I’ve now climbed over 400 Lakeland summits since January to raise money and awareness for Cancer Research UK – read about them in this blog and if you can, please pledge support or donate – just follow the link you choose.
Over the last 6 months over 450 people have pledged or donated almost£28,000. You can still pledge support here, or donate on my Just Giving page and make a very valued contribution. Thank you! – together we will beat cancer sooner.
After yesterday’s exertions it seemed the right time to ‘bag’ Brown Crag. All on its own, I couldn’t fit it into any other itinerary, so it had to be tackled in isolation, and what better time than a half-day after a tiring walk the previous day?
From Legburthwaite I took the same track as many weeks before, heading towards Sticks Pass but this time (after passing a tent and plenty of signs of wild camping – but no camper) I kept right, heading on a lower trajectory towards Fisherplace Gill. The bracken was deep, and crisp, and uneven. Good King Wenceslas was nowhere to be seen.
Near the actual Gill of Fisherplace, major engineering works are taking place to install a local hydro-electric scheme. The information board gives facts and figures, but wait! – look beyond the figures and work out what they mean. A head of 221 m – that’s a BIG drop! Blackpool Tower is 158 m high and The Shard 306 m. Design flow 0.225 m³/s – that’s a tonne of water every 4 or 5 seconds! I was impressed, and also would expect the equivalent of 250 homes’ worth of power to be a bit more reliable than that provided by wind turbines. There never seems to be any shortage of water in the Lake District!
The path now rose steeply, still through bracken, until eventually it broke free on to the open, grass-covered fell (but continued its steady rise). The rocky top of Brown Crag was now evident, a blip on the way up to the higher summit of White Side.
As I reached the top at 2,001′, (610 m) the cloudbase began to drop, cloaking some of the surrounding hills and even Sticks Pass. I still wanted to linger and have a sandwich though, so I took careful note of the route back to the path, and tucked in. In the end there was no problem, and I was soon heading back on the same route I’d come up.
Not far from Legburthwaite I met a party of Duke of Edinburgh Gold candidates (I don’t know why they all seem to spend so much time sitting and resting – they must walk very fast the rest of the time!) They were from near Chichester, a happy group (pleased that this was their last day, heading for the school minibus in Keswick). I do hope they all get the chance to do some lightweight walking or camping some time, instead of lugging the equivalent of a small house around on their shoulders.
Back at the car, I felt the lump on my lower back getting much more sore, not helped by being right on the line of my (sweaty) waistband. Little was I to know what a nuisance it would soon turn out to be…
But for now, the total number of summits is 402 (130 to go). Total mileage 557 m (896 km), total height climbed 172,000′ (52,500 m). Oh – and total donations made or pledged are now over £28,000! If you could spread the word amongst your contacts, perhaps we could do even better, who knows?
On Wednesday I had two options based around Grisedale: to do the full round of 13 miles, 4,500′ of ascent and nine summmits (10 including Helvellyn, which wouldn’t count a second time as I did it in May): or to do the half the summits, walk back to Patterdale and go back to finish them off the day after. I decided to wait and see how I felt at the ‘split’ between the two choices.
It looked like being a gorgeous day – at last! – though I was reminded that the nights are drawing in when I got up in near darkness at 5.15. I parked in Patterdale and set off for Grisedale Bridge just before 8.00, following the narrow road (“Parked cars will be removed”) and crossing Grisedale Beck before heading upwards.
A Green Woodpecker called from the wood below – that familiar laughing ‘yaffle’, and then I was passed by two men in their 30s travelling quite quickly, in trainers, not carrying any food or drink, and one of them trying to remove his top so as to continue bare-chested. I pictured them later in the day, sunburnt and dehydrated. I hope I was wrong!
The Helvellyn path from Grisedale Bridge doesn’t quite connect with the Birkhouse Moor path from Glenridding, but a steep grassy pull connected the two and I joined a wide stony path, with a surprising number of fellow walkers. After some zigzagging it reached the summit of Birkhouse Moor (2,356′, 718 m), marked by a large pile of stones, as if some fine cairn had collapsed under its own weight.
The path soon passes the ‘Hole in the Wall’ – not to be confused with the pub in Bowness – and climbs through rugged scenery: Red Tarn and the pyramid shape of Catsty Cam to the right, the craggy face of Helvellyn in front, and before that, the knifelike arête of Striding Edge.
Although there’s a fairly easy path along the right hand slope of the ridge, I decided to stick to the very top of the ridge as much as possible. It’s mostly without difficulty, but keeping to the highest point involves a certain amount of up and down, so it’s quite demanding. There are a few more significant undulations near the end and some tricky steps down to the final section: from here it’s a steep ascent, on a mixture of craggy rock and scree, until the grassy top is reached.
I didn’t need to visit the summit of Helvellyn as I’d already done it back in May, but as it was only a couple of hundred yards away I couldn’t resist. A party of DofE students were there, and I chatted with them as I ate some sandwich – mainly asking them why the DofE rules make them carry nearly all of their possessions with them! They were from Lincolnshire, so the mountains made a nice change for them.
The sky was clear for once, the wind was light and I had to keep reminding myself to slap on sun cream. The walk to Nethermost Pike (2,922′, 891 m) was an easy stroll (apart from a steep pull up to the summit) and then it was off again over boulder-strewn grass to High Crag (2,903′, 885 m)– presumably named for its appearance from the valley, as it looks innocuous from this direction.
It’s funny how most other walkers acknowledge you with a brief ‘Hello’, but some ignore you altogether. I passed one or two of the latter on the way to the quaintly named Dollywaggon Pike (2,815′, 858 m), where a teddy bear had been left in someone’s memory. Now, I’ve had my discussions about litter in relation to the cards I leave behind – with the clear intention / instruction that they should be taken away by the first person to find them. I’m not so sure about leaving mementoes that are intended to remain at the summit, but then again I’m not so mean that I’d do anything with them!
Now there was a long descent on a pitched path to Grisedale Tarn. Two young lads were coming uphill at a rate of knots – I told them to slow down as they were making me look very bad! Their father was following up a long way behind.
From just above the tarn I set off uphill again for a long steep climb to the summit of Seat Sandal (2,415′, 736 m) – knowing all the time that I would have to drop down towards the tarn again and repeat the process to the even higher St Sunday Crag, at 2,758′ (841 m).
The path followed a broken wall, and at the top I almost missed the true summit, fooled by a fine cairn 30 m to the west of the highest point. The descent back towards Grisedale Tarn was really steep in parts and wasn’t made easier by people ringing me up!
As the path to St Sunday Crag from Seat Sandal joined the one from Fairfield, I met a couple who I’d seen earlier on Striding Edge – quite a coincidence really. At the top of St Sunday, I was just placing my summit card on the stone cairn when it totally erupted with flying ants. Thousands of ’em – and after about 30 seconds they all decided to attack me, so I beat a very hasty retreat!
On next to Gavel Pike, the summit which looked so pyramidically spectacular from the nearby Hartsop above How ridge a few weeks ago, but today was an easy descent and gentle rise to the deceptively impressive top, at 2,572′ (784 m). Two more still to go..!
So quickly down to a small saddle before rising again on easy slopes to Birks (2,040′, 622 m) – where once again the cairn-builders and hill data mappers differ as to where the real summit is. The highest point is an insignificant grassy mound, 20o m from a much finer cairn further NE, and as usual I visited both to be sure.
A bit further north I left the path and dropped steeply down to a little valley where a herd of bullocks were grazing, then followed, on tired legs, a moist path to the base of Arnison Crag, where once more I had to persuade those weary limbs to take me to the final top, a pleasant rocky outcrop reached through yet more bracken, at 1,422′ (433 m). The views of Ullswater were just lovely.
A brief descent, punctuated by the call once more of the Green Woodpecker (who this time showed himself as he flew across the valley below), led me to the Patterdale Hotel and back to the car.
A long, exhausting day. I was pooped, having done 10 summits (9 new), walked a hard 13 miles and almost 4,500′ of climbing (21 km, 1,325 m) – but what a privilege to be on the fells on such a day.
In the Hole in the Wall pub later I ordered Sausage & Mash, a packet of crisps and two pints of pale ale, which surprised the barmaid, but I replied that I knew I was going to drink two pints so I might as well order them together!
411 summits, 131 to go! I’m getting more optimistic that I’ll finish in good time, but then… what if I were to get a horrible boil on my back (you’ll notice a bit of suspense there, to get you to read the next episode…)
Rosthwaite Fell – rugged, crinkly, rambling – and a navigator’s nightmare in bad visibility. Luckily today was dry and clear, so finding my way to the five summits (Bessyboot, Rosthwaite Cam, Stonethwaite Fell aka Dovenest Crag, Combe Head and Thornythwaite Fell) wasn’t too difficult.
I had also decided to revisit the top of Glaramara: this would be the highest point of the day. A month ago I visited the ‘official’ summit – according to the database of British Hills – only to find later that Wainwright, Birkett and Mark Richards all prefer the top of equal height but 200 metres to the north, so to avoid any doubt I put it on today’s itinerary.
It was a nice change to be able to walk out of the Royal Oak and just set off walking, without the need for any other transport. I walked along the road to Stonethwaite and followed the track to the campsite, where a gate (but no signpost) leads to the foot of Stanger Gill and the start of a very steep path which rises about 1,000′ (330 m) in one unrelenting ascent, at the same time covering less than half a mile – in other words, an average gradient of about 1-in-2½. That’s steep.
It’s interesting to see the change of season, already noticeable with the Rowan trees laden with berries, and now blackberries are beginning to ripen (this will slow me down as I can’t resist picking them!)
Once on the upper fell it wasn’t easy to know whether to head straight for the summit or follow the reasonably clear path: I opted for the path, which although not as direct, followed drier ground, until a little scramble up the rocky west side was needed to reach the top of Rosthwaite Fell, aka Bessyboot (1,807′, 550 m).
There seem to be fewer contours on the map than on the ground – quite a long descent led to the quaintly-named Tarn at Leaves, and the top of Rosthwaite Cam (2,008′, 612 m) seemed to tower above me. Frustratingly, the path headed well wide of the summit, so I had to judge when to leave it to reach my objective. Others had done the same, but the signs were faint and pathfinding (literally) wasn’t so easy.
Rosthwaite Cam is well-named. ‘Cam’ means a capping stone in a field wall, and the summit consists of a massive block of rock about 5 metres high. By going around the back it’s possible to reach the top without any difficulty and it’s a perfectly safe place to stand and enjoy the view.
Back to the main path, which runs close to the edge of a spectacular drop into Langstrath, to repeat the exercise for Stonethwaite Fell (the alternative name of Dovenest Crag sounds better) at 2,073′ (632 m). A detour to the summit – number 400! – and then return to the comparative safety of the path before finally heading to the imposing summit of Combe Head (2,405′, 733 m).
In fact Combe Head seems to dominate the valley of Combe Gill so much that I’m surprised it doesn’t feature more prominently in the books of Wainwright and Richards in its own right. Perhaps its appearance as a footman of Glaramara contributes to this second-class status, but it still seems odd, as from most of the fell it hides Glaramara and is easily the dominating feature.
Getting to it requires some effort too, sidling through the corridor of Combe Door and finding a path between the big outcrops of rock. The reward for this effort comes by way of a superb view down the valley of Combe Gill towards Derwentwater, with Skiddaw behind, although by now it was a bit hazy.
I dropped down and found a good path snaking its way up to Glaramara. Before it reached the top, however, progress appeared to be arrested by a cliff face, but there was actually a way up which involved a bit of simple scrambing. I reached the cairn (which was the NE summit I intended to visit), then made exactly the same mistake as a month ago and headed for the SW top! As soon as I got there I realised what I’d done, so retraced my footsteps, with the result that in four weeks I’ve visited both tops of Glaramara twice. There’s nothing like making absolutely sure.
At the foot of the cliff on the way down I met another walker, the first human being today. Colin was from Burnley, camping near Grange, and had been given a few hours off family duties. He’d just found my card on Combe Head so promised to send the photo when he got home.
I carried on down the ridge, taking in the top of Thornythwaite Fell (1,883′, 574 m) on the way, before following the line of Combe Beck and joining the road to Rosthwaite. Just before I arrived back at the Royal Oak I was stopped by a party of six walkers who asked, in heavy German accents, how far it was to Seatoller. My answer of twenty minutes seemed to be very good news, especially to the large, tired lady who said “Ken I geev you a keess?” “Certainly!” I replied, at which she immediately had second thoughts and carried on walking!
Another 5 new summits today, plus definite confirmation that Glaramara is in the bag too. 8.72 miles (14.03 km); 2,647′ (806 m) of ascent. 402 summits in total, leaving 140 to go; 540 miles (870 km) and over 165,000′ (50,000 m) of climbing.
Tomorrow’s (Friday’s) walk looks like it might be scuppered by rain; then after the weekend it’s two days babysitting in York, hopefully followed by two more days walking and then a family wedding in London the following weekend. Phew!
After a long day on Birker Fell over a week ago, the weather turned even wetter until the weekend – but I had a longstanding arrangement to go to Cardiff with a group of friends. We had a great time, but as the sun shone the whole time, I couldn’t help thinking that I was losing valuable Birkett-time! Having arrived home on Tuesday evening it was a case of getting everything packed ready for a 6 am start on Wednesday!
Thankfully, the weather looked like holding for a big day which was to include Great Gable and Kirk Fell, the two massive summits which dominate ‘England’s finest view’ above Wastwater – although my plan was to climb them from the other side, starting at Seathwaite in Borrowdale. I parked in the same place I had done for the Great End / Glaramara round a few weeks earlier, but this time crossed Grains Gill and Sourmilk Gill on my way to the first summit, Grey Knotts (2,287′, 697 m).
It wasn’t easy to find the path at first, smothered as it was in thick bracken, but before long the way up became clear, and I was reassured to see John Bankes’s memorial stone confirming that I was on track. The path continued steeply upwards, past dangerous mine openings (leading me to marvel at the stamina of the early mineworkers, who had such an arduous ‘commute’ at each end of the day).
When the slope eased (just after a Peregrine put in an appearance below me) the route became a trudge over boggy ground, with fine views to the Buttermere fells, before steepening again for the final ascent to the rocky top of Grey Knotts.
Wainwright states that “Only those of unusual talent could go astray on the simple walk to Brandreth” (2,344′, 715 m) and I’m pleased to report that this time I had no problem. Unlike seven years ago when climbing all the Wainwrights – on that occasion I thought the more distant Green Gable was Brandreth; steamed past the summit and continued, arriving at Green Gable’s summit before realising my mistake and then returning all the way to make sure I’d actually visited the exact summit!
This time I noticed that the summit ‘proper’ – an untidy jumble of stones and fenceposts – appears no higher than another cairn 50 meters away, so as is my custom I made sure to visit both, just to be on the safe side.
My next objective was Kirk Fell, so I left the ridge path heading towards Green Gable and dropped down to an old path with the charming name of Moses Trod. This route was once used to carry slate from Honister to Ravenglass for export, and it’s said that the return journey often involved a bit of smuggling. One of the quarry workers by the name of Moses Rigg used to export illicit whisky, distilled at The Dubs, hence the name.
A few more walkers were around now: after a short climb I arrived at Beck Head, between Great Gable and Kirk Fell, where a view of Wastwater and the screes opened up. Both directions looked like big climbs, so I got my head down and set off up the steep stony path to Kirk Fell.
At the North Top (or East Top, depending on which book you read – either way it’s at 2,582′, 787 m) I met another walker who turned out to be a farmer from near Bellingham in Northumberland having a day off from work. I have to say I haven’t met many farmers who spend their days off by fell-walking, but we had a good natter. His farm is on the Pennine Way so I must have walked right past it in 2008.
On now to the main summit of Kirk Fell (2,630′, 802 m) where I met a couple and noticed a slight Australian accent: it turned out they were English but had lived near Perth for the last 40 years. They’d been to Scotland and stayed a night in Perth (Scotland) – just to say they’d been, I think.
After returning to Beck Head I resigned myself to another long, steep, stony climb. From the bottom you can’t see how the path negotiates what looks like an impossibly steep section higher up, but when you get there you don’t even feel aware that it’s so steep, but just continue your upward progress among thousands of boulders.
The summit (2,949′, 899 m and the sixth-highest Wainwright) was busy (it often is) and hosted a local family from Muncaster – mum, dad and four children – who were celebrating mum’s birthday and even gave me some cake before I took their selfie (if that’s possible) together with my summit card. I do hope they send it back.
A quiet, reflective few moments followed at the Fell & Rock Club War Memorial before the steep descent to the aptly named Windy Gap, which was indeed the windiest place all day – but still worth stopping here to savour the views. By now there was a stream of walkers heading for Great Gable’s summit, but very few were visiting the nearby Green Gable (2,628′, 801 m). The turf near the top really is a rich green colour, although I’m not sure if this is the reason for its name.
From here it was a gentle saunter for a mile or so to the day’s final summit, Base Brown, at 2,120′ (646 m), followed by an almost excruciatingly steep descent down the nose of the fell towards Sourmilk Gill.
As the gradient slackened, the path became pitched, not with flat stones but with big, rounded cobbles. There was no way to negotiate this without landing, time after time, on the balls of my feet, to the point where they were aching like mad. The end at Seathwaite couldn’t come soon enough!
Almost up to 400 now – the 7 summits today taking me to 397, and good to get two BIG hills out of the way. 8.25 miles (13.27 km) and 4,310′ (1,313 m) of ascent.
Tonight I was once again booked in to the Royal Oak at Rosthwaite, who are giving me much appreciated support and a warm welcome. Tomorrow – the twists and turns of Rosthwaite Fell, and hopefully more good weather!
Thanks again to everyone who reads this blog, to all the supporters of this challenge and everyone else offering encouragement. It’s a combination of your support, and the fact that it’s all in aid of Cancer Research, wot keeps me going when the weather isn’t as good as it was today!
Tuesday 9 August. There are 13 Birketts in the fells of the Ulpha, Birkby, Stainton and Whitfell areas, plus an outlier that I needed to pick up on the north of Corney Fell. I had them planned as either two ‘easy’ excursions or one long hard day, and thought the the more difficult one would be a good challenge. With only Tuesday available until later in the week, I got up early and arrived at the Stanley Ghyll junction on Birker Fell just before 8.00. I’d set off in lovely weather, but now there were looming skies and heavy showers.
I followed the anglers’ track towards Devoke Water before following a faint path to the summit of Rough Crag, before heading across to the next top – which just makes it into the list of Birketts by 12″ – Water Crag. Every time I looked towards the coast it seemed like a shower was imminent, but somehow it stayed dry.
It was now over 1½ miles to The Knott, quite a distinctive little summit, and the going was rough: trying to traverse the shoulder of White Pike wasn’t as easy as it sounds and involved many ups and downs, often to avoid rocky outcrops. The final stretch to the summit was marginally easier, over rough grass, and led to a great view of the Esk estuary at Ravenglass.
Heading NE to the much higher White Pike I was struck by how quickly the bright greens of spring and summer have already given way to the yellows, browns and greys of early autumn. Where has this year gone? The cairn on the summit is impressive, and visible for miles around.
Not far from here to Woodend Height, but the wind was getting stronger and rain was now in the air. I donned waterproofs, which were to stay on for most of the day, and the first heavy rain fell. Close to Woodend Height is the fortress-like rock bastion of Yoadcastle which, like Seat How later in the day, can just about be reached on grass if you pick a way between the steep rocks.
From Yoadcastle the route to Stainton Pike involved plenty of undulation, although there was a path for most of the day. One wire fence needs to be crossed, but it’s not barbed wire, thank goodness! The top is a little sea of boulders and it was really catching the wind. Whitfell, another little quantum leap up in height, beckoned from the south-east, so off I set again, not finding any path until well past little Holehouse Tarn.
Whitfell has a large stone wind-shelter (very useful) and a nearby trigpoint. It always surprises me when the trigpoint is so obviously not at the top, but I guess the surveyors from Ordnance Survey were more interested in maximising what could be seen rather than providing the summit with some kind of ‘crown’.
When Val and I did Great Paddy Crag and the Buck Barrows a couple of weeks ago we couldn’t be bothered with the one-mile trek to Burn Moor, so now I had a one-kilometre trek instead – very straightforward, mainly to find out that Burn Moor is on a par with Plough Fell when it comes to excitement (or lack of it).
Returning my steps for much of the way, I peeled off right before the summit of Whitfell and headed down to Bigertmire Pasture. From above it’s hard to see how there could be anything worthy of Birkett status down there: it’s only when you look back later from the valley of Holehouse Gill that you get any impression of its dominance above that side of the valley.
The summit itself is almost weird – a small bump, just on the far side of a gate, is all there is, followed by the conundrum of how to descend via ground covered in huge rushes, with stile-less stone walls thwarting many reasonable-looking routes. I made the mistake of taking off my waterproof top, and was rewarded by the weather-gods by a torrential shower within five minutes.
Once I was down in the valley of Hole House and Pike Side farms, I found the steep way up to the top of The Pike, an impressive looking hill seeming to punch above its weight above these remote settlements. Looking for the exact summit I realised it was an outcrop of rock underneath the dry stone wall.
The 1+ mile trek to the top of Hesk Fell looked deceptively straightforward and turned out to be a real slog, the rounded shape of the fell producing one false summit after another.
From here on the going got really tough underfoot. A faint path soon vanished completely and the next 1½ miles were a gruelling hack over long tussocky grass, thick rushes, and the bog of Cockley Moss. As the wall approached around the Woodend Farm surroundings I was encouraged by the presence of a path on the map. This was a complete fiction: 500 metres of pure bog followed, with the path being about as real as the tooth-fairy.
With legs ready to take a break, and only the rocky fortress of Seat How to conquer, the rain once again returned with venom. I was determined to find a way to the top that didn’t involve scrambing (there is one); arrived at summit no 13, found an even less difficult way down, and now only had half a mile of track to get back to the car.
A couple who were just setting off for a stroll to the lake asked it that was me they’d seen at the top of Seat How, and did I get caught in the squall. Yes and yes. After almost 14 miles (half of which counted double!) and over 8 hours of walking, I was glad to see the car.
On the way home I found the fact that I now have only 150 or so summits left to do was both encouraging and depressing. I’ve done 390 – so another 150 between now and the end of the year must be possible. But on the other hand, the thought of another 20 – 30 days on the fells, in weather that’s refused to be pleasant for most of the last two months, didn’t seem such a happy prospect. I’m beginning to discover the mental, as well as the physical, side of the Challenge.
Never mind – as Winston Churchill used to say – KBO (I’ll let you Google that one, if you don’t know it already!)
List of today’s fells (for a change):
Rough Crag 1,047′ (319 m)
Water Crag 1,001′ (305 m)
The Knott 1086′ (331 m)
White Pike 1450′ (442 m)
Woodend Height 1597′ (487 m)
Yoadcastle 1621′ (494 m)
Stainton Pike 1632′ (498 m)
Whitfell 1881′ (573 m)
Burn Moor 1780′ (543 m)
Bigert 1086′ (331 m)
The Pike 1214′ (370 m)
Hesk Fell 1565′ (477 m)
Seat How 1020′ (311 m)
Total miles walked during the challenge = 523 (842 km) and total ascent climbed = 158,500′ (48,281 m). Mt Everest is 29,029′ (8,848 m) high.
Donations made or pledged are now almost £28,000. I wonder where we’ll end up. One things for sure – the more people we can involve, the better the result will be!
Saturday 6 August, and our plan was a clockwise round of fells east of Lamplugh, starting with Owsen Fell (1,342′, 409 m), taking in Blake Fell, the highest point of the Lamplugh Fells at 1,878′ (573 m) and ending on High Hows, a tiddler at 1,027′ (313 m).
We parked the car opposite the church and followed the lane east, to be thwarted almost before we’d begun. An unfriendly sign and barbed wire blocked the way forward: we decided to reverse our route and start with High Hows, then work things out once we got to Owsen Fell.
Straight away we had to ford Wisenholme Beck, then leave the footpath and head up fields towards the obvious, if not lofty, top of High Hows. There were actually signs that we were on an ancient track, now almost completely overgrown, with a bit of excitement created by the presence of a few Mountain Pansies poking out of the grass. Someone – presumably the farmer – has placed a tree stump at the summit of High Hows – it didn’t grow there: I suspect it’s something for the sheep to scratch themselves on.
Reading my directions backwards, I looked in vain for a stile into the nearby forestry plantation, finally striding the wire fence (easier for me than Val!) and finding a gravel track which gradually rose through the trees before making its exit at the bottom of a steep climb up to the top of Sharp Knott (1,581′, 482 m). The summit was remarkable for its bird life – within a couple of minutes we’d seen a Mistle Thrush and some Meadow Pipits, while swooping overhead were Swallows, House Martins and a Swift.
A steady pull took us to the top of Blake Fell, where a friendly couple of walkers were taking a breather in the stone wind shelter. After a brief conversation, during which another walker quickly passed by, we set off towards Carling Knott (1,785′, 544 m). The map indicates a pile of stones at the summit, and that’s what I thought it was, until the man who’d walked past us a few minutes earlier popped up from inside it like a Jack-in-a-box to say a cheerful “Good Morning!” It is in fact another well-constructed wind shelter – perfect for Val to take off her boots and give sore feet a rest.
400 m beyond Carling Knott is the Loweswater End of Carling Knott (shown on the map as ‘Carling Knott’ – I know, it’s confusing!). This top is lower, at 1,705′ (519 m), and I was hoping for a good view over Loweswater, but came away disappointed. I guess it looks impressive from the Loweswater side!
Bill Birkett’s directions suggest turning around and contouring below Carling Knott to reach the ridge leading to Burnbank Fell, but it looked like a rough hack, so we simply followed the path back to the fine wind shelter (where a party of three had just found my card) and found the ridge on much easier going.
The not-so-exciting summit of Burnbank Fell
At 1,558′ (475 m) the summit of Burnbank Fell isn’t exactly inspiring, being a simple fencepost at a corner where the fence changes direction. Someone has built a small cairn nearby but it looks a bit lonely and lost, to be honest. And for the next kilometre the fence was a fairly good guide to the final summit, Owsen Fell.
We now had to descend to where we first encountered those unfriendly signs. After a steep descent, with the track in full view, we came to the wall corner where there was… a stile! You might think this signified a footpath, but 100 metres further on, where the footpath met the old track, we were met by more signs saying “No Footpath”. Now, I have some sympathy if people want to have a bit of privacy, but simply to erect a “No Entry” sign with nowhere else to go is, in my view, a tad unreasonable.
So we walked the last 400 metres with Val feeling distinctly uncomfortable and me feeling indignant. Neither of us were able to display our different emotions to anyone, as we easily negotiated the barbed wire fence and returned to the village without meeting a soul! A final point – the tiny village of Lamplugh can show the Borough of Ribble Valley a thing or two, with a very smart purpose-built toilet by the church, available for all to use, with a little jar requesting a donation. The contrast with the nearby ‘No Access’ signs was so conspicuous, I certainly didn’t begrudge stumping up 50p!
Today’s seven fells brought the total to 377, with mileage up to almost 510 (820 km) and ascent over 155,000′ – or to put it another way, 47.3 km! I haven’t included a map of the summits climbed for a while – there’s a lot more green than last time!
I know it’s not very romantic, but at least Val and I were spending the day together, which makes a change from much of the year so far (although my better half had already chalked up 66 summits with me). It’s a long drive to Ennerdale Water from Clitheroe – about the furthest Lake District destination from home – and so it was almost 10 am before we’d parked up at the Bowness Knott car park and got our boots on.
After spotting a field of extremely patriotic-looking sheep we headed up slopes at first heavily brackened, then clothed in heather and bilberry, to the summit of Bowness Knott, which at 1,093′ (333 m) enjoys a great view beyond Ennerdale Water to the hills of Dumfries and Galloway.
At our next summit, Brown How (1,056′, 322 m), the solid rock outcrop left no room for a calling card, so we pressed on, meeting a family of four on the way. The young children seemed to be having a good time on the fells: we left them heading for Brown How while we tackled the steep ascent up Rake Beck Gill towards Herdus (1,844′, 562 m), where the views now included the Isle of Man – so we had three ancient kingdoms in view at the same time.
We should have returned to the col before heading up to Great Borne (2,019′, 616 m) but instead tried to take a slightly higher route – but this involved crossing a boggy plateau and we were soon regretting our decision as we floundered from one peat hag to the next. The top of Great Borne is a small plateau strewn with boulders, making it fairly easy for someone to build a small wind-shelter near the trigpoint. (Or did they build the trigpoint next to the small shelter?)
Concerned that we might run short of time, I suggested to Val that she head straight for Starling Dodd, whilst I followed the dog-leg in the fence to my next summit, Gale Fell (1,699′, 518 m). She was in visual contact with her target the whole time, and the path was very clear, but she was still a bit nervous and seemed glad when I rejoined the route and caught her up.
I think some summit cairns could be described as ‘art’ – certainly some of them are better than exhibits I’ve seen in art galleries – and the one at the 2,077′ (633 m) summit of Starling Dodd is a good example. The twisted, rusting iron fence posts and rails have been woven together to create a great abstract work of the fells. Glancing towards Pillar Rock reminded me that I need to arrange some help for this rock climb before long – scary!
Red Pike above Buttermere, which I visited in worse conditions in early July, dominated the scene ahead, but we only needed to call at Little Dodd (1,936′, 590 m), where a similar iron post cairn exists, this time more like the former ‘B of the Bang’ sculpture in Manchester (which was sold for scrap in 2012, whereas this one was made from scrap, a nice irony I think).
After contouring around the head of Gillflinter Beck we took the path down the side of the little valley before entering the forest on a good track. After half a mile a path is shown on the map, but there’s no sign of it on the ground, which is a shame as we had to follow the track a much longer way back – over 2½ miles, to the car park. Here we met the family of four again, finding out that they were from Ivybridge in Devon where I have some family.
Our lodgings tonight (pushing the boat out on our anniversary) were to be the Stork Hotel in Rowrah just a short drive away, but before that we needed to record the video which you can find at the top of the website’s home page – if you’re on Facebook and haven’t already shared it, please do!
Summary of today: 7 summits (total 370), 9.6 miles (15.4 km); 2,513′ (765 m) climbed. The most important statistic though, is the fact that I’ve now walked more than 500 miles in this challenge. And if you return to the home page you’ll be able to see (and hear) me singing (if that’s the right word) – about it.
No one who’s driven along the side of Wastwater can fail to be impressed by the steep mountainside above the opposite bank, draped by huge scree slopes and plunging into the deep water. The walk across the top of these screes has no difficulties, unless you have a fear of heights, and the views down to the lake from the top are truly breathtaking.
Leaving a car in one of many roadside spaces, Ian and I continued in the other to the National Trust car park at Brackenclose, where NT staff were out in force with the dual purpose of enforcing payment and enrolling new members. So far this year I think I’ve recouped my membership fee in free parking alone. Passing the Fell & Rock hut (I’m told it has three-storey bunks) we started on the good path up the fell to Illgill Head (1,998′, 609 m). It was worth stopping occasionally to look back, as the view of Wasdale Head, Kirk Fell and Great Gable unfolded in all its glory.
Before reaching the summit a cleverly balanced cairn is encountered – good to see that everyone respects the builder’s skill and leaves it unmolested.
As on previous days the clouds began to build, but they kept mainly above us as we headed the 1½ miles to the top of Whin Rigg. You have two choices here – the route directe across the fell top, well away from the edges (and the views) or the cliff-edge path, which winds in and out of the ravine tops to reveal – not so much screes, but stark buttresses of rock and vertiginous, near-vertical cliffs. That’s the one for me!
The situation is stunning, nowhere threatening or exposed, but just near enough to savour the amazing views. There is one place where a huge, grassy section of the cliff top, perhaps the size of a squash court, has clearly slipped down by several feet and looks like it will all go crashing down one day. But the path is on the safe, landward side. A few sheep were happily grazing on its top, unaware of the danger they were putting themselves in…
Unlike the top of Illgill Head, that of Whin Rigg (1,755′, 535 m) is quite near the precipice, with the cairn set in a small stone wind shelter. There were plenty of walkers around by now, some wearing precious few clothes despite the chilly weather.
Irton Fell (1,296′, 395 m) is an easy walk, a gently-sloping fell top on the far side of Greathall Gill. I’m not sure why the cairn isn’t quite at the highest point, but as usual I visited both, just to be sure, before setting off for Great Bank.
Not a high fell at 1,079′ (329 m), but Great Bank doesn’t surrender its summit easily. The former forest has recently been felled, leaving a nightmare of tree stumps, branches and stagnant pools of filthy water. And this isn’t the worst bit! The knoll that’s the top section of the fell is steep and thickly clad in bracken, heather and bilberry. It was one of the most difficult hacks of the year: at the top I glanced down at my legs and saw dried blood everywhere – except it wasn’t blood, it was the smearing of scores of ripe bilberries!
After slogging through the old forest it was a pleasure to follow the steep pitched path down Greathall Gill to the valley bottom, where the path followed the River Irt until we reached the road and a brief trek back to the car.
Another day done – there have been quite a few in the last couple of weeks – 4 summits bringing the overall number up to 363 – almost exactly two-thirds done. Time for a few days off before coming back next weekend (as I write this, that’s tomorrow!)
The Mosedale Horseshoe is a classic route from Wasdale Head including Pillar, Scoat Fell and Red Pike: before today I’d walked it three times, but once on high ground I’d never enjoyed a view of any kind. On each occasion I’d walked it in cloud (or cloud and heavy rain), so with a bright forecast for today I was optimistic of a more rewarding day.
And as I drove along one of Britain’s finest roads (when there’s no traffic) along the side of Wastwater, the sky looked reasonably clear above the mountains I was bound for. I met up with my regular walking companion Ian Hardy (without Meg the Flat Coat Retriever this time) and we set off from the Wasdale Head green, past lots of tents and the famous Inn.
The walk soon passes a fine packhorse bridge over Mosedale Beck before heading up, gradually at first, towards the Black Sail Pass. A steady plod kept us moving onwards and upwards, crossing Mosedale Beck higher up to the pass, where the onward path drops down into Ennerdale. Here we turned left along the ridge, heading towards Pillar, but first of all Looking Stead (2,057′, 627 m) from where, as the name suggests, there are great views in all directions – down Mosedale, into Ennerdale, and across to the bulk of Pillar.
There was a lot more ascent to be done – almost 900 ft more, and before we arrived at our highest point of the day, the cloud had returned and we were back in cold misty conditions, adding more layers of clothing. There were some long drops off on the right which I would have liked to see, and of course Pillar Rock, which I’ll be doing as a separate rock climb (er, hopefully) was masked by the cloud too. The first person we saw was at the trig-pointed summit (2’927′, 892 m) where a fellow walker was busy talking to someone on the phone. Slightly depressed at the lack of any view (again!) we pressed on down the steep descent to the aptly-named Windy Gap.
At the top of the next ascent was the bouldery top of Black Crag (2,717′, 828 m), and the cloud cleared!! I could hardly believe it – we could see down the Mosedale valley on one side, Ennerdale on the other, and across to Steeple and Red Pike. Wow!!
Another climb led to Scoat Fell (2,760′, 841 m), where a stone wall surprisingly crosses the top of the fell. More people were arriving from different directions now, as we followed the steep little descent and the slightly exposed climb back up to Steeple (2,687′, 819 m), a very distinctive top. Whether it deserves Wainwright status all on its own, or would be better described as a spur of Scoat Fell, isn’t really important – it’s a prominent feature of the local landscape.
In the past I’ve never been able to find the path from Scoat Fell to Red Pike, blaming it on the thick mist each time. Now I discovered the real reason – there isn’t one! Not really – it seems to be a question of following your nose across the wide top for several hundred yards before a faint path eventually begins to appear, dropping to a col and then starting the long rise to Red Pike (2,709′, 826 m). Actually, the path doesn’t go to the summit either – it goes past at a distance of about 75 yards and you have to make a deliberate effort to leave it if you want to visit the top.
Which you should, because the views back to Pillar and Black Crag are well worth the effort.
Only two summits left – the two tops of Yewbarrow – but only after a very long descent to Dore Gap, a col above a large, steep scree slope (which I descended once when daylight was getting short – quite an experience). And from Dore Gap came Stirrup Crag, a near vertical rocky ascent which at times is a real ‘hands-on’ scramble – nowhere dangerous but quite exhilarating.
Confusion over which top was the true North top of Yewbarrow was resolved by visiting both and leaving a card at the one with a cairn. This is the lower of the two tops on Yewbarrow at 2,021′ (616 m) and almost half a mile from the higher South top (2,058′, 628 m), where the impressive cairn left no doubt as to the highest point and enjoyed great views of Scafell Pike, Scafell and Mickledore, the toothless gap between them.
The path down the nose of Yewbarrow (and what a nose!) is steep, shaly and slippery, so we returned to the col half way to the North top and found a path down the side. But we regretted this a little when it seemed to go a long way back towards Dore Head, and then descended very steeply on a stretch which seems to have been washed away during last winter’s floods.
But although this was the longer way round, it still led back eventually to where we’d left Ian’s car, in the little car park by Overbeck Bridge. Just before getting there I was overtaken by another walker who recognised the logo on my rucksack. He’d earlier found my card on Pillar, and now it’s in the Rogues Gallery on this website.
Another 8 summits today (making £35.90 worth!) with a distance of 10.4 miles (16.7 km) and ascent of 4,400′ (1,341 m).
With the promise of a brightening day after a wet night I parked just off the A595 Millom Road, walked back a little way towards Broughton and found the path up towards White Combe. Talk about overgrown! Waterproof trousers were donned this time to save me from sodden legs, then hedgerow turned to bracken as the open fell was reached.
As height was gained the view of the nearby coastline grew. I was on the most southern group of fells in the Challenge’s itinerary, not far from the Irish Sea. I kept glancing over to Black Combe, wondering when the cloud would clear – it certainly seemed to be taking its time. The first summit was White Hall Knott (1,020′, 311 m), with an odd area of shaly rock outcropping on the way – quite an imposing position.
Beyond the shallow col lies White Combe, somewhat higher at 1,361′ (415 m), just a steady plod to reach the rather grand stone wind shelter at the summit. Still no sign of the cloud lifting on Black Combe – in fact, by the time I’d reached summit no 3, Stoupdale Head (1’548′, 472 m) I literally had my head in the clouds. A few small stones mark the highest point of the flattish top, in marked contrast to the previous summit.
One and a half miles to Black Combe, and all of it in cloud, becoming so thick that near the summit it was almost impossible to know where the actual top was – but the path led directly to the quaint stone wall enclosing the start white trigpoint at 1,970′ (600 m). I’m told there are the most fabulous views from here, but I was struggling to see my hand in front of my face!
A couple arrived, having walked up from Whicham Church, and after a few pleasantries I set off for the South Top where, at 1,926′ (587 m) a huge circular cairn announces its presence. It was cold as well as cloudy, so I set off down as soon as possible – no path but a compass bearing kept me safe from any precipices and before long I was back below the grey blanket. In fact the sun quickly came out, the sky turned blue, and all was well with the world!
After a brief slog down a steep slope choked with bracken I joined the bridleway which led me gently back to the car. It wasn’t quite 2.00 so I looked at the map and decided that a little group of three hills in the nearby Dunnerdale Fells would make a pleasant afternoon. Parking the car at Kiln Bank Cross I set off again, this time in glorious sunshine for a change.
Stickle Pike (1,231′, 375 m) is indeed a distinctive ‘pike’ with a steep pull up to the top. The descent is even steeper, and careful footwork was needed across some loose rock before the ground eased. Tarn Hill (1,027′, 313 m) is well named, as the high ground around it is peppered with small tarns, some clear blue, others weed-choked. I heard a geologist once say “It’s the fate of all bodies of water to silt up” (eventually) and my surroundings seemed to confirm this.
Another pleasant, undulating walk along faint paths and quad tracks led to the grandly-named Great Stickle, which only just makes the list of Birkett summits, sneaking in at 1,001′ (304 m) – although it feels higher, and is flattered by a fine white trigpoint at the summit. The views from here, both towards the coast to the south, and to the grander Lakeland mountains to the north, were worth lingering for, before I returned to the car and headed for my night’s digs in Eskdale.
So – a better day than planned, with 8 summits making a total of 351 (blimey – that’s £35.10 now folks!). 9.28 miles (14.93 km) and 2,905′ (885 m) of ascent. Total figures now 476 miles (766 km) and 143,600′ (43,757 m) of climbing.