The ground was absolutely horrible – all wet and tussocky – in many places I had to balance my way along on partly-submerged tree roots in order not to have the water over the tops of my walking shoes. 

My film photo of Hartley Crag taken from Richard’s descent path on another day

I knew a path descended to the wall and passed through a very overgrown enclosure to another wall above the river but couldn’t follow the path through the bad ground.  However, after following the wall a short distance back uphill, I found a gap and bits of path heading downhill – nothing really continuous and abominably rough through deep bracken.  Luckily, as I slithered down a very steep, wet section, I saw the stile through the final wall.  Surprisingly, I met a couple coming up with their dog – I’d formed the impression the path was very little used…

The stile was on very steep ground and wet and slimy so quite exciting.  Luckily, after this a proper path transpired which led nicely down to the river bank and the very pleasant walk back to Boot via St. Catherine’s Church.  When I met Richard back at the hotel, he hadn’t really had a better descent than I had!  Some very rough countryside around there…

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18 responses

8 03 2021
tessapark1969

Nice report – I was in that area shortly beforehand. Nice part of the district.

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8 03 2021
mountaincoward

If you haven’t done the Devoke Water ‘Outlying Wainwrights’ (the ones immediately around the lake) I think you’d really like them. Very pleasant and pretty easy walking – the far end is a bit wet though so try to pick a dry season!

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5 03 2021
underswansea

Sounds like a great walk through some lovely country. That rock fence that goes up the mountain is extraordinary. Very nice steep pitch you are hiking up.

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5 03 2021
mountaincoward

I couldn’t understand Richard not wanting to come – it was a very short addition to the hike – he’s just not motivated enough!

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3 03 2021
Paul Shorrock

Great report Carol. The Hartley Crag section looks brill and I can see why you were so keen to include it. Another one to add to the ‘to do’ list then 🙂

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3 03 2021
mountaincoward

If you do go to do it, have a look for the gash under Gate Crag above the river…

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3 03 2021
bob

Another area I don’t know very well but it looks good. Considering the compact size of the Lake District it packs in an extraordinary wealth of great scenery. So many fantastic hills, villages, paths, and views, that I’m always amazed every time I go there. Never had a boring walk down there yet. Great photos.

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3 03 2021
mountaincoward

I’ve always thought that was the best thing about the Lakes – the compactness. You can pack so much into a short visit!

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2 03 2021
Alli Templeton

Another stunning walk to whet my appetite for getting back out there again, Carol. Lovely photos, as always, and they really show what an adventure you had – especially with you as a dot in them – it gives a true sense of perspective! I like the idea of keeping your walking agenda quiet to avoid a revolt- I’ll have to try that! And I’ve learned a new word – ‘plouter’ – I hadn’t head that one before, but I like it! It’s very onomatopoeic. A very welcome taste of the great outdoors that hopefully we’ll all be able to get back to soon. 🙂

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2 03 2021
mountaincoward

I use plouter a lot! There’s a lot of ploutering in the Lakes after wet weather!

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4 03 2021
Alli Templeton

I can quite imagine – sounds great fun!

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5 03 2021
mountaincoward

it’s less fun when your feet get wet!

Liked by 1 person

7 03 2021
Alli Templeton

I know that feeling. 🙂

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2 03 2021
KC Redding-Gonzalez

Beautiful backcountry! I am thinking you are the brave one!

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2 03 2021
mountaincoward

There wasn’t any bravery involved as it’s all safe walking – but it’s very rough off the main routes which both our returns involved.

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2 03 2021
John Bainbridge

Grand to just SEE some pics of the Lakeland Fells.

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2 03 2021
mountaincoward

I’m missing Eskdale – we’re trying to book for late May just now and hoping it doesn’t get cancelled!

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3 03 2021
John Bainbridge

Might be all right this time.

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