If you have read my blog about our climb of The Old Man Of Coniston, which you can find here, then you will know that despite my efforts in the Point To Point event from Avalanche Endurance Events, which you can read about here, Debbie had little confidence in my navigational skills, so she was less than happy to find out that our next planned mountain in the Lake District did not feature in the guide book. I had found an online description of a potential route to the summit of Holme Fell and had planned it on the map, so I was feeling good to go, and after running through it in detail with Debbie, I managed to persuade her that it would be safe.
We drove to the Glen Mary Bridge car park (the National Trust car park at the other side of Coniston) which is pay and display (but as we have a National Trust membership it was free), and I put on my Aku Pilgrim boots because my Scarpa ZG-10 GTX boots were still wet from their time on The Old Man Of Coniston. I would also be carrying my full bergen, weighing 35lbs plus 2 litres of water, so this would be good training for my tabbing as well as being a good climb up a mountain. We left the car park in dry weather conditions by a path which stayed at the bottom of the slope and followed the road away from the direction of Coniston, crossing the road when we got to Yew Tree Tarn and walking over the dam.
We followed the track round the far bank of the tarn, finding it impossible to find a dry path, walking through the trees until we reached a sign for Holme Fell and took the track to the left, going through a gate to leave the trees behind us. The path climbed steadily out of the trees, remaining very wet underfoot although the day was still dry, and we followed it through the bracken until we reached a track junction by a large rock and turned right. The track narrowed at this point and after a short stretch where it evened out it began to climb steeply again, this time with rocks underfoot and water running through them. This track would now be taking us up to Uskdale Gap and although some walkers coming back from the top told us that the ground got drier as we got higher we did not notice that.
In fact, once we had got past a particularly winding piece of track we were walking alongside a constant stream of water unless the track narrowed so much that we had to walk up through it. There had been a hint of rain as we had started to climb but now we were very well sheltered between two very steep sides and as we began to clamber over bigger rocks it was a steady climb to the top and out of Uskdale Gap. At which point the wind returned with some force !
We had reached a grass plateau and another of those Lord Of The Rings panoramas was there to greet us, as we looked down on one of the small reservoirs above Hodge Close, with the Langdale Pikes providing a backdrop. It just serves to remind me of how much more walking I need to do up here. Now, after I confirmed the direction with a compass bearing, we headed left towards Ivy Crag, spotting a couple of rainbows as we climbed again, leaving three cows behind us who looked like they were dressed in black and white jumpers.
We actually contoured Ivy Crag rather than climbing it and as we came by it we could see Coniston Water in the distance and Holme Fell was over to our right. We came down into a valley between Ivy Crag and Holme Fell as we looked for the best route to take to the summit, checking down towards Coniston Water, discounting the route straight up the east side, and in the end heading north before climbing back on ourselves, following a track which was not too steep and did not require much scrambling, before we successfully reached the summit cairn.
The weather was so clear that we had glorious views in all directions, it felt like we could see the rest of the world from up here, and all this from just 317 metres above sea level.
We retraced our steps to the top of Uskdale Gap, a little surprised that our cow landmarks had moved, but refusing to let that throw us out of trusting our navigation skillz. The wind had really picked up as we came away from the summit of Holme Fell and there was rain in the air again, but we left that behind as we entered Uskdale Gap. What a wonderful shelter this was. We got back to the path junction by the large rock and carried straight on to take a different route back to the car park.
The path descended quickly and became very wet at the bottom before going up another incline to a gate which led onto another rocky path, taking us past some horses to Yew Tree Farm, at which point we turned left up the road to return to the car park from which we had started. We had covered 3.2 miles with an elevation of 1493 feet and it had taken us just over 2 and a half hours.
You can see more photographs from the walk here.