Wild camping in summer in the Lakes
I often think twice before going wild camping in the Lakes at the weekend in July or August as it can be so damn busy, especially if the weather’s good. It can seem as if everyone is out camping! As a result I try to pick a quieter location, either heading somewhere well off the beaten track or where there’s a good choice of places to pitch a tent. On this latest trip I chose the latter option and headed into the busy fells at the head of Borrowdale.
The hamlet of Seathwaite at the start of the walk
And so late one gorgeous Saturday afternoon I parked at Seathwaite and set off along the path up the valley. At Stockley Bridge I took the right hand fork heading up to Styhead Tarn, the first of the wild camping spots I would pass.
It was warm. Very warm! The red faces on the people heading down suggested it had been that way all day and it wasn’t cooling down any time soon. Having got the steep bit of the climb out of the way I paused for a breather and a photo.
Borrowdale from the path up to Styhead Pass
Finding a place to camp above Borrowdale
Having crossed the wooden footbridge over Styhead Gill I was soon at Styhead Tarn, the first of the popular places to camp in the area. And there were loads of people and their tents already here.
Tents at Styhead Tarn
I counted ten tents with many more people than that. There was definitely nowhere decent left for anyone else.
After a quick photo break I moved on, turning left at the mountain rescue box after the tarn and on up to Sprinkling Tarn. Surely there must be room there?
Even more tents at Sprinkling Tarn
No, I was wrong. Its hard to tell from this photo as most of the tents were on the far shore but I counted eight in total. Ok, I know I could have camped amongst the crags on Seathwaite Fell (seen in the background of the photo) but any photos I took around here would probably have tents in them. As there were a few more hours of daylight I kept on climbing.
The path from here leads past the head of Ruddy Gill and up to Esk Hause, from which there’s a choice of directions to take.
The path from Sprinkling Tarn to Esk Hause
The lower part of Esk Hause (where the stone shelter is) was too stony to sleep on so I thought I’d check out the upper part between Esk Pike and Scafell. I had camped there before and found it to be quite hard ground – it hadn’t changed. So what to do?
With time on my hands I decided to carry on up Esk Pike and I’m so glad I did. Just below the stony summit crag was a small area of mossy grass that was spot on.
My tent very conveniently close to the summit crag of Esk Pike
That was me sorted for the night. Time to explore.
Evening explorations around Esk Hause
I wasn’t expecting much of sunset as the Scafell ridge dominates the western horizon from Esk Pike so the sun was going to be hidden quite early. On the other hand sunrise would be much better from here. Even so I got my camera kit out and ventured off to see what I could do. While at it I could reccy some locations for the amazing sunrise I was going to bear witness to the following morning.
Heading back down Esk Pike towards Esk Hause the last light was already catching the fells.
View over Borrowdale’s fells towards a distant Derwent Water
As is often the case though I could see the light elsewhere was much better than where I was. Being on the fell tops overlooking Wasdale must have been spectacular!
Even so I was just grateful that it just turned out to be a very pleasant evening with no wind whatsoever.
Having waved goodbye to the sun I wandered back up to my tent. Despite being after sunset It was still fairly light, helped by the bright moon overhead.
My moonlit tent on Esk Pike
And it was still only 9:30pm: the night was young and it was way too early to go to bed. The only thing to do was to sit on Esk Pike and enjoy the views.
From my perch I could see some torch lights on the summit of Scafell Pike across the head of Eskdale – probably people doing the National Three Peaks Challenge. I’ve never understood why people do them all in one go but each to their own. I’d rather be here chilling out and watching them from a distance. Luckily I was far enough away to not hear them so was going to sleep well. Speaking of which it was bedtime.
The morning after wild camping on Esk Pike
As soon as it started to get light I was awake, well before dawn (at 04:30am). Time was of the essence as I wanted to get in place and get my camera set up for a series of colourful dawn photos. By climbing back to the summit of Esk Pike the view of the first light turning Scafell red should be something else. I was excited so without further ado I got dressed, jumped out of my tent and took the first photo of the day.
”Spectacular” dawn on Esk Pike
Oh dear. Actually that’s paraphrasing what I really said but the sentiment was pretty much the same.
Being an eternal optimist I still took the short scramble to the summit with my breakfast and camera kit to see if a miracle was going to happen.
At one point, mid-banana, the clouds did appear to be lifting revealing the summit of Scafell Pike.
Scafell Pike makes a dawn appearance
But it was all too brief and was soon hidden by the cloud.
Scafell Pike … gone
From Esk Pike down to Borrowdale
With the cloud seemingly set in, I finished my breakfast, packed up my kit and headed off downhill to Esk Hause.
Herdswick sheep guarding Esk Hause
While discussing the weather with the herdwicks at the hause the cloud threatened to lift once more.
Yet again it didn’t last so I just continued on my way down.
Rather than heading back the way I came I took the Ruddy Gill path back down to Seathwaite.
Footpath alongside the ravine of Ruddy Gill
At the foot of Ruddy Gill the valley widens into the Grains Valley and soon enough I arrived back at Stockley Bridge.
Stockley Bridge near the mouth of the Grains Valley
One last stop for breakfast number two: it wasn’t 8am yet so it was allowed. And then there was just the mile long walk back along the valley to Seathwaite and my car left to do making a total distance of 8.5 miles.
This was not my first wild camping trip of the year but it was definitely the first that was successful from a photography point of view. There are more photos in this blog entry than I’ve ever managed before. Given that it was also very enjoyable I can highly recommend wild camping on Esk Pike.
Oh, and there’s more additions to my Lakes photo collection too.
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