Published 28 June 2020

Looking towards Ullscarf from High Raise

One whole day after visiting Borrowdale to climb Grange Fell, we were back in Borrowdale to do a kind of horseshoe walk around Ullscarf. After alighting the bus at Stonethwaite, we climbed Eagle Crag then carried on to Sergeant’s Crag. High Raise was next on the ridge, but having been there before, we headed round in a horseshoe shape and went to Ullscarf.

Our intended walk had been a vague horseshoe shape, starting at Eagle Crag, then to Sergeant’s Crag. We’d finish it up with Ullscarf then Great Crag. The obvious route between Sergeant’s Crag and Ullscarf takes in High Raise. Take the path to High Raise then turn back towards Ullscarf. But if you don’t need to go to High Raise, you can save yourself a mile or so by fording over rough ground along the top of the crags at the head of Greenup Valley.

Trouble is, I couldn’t remember if I’d been to High Raise. So I whipped my phone out of my pocket, fired up my Wainwright walking spreadsheet, and did a quick scan. Ah, yes. I had been up there five years earlier.

It was whilst we were working that out that I casually glanced at the stats part of the spreadsheet. This does a simple live update on the state of play. It said I’d done 99 fells.

It’s a milestone. One that deserved a celebration. And would have had one had I actually realised in advance. But I wasn’t that organised. I only discovered I was about to break into three digits just as I was about to do it. I had nothing to celebrate with other than some bashed up pieces of parkin, an Eccles cake and an apple. Really this achievement deserved a massive iced bun. Or a Bakewell Tart. But an apple would have to do.

Long Crag, not far from the summit of High Raise

If our walk from Eagle Crag to Sergeant’s Crag had felt too quick, the walk onto Ullscarf was the complete opposite. Our next summit was nearly three miles away.

We started off following the rough path to High Raise, doing our best to avoid the copious amounts of bog in our way. Boots and trousers got wetter and wetter, and I rued the fact I’d left my gaiters at home as the water seeped up towards my knees. If there was a patch of land on the hill, there was a good chance it was holding a significant amount of water. And if the land was holding a significant amount of water, there was a good chance some of it would end up on my trousers.

Rocky bumps and lumps on Ullscarf

Leaving the path, we strode across even wetter ground across the head of the valley; Borrowdale just about still visible in the distance. Was that the open top bus driving through the valley? Could well have been. We stopped for a refreshment stop, perching on one of the large boulders that were strewn across the land.

Some more boggy ground to cross and we found ourselves on the path that runs from High Raise to Ullscarf. A not very distinct one. So indistinct that we lost it a few times. But that was okay, for there was a line of rusting fence posts that were all we needed to follow.

“What’s that fell over there?” Catherine pointed, looking across to our right. It turned out it was Fairfield. And behind us a view of Lake Windermere was opening up. And for a moment, it took me by complete surprise.

Lake Windermere seen from Ullscarf

In my mind, I have the Lake District’s fells rather compartmentalised. It’s a result of the fact that generally I end up doing circular walks. The result is that I tend to think a fell is a Borrowdale Fell, a Langdale Fell, a fell near Keswick, and so on. And from each fell, I expect to see those views. From Eagle Crag I’d expected to see Borrowdale. It’s a Borrowdale fell in my mind. It was the same with Ullscarf. In my brain, it was down as being in Borrowdale. So to suddenly be seeing Windermere and Ambleside, did not compute.

It took me a moment to remember that I was walking in the Central Fells. And there’s a reason they’re called the Central Fells. And that’s that they’re in the centre of the Lake District. We could easily have planned a walk that started in Borrowdale, and ended in the village of Grasmere, having walked over several fells. Indeed the Coast to Coast goes over Ullscarf to do just that. Suddenly everything began to make sense again.

Ullscarf offered some classic fence post following.

The line of fence posts carried on, bringing us up to Ullscarf’s highest point. And with that, Fell 100 was reached.

Perhaps if I had planned this route with a celebration in mind, I would be celebrating on top of a rather more interesting fell. For the fact is that Ullscarf’s top is rather dull. Lots of grass, not particularly amazing views. I didn’t even feel like stopping for long, not even to eat my apple.

But perhaps I had simply done it at the wrong time. With its position in the middle of the Lakes, with its ascent routes up from both the west and the east, there was something “in the middle” about this feel. Maybe it would have been better as the half way point of my fell bagging. Fell 107.

Cairn at the top of Ullscarf

But then that too required an element of planning that had eluded me. Still, at least when I do finally reach my 107th fell, I may just manage to find a way to celebrate.

Postscript: it all proved to be irrelevant. Some weeks later I discovered an error in my spreadsheet. Ullscarf was actually fell 99 all along. Thank goodness I saved that apple until the next fell…

Next time: Great Crag

Celebrating at the top of Ullscarf

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