Bonscale Pike

Published 30 August 2017

The view of Ullswater from Bonscale Pike

Can there be a finer point on a rainy day than for the clouds to part, and Ullswater to come into view?

For the first of three days spent in the Patterdale area, I set off from Pooley Bridge and headed to the Far Eastern fells for a walk that would take in four fells around Loadpot Hill and Wether Hill. After starting with Arthur’s Pike, I followed the ridge to Bonscale Pike

From Arthur’s Pike, it’s just a mile’s walk to get to its neighbour, Bonscale Pike. One mile. That’s all. But as soon as I stood up from my rocky perch at Arthur’s Pike’s summit, I knew it was going to be a battle to get there.

It turned out that where I had been sat had been rather sheltered from the elements. Quite how, was completely unclear. It wasn’t like I’d been sat under some overhang, or near a tree or anything. I’d just sat on a rock whilst eating a prawn mayonnaise sandwich. Neither provided any particular protection from the elements.

But as soon as I made to leave the safety of the rock, a strong wind started trying to blow me onto the ground as quickly as it. Step back to the rock, all was fine again. Move forward, howling gale.

And then there was the rain. The wind was blowing the raindrops so strongly that each one felt like a hailstone when it hit my face. And in this, I had to find an almost invisible path in order to get to my next fell?

Navigation was made worse by the fact that I had no idea where the path was supposed to be. I couldn’t consult my copy of the Wainwright guide to the Far Eastern Fells as I’d managed to bury it deep in the bottom of my rucksack below, well, pretty much everything else. To get to my Wainwright book, I’d need to delve deep down past an electric razor, pyjamas, various charging cables and a Kindle.

Sheepfold on Bonscale Pike

Sheepfold on Bonscale Pike

Even if I could somehow have managed it – and believe me, I have unpacked heavily laden rucksacks on hillsides before, usually in desperate attempts to locate badly packed waterproofs – this was simply not the weather to be staring at books. If I’d somehow managed to get hold of it, the pages would have turned into a soggy pulp within minutes.

So I didn’t see Wainwright’s stern warning that the traverse to Bonscale Pike shouldn’t be attempted in mist.

Okay, okay, it wasn’t that misty. Just very, very wet. But when the rain is driving down so hard, it might as well be the same thing. Your head is cocooned under the hood of your waterproofs, and when you walk you’re always looking down so very down in an attempt to stop the rain hitting your face. It’s no time to be pulling out guidebooks and maps. All you’ve got is five seconds to glance at a map in a holder, and set off in what you hope is the right direction. Seeing where you’re going? No chance at all.

I am sure you will therefore be hugely surprised to learn I initially went the wrong way. However, more surprising was that I managed to quickly correct my course towards Bonscale Pike’s summit without major trauma. Thus depriving this tale of a bit more excitement.

Where was the summit of the Pike though? Which bit of the fell’s flattish top should I be heading to? With my Wainwright hidden underneath underwear, a travel towel and a flapjack, I had no idea. Although as I approached, I did notice something. For the closer I got to the top of the Pike, the better the weather conditions got. Just as with Arthur’s Pike, I found myself mysteriously sheltered from the elements without there being any particular shelter, or indeed difference in ground conditions. Was it something to do with their close proximity to Ullswater, that vast body of water down below? Or perhaps the weather gods just liked the two summits?

Whatever the answer, I was no longer getting wetter, and that meant that delving into the depths of my rucksack suddenly became a viable idea.

Ullswater, seen from Bonscale Pike

The summit of Bonscale Pike gives a fine view of Ullswater. When the cloud is absent anyway.

Several minutes, and much throwing of notepads, underpants and jumpers later, I had the book. Reading its pages, I learned that I needed to look out for a stone tower cairn or two (my Second Edition guide book being a little unclear on the exact number as it mentioned two towers in one sentence, but in another mentioning that one of the towers shown in a picture had since disappeared.) The towers apparently sat near the edge of the fell top, and if I found them (or one of them – who knew?) all would be good.

It turned out they were just metres away from where I’d strewn my belongings. Two tall, one on each side of a path that led down to the lake below, and both were almost as big as me.

If you walked up from Howtown – as Wainwright recommends as an ascent route – you’d end up walking between the pair as you approached the summit. They would stand there like an honour guard to welcome you to their home.

Looking at them, I realised I’d done Bonscale Pike all wrong. By blundering around on the supposed ridge route from Arthur’s Pike, I’d missed out on this spectacular welcome. How much better would it have been to have walked up from Howtown, and have been greeted warmly by these stone colossi.

Towers located, I made my way to the nearby cairn that marks the fell top. But I couldn’t help but think I’d done Bonscale Fell a grave injustice. I hadn’t done it at its best by any means. It deserved more. As I sat down on the grass, I made a solemn promise to the fell that I’d make up for it one day. It was, after all, the least I could do.

Next time, I get even wetter on my way to Loadpot Hill. You can see all of my photographs from my three days in Patterdale over on flickr.

Cairn at the top of Bonscale Pike

The simple but effective cairn marking the summit of Bonscale Pike.

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