Lady of The Lake Hike – (Eastern Fells Day 1)

The Route: Howtown to Glenridding via Boat and Fells
Distance: 14km (8.5 miles) | Time: 4.45 Hours | Height gain: 725m/2,378ft
Start: NY443198  Finish: NY390169 | Map: OS Explorer OL5 | Date: 20/11/2011

Lady of The Lake – an Eastern Fells hike.
A high level hike from Howtown to Glenridding above the shores of Ullswater. Taking the steamer along the lake from Glenridding Pier to Howtown and then hiking back across Hallin Fell and Place Fells later descending to Patterdale then onward back to Glenridding.

Route Map of Hallin & Place FellsClick on the map for an interactive version via the socialhiking.org.uk website.

The Lady of the Lake gently bobbed up and down and too and fro in her moorings. There was a cooling breeze blowing in across the lake and storm clouds were beginning to assemble in the distance above wild looking peaks that were unknown and unfamiliar to me. As the promise of cold rain from the clouds turned to reality my previous optimistic mood began to waiver and turn into an evermore pessimistic and concerned frame of mind. Place Fell looked mightily high and wild from down here at water level, but unfortunately that was exactly where I was headed and unfortunately it seemed exactly where the rain and storm clouds were headed also.

The Raven Steamer moored at Glenridding Pier on Ullswater

On paper many months before this hike had looked a real cracker! Catch the oldest (and still operating) steam-powered ferry along arguably Englands most beautiful lake before disembarking to hike back 14km across a couple of high and wild fells with spectacular views. The reality on the day however did seem to differ somewhat from the ideal.

My mood  cheered marginally though once aboard the regal steamer ‘The Lady of the Lake’ as we ploughed towards the tiny bay and the small wooden pier at Howtown which jutted out and into the dark depths of Ullswater. Here we disembarked to begin the days hike.

Panorama from Hallin Fell's summit

Our first objective would be to gain Hallin Fell. Hallins’ not a biggy by lakeland standards (only 388m) in height but it still poses a sweaty leg burning challenge for the unsuspecting as it appears almost instantly after stepping off the pier in Howtown. And so it was that we laboured sweatily and with legs burning up to the first summit of the day.

Hallin Fell Summit Cairn

But what a summit top it is for one so small. Although the peak is small it must have arguably the largest summit cairn in all of Christendom. A massive 12ft high clean-cut stone monolith sits proudly surveying the landscapes below and around, the views are unparallelled even by Cumbrian standards. After a brief respite to enjoy the views we reluctantly set off again.

Next on the radar and looming ever larger in front of us was the mass of Sleet Fell! A small footpath leads around the lower slopes here and climbs south-west onto High Dodd. This is the route we undertook. With the weather beginning again to close in I made the decision to bypass the secondary summit of High Dodd and instead press on for the prize – the summit of Place Fell.

View from Hallin Fell's summit of the surrounding mountainscape

The feint path continued across a bleak saddle before a rocky climb came into view above this rainy and windswept plateau. We decided to hanker down for a few minutes to regain some composure and refuel on water and trail bars before a last push upwards. The first cairn encountered is a blind summit and upon attaining it the remainder of the route came into view. Place Fell lay before us and we upped the pace to reach it. The summit sits on a rocky outcrop and provides the highest point around from which the view to Gelnridding and the Helvellwyn range beyond are just sublime.

With summit pics taken a warm feeling of having achieved the days objective flowed all over me and my mind turned to the descent instead. The fears of inclement weather and misty summits evaporated now as I surveyed the surroundings from the summit for the obvious route off.

We took the clear path that leads down towards Boredale Hause where it eventually meets the Coast-to-Coast path ajoining it for the last section of the hike all the way back down to Rooking and eventually through lovely fields and fresh smelling farms all the way to Patterdale. A small jaunt along the road to Glenridding then saw us arrive at ‘The Ramblers Bar’ at the ‘Inn on The Lake Hotel’ and a cold pint of Cumberland Cream went down a treat as I sat by the fireside busily checking our route out on the walled relief map showing the surrounding mountains rounding the day off in very fine style.

This route may not be the longest or the highest or even the most challenging around but what other route offers a trip along Englands most beautiful lake on the worlds oldest passenger steamer followed by unrivaled views of  The Lake District inclusive of bagging two Wainwrights boasting two of the boldest and largest cairns in the lakes plus a fair dose of challenging terrain to negotiate and navigate to attain them, all of this followed up by one of the best pints in the lakes! Happy Days, Happy Days indeed!

The Highs and the Lows. Altitude Data supplied via socialhiking.org.uk

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