If you have read my blog about our climb of Holme Fell, which you can find here, then you will know that despite Debbie having had little confidence in my navigational skills we did manage to make it to the summit. And back again. This meant she was not so unhappy to find out that our next planned mountain in the Lake District was another one which did not feature in the guide book. Just as last time, I had found an online description of a potential route to the summit of Black Crag (also known as Black Fell, but Black Crag sounds so much more exciting !) and had planned it on the map, so I was once again feeling good to go, and after running through it in detail with Debbie, I managed to persuade her that it would be safe to trust me again. I almost managed to live up to that.
After working out that the car park at the foot of Tom Gill was the same car park we had used as our starting point to climb Holme Fell, 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 damp from their time on The Old Man Of Coniston. Looking back, that really had been a wet day. I would be carrying my full bergen again, weighing 35lbs plus 2 litres of water, so this would be good training for my tabbing as well as being another good climb up a mountain. We left the car park in dry weather conditions by a path which led out the back and up a hill, which was not actually the route from the online description, but which would bring us to the same point at the top.
It was a well made up track and it gave us great views of the land between us and Coniston Water as we climbed up to a road junction, where we turned left to follow it to the very busy Tarn Hows car park. Now we were at the south of The Tarns and began to follow the footpath around the eastern edge, passing family groups who were out for a Boxing Day walk.
It was a wonderful setting on a dry though overcast morning, very enjoyable walking around the water, and it was lovely to see the lake so clearly from so many different angles and from such a vantage point as this footpath running above it. The online route and the map from the car park both showed a route away from Tarn Hows at the northern end, and my map showed a number of options available to us. We reached a stile which led into open land and I decided to take that route, even if it did not turn out to be the intended route from the guide.
I dislike out and back routes, so anything that adds in something to make it circular is fine by me. As we crossed the stile a dachshund ran over to join us, obviously preferring our cross-country route to a sedate stroll around the Tarn, but his little legs would not have sustained him through this area of ground. At best it was wet and muddy and at worst sodden and swampy, as it took us south around Torver Intake across undulating ground before we finally reached a roadway and Iron Keld.
There appeared to be a very clear track ahead of us leading into Iron Keld, which confused me because I was not expecting anything as definite as that, but it was leading in the correct direction so we followed it, even though it soon became clear it was along the edge of the plantation and not through the middle of it. We reached a series of junctions and each time took the route towards Langdale, gradually climbing up rocky tracks until we reached a gate and a junction which led to Oxen Fell High Cross.
It had begun to rain by now and Debbie’s enthusiasm for the walk was faltering, not least because I had not quite kept to the planned route. She was also beginning to doubt my navigational skills again, although I was sure we were at the point in the route where we would turn immediately right through the gate onto another track which would lead us to Black Crag. A couple were walking towards us so I asked them if this was the track to Black Crag and they confirmed it was, and that the summit was about 15 minutes away. I was able to use that to persuade Debbie to continue and we headed off, following the obvious track as it made its way over open ground into the suddenly quickly falling mist. The ground was undulating and gradually climbing as we passed a number of cairns which I took to indicate that we were still going the right way, and I kept pushing ahead to check before coming back to walk with Debbie.
My final push took me up a steep slope and I saw the summit trig point over to my right, so I returned to the track and led Debbie up to it. We had reached 323 metres, which was higher than Holme Fell, but this did not feel like the top of a mountain like that did, maybe because the mist was now so low that we could not see a thing, but mostly because there had not been a big climb to get here. Speaking of the visibility, there was the Windermere cairn on the southeast knoll and we could barely see it from the summit.
We decided not to head over to it and simply to head back, following the same track back to the gate, where we met another couple of walkers and advised them of the weather conditions and visibility they would encounter at the summit. We may have put them off continuing that way ! Instead of taking the route we had followed to get to this gate from Tarn Hows we now turned right, down the track which the online guide would have had us follow from the Tarns, which was the one going through the middle of the Iron Keld plantation, and this brought us to the mountain road, where we found a Scandinavian family consulting their maps, and I was able to identify their current location.
We turned right and followed the lane round, enjoying the views across the Tarn as the visibility had immediately improved once we had left the actual mountain, and going through a gate into an enclosure which led down to the path circling the Tarn.
This time we followed the western shore, passing a lot more people out for a Boxing Day walk, most of them with dogs, until we reached a sign for Tom Gill and turned right to follow the waterfalls down through the trees to the bottom along a well constructed footpath.
We had covered 4.9 miles with an elevation of 950 feet in a very enjoyable 3 hours, and this one was definitely added to a growing list of walks we need to revisit in the summer.
You can see more photographs from the walk here.