So while the rest of the country is white, in Cumbria we remain somewhat green. A mere millimetre or two of snow to delay a timely departure for work. And it was much the same on Sunday. The further north we drove, the greener the grass. Keswick was positively … green….
I had been reading the description of the route up Mellbreak in the car, and looking on the map. B Birkett was alluding to scree, which caused slight trepidation, then the contours looked awfully close together. Finally there was the hill itself. Admit. It looks a bit steep and the black was terribly austere. Was this really a good idea?
But we had driven out here so there wasn’t much of an option, bar the stroll round the hill as indicated by that rather tempting green line around and back by Crummock water, very clear on the OS map.
There is not a lot of parking in Loweswater. Even at 10am on a very wintery Sunday morning, most of the small parking places were full and the pub car park was pretty much overflowing. 10am on a sunny summer’s day may mean a much longer walk in.
The walk itself was not as difficult as it appeared with the cold and frozen ground making it easier rather than more difficult. There is a deceptively benign stroll through grey stone walls to the open access around the fell. Then the path marked on the OS map has now become very well trod and zags and zigs up the side of the turf before hitting the dreaded scree.
The freezing temperatures appeared to be holding the scree in place a bit and the lack of snow meant it was far less slippery than I imagined it would be. The visibility was good and as the route changes direction, look back and Loweswater stretched away to Scotland, then as it rounds the hill and negotiates a crag or two, Crummock Water and Grasmoor appear.
Though this view was pretty black, you can see from the scree, the hill is not so black as it appears. Heather in its winter form is responsible for Mellbeck’s rather foreboding image. It must look so different in summer. Erosion has taken its toll and there are some fairly deep gullies to negotiate. As the end of the hill is rounded and scrambled up I realised that I was about to walk over a ridge no wider than my walking pole. Believe me, where the snow ends, the hill ends. On left and right!
The final scramble, rewardingly, leads to the first cairn and the hills stretching beyond Crummock Water and Buttermere. The tops of Fleetwith, Red Pike etc. being not surprisingly topped with white, and looking lovely! Even the sun came out – briefly.
The hill line had kept us sheltered from forecast wind, but at the top there was no escape, and the frozen bog, though it kept our feet dry, did make for a few ‘bambi’ moments for humans and dog alike. There is a little bit of down, then up, to the second cairn on the hill, but once there, Buttermere appears to the west and almost as impressive, the empty valley of Mosedale.
There are a couple of ‘easy to follow’ paths along the top to Scale Knot, then it is a case of picking a route down towards the bridle way in the valley. Then either left or right, back to the start. We opted for the rather more windy, but scenic route along the shore where there were a few other walkers taking this sensible route. There is, what must be the lowest crag in the Lakes, Low Ling Crag and its tiny tombolo.
So then easy, but draughty, k or two back to Loweswater with very welcome refreshments in the Kirkstile Inn. There was a window seat specially positioned, so I could look and wonder how I managed to get up Mellbreak! Appearances are often deceptive.
Such fantastic views that more photos can be found here.
and the map