7 miles (11.3 kilometres) round trip from Hartsop up to Angle Tarn (Wainwright, far eastern fells, 567 metres). February, changeable weather. With son and dog.
The forecast tells me this may be the last decent weather of this trip. I am not complaining. It’s February, you get what February brings and lump it: usually cold and rain. But we’ve been up a mountain in our shirt sleeves so I’m more than happy. Today I want to go the other direction out of the village, I want to see Angletarn Pikes, or as it materialises inside my head, anglepoise lamps.
Actually it’s the tarn I’m most keen to see. Apparently tarn bagging is now a ‘thing’. I love a tarn, and I’m particularly keen to see one that Alfred Wainwright clearly liked so much.
We set off along a path above the village which leads north away from my front door. It’s a lovely path which takes us along the flank of the fells and past some tall conifers. Below us is pasture and farmland, further on I can see some glamping pods with hot tubs. As we stroll admiring the view, suddenly the quiet is deafeningly shattered as we’re buzzed by a couple of fighter jets as they practise manœuvres in the valley. They seem to practise daily but I’m not sure which RAF or USAF base they come from.
Although Angletarn Pikes is a boulder’s throw from Hartsop (if you can throw a couple of kilometres), it is necessary to overshoot in a giant loop to approach it from the north side as its other sides are far too steep. When we come to a junction we take the rocky right fork heading uphill to Boredale Hause, which is a junction of several of the high paths. We climb slowly up for a kilometre.
As we get higher we get our first view of Ullswater. It’s a relief to eventually get off this ever steepening path and reach the junction of Boredale Hause. We take a rest here for a moment and look for other walkers, tiny specks on the fells surrounding us, wondering if we’ve passed any on other hikes.
Boredale Hause is a cradle in the fells, there used to be a chapel here but it is long gone, the remains are somewhere about but I can only see stepping stones and a sheepfold. The fells are just beautiful as we go higher, like the backs of sleeping lionesses. Some are cat lapping at Brothers Water, some at Ullswater. After another kilometre we head behind Angletarn Pikes to make our ascent.
Pikes, plural, it has two distinctive pointed peaks, the northernmost is slightly higher at 567 metres so we head there, me trailing behind as usual. A few spots of rain fall, despite the sun they are icy cold. By the time I scramble up to the top, it’s pretty rocky, son has the picnic bag ready. As we bag the peak and look for a sheltered spot to eat, nature, with absolutely spot on timing, gives us a delicious rainbow and I couldn’t be happier. I even scamper down the crag to retrieve an apple which takes the opportunity to make a bid for freedom. From Mesopotamia to ancient Greece and beyond, rainbows are a messenger from the gods to earth, or a bridge which spans two worlds. To me it’s a symbol of love and friendship, with an optional pot of gold if you can find the end. It strikes me we may be the only people on earth who can see this one, the illusion is so specific.
As we finish up and come down to head for the tarn, the weather is turning. For every rainbow there’s rain, and this comes on chilled windy gusts. As we head along the ridge I fail to find my mittens which are hanging on a hook back in the cottage. Shovell is starting to look bedraggled. In this weather you can have poles or you can have the feeling in your hands, but not both; I fold down the poles.
It’s hard to look up at my surroundings but even so I am in love with the tarn and its little secret islands. I’m told it’s a great spot for wild camping and it’s easy to see why. The rain keeps me from stopping to admire it for too long. Reluctantly we press on. Between the fells and crags sometimes we have shelter from the intermittent rain but mostly we get very cold. We are well dressed (apart from my gloves) and we are still smiling.
At Satura Crag with its rocky terrain, the rain lessens and it’s a straightforward hike now along the ridge back to the foot of the Knott. On a sunny day this must be paradise, today it’s just sublime with stunning views and moody clouds. But it’s still a relief to reach the Knott and follow our previous footsteps back down and into the shelter of the Hayeswater valley. Not before nature has one last squall to throw at us. As we head down, the wind and icy rain/hail is blasting our faces which turn to rubbery numbness. It’s a fantastic free exfoliation and nerve paralysing botox all in one. But i’ll take all of it just for that rainbow.
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More walks in this area
We began this walk in Hartsop where we were staying, but there is a car park at Cow Bridge. Angletarn Beck is signposted from the village and then if you prefer a tradtional map you can follow Ordnance Survey explorer map OL5. My GPX is here. This walk can easily incorporate other Wainwrights such as Rest Dodd, Brock Crag and The Knott, particularly if the weather is calmer. We began to ascend Rest Dodd but at this point the wind was rather lively so we decided against it.
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