Tuesday 2 June 2009

Trip Report – Easedale Tarn Wild Camp

After two previous failed attempts, I was finally on the road for a walk and a wild camp. I left work at 3.10pm and took the M6 toll and therein started the trouble. On hitting Toll Plaza I had a 10 minute wait just to get through and pay, followed by various traffic troubles the further north I got. At this point I had already decided the head torch would be coming out and it would be a night walk if necessary. Frustrated and needing to stretch my legs I arrived at Grasmere for around 8.30.

Footwear on and pack adjusted, I left the car parked by the church (honesty box topped up of course) and I hit the Easedale Road at a blazing pace. On my last visit I seemed to recall the walk out of the village being really short but today, in a bit of a rush, it felt like an age. At this point I was practically jogging out of Grasmere!

grasmere-from-sourmilk-gillBack to Grasmere from Sourmilk Gill 

I’ve not been walking in the dark and I have to say that although I felt I had plenty of time before it actually got dark, I have to admit I was a little anxious. Later, when I thought about this I was annoyed at such an irrational response: I had time, I knew the route and I had GPS and a head torch if I really got stuck. I think this is my inexperience demon casting doubt once again.

Once out of the village on approaching Sourmilk Gill though, everything seemed to fall into place. Like my first solo trip last year, I suddenly found my flow and I hadn’t a care in the world – save for a comfortable pitch of course…

The weather was fairly warm with a slight breeze but as I got higher I could feel the dampness of the hill fog.

As I passed Cockly Crag and Easdale came into view I stopped to take stock of the route. Realising that Stickle Tarn was probably 40 minutes away I decided I’d settle for a pitch at Easedale Tarn. Pitch mode engaged, I tried to recall the landscape further around to the south west of the tarn. I remembered a spot on the western edge and thought I’d take to higher ground to take a look to check it was vacant. It was but an even better spot had been bagged just short of the path branching off to Blea Rigg. A Terra Nova Quasar by the looks of it and the next day I would find it was occupied by man and his young son.

By this point I was feeling particularly hungry and I just wanted to pitch and relax and get that homely feeling of having set up camp for the night.

I scanned the north shoreline but the scree slopes of Greathead Crag and Tarn Crag offered no immediately flat or grassy territory. I took to the path that skirts the northern shore hoping that I’d find a hidden grassy haven. The Gods were in high spirits and I found THE spot for the tent just a short distance from the path. The ground was such that the tent couldn’t be seen from the Sourmilk Gill entrance to the basin or the path running close by to Stythwaite Steps. It was wide open to the west but the forecast fortunately meant this wasn’t a problem tonight and it was late so I was doubtful of any walkers passing by at this point. I tested the lay of the ground and found it to be close to perfect so the poles were out snapping together before my pack hit the ground. Tent up, sleeping mat inflated and bag lofting I tried for a signal.

pitch_from_tarn_crag The tent from below Tarn Crag

Oddly the best signal was in the tent but only if the phone was left in the top tent pocket! I called Charl and popped the water on to boil for a brew and dinner. I had a dilemma at this point because I wanted to explore a bit before the light went completely but my hunger was painful at this point and I caved at the mere thought of hot food. Whilst the stove did what it does I lay back on my sleeping mat cursing myself for being a bit of stress-head on the way up. I was also trying to justify why I don’t do this more often…

brew_view A brew with a (slight) view!

The food was distinctly average and lacked salt (I know – not a characteristic you associate with shop bought dehydrated dust) so I wasn’t entirely satisfied. I pulled the whisky from the bag and before delving into the goodness I tried to gauge how long the toilet break would be after closing the tent and removing my tweeds – it turned out to be about 2 sips later!

I was completely besotted by the pitch and was trying to imagine how impossible this spot would be in good weather due to the crowds. I lay back and sent a blog post before zipping up the bag and listening to Elbow as I dropped off.

tent_light The glowing tent at dusk

The night was uneventful and in fact the only thing that woke me was the alarm. I checked outside and it was much the same as the night before (in cloud) only a bit brighter! I slumped back into the bag and just lay there listening to the silence only broken by the sound of running water and a little wind. It was bliss and I have to say I could have stayed in that spot all day. Eventually I pulled my trousers on and went to fetch some water from the stream running off Tarn Crag. Annoyingly I had to recover an empty packet of frankfurter sausages from the stream which was a crappy reminder that not all wild campers follow the code.

Two brews later and I was sat with the map and the MWIS forecast for the day. It didn’t look inspiring and I had a hard time deciding to try for High Raise. I checked the time and set about packing up. A final check of the site and (thanks to the short grass) there was no sign I’d been there at all.

sourmilk-gill-sourceCrossing the stepping stones at the source of Sourmilk Gill 

I joined the path back along the southern shore of the tarn, rejoining the main path between Eagles Crag and Belles Knott. The path was wet and slippery just as before and it reminded me just how little grip these Merrells provide. Looking across to Pavey Ark I was glad I hadn’t bothered to push on the night before. Stickle Tarn looked moody and wet and Jacks Rake was definitely not on my route today! I reluctantly made my way onto High Raise via Sergeant Man and by the time I got there my new Montane Terra Trousers were soaked through from the hill fog. This was a good test of their abilities as they seem to resist much less water than my much loved Mountain Equipment trousers. Nothing a good wash in Nikwax won’t cure. The Rab VR smock held up as usual – a grade A piece of kit for sure.

I wasn’t hanging about on High Raise with the poor visibility and wet trousers. I had to reach for the compass to make sure I was following the right track to Greenup Edge but soon picked up the path heading down to Far Easdale via Flour Gill. I think in clear weather this would be a nice descent and one which the map doesn’t do justice at the first glance. As I hit Grasmere it was raining quite persistently and though the Terra pants were soaked all I could think about was when I’d get another night in the hills!


Alan Sloman said...

Nice report, Dude! Ta for the gen on that camping spot - might nick that one for a later date.

Marcus said...

Alan, it's a pleasure.

John Hee said...

It always take a little time to realise the Off Switch needs to be thrown

There's a few pitches on the far side of SourMilk Gill as you wander up to the waterfall, which might be of use next time. Alternatively try Alcock Tarn for a w/camp (check my blog)
Out of you way to start with, but its an easy 45 mins wander-in and you know there's decent pitches when you arrive.
Means a different route onto Stickle afterwards for a change?

Martin Rye said...

It looked a fine spot. Alan better be careful or he might find a Laser Comp pitched there first :)

GeoffC said...

I always thought there was plenty of scope around Easedale Tarn for a pitch, but as you say it's hardly likely to be quiet in good weather, even well into the evening.
The Grasmere church car parking area is one we always used in the past, but there is a notice there now prohibiting overnight parking...

Marcus said...

Hi Geoff

Welcome back from your travels you lucky.....

Yes, Easedale Tarn has a number of suitable spots but timing is the key.

The church car park was brilliant but you are right they clearly state no overnight parking. As I arrived late and planned on leaving early-ish I thought I'd risk it. Prob not the best idea during silly season though.

Unknown said...

The photos are wonderful! Enjoyed the read of this short trip, looking forward to the next one.