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Lund, P. (1903) Easter In Eskdale. Yorkshire Ramblers' Club Journal Volume 2 Number 5: pp21-23. Leeds: YRC

Easter In Eskdale.

By Percy Lund

Hartley Crags, Eskdale by G.P. Abraham, Keswick. © Yorkshire Ramblers' Club
Hartley Crags, Eskdale by G.P. Abraham, Keswick

It is becoming more and more difficult to find accommodation at the recognised climbing centres of the English Lake Country at Easter.  Rooms must be engaged four or five months beforehand, and even when secured, many inconveniences inseparable from crowding and heavy pressure upon a limited number of attendants, however willing, takes the edge off one's enjoyment.

Having tried to "get in" at Borrowdale and Langdale without success, our party of three determined upon spending Easter at Boot, and met with comfortable rooms and excellent food at Gainford's Hotel.  On Good Friday we started for Scafell via Burnmoor Tarn.  In three hours of easy going, including one or two slight deviations, we reached the S end of Lord's Rake (2,400 ft.)  Leaving this on our left we scrambled up the screes, skirted round the top of Deep Ghyll, and after a peep at the Pinnacle, which was occupied by a climbing party, descended to Mickledore by the Broad Stand, and from there visited a small shelter among the fallen rocks at the foot of Pikes Crag, where I had spent several nights two years previously.  Thence our route lay up Lord's Rake, and across the fells to Boot.  Mist covered the hills all day, clearing once or twice in the afternoon and giving us brief glimpses of Wastwater and the sea.

On the following day we scrambled over the hills lying S of Boot, essaying a climb on Gate Crag on our way.  A promising gully about 500 ft. above Boot, and easily visible from the village, appeared to offer excellent sport when viewed from»its lower end, but about 50 ft. up, a large cave barred the way, and to pass out of this to the rest of the gully above proved too much for us, the rocks being seriously wanting in both hand and foot holds.  Failing in the large central gully we turned our attention to a more northerly and less clearly defined gully which offered no serious obstacle, and was soon climbed. 

Our way beyond lay up and down, over rough and smooth, to the "Sleeping King," the head of which, seen rising abruptly above the driving mists, had a striking resemblance to Pike O'Stickle.  As we stood upon the top, the wind p blew so strongly that one could almost lean up against it.  Frequent showers compelled us to shelter from time to time.  We returned to Boot via Birker Force, which was in fine condition.  The next day found us afield rather earlier and tramping along the road up to Taw House, the last farm in Eskdale.  A quarter of a mile beyond, the track zigzags up to the left, and eventually reaches a boggy plateau with a fine view of the E-side of Scafell.  After passing some "hows," the whole of the left branch of Upper Eskdale comes into view, with the Scafell eastern crags towering most magnificently on the left, and further away Scafell Pikes themselves seen from base to summit some 2,000 ft. in height.

This is one of the finest views in the whole of the Lake District.  We attacked a long gully on Cam Spout Crag, one of the outlying buttresses of Scafell.  It occupied us from 1 o'clock until 4.15, and though not what one would call a sporting climb, there were nevertheless several somewhat awkward situations to overcome, owing to the looseness of the rocks and the presence of much scree at a steep angle.  On reaching the top of the gully we were delighted to find ourselves on an imposing aréte, with grand corries on both sides, which was followed to a point half a mile S of the summit of Scafell.  Thence to Boot, via Slight Side and Great How, through a biting wind and snow showers.

On Monday one of the three went fishing, whilst the other two explored the upper reaches of Eskdale, and especially the rocky bed of the stream where it forks, one branch running up towards Bowfell, the other towards Esk Hause.  The falls of Esk are numerous and highly pleasing.  Deep clear pools tempt the bather, and one, fifty yards long by perhaps five yards deep, would give ample scope for swimming.  Looking from Upper Eskdale, especially about the neighbourhood of Esk Falls towards the ridge of Hard Knott, an isolated piece of rock will be seen, having a similar shape to Oak How Pinnacle in Langdale, and probably of much the same dimensions.  This should be worth investigating.

From the falls of Esk we followed the western branch of the stream, and after toiling up the foothills in a blazing sun, experienced a snow storm, through which the Scafell Pike buttresses exhibited a magnificent appearance.  It proved a tedious scramble up to Mickledore by Cam Spout, and extremely cold there, where after waiting half an hour for several parties to descend, we went up the Broad Stand, down Deep Ghyll and out by the easy traverse, then along Lord's Rake, down to Burnmoor Tarn, and so back again to Boot.  If in the neighbourhood of the Wasdale Screes, it is well worth while to ascend Hawl Ghyll at the south-west end of Wastwater.  The lower portion is much like ordinary lake-country ghylls, narrow and steep-sided with several waterfalls.

The upper portion, however, opens out to far more considerable dimensions and exhibits exceptional features.  The volcanic dyke, which formerly occupied what is now the hollow of the ghyll, has decomposed and formed great quantities of sand, from which project small needles of harder rock in very fantastic fashion.  It is an excellent example of a felspathic rock decomposing rapidly into china clay, and is worthy of introduction as a standard illustration into geological text books.  None of the farms beyond Boot take lodgers.  If they did, Upper Eskdale would soon become a recognised centre.  As it is, the distances are not so great from Boot, and the intervening ground which has to be covered is fairly interesting.