Cumbria Scenes – 17.3.12


Blackbeck Tarn

Blackbeck Tarn is Haystack’s other body of water, lying in its own bowl, among rocks, at the eastern end of the Ridge. Wainwright may have favoured Innominate, but this is my favourite tarn amongst all I have seen.
I’ve climbed Haystacks twice, the first when I was only 13, with my family. It was our third summit. I would go on to collect all 214, but this was to be my Dad’s last, before the onset of the cancer that first ruined, then took his life.
That he would have been proud of me for completing the Wainwrights is the only sure knowledge I have, but my own pride in tinged with regret for his lost chances. Wherever I walked, I saw sights and walked in places that he dreamed to of being.
We climbed Haystacks by the orthodox approach, from Buttermere via Scarth Gap Pass, and ventured beyond the cairn far enough to see Innominate Tarn. Blackbeck was far too far to travel when we were returning by the same route as our climb.
But we had a painting of the Tarn on our walls, one of four prints of Lakeland Tarns by Heaton Cooper. Stickle Tarn, Sprinkling Tarn and Goatswater were obvious enough, for their beauty, and familiarity, but if I ever asked why my parents had completed the set with Blackbeck Tarn, so far removed from our usual haunts, of no great fame, and, frankly, a bland and unmemorable scene, I don’t remember their answer.
I first saw the tarn in real life from a distance, seeing it from behind, as it were, from the various crossings of the lonely and indeterminate lands between Honister Pass and the heads of Ennerdale and Buttermere. A distant view.
My second ascent of Haystacks was the return leg of a first ascent of Fleetwith Pike, via it’s straight, steep, demanding western ridge, but for all the fun of that climb and the classic view from its summit, the greater fun was to be had on the straggly, scruffy route back.
At first there was nothing but a simple descent across the grassy back of Fleetwith, to the old ruined Drum House where the carts of slate would be winched up and down the steep fellside, but with the turn back towards Dubbs Bottom, and the Old Quarry, an air of fascination with an ever-changing scene took over the afternoon. It was all up and down, first left then right, into and out of the rocks, until that moment of descent onto Haystacks proper, and the stepping across a rocky portal that opened the sudden view of Blackbeck Tarn, silver under the sun and bright as a jewel, filling its grassy hollow.
A beautiful sight, and how I wished I could linger. I am not, and never have been, a camper, but I immediately thought of the joy of waking up in this place, in the dawn hours, as light came over the skies in this otherworldly spot.
But the walk remained to be completed, another weaving in and out of rock, the shores of Innominate Tarn, the summit rocks and the careful descent to Scarth Gap. As I made my way downhill, an episode of One Man and his Dog was being filmed below, the the fields above the lakehead, but I was too late to get myself into the background of any shots.

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