The view from the top
Thursday 9th August... a good weather forecast... combined with a limited bus service to Blencarn in East Cumbria... and I realised I might be able to camp on top of Cross Fell.
For the record, I've wanted to camp on top of Cross Fell for decades. For many years, the only time I crossed the fell was on multi-day trips, but eventually I got up there on a straight-forward one-day walk. I've had fair weather and foul up there, everything from searing heatwaves to sub-zero (minus 26C) temperatures. Most of the time, I haven't had any kind of view, and there's no trodden path that stretches all the way across the broad, flat top of the fell.
Anyway... Thursday was different. I walked along the road from Blencarn to Kirkland, then climbed up the old 'Corpse Road' to the shoulder of Cross Fell. I was the afternoon, and I met a total of half-a-dozen walkers, all descending, all finishing their day's walk on the fell. I found two Pennine Wayfarers on the shoulder of the fell, clearly having over-shot the turning they should have made. They were heading north-south, from Alston to Dufton, and it was already 4.30pm and they were only half-way to Dufton. I pointed them in the direction of the summit, then made a detour to Greg's Hut. It was in good condition, and while I've used it many times, on this occasion I stuck to Plan A... to camp on top of Cross Fell.
The top is broad and grassy, but the soil is very thin, and there's a lot of broken sandstone lurking underneath. It's impossible to get a peg into the ground for its full length... something to bear in mind if you ever think of camping up there in a hurricane! The following video shows my tent, and the view in all directions in the evening. I'm balanced on top of the stone wind-shelter, so it's a bit shaky. The following morning, after packing away, I spun round for another view.
Firday 10th August... and the weather still holding...
I chose to follow the Pennine Way off Cross Fell, dropping to Tees Head, then climbing over Little Dun Fell. Crossing another gap, I climbed onto Great Dun Fell, which is the fell with the prominent weather station on top. This is where all the Enlish records for nasty weather have been broken, including longest unbroken frost, highest wind-speeds, and most misty days. The longest-lying snow record, however, is held by neighbouring Cross Fell, which once held snow well into July.
I have to make two half-panoramas because of the weather station being in the way of an all-round view. The first half is mostly broad, bleak, boggy and uninhabited North Pennines, except for the peep into Teesdale beyond the Cow Green Reservoir. The other half of the view includes the northern Yorkshire Dales and pretty much all of the Lake District.
Good stuff Paddy.I have had three trips over Cross Fell. Once we found 4inch snow on top but that was the only time I saw views off it.On my PW trip it was dire, although fair there at Dufton YHA I agreed with the two other wayfarers that it would be safer if we crossed the fell together. It rained and blew and we had lunch near the weather station, we needed compass bearings to get off it as visiblity was so bad. Not a place to be messed with in bad weather.
Not a place to be messed with at all! As an inexperienced teenager, I made a monumental route-finding blunder on my way to Cross Fell, and have treated it with utmost respect ever since.
After sampling the view from Great Dun Fell, I followed the Pennine Way to Knock Fell and made one last panoramic movie before descending to Dufton. I met plenty of Pennine Wayfarers and day-walkers on my way down, having seen no-one at all on the highest fells, despite it being excellent weather. There's a Friday bus out of Dufton, which saves a road-walk to Appleby, and from there I lined up three other buses to get back home.
I don't think I've been on cross fell in warm weather. Sleat and snow, yes, and glorious winters days, but...
As you say a place to treat with respect
Jim... when I passed through Penrith on my way home, an elderly couple told me that they'd never climbed Cross Fell in the summer. They said they always climbed it in winter, when its boggy bits were frozen. I've done that often enough myself. The other day, the boggy bits were well-charged with water after all the recent rain we've had.
It brings back happy memories of last September when we climbed Cross Fell on the same route. We were so lucky in that the weather was fabulous, even if I did manage to go up to my waist in a bog en route to Little Dun Fell (how I managed to walk off the flagging is anyone's guess).
On the way back (we started and finished in Kirkland) I insisted on visiting the 'hanging gardens of Mark Anthony' which, it has to be said, didn't prove to be quite as exciting as the name suggested!
Yeah... I wonder how many people have detoured to the 'Hanging Gardens of Mark Anthony' and been disappointed to find a 'Slightly Wrinkled Grassy Slope'.
I can't imagine how you walked off the flagstone path!
I did feel like a prat. Looked like one too. OH thought it was hillarious.
The Hanging Gardens were indeed a bit of a let-down....
Paddy - recently I was toying with the idea of taking some scouts up Cross Fell. Decided against it but we did do a few miles of the PW along the South Tyne to kill a little time while waiting to go gorge walking.
However, while reading your Cicerone National Trails book about the PW as research I noticed there is a picture of the tall cairn and the weather staion in the background. Please tell me that chap in the micro shorts isn't you!
The chap in the micro shorts isn't me!
It's a pal of mine, who just popped round a few minutes ago for coffee. He's just walked all the way through Europe from Canterbury to Rome, and popped round to remind me that he's still in circulation and available for walks!
Same guy, same hill, same day... on page 27
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