Lake District Walks
Hard Knott & Harter Fell
Date: 28th Sept 2012
Distance: 10.4 miles
Ascent: 3422 feet
Time: 6 hours 50 mins
With: On my own
Start Grid Ref: NY194010
An interesting route on to Hard Knott preceded an extended walk round to Harter Fell and Green Crag.
Route Summary: Eskdale Youth Hostel - Hardknott Fort - Eskdale Needle - Hard Knott - Border End - Hardknott Pass - Harter Fell - Ulpha Fell - Green Crag - Foxbield Moss - Low Birker Tarn - - Low Birker - Eskdale Youth Hostel
1. Harter Fell
2. Hardknott Fort looking to Border End and Hardknott Pass
3. Upper Eskdale from near the fort
4. Looking back at Hardknott Fort
5. The impressive Eskdale Needle
6. On the top of Hard Knott
7. Eskdale from Border End
8. Slight Side
9. Esk Pike and Bowfell
10. The summit of Hardknott Pass
11. The top of Harter Fell
12. Green Crag from Harter Fell
13. Looking back at Harter Fell
14. On the top of Green Crag
15. Looking back at Green Crag just after the rain and hail had cleared
16. Low Birker Tarn
17. Evening sunshine over Eskdale
18. Looking across Eskdale to the Eskdale Youth Hostel
Walk Detail: Until this walk my first hand knowledge of Eskdale and the surrounding fells was fairly limited. I'd passed through in the car and had spent half a day on the delightful Ravenglass & Eskdale railway but apart from that, and a few sightings of the upper reaches of the valley from Crinkle Crags and Esk Pike, I'd somehow managed to climb 204 Wainwrights without once starting a walk from within Eskdale.With five of the remaining ten Wainwrights I had left to do standing above Eskdale it was only a matter of time before I put this deficiency in knowledge right. So it was that I set off for two days of peak-bagging whilst staying at the superbly placed Eskdale Youth Hostel.
Arriving late morning after a tortuous drive through south Cumbria and round Black Combe (I was too much of a coward to go via the Wrynose and Hardknott passes) I parked up at the Youth Hostel and set off straight away for my first objective - Hard Knott. Following the road most of the way up to the superbly situated Roman fort I then took a largely pathless route above the steep drop of Yew Crags before making my way to Eskdale Needle, a 15m high piece of rock that has split away the fellside. Having inspected the Needle I then made my way up on to the top of the fell.
Interestingly, Wainwright only provided one route on to Hard Knott - starting from the top of Hard Knott pass. The route I followed was taken from one of Paul Hannon's walking guides and proved to be a fascinating one though definitely not one that you'd want to do in foggy conditions. When I arrived on the summit most of the higher fells were in fact still covered in cloud, even the top of Harter Fell, the next Wainwright on my to do list.
Rather than making directly for the top of the Hardknott Pass I first made a detour to the cairn on Border End, the subsidary top of Hard Knott. It was as I arrived on Border End that some breaks in the cloud began to appear bringing with it some sizeable patches of sunshine which illuminated the sudden appearance of Slight Side, Esk Pike and Bowfell. After a very grey and dreary morning it was quite an exciting moment.
Less exciting was the climb on to Harter Fell. Harter Fell enjoys a good reputation amongst connoisseurs of the Lake District. Wainwright describes the ascent from Eskdale as a, "delight from start to finish". Personally I found the route I took, from Hardknott Pass, a bit of a dull trudge, It probably didn't help that the path I was following kept disappearing. I'll admit the summit was a super spot but my enjoyment of it was tempered by a strong wind that made standing on the summit outcrop a tricky proposition.
After a direct but fairly uninteresting descent to the plantation corner near the head of Spothow Gill I then commenced a soggy march to the final top of the day - Green Crag. It should be mentioned here that after the torrential rain earlier in the week the ground underfoot for most of the walk was fairly damp. In the flat marshes that surround Green Crag I encountered the wettest ground underfoot since I accidentally found myself in the Wythburn valley in heavy rain.
It was supposed to have been a showery day but up until this point I'd managed to avoid any rain, however, shortly after leaving Green Crag I got hit by a tremendous shower which for five uncomfortable minutes turned to hail. Barely being able to see due to the rain and hail I initially had difficulty locating the path towards Low Birker Tarn. I was also very, very wet.
Sometimes it happens that there is a reward to be had for being out in bad weather - namely being up on the hills when the rain suddenly clears and the sun comes through. In this case it was a glorious autumn evening sun that lit up Low Birker Tarn quite beautifully. Even more breathtaking was the glorious views of Eskdale that I enjoyed as I descended down the steep peat road to Low Birker. It was a lovely end to the walk.