Today was exceptionally hot – the kind of day where even the slightest physical effort results in overheating and the desire to go and sleep under a shady tree. Also the kind of day where scrambling around in a river sounds inviting.
The ghyll this time was “Ruddy Gill”, at the far end of Borrowdale past Seathwaite towards Great End. Parking at the farm in Seathwaite is always a gamble as you drive down the single track road looking for any space, seeing how long your nerve will hold – can I park right at the end or will I have to do some complex turning manoeuvre to come back and then put up with a half mile walk along the road?
I managed to park right by the farm. It might have been a hot sunny Sunday in the Lake District, but it was also half five so everyone was going home. The tourists leave at five and the locals come out to play 🙂
As it was so hot I wore just a pair of shorts and a thin baselayer. Even wearing this I was getting too hot walking up the track towards Stockley Bridge. So hot that we all decided to get in at this point rather than put up with walking along the path. So without breaking pace all four of us scrambled down the grassy slopes towards the water, waded in and then proceeded to test the depth, deciding a large boulder on the left could be jumped off. It was worth it just for the look of utter bafflement on the nearby tourists faces.
And the fun didn’t stop there. Unlike other ghylls, this one had lots of pools in it. I bet many walkers have eyed the pool right under the bridge before, but few must have dared to jump off the top into it. I’m six foot four, the pool was deeper than that and from experience I know I can jump at least four metres into water that comes up to my waist.
This carried on, with some rock-hopping until finally Ruddy Gill cascaded down the steep ravine we were now in. A short scramble lead us onto some flat slabs and off up the hillside. Here’s what the guidebook says about the next part:
|Quote: Scrambles in the Lake District
|Traverse the guardian pool on its left wall to reach a more difficult pool. It is possible but awkward, to traverse the steep left wall, but most people will prefer to climb out of the gill and re-enter just above at the top of the cascade
Why would anyone want to climb around a perfectly good pool? Here’s what my guidebook would say:
|Quote: Wet Scrambles in the Lake District
|Tighten the drawstring on your shorts, close all pockets on your rucksack and attempt to climb around the left of the pool to the middle on difficult sloping holds and slimy rock. Once at the middle, fall backwards into the water and swim across it before climbing up the waterfall in front of you. If you fall off, be sure to jump backwards to avoid the shallow water where the waterfall ends
You see, my style of ghyll scrambling is different to the “traditional” version. It seems I’m supposed to scramble up these things with the aim of being dry at the top. I have no idea why, ghyll scrambling is something to do when it’s too hot to do regular climbing.
Anyway, after jumping in several more pools, almost falling over and traipsing through some small parts too shallow to mention, the intrepid (and hopefully rather wet) scrambler will reach something I call “The Slot”. It’s a narrow channel cut into the river approximately five foot wide with a bridge running over the top. At the back end is a large waterfall with a small cave. Below this is a deep deep pool that is blocked with a submerged boulder. On the left is a small ledge and by swimming across the pool and climbing behind the waterfall it is possible to get onto this ledge. Unfortunately once on this ledge it is exceedingly difficult to get out of the slot. It’s possible to jump off the ledge back into the pool though, just don’t land on the boulder.
We continued upwards with no end in sight getting tired and after having a chat with some random people it was time to turn around and go back. On the way back there was the option of jumping into some of the pools again. I had one in mind… The Slot.
From the top it looks quite high and if done wrongly has the chance of either bouncing off the opposite wall like a pinball, or landing on the previously described submerged boulder. I’d been in there before so was fairly sure where the deep part was. All I had to do was step off and in I’d go. Peer pressure from the others almost made me jump in, but at the last microsecond I stopped. How frustrating! It’s like watching the children I take down our ghyll when they almost jump. At this point a hand usually sends them on their way and all is well.
Someone dared me to jump off the lower ledge into the water. I could do that, I’d been on there before. One two three splash. Easy. Now for the higher one. There was still an air of doubt from everyone else but I had my angle and a place to aim now so whatever was gluing my feet down before had worn off. In I went into the deep water once more. It was quite entertaining sitting on the boulder below watching the others knowing what was going through their heads 🙂 They knew it was perfectly OK to do as I’d just done it, but at the same time they weren’t entirely convinced.
After that we walked back down the path, the horrid paved path that jars knee joints and twists ankles, to the car.
This was one of those outings that I’d do again. I like big pools and jumps, and the shallow rock hopping provided a bit of a change and a warmup when the water started to cool me down too much. Now I need to find a ghyll with some large slides in.