A Day in the snow at 2000ft on Middle Fell with Mandy and Steph

December 13, 2015  •  5 Comments

Hi folks,
This weekend Mandy and I wanted to get up into the fells with my daughter Stephanie and we chose the Wasdale area this time as by all accounts it seems to have been very lucky and escaped with minimal damage when storm Desmond hit Cumbria last week. Due to the distance and time involved we thought it would be nice to spend the night up there on Saturday and do the hike on Sunday when the forecast weather was more favourable.

I plotted us three routes, all starting from Greendale with the main aim to hike up to Middle Fell at 1910ft and return as a circular past Greendale Tarn. Given the recent heavy rain and not knowing this area well, I made an alternative descent path in case of excess wet ground and If conditions / time / energy allowed, we could also do Seatallan and Buckbarrow summits so I had a route for those options too.

The main route I chose looks like this: (Image created with Google Earth)

So, since its going to be an over-nighter, we now need somewhere to eat, sleep and drink. After a little research on the internet I was directed to an Inn called "Strands Inn & Micro Brewery". Liking what I saw on the internet and its very favourable online reviews we booked a couple of rooms for Saturday night there. If your ever in the area, its highly recommended. (Visit their website here)

On Saturday at 12pm I picked Stephanie up from her home and we hit the road, making Nether Wasdale area in pretty good time, just over 2 hrs. As we were a little early for check in, we decided to detour slightly and go and take a look to see if we can find a parking area in Greendale for Sunday, just to make things easier on the morning. This was the view we were greeted by as we turned towards Wastwater. Lots of snow from what looks to be about 1500ft! I cant tell you how pleased I was to see this first snow of the year.

We found a suitable parking area in Greendale and from what we could see there was no snow on the fell we had chosen, although I noted that the summit wasnt visible so knew we might possibly have a treat tomorrow! We headed back to Nether Wasdale and checked in at the Strands. Once unpacked we had a drink in the bar before retiring upstairs for an hour of downtime in our respective rooms before meeting up at 18:25 to go down for our pre booked table.

Well, what can I say? The service and food was absolutely fabulous. The images dont do it justice but knowing that I wanted to mention the food and service in my blog I had to take a couple of images. Take my word for it that it tasted every bit as good as it looked and I am a fussy eater. I like my food.

The main courses were more than enough for anyone! However, the sight of other folks amazing looking puddings arriving tipped us over the edge so we had to sample those too! As you can probably see, they were also excellent!

After plenty of food and drink we played a few rounds of "UNO" (its a card game) and then retired to our room to watch "Life of a mountain - Scafell" on BBC iPlayer. Ive seen it before but I knew the girls would like it as its all about the area we are hiking tomorrow. Interestingly, I noted the Strands and its owners were mentioned in the film. After the hours viewing was up, it was time for bed to get a good sleep ready for a long days hiking.

However... that days hiking was of course preceeded with yet another round of great service and excellent food for breakfast at 8:30am. I cant recommend the food and service here enough. If your in the area, call in to the Strands, you wont regret it. (A big thanks to Andy Beck for the personal recommendation)

Ok... back to the main topic, hiking! Outside... just after dawn, the weather was looking really good. What a backdrop this is for an Inn!

However... a heavy frost awaited us. Not ideal, as I had no de-icer! But the landlady again showed what Cumbrian service is all about... when she saw Mandy running up and downstairs to the room getting kettles of cold water she insisted Mandy use her kitchen instead.

Leaving the Inn behind, we work our way across to Greendale. It was a bit tricky in places where it was very icy but we made it over safely and got parked up. The girls were ready to go and getting cold while I was still messing about with flasks and stuff so I asked them to go on ahead and I would catch them up. It really was very cold and its easy to get a chill standing around on the fells first thing in a morning, the best thing to do is start walking to warm up.

Off they go...

When I finally caught them up, we grabbed a couple of images with the screes and the Scafells behind us. This is Mandy and I.

Steph and I.

The mighty Screes with a nice layer of snow. There are two Wainwright summits up there I have yet to do. Whinn Rigg and Illgil head.

Upwards we go, keeping Greendale beck to our left.

The girls sharing a joke while I survey the incredible view behind us as we ascend. The reason for their joke? Boys and their toys...


They were laughing because I was playing with my new Kestrel 2000 wind speed and temperature meter. Its a great little thing that gives me accurate current, average and peak wind speeds and also the current temperature and wind chill temperature. I have always wondered what speed some of the winds and temperatures I have experienced on the fells are and so have been excited to use it all week. Trust me to choose a day with hardly any wind! just 5.4mph here.

Oh well, the summit should improve on that figure!

As we reach the point where the path splits, we need to bear right. That other path alongside the gyhl will be our descent path later today.

Its also an ideal place to stop for some hot drinks. I have started carrying Nescafe 2+1 sachets so the flasks can all just contain hot water. Much easier than making three flasks in a morning and of course with no milk, the flasks stay hotter for longer and are easier to clean out at the end of a day. No negatives at all.

We sat and enjoyed this view with our hot drinks...

And had a chat to the occasional local.

Suitably warmed up, its time to get moving. This is a pretty steep ascent. Certainly the steepest Mandy and Steph have done to date but they are powering up it nicely.

And when we do get tired... what better place to stop for a breather and enjoy the views?

And grab great shots of me and my daughter.

The higher we get, the more incredible Wastwater screes look!

This is a quick seven shot panorama of the area.

Finally... the mighty Scafells are coming into view.

As we breach 1200ft, the path ahead becomes far more indistinct and very rocky. I love terrain like this.

Steph looking back over to Illgil head. She fancies that hike apparently so I will set some plans in motion to get it done.

Onwards and upwards. There is quite a lot of ice frozen on these rocks so this section was trickier than it at first looked.

It gets a lot rockier now and we wander off path too as I want to get some images from the Eastern side.

Steph gives some scale to the landscape here. Very dramatic, I love it.

What a backdrop! But we have a surprise awaiting us over this ledge too.

Snow! And lots of it. Thats the 2270ft Seatallan ahead.

About 15 minutes into the snowline we decide its time for another hot coffee while I mess about with the camera figuring out the best exposure settings for snow with it. I havent used this little G7X pocket camera in snow to any extent and I am keen to see how it fares in full manual mode. For anyone interested, pretty much all the snow images in this blogg are at f/5.6 with exposure compensation set to +1.75 to compensate for the bright snow fooling the metering system. (The reason snow usually comes out grey and dirty looking in pictures)

Enough boys and their toys time. Lets head on further upwards. The snow has really made our day!

Steph and I near Goat Cragg. Its cold now... My down jacket is out of the rucksack. It really does feel like a luxury. Anyone in the market for a warm down jacket that packs down well, I can highly recommend the Montane Black Ice V2!

Mandy, as you can tell, is loving the snow too!

The three of us, not too far from the summit now. (That a feather on my hoods pull cord, i havent wiped my nose on it!)

Over to the left is Seatallan. The snow on here looks a lot denser and more settled and thus without crampons that may be a task too far for the girls to ascend as its their first time in snow on the fells so we decided we would probably just take our time and enjoy the one fell today.

Which meant Mandy now had spare energy in reserve for star jumps! I can only assume her zumba instructor is to blame for this behavior! (Thanks Barry... lol)

From 1600ft you can see over the flanks of Buckbarrow to Sellafield Nuclear power Station on the coast!

But the view backwards is far more enjoyable.

In fact, the view anywhere other than towards Sellafield is just amazing. This hole here could prove dangerous in a total whiteout of heavier snow that would level it out with its surrounding ground. I remember my friend falling in one waist deep as we wandered across the fells earlier this year... deadly if your alone and cant get out fast! Snows beautiful, bit it disguises dangers incredibly well.

The ridge from Irton pike is quite clear now and I have made a mental note to start my walk over the screes from there when I finally get round to doing it. That looks an excellent hike.

The summit awaits us.

Happy girls taking one last breather. We are all having such an awesome day.

The view over to the Scafells from just below the summit of Middle fell.

This is a great view of Yewbarrow which I did with Steve on our last visit to Wasdale. Now that particular ascent really did hurt! We went straight up the side of it to start our 5 summit Mosedale round. (See trip report here)

This is the view of where we are stood now, taken from Yewbarrow itself on the trip I mentioned. (The fell summit rear right is where we are stood now.) The fella there enjoying Yewbarrow's ridge is my pal Steve.

Back to present day... Middle Fell Summit. 1910ft.

I am so proud of the girls today, a great hike in slightly tricky and very cold conditions. They got up here no bother. Scafell Pike and Helvellyn must soon be on the cards girls?

Here is a nine shot stitched panorama of the view we got as a reward for the ascent.

While I was making panoramas, the wife was collecting ammo to fire my way. I turned round and caught this image of a snowball mid air just before it shattered on my chest!

So... back to my new toy. The wind speed up here was averaging 21mph with a peak of 27. The wind chill was a brisk -6.1 degrees C.

I wonder how windy and cold it is over on the 3209ft summit of Scafell Pike? Its bigger than it looks, at least 500ft of it is hidden in cloud there. My new toy must surely be a great excuse to head back up there again to take some readings!

The view over to Low Tarn and Red Pike with Yewbarrow ridge to the right.

Steph enjoying the summit in her nice new down jacket. Its probably the first time she has really appreciated the qualities of good down. You cant beat the feeling of warmth in good exposure protection. It makes the seemingly ridiculous financial outlay all seem worth it in places like this.

Yet another shot of the awesome view. Sorry, I cant help it!

The cold wind is a bit crackers on the top so we change our plan to eat on the summit and drop down to the shelter of the western side to have our lunch.

For Mandy though, the creation of snow angels is seemingly more important.

Our lunchtime view... right across to Seatallan, Haycock and Scoat fells.

Stephs brand new Scarpa's are starting to give her a little heel pain so I whip the first aid kit out and apply some Zinc Oxide tape to her heels that I carry in case of such an eventuality. This stuff stops blisters dead as long as you apply it while its still just a hot spot on the skin.

While we eat and drink, we take a few daft selfies, only two of which I will put on here. And even then only because Mandy really likes them!

But I do love this image I got of Steph eating her lunch. I exposed for the bright diffused sky and as a result it looks nice and moody.

A telephoto view of Low Tarn. The little G7X has surprisingly good optics at full zoom, but I still think I will return up here with my canon 5D MK3 and filters one day and make a proper photography trip of it. The views up here certainly warrant the effort.

Having rested for a good 45mins, its time to descend. Its not long before Greendale Tarn finally comes into view. This is to be the turning point for our descent path along its shoreline.

But we have to reach it first, its quite tricky up here in places as there has been a lot of rain lately, and now snow so its a bit precarious in places and great care was needed not to disappear waist deep in freezing cold bog. Some very large sections of mossy area where moving visibly under my feet in huge slabs. The water table is obviously still very high round here.

What an amazing place to be hiking. Snow just changes the terrain so much. Ive really missed it and hope it lingers for a few weeks so I can get out in the crampons with Steve. That said, the current weather forecast suggests a big thaw is likely, but I live in hope.

All we need to do now is descend to the bottom of here and turn left. You can see the ascent up Seatallan from here and it doesnt look like something we want to tackle but naturally we discuss it at this point anyway as the decision has to be made very soon. We decide that given the extra 300ft+ of altitude it commands over Middle fell we just cant be sure how deep the snow will be even if we can make it up the ascent slope, so we decide against it just in case. I may return with Ice axe and crampons soon as my next excursion with Steve has yet to be planned...

Now... Remember I mentioned that care was needed? Well... proving that life really does begin at 40, Mandy decides to try a more fun descent.

Which can be seen towards the end of this short video.

As you can tell, Mandy is very happy that she got the chance to do a bit of sledging. All happy... we continue downwards.

Greendale Tarn with a nice view out to the coast.

I think I look like a mobile cafeteria! Nescafe anyone?

Greendale Tarn selfies.

Greendale Tarn is at about 1400ft, so thats pretty much where Sundays snowline must have settled.

We cross the tarn at its exit mouth. Or rather, Mandy does. Steph and I thought it looked a bit dubious so we crossed a little later on. Top marks to Mandy for that one. I had my camera ready for the big splash but it didnt come!

Greendale ahead.

But its a pretty long, uneven and rocky descent.

The further you go the better the path gets, which is good as early on it was pretty grim by any standards to be fair.

But its always nice to walk a couple of miles along a tumbling river.

And its equally as nice to see your car is still parked up right where you left it.

Its been a great day, but the car is always a welcome sight when your knees are in pain. Especially with a backdrop like this! The nice hot flask I know is hidden away in the boot will also be very welcome and should keep me going on the 2.5hr drive home!

And thats all for this weeks hike folks. Thats my 105th Wainwright this year and I am hoping to do 2 more before the years out just so I can say Ive completed half of them in 2015.

I hope you enjoyed our ramblings and get to replicate it yourself one day. Thus really is a great route and if anyone wants a GPX file for their GPS, just drop me an e-mail and its yours.


Here is a short video of the route made with my Suunto Ambit 3 Peak.


Here is some data downloaded from my Suunto Ambit 3 Peak.


Here are the Ups and Downs.


And last but not least, the Viewranger track. Its not quite complete as I was halfway up the face when I remembered to turn it on, but its shows the route well enough.

Thats all folks, its getting cold on the fells now so wrap up, enjoy the fells but stay safe. The mountains will be there tomorrow, next week and long after we have all gone. If it looks bad, it wont usually get better. Turn back and try again another day.                                                                    

**Completed - Dec 13th 2015**


Stewart Sanderson Photography
Thanks Val, very kind of you. :)
val kay-dunn(non-registered)
As always, I had lots of fun, coming along on your trip. I laughed at all the right places. Keep 'em coming, Stewart. Just LOVE your blogs
Stewart Sanderson Photography
Thanks Rob and Hils, really appreciate the kind comments.
Rob Marsh(non-registered)
Fantastic blog Stewart
Hils Hawkins(non-registered)
Hi guys I really enjoyed the jaunt around your walk with you. It looks like you had a great time. Wonderful photos too. Thanks
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