Starting from home after work, I cycled to the foot of Hardknott Pass where I locked my bicycle to an old post, in a clump of nettles adjacent to the cattle grid. I have used this spot for my bicycle a few times, but those must have all been in winter as I don’t recall the nettles, but at least they offer some discouragement for any would-be bicycle thieves.
After moving my equipment from panniers to backpack, and a last check to ensure nothing I needed was left behind (especially radios!) I headed off up the pass – it was now approaching 1900hrs, with sunset due in about 30 mins.
The plan was to walk to Seathwaite Tarn ( a small reservoir on the western flanks of Coniston Old Man) and camp for the night, with a walk across Old Man, Pike-o-Blisco and High Raise the following day, returning to my bicycle on day 3 (Saturday). Doing the walk in an anti-clockwise direction gave a chance for an overnight camp atop High Raise on Friday night.
As I ascended Hardknott I marvelled at the weather – clear skies and little wind. The weather forecast had suggested showers, so I was very pleased to have such easy conditions for the evening walk. Cresting the summit of the pass I found a cyclist camped next to the road, sitting outside his tent cooking. Ahead of me I could see cars descending Wrynose pass, with headlights now turned-on as dusk descended.
Half way down the other side I decided a quick change out of cycling shorts could be done as nobody was around, and they were getting uncomfortable to walk in. Looking across the Duddon valley I could see the shadow of the Coniston Old Man Ridge, and on the other side of Wrynose pass, Pike-o-Blisco. I put a quick call out on 2m to see if anyone was around – but no responses.
At the foot of the pass I turned south, staying on the road. Darkness was now setting-in; it was a wonderful time of day to be out walking, the road passes through woodland and is surrounded by high hills with lots to look at – even in the dark. The walk along the road passed quickly, and just before reaching the farmstead of Troutall I turned off the road to head eastwards, climbing towards Seathwaite tarn. The path is clear for most o the way, zig-zagging up the hill-side until it emerges on a boggy plateau. At first I thought I saw another walker in the distance, but it turned out to be Venus rising above Coniston-Old-Man.
I found a good spot for the tent at SD243988, the last time I camped here was in December 2020. After the tent was pitched I collected some water and then stood atop a rock to call CQ on 2m. It was about 2130 and I was pleased to hear G1OHH return my call. We had a brief chat, but was a weak signal and keen to get inside the tent for some rest.
It was a dry night, and on looking outside the tent in the morning I was delighted to see clear skies. I quickly packed away my equipment, and was off walking just after 0730hrs. No time for a hearty breakfast to be cooked on such a fine day – cereal bars only, to start the day.
Heading along the NW side of Seathwaite Tarn, and around into a delightful cove – an area well worth visiting, and camping spot I used in December 2021. It always seems to be windy here, and today was no exception – don’t expect this cove to be sheltered as it faces SW. I forded the small stream at the inlet to the tarn and began the climb up Far Gill.
The tarn sits at an elevation of 400m, so there was not too much height to be gained. Emerging on Goats Hawse a wonderful vista opens up – looking south across Morecambe bay and in to Lancashire. After brief second-breakfast stop, and a chance to collect some water I headed up the last 150m to the summit.
The views today were brilliant – I spent some time picking out lakes and hills and then identifying the furthest landmarks visible. The wind was quite strong, and really rather cold, so I sat in the lee of the large summit Cairn. Using a Yaesu VX6 handheld and RH770 antenna I called CQ at 0915. First to respond was GW4ZPL, followed by G6AEK, 2E0MIX and G7CDA. There followed around 20 contacts in total. At about 0940 G8CPZ called me to say he was heading back up to the summit or Arnside Knott (G/LD-058) in order to make a S2S (he had left the summit earlier), and so I was pleased to make a chase to a summit that is not possible on 2m from my home location. Shortly afterwards I caught G4VFL on GM/SS-214
At about 1000hrs I left the summit, and began heading north, keeping to the western side of the ridge to avoid the worst of the wind. Part way along the ridge I heard MQ0JKS/P calling from Pike-o-Blisco, and had a quick chat with him on 2m, I was looking forward to the chance to meet another SOTA chase when I reached the summit myself.
Crossing Wrynose pass at about 1130, I stopped for some lunch before heading up the other side to G/LD-024 (Pike-o-Blisco). Soon after starting the last stretch of climbing, above Red Tarn, I caught sight of a mast on the summit – waving in the wind.
When I reached the summit just after 1300hrs, MQ0JKS was speaking to someone in northern Norway, followed by a S2S with M0KXN/P on G/LD-047; after-which we had a good talk about each others SOTA experiences. It was interesting to see an Elecraft KX2, and I was impressed by the neatness of the toggle switches he was using on his linked dipole in place of the usual croc-clips.
After chatting for a while, I gave a call out on 2m while MQ0JKS started his descent. I made 7 QSO’s in total (I was expecting more!) but that included a second S2S of the activation – M7BIA/P on G/LD-046.
At about 1400 I left the summit, descending to Red Tarn and then northwards, dropping down into Langdale. Following Oxendale Beck through lush farmland It wasn’t long before I was heading along the Cumbria way and up Stake Pass.
The OS maps provide an unhelpful suggestion for the route to High Raise from here (the “public right of way curving to the summit from “pile of stones”. Instead, the idea route is to follow a well-used (but faint in places) track that crosses Stake Beck at NY26790913 and climbs alongside a small stream at first before traversing NE across the hillside. Not only is this more direct, but it passes over a couple of small streams just 150m of elevation below the summit – where I stocked-up on 3.5l of water to ensure I had plenty for the night.
Atop the summit I spent a little while scouting out the best spot for my tent, the snooker-table felt grass that covers the area around the summit shelter would be ideal – except for lots of pointy rocks embedded in the ground. I settled for some rougher ground about 30m SE from the trig point.
After setting up the tent, I raised a flowerpot antenna on a 7m telescopic pole, and then began cooking – vegetable couscous, chicken tikka followed by Apples and Custard (all dehydrated).
While eating my dinner I listened to 2E0LDF in a QSO, mentioning he was expecting me on the summit a little earlier – I couldn’t get my signal heard to explain I was (remarkably given the length of the walk today) dead-on-time getting to the summit, but opted to cook some dinner first!
I called CQ – it was 1850BST and G1OHH was first to respond, followed by G6AEK, GM4WHA and 2E0LDF (and I was able to apologise for my tardiness). It was great to be able to have a chat with 2E0LDF about my day. Next to call was G1OAE followed by GW4ZPL By now the sun was starting to set behind Great Gable and the silhouette of the Scafell seen against the dark blue sky. The lights of Keswick and Grasmere could be seen in the distance.
A good number of QSO’s was made, with plenty in the form of relaxed chats about my day and the camping arrangements. Darkness had descended, and I was still making contacts at 1934, when I went QRT in order to take bath before it got too cold. Emerging from the tent I could see a light climbing the side of Great Gable, and another light at Angle Tarn.
A short walk away from my tent was a pool of water where I was able to bathe, a most invigorating experience to undertake in the dark, atop a hill. I changed into my night clothes and headed back to the tent.
I put a few calls out on 2m, and listened around to various repeaters. At about 2100 BST a pair of fell runners went past the tent, and were amazed at the antenna – the guylines have retro-reflective tape woven into them, so they do look quite spectacular in a headtorch. I went to sleep at about 2130BST; I had intended to check 2m during the night, but I slept soundly until around 0600BST – it was a most restful night’s sleep.
After packing away much of my equipment, I called CQ from within the shelter of the tent at 0700hrs, with 2E0MIX first to respond, followed by G0EVV (on the way up G/LD-018), GQ0MHF and G0UKZ. I eventually made a S2S with G0EVV when he got to the top, followed by M0NOM on High Street at 0800BST.
With several hours of walking/cycling ahead, I went QRT at 0800BST and dismantled my setup. I dropped off the north side of the summit, and headed across to Angle Tarn (from where I was able to chase G7KSE on Red Screes) , over Ore Gap (a col between Esk Pike and Bow Fell – and a little higher then the High Raise Summit, and from where I chased GW4TQE on GW/NW-043) and down to the delightful valley of Yeastyrigg Gill. At the head of the valley, using the side of a huge boulder as part of a wall, is roofless stone shepherds hut – I do hope that somebody puts a roof on it at some point, as it would make a wonderful shelter (NY238061).
As I entered the valley 2Q0JKS started calling CQ from Scafell Pike, and I made a contact with him at 1100BST, and for the next hour I listened to him completing many, many contacts from his summit location. I reached my bicycle at midday, and began the cycle home – just about every possible place to fit a car had been filled along the road beneath Hardknott pass on this glorious sunny September day