Alex Rambles shares his final mountain journey before fatherhood

For my last adventure before the greater adventure of parenthood, I headed to the Lake District with my best mate Dave and #mykorakit on a wild camping expedition in Upper Eskdale.

Remote, vast and surrounded by England’s highest peaks, it was somewhere I’d been hankering to explore for years. Unlike other Lakeland valleys, there are no roads, no campsites, no industries, no pubs and no people - and all of this beneath the mighty Scafells and the impressive pyramid of Bowfell.

We parked high at the top of the Hard Knott Pass and within half an hour were stood on Wainwright number one: Hard Knott. The views from here into Upper Eskdale are staggering. Our next objective, Scafell Pike, looked very distant from here but we knew we had time on our side. Before England’s highest mountain, we first had to walk into Upper Eskdale and set up basecamp. With our heavy loads, we set out north from Hard Knott, enjoying the sunshine and chatting about former adventures, as the Scafells loomed larger and larger on the horizon.

Eventually, we reached Great Moss, a spectacular, flat, high plateau surrounded by crags, buttresses and rocky peaks - beautifully sheltered from the strong winds and nigh on perfect for a wild camp. We pitched our tents, swapped expedition backpacks for daypacks and readied ourselves for Chapter Two: Scafell Pike.

We had no phone signal, so had no way of knowing when the promised deluge would arrive. However, the sky was already darkening…

Having set up our tents under the darkening skies, we headed deeper into Upper Eskdale. The clouds overhead were increasingly bruised and draped across the sky, while the wind was picking up and tearing across the buttresses above. It felt like things were all set for an interesting ascent.

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We picked our way up to Broad Crag Col via the tumbling Little Narrowcove. The heavens opened and we donned waterproofs, deciding against a detour to the attractive summit of Pen, instead making straight for the main prize of Scafell Pike.

Fortunately, by the time we reached the col, the rain had passed to the north and we were left to enjoy the final ascent to the Pike with glorious views across to the Western Fell giants of Great Gable and Pillar.  We were totally alone on the summit and enjoyed knowing we were the highest people in the country, if only for a short while.

Descent was via the stunning Mickledore ridge, between the Pike and neighbouring Scafell, before making our way back to Great Moss alongside How Beck. Back at camp, we collected and filtered water from the burgeoning River Esk and enjoyed an expedition meal and a beer before bed.

The forecast was the morning was not good but we were more than satisfied with the adventure we’d already had. However, little did we know the morning would offer a window for one more summit.

After a decent night’s sleep, we were awoken not by the pitter patter of rain we were expecting, but by the sensation of the dawn sunshine warming our tents. Poking our heads out, we realised there might be a bit of time to get something else done, rather than simply the long hike back to civilisation and the car.

We packed up camp and consulted the map. We had no phone signal, so had no way of knowing when the promised deluge would arrive. However, the sky was already darkening…

We needed to take on something close by. Directly to the west, was the Wainwright summit of Slight Side, an outlier of Scafell. We hatched a plan to cross the river, leave our expedition packs hidden behind a boulder and make for the summit with our much lighter daypacks. Crossing the Esk with our fully loaded packs was a fun / hairy moment but soon we were liberated from their weight and making good progress.

Featured: M's Neema SS Crew

We soon met the main path and before long arrived at Slight Side’s summit. A little scramble to its rocky apex was a fun crescendo and then it was just a case of drinking in the views. Scafell, England’s second highest summit, was tantalisingly close but we now had phone signal and the forecast told of rapidly deteriorating conditions and thunder storms to come.

After milking Slight Side’s summit for all it was worth, it was time to retrieve our packs and get out of there. The easy way back would have been to reverse our walk in from the day before, but we decided to follow the Esk for a bit of variety. This meant a challenging end to our adventure, hiking up the Hard Knott Pass in the driving rain with our heavy packs. We arrived back at the car soaked but happy after an awesome adventure.

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