Day 86 – Finally! The Last Day Arrives

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Celebrating at the 542nd summit this year – Bill Honeywell, Bill Birkett and Val Honeywell (with ‘Birkett Bill’)

By now I’m sure regular readers of this blog will know that during the course of 2016 I’ve visited the summits of 539 Birketts – Lakeland summits over 1,000′ – plus 2 ‘Wainwrights’.  This has involved 85 days of walking – almost 750 miles (the same as Land’s End to John o’ Groats and then back to Fort William – as the crow flies) and over 42 MILES of ascent – equivalent to climbing Mount Everest from base camp 19 times! (or Blackpool Tower 418 times!)

And now, on day 86, the final day, the final summit, has arrived. I guessed a few friends might want to come with me on this last one, so some time ago identified Carron Crag as a suitable ‘candidate’ – not too high, not too far, not too difficult – and by starting and finishing at the Grizedale Forest Visitor Centre we could even be sure of some civilised facilities, including a cafe, at the finish!

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Friends, old and new, gather at the Grizedale Visitor Centre

I didn’t quite expect so many people to turn out! Not just friends and family, but also the man who wrote the Complete Guide to the Lakeland Fells and gave his name to them – Mr Bill Birkett, and the author of the best series of detailed Lakeland guidebooks since A W Wainwright, Mr Fellranger himself, Mark Richards (though this would be his first visit to the top of Carron Crag).  Also present were several walkers whom I’d never met before, but who, during the course of the year, had found and returned some of the cards I’ve left at each summit. It was really good of them all to come.

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L to R – Mark Richards, me and Bill Birkett

Sadly, the weather hadn’t made such an effort.  The clouds were low and a light drizzle was in the air. But there was little or no wind and it wasn’t cold – so it could have been much worse!

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Arriving at the summit (looking more like some religious procession than a bunch of hill walkers!)

After assembling outside the Visitor Centre toilets (where else?!) around sixty of us set off along the Forestry Commission’s waymarked track, climbing and twisting through the forest, with much conversation and throwing sticks for various dogs, until we reached the summit of Carron Crag (1,030’, 314 m).  It’s a surprisingly rocky top, very slippy on a wet day, having been polished by thousands of boots over the years.

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Many in the party quite sensibly stayed on the path just below the summit, while the ‘peak-baggers’ carefully tiptoed to the trigpoint at the very top. marked as a ‘viewpoint’ on Ordnance Survey maps but with no views in today’s murky weather!

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Some alcohol appeared! A couple of tots of cherry brandy (I think) followed by a bottle of champagne which magically appeared from the rucksack of David Evans – and was quickly opened and shared around.

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We’ve made it!
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Alastair and Daniel Bennett find my card within hours of us leaving it

I left my final summit card – suitably personalised to show this was the final summit – and then we all headed off along the footpath to make our way down again. A piece of woodland sculpture formed a nice backdrop for a photo of me and Val with Ian and Carol Hardy. Ian has been a great help, accompanying me on several walks and chauffeuring me to and from the Lake District.

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Me, Val, Carol & Ian Hardy (& Meg)

I thought we’d all arrived safely back at the Visitor Centre, and didn’t realise that some walkers (including, ironically, Mark Richards!) had been so busy talking they’d missed a turning and ended up doing a bit of a detour.  So as we gathered in The Yan centre for some welcome coffee and cakes (generously provided by the Centre Cafe – thank you!) this small (but lucky?) band missed my short speech.

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Nice family photo at the finish

In a day or two I’ll also publish a few ‘Notes in Conclusion’, which will include some thank-yous to a number of people and organisations who have helped the successful completion of this Big Challenge. And I think my great nephew Dylan will be producing another video. In the meantime that’s it folks! The show’s over!

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Except… let’s not forget WHY I decided to do this Big Challenge in the first place.  The idea is to raise as much money as possible for Cancer Research – and I’ve been amazed and humbled by the number of donations and pledges.

Cancer Research UK Logo

So now the time’s come to empty those collection tins and donate the money!  If we’re going to improve the diagnosis and treatment of cancer then we need the money to fund all the work being done by organisations like Cancer Research UK. So PLEASE have a look at ‘How to Donate’ and MAKE A DIFFERENCE! Thank you!

Day 85 – We Go Ape (almost) as the Finale Draws Nigh…

 

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You may think that as the end of a long campaign approaches, the pressure eases, and perhaps even a hint of “de-mob crazy” starts to show. In reality the opposite probably happens, as your brain thinks of more and more ways the Challenge might be derailed – a sprained ankle or other serious injury, a call to jury service, or in my case a stinking cold which refuses to go away. Although to be fair, things aren’t helped by the fact that I don’t like to take anything like aspirin, paracetamol or ibuprofen unless I absolutely have to.

So Ian Hardy (with Meg, the flat-coat retriever) kindly drove this snivelling wretch (wreck?) to Whinlatter Forestry Visitor Centre above Braithwaite, near Keswick, where we met Duncan and Emma Metcalf and their somewhat smaller dog Koshma. While our two canine companions got to know each other (mainly by snarling and barking) we got our boots on and obtained a Whinlatter Trails Map from one of the rangers who kindly let us into the centre before official opening time.

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Looking across to the Grisedale Pike range once we’d got out of the trees

Incidentally, allow me to write the following, in case one of the Forestry Commission app developers is reading this. Your app, with details of all the visitor centres, attractions, maps etc is a lovely thing to download and browse through in the comfort of your own wifi-equipped home.  It doesn’t work at all in the absence of 3G, 4G or wifi. Which is precisely what is absent (I think this is a reasonable bet) from almost every single Forestry Commission visitor centre. Please – all you need to do is make it possible to download the trail maps and it would be a lovely, useful resource, instead of being about as helpful as a chocolate fireguard!

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The excellent trail map when downloaded at home
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And the result when you try to download it in the forest!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

By-passing the ‘Go-Ape’ attraction and enjoying paths which after the last nine months felt like motorways (even the junctions are numbered!), and with the dogs now good friends, we climbed through the woodland and on to the summit of Seat How (1,627′, 496 m), a small area of flattish rock with views of Grisedale and Ladyside Pikes. The sun was shining, the air was calm and cool – perfect walking conditions.

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Duncan, Emma and Koshma at the summit of Seat How
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Heading towards Barf

We dropped down to another wide track and headed for the quaintly-named Barf (1,536′, 468 m), which has forbiddingly steep rocky crags facing Bassenthwaite but from the west is simply pleasant (if a bit knobbly) moorland. Take a few steps east from the summit though, and the precipitous drop to the road is quite impressive!

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Just east of Barf summit – a paraglider’s paradise?

Out of the trees now, we enjoyed a saunter across open moorland, first to Lord’s Seat (1,811′, 552 m), where we met a couple from Essex reconnoitring a route for their group of friends next April (only just in time then) and then Broom Fell (1,676′, 511 m) with a very fine stone cairn indeed, where we met John Brown from Cockermouth with his two Jack Russells.

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Looking back to Barf from Lord’s Seat, with the Skiddaw massif behind

John was part-way through his second round of Wainwrights, and I felt slightly awkward telling him that we were standing on my penultimate one – in an hour or two I’d be at no 214, completing my second round and doing them all in under a year!

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Broom Fell summit

We retraced our steps now, re-entering the forest and then trying to find a path (unsuccessfully) to the top of Ullister Hill (1,722′, 525 m), realising as we did so that we’d passed within 50 yards of it on our way up to Seat How, and I could have saved us a bit of walking if I’d been paying more attention (once you’ve got a route in your head it’s very difficult to change it!)

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There’s worse things to be doing on a Tuesday morning…
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The modest top of Ullister Hill

It’s a pretty inconspicuous summit surrounded by heather, but a good place to stop and have a spot of lunch, despite the fact that lots of walkers, runners and cyclists now seemed to appearing from all directions!

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This really is the summit of Tarbarrel Moss

If this top was inconspicuous, it was soon outdone in the mediocrity stakes by Tarbarrel Moss (1,617′, 493 m). Before we got there we were hailed by a walker and his family who had collected one or two of my summit cards and spotted the 542 logo on the back of my rucksack. We accompanied each other for a quarter of a mile or so until our ways parted and we headed up a dark narrow path through thick trees. It did occur to me that if all the sphagnum moss were cleared away, the top might be in a completely different place!

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Looking back from where the path starts to appear

Only two more left now, on Whinlatter Fell, and although our route started off pathless and hard going, we eventually picked up a path over the fell, enjoying great views of the fells opposite. The first top – Whinlatter Top (1,722′ 525 m) is the higher of the two, but isn’t the Wainwright. It is a Birkett though, so was claimed as no 540 this year… at which point Emma realised that she and her phone were no longer together. Oh no!

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Whinlatter Top, looking to Brown How

She’d last used it at the top of Tarbarrel Moss so after a brief discussion Duncan decided to head back and look for it.  We pressed on to Brown How on Whinlatter (1,696′ 517 m), the penultimate Birkett of this Challenge and the final Wainwright – meaning that I’ve done my second complete round of the 214 Wainwrights, this time in 9½ months.

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The penultimate summit (and final Wainwright) – Brown How on Whinlatter Fell

Duncan reappeared soon after, with Emma’s phone in hand (he’d done remarkably well to find it) and we descended to another track in the forest and from there back to the Visitor Centre, after almost 10 miles and 8 summits.

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DON’T Eat Me – a very poisonous Fly Agaric toadstool. Pretty but lethal
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Back to ‘civilisation’

It’s difficult to describe my feelings now. Relief, I think, but not the same as the ‘banging your head against a brick wall’ relief, as much of the walking has been a great pleasure.  Disbelief, partly, that I’ve managed to find time to spend 85 days on the fells and climbed every summit virtually unscathed.  Gratitude, for all the help and support I’ve received (more about that in a later episode), and some satisfaction, certainly – divided between the achievement of climbing all the summits (including walking almost 750 miles and ascending the equivalent of a 42-mile high staircase), and (hopefully) raising some serious money for Cancer Research UK.

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But I’m getting ahead of myself. There’s still one last summit to go – Carron Crag, this coming Saturday. I’m hoping lots of friends – old, new, and some I haven’t even met yet – will be there. Please come along and give your support.

If you can’t wait until Saturday to donate all those 10p’s you hopefully collected, please visit the ‘How to Donate’ page on this website or simply click here to be taken to the Challenge’s Just Giving page. Thank you!

 

Day 84 – In the Footsteps of Postman Pat

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Looking towards the Scafells and Mickledore from Seatallan

I had four summits to do to the north of Wastwater, and would have done them last Friday but overnight Thursday-Friday I found myself cruelly struck down by that merciless affliction, Man-‘flu. I could hardly get up the stairs, never mind Lake District mountains!

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The benign face of Middle Fell

By Saturday afternoon I wasn’t exactly better, but wasn’t as bad as I had been, and with the weather forecast for next week looking mixed, I thought I’d have an early early night on Saturday, get up super-early on Sunday morning and set off before the world had got out of bed.

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Buckbarrow looks a bit more rugged

And so, after a pleasant, traffic-free drive, I arrived at Wasdale well before 8.00 am. Well to be precise, I arrived at Greendale, which if I remember rightly is where Postman Pat hails from. Even Mrs Goggins must still have been in bed, although I had been beaten to it by One Man and His Dog, who were about to leave!

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Sunrise over Illgill Head and Wastwater

A soft green path sets off from the roadside parking area, carving a wide gap through the bracken (now all brown and lifeless) and where, to use the words of Wainwright, it bifurcates, I forked right and headed up the ridge to the summit, just as the sun came up over Illgill Head and the Wastwater Screes.

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Looking towards Haycock from the top of Middle Fell

Brrr! It was a bit chilly (and windy) at the summit of Middle Fell (1,908′, 582 m). I moved on quickly, heading down with Haycock directly in front to the wide col at the foot of Seatallan. At first there was no path up the steep slope, but I could see something that looked more like a path than a stream higher up, so made for that. And path it was, steep but reliable, taking me to the summit plateau and then the trigpoint and cairn at 2,270′ (692 m). Seatallan would be the highest point reached today.

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The top of Seatallan

 

The way now continued along a well-defined path over wide moorland, gradually descending for over a mile to the cairn at Cat Bields, where the path made a sudden left turn to a boggy depression before rising again to Glade How, where an impressive cairn stands at 1,420′ (433 m). The views to the coast were improving all the time, although in this part of the world there seems to be no way of getting away from Sellafield!

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Damp moorland leads to Glade How and Buckbarrow
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Glade How summit

From Glade How it’s not far to Buckbarrow (1,388′, 423 m) – really just the very distinctive end of Seatallan Fell.  It doesn’t seem out of the ordinary at the top, but the crags on Buckbarrow’s south-east face are rocky and vertical.  So it’s not a good idea to go down that way; instead I picked a way south-west until a faint path appeared, taking me down to the east side of Gill Beck, where the rowans and larches looked spactacular in the autumn sunshine.

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A glimpse of Wastwater from the top of Buckbarrow
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Mind those crags!

Soon I was back on the road for a half-mile trek back to the car. Still no sign of Mrs Goggins, but a few more cars had arrived since I’d set off. The route out of Wasdale was extremely tedious, with motorists coming the other way having not the slightest idea of the width of their cars, but at least I had time to visit the Grizedale Forest Visitor Centre on the way home.

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The rocky side of Buckbarrow

So now I can tell you that on Saturday 29 October we can do the final summit – Carron Crag (a baby at 1,030′, 314 m) – in some luxury, with good parking (although you have to pay) and all facilities at the start and finish. If you’d like to come along to this ‘grand finale’ you’ll be very welcome. The plan is that we’ll all gather at 10.00 am and the walk itself should take no more than 2½ hours. More details by following the link at the top of the page.

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Before then I’ve eight summits to do in the northern Lorton Fells, and the plan is to do these tomorrow (Tuesday 25 October).  Hopefully supporters will have saved enough 10p’s by the time I’ve finished – Cancer Research UK need our support!

Day 83 Part 2 – Lakeland’s Most Inaccessible Summit?

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Windermere from near the top of Gummer’s How

It’s still Monday 10 October.  Duncan and Emma headed for home, whilst I turned left at Newby Bridge and headed to the Gummer’s How car park, having in mind the two Birketts of Gummer’s How (a popular viewpoint) and Birch Fell.

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GUmmer’s How from the road

My good friend Howard Blackburn had only a few days before sent me a message to say that he’d taken his new hip to the top of Gummer’s How, presumably to break it in, so to speak. I’d replied by asking him if he’d continued to the nearby top of Birch Fell, to which the answer was no. If I’d known what Birch Fell was like, I wouldn’t have bothered asking. All will become clear as you continue reading…

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Distinctive-looking trees by the path

The path to the summit of Gummer’s How (1,054′, 321 m) is very popular and entirely straightforward. I guess hundreds of tourists do it every day, to be rewarded with an attractive view of Windermere when they reach the top.

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Gummer’s How summit

There’s a stone trig point and a few cows thrown in to make it a very pleasant scene.

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Birch Fell covered in, er, larches

Looking to the north-east one I could see the adjacent Birch Fell less than half a mile away. The fact that there were trees all the way across the top didn’t register at that point…

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After a short descent and negotiating a small marshy area, I started to climb back up by an old wall, to find that a lot of the larch trees had fallen, blocking the way. The next quarter of a mile may as well have been five miles! It was a case of trying to find a way through, past, over or under fallen trees, roots, branches and general detritus, whilst at the same time managing a generally upward direction.

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My hair, down my back, inside my boots – everywhere – was getting filled with pine needles and twigs.  Eventually I reached a grassy hummock next to yet another larch tree:  I couldn’t see any higher ground and the GPS said I was at the top, at 1,043′ (318 m). No view, no sense of being on top of anything, just trees – upright and horizontal – all around.

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I was quite ready to get away from this awful place, but I now realised how Hansel and Gretel felt, as the way back was anything but clear. I thought I was retracing my steps but clearly wasn’t, as yet again one obstruction after another barred the way.  Finally, and with a great sense of relief, I reached open ground where I could head back, via Gummer’s How again, to the good path and the car park. If you’re in the vicinity by all means visit the charming top of Gummer’s How. Don’t bother with Birch Fell unless you absolutely must!

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As promised, the statistics: 7 summits today, total now 529 (13 to go); mileage for the two walks, 8.34 (13.42 km); height climbed 2613′ (796 m). Total mileage for the Challenge 728 miles (1,171 km) and total ascent 217,900′ (66,375 m).

Next walk: Friday 21 October – 4 summits N of Wastwater (see elsewhere on the website for details).

Day 83 – Two men, a lady and a little dog go for a walk

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Duncan, Emma and Koshma at the summit of Pikes

Monday 10 October. Day 10 on the hills out of 11, and I have company! Duncan and Emma Metcalf (and their wee dog Koshma) will join me for the first time on a pleasant (hopefully!) round of five Dunnerdale fells, west of Coniston.

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Stephenson Ground

Some people might consider the starting point to be almost inaccessible – the road past Carter Ground, Jackson Ground and Stephenson Ground is narrow, twisty, undulating, gated… I remember it as a classic night rally section on events like the R L Brown, that demanded the utmost concentration. Today the main focus of concentration was to make sure you didn’t encounter someone coming the other way.

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That’s the lickle River Lickle on the right – and White Pike ahead, near Walna Scar

We parked at Stephenson Ground – a few cottages and farm buildings – and headed north along a bridleway which looks down across a small valley to a parallel forest road alongside the delightfully-named River Lickle.

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Rough ground en route to Pikes

After about a mile and a half we headed west, away from the track, and climbed over grass and rocks to the summit of Pikes (1,539′, 469 m). The morning was clear and the views towards the Scafells and Bowfell quite stunning.

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Fabulous view from Harter Fell (L) round to the Scafells, Esk Pike, Bowfell and Crinkle Crags

The highest top was next – Caw, at 1,735′ (529 m), with a proper OS trigpoint. The way forward to Brock Barrow seemed clear, but as we made our way down towards it, the crags became less easy to negotiate than they appeared from further up. This made for an interesting interlude with a few ‘hands on’ moments, and a feeling of satisfaction as we looked back up once it was over!

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The summit of Caw

A track ran up parallel to a big stone wall as we approached Brock Barrow, and I decided to follow the track to its highest point and then traverse across. A good plan except that there was no stile in the wall – but being built on top of the odd huge boulder, it proved to be relatively easy to cross without danger or damage. The dog was reluctant to follow Emma, despite coaxing, and she explained that this was because it understands Spanish better than English (I can’t quite remember why!) – so I shouted “Venga perro” and it came to me straight away! ¡Bueno!

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Looking towards Brock Barrow

The rocky top, at 1,125′ (343 m) was a bit breezy, but once again the views on this lovely clear day were worth waiting for.

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Brock Barrow top

The next two fells involved crossing undulating ground, where, just when you thought you were near the top, you came across another dip followed by another rise… and so on.  Fox Haw (1,263′, 385 m) was first, with a top comprising a long rock mini-ridge, followed (eventually) by Raven’s Crag (1,184′, 361 m) which enjoyed another lovely view over rugged little fells amongst a patchwork of rusty-coloured bracken.

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Emma at the summit of Fox Haw

To get back to our starting point we had to aim for Jackson Ground. I opted for an innocent looking route directe and we ended up thrashing through a fair bit of tall, brown bracken. At this time of the year it still presents quite a barrier to progress, with the added problem that your boots fill up with small pieces of dead fronds and twigs.

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Raven’s Crag – gorgeous!

We finished before 2 pm. Emma had to be at work for 7 pm and so she and Duncan decided to head back. Although I also had an engagement at 7, I felt more confident of being able to get back (just) in time, so we said our goodbyes after a most enjoyable walk. I headed for two fells on the SE side of Windermere…

… which I’ll tell you about in the next post, and bring you up to date with some statistics.

Day 82 – The Gavel Fell Group

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Knock Murton and Cogra Moss from Low Pen

Sunday, 9 October.  Today would hopefully see another nine fells added to the growing list and take me nearer the final target.

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Traditional old signpost at the start

Despite being well into October, three Swallows flew in front of the car as I got to Ennerdale Bridge, almost as if to persuade me that summer was not quite over. At the same time, skeins of geese were flying south, reminding me that it probably was! I’d already seen a Stoat in Eskdale as it ran across the road and jumped over a dry stone wall, and a Buzzard on the Cold Fell road.

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Kelton Fell reception committee

Kelton Fell (1,020’, 311 m) was the first of the nine, an easy walk from my roadside parking area NE of Ennerdale Bridge, and at the top I was received by a delegation of locals, as you can see from the photo.

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The interesting thing about some litter is the effort someone must have gone to to leave it there!

Godworth was next, at 1,197’ (365 m) reached after a quick up and down (past someone’s discarded kitchen unit!): I was there less than an hour after starting, and beginning to think that today’s walk might be over quite quickly.

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Looking down to Croasdale Beck – and wondering how to get across!

I hadn’t realised that no one, apparently – and I mean no one – goes from Godworth to Banna Fell. Not only is there no path for the mile or so between them, but the deep descent to Croasdale Beck  is not just clad with thick heather, but gorse. Gorse! As if you didn’t know, it’s damn prickly stuff and in order to avoid it I had to re-ascend some way, and make a fairly sizeable detour.

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There really was nothing to take a picture of on Banna Fell, so here’s one of Floutern Cop instead

Once over the beck, of course, I had a steep ascent back up on to the next fell side, followed by a trek across the pathless top to the plain, featureless summit of Banna Fell (1,496’, 456 m).  So featureless, there was nowhere to leave a card. Next up was the oddly named Floutern Cop, a steep-sided knoll which I’d gazed at a few days before whilst on Hen Comb.

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Grasmoor and Whiteless Pike from the top of Floutern Cop

Once again the summit (at 1,480’, 451 m) lacked any particular feature (a surprise as the fell’s appearance suggests different) so once again I left with my card still in the rucksack.

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These boundary stones crop up from time to time

Crossing a large marshy area I arrived at a fence line which would take me to the summit of Gavel Fell (1,726’, 526 m). A large boundary stone has been preserved in the fence line, and from the fell top (the only Wainwright today) there was a good view of the Isle of Man and southern Scotland.

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Gavel Fell. From the summit here, you can just make out the Isle of Man

Half a mile from the main summit is the North Top of Gavel Fell, also known as High Nook (1,601’, 488 m), a straightforward walk.

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From High Nook (Gavel Fell North Top) to Blake Fell

Back now to two summits on the same ridge – High Pen and Low Pen, at 1,558’ (475 m) and 1,427’ (435 m), with views towards Banna Fell, which Val and I had done back in August.

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Knock Murton – but how to get to the top?

From here there was only the final fell left – Knock Murton (1,467’, 447 m) – this pudding-shaped fell had been in sight a few times already today and looked very steep-sided and rather daunting. Furthermore, I had to descend a long way before being able to start the climb.  Further furthermore, the path described by Bill Birkett no longer exists – and I looked for it most carefully and diligently – so I had to follow the forest road a long way west (and down!) before starting the ascent almost from scratch, as it were. Lots of afternoon walkers were about, having parked either at Cogra Moss or east of Kirkland – this is clearly a popular area for a weekend stroll.

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I managed to get there in the end

The fell has an interesting top, with various stone artefacts as well as the summit cairn, and the slopes have seen plenty of mining activity in the past. Having reached nine summits today I was ready to get back to the car and then put my feet up. Before I did I was overtaken by a runner who had just found my card, so we chatted on the way back to the road. That was certainly one of the shortest spells a card had been on a Birkett summit!

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The track leading back to the road – an old railway line serving the mines, perhaps?

I was pretty happy, with the total now at 522. One more day left in the Lakes on this visit, and tomorrow I was to be joined by Duncan & Emma Metcalf on what will hopefully be a scenic route on some Dunnerdale Fells.

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Day 81 – Haycock and several encounters

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Herdus and Great Borne from above the Ling Mell plantation

This was my second walk to start at the Bowness Knott car park, near Ennerdale Water. One problem (if problem it be) is that this involves a long trek of almost two miles along the north side of the lake before the climbing starts – but it’s a pleasant warm up on a good track (cars are restricted but can use it for access to the Ennerdale Youth Hostel).

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Fat boys on tour – Dave Galloway and Graham Saunders

Before I reached the end I encountered two gentlemen, also walkers, and after a brief greeting they recognised me from my various posts on social media, which they’d seen. They turned out to be Graham Saunders and Dave Galloway – aka Fat Boys on Tour, so our encounter ended with a lot of back-slapping and a very generous donation from them – thanks so much guys!

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You can almost picture Grizzly Bears fishing for salmon here. Unlikely on the River LIza though.

A good modern bridge takes the path over the River Liza at Char Dub, and in to the forest plantations.

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Ennerdale from near the start of the climb
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The summit of Lingmell (Ennerdale)

Once the climbing started, through the woods at first and then on to the open fell, I caught two groups of students, both from the University of Manchester. They didn’t seem sure of their destination (I think they were just being coy) and as it turned out we kept a very similar pace all the way to the top of Haycock so were never that far from each other. Unlike me though, they didn’t make the slight detour to the summit of Lingmell (Ennerdale) (1,427’, 435 m), and then they caught back up with me as I stopped for something to eat.

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Students from the University of Manchester at the summit of Haycock

I met them all again at the summit of Haycock (2,617’, 797 m) where they posed for a group photo, and a PhD student from the Netherlands gave me a liquorice spiral, which I promised to make last until the next summit, Little Gowder Crag (I did too!).  They then headed in the opposite direction to Scoat Fell, Steeple and hopefully Pillar. Haycock is an imposing summit when seen from the Wasdale side, and it’s a long way from every direction, but the views are well worthwhile.

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Looking towards the Scafells (Mickledore in the centre) from Haycock
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…and looking down to Little Gowder Crag

It didn’t take too long to get to the very rocky top of Little Gowder Crag at 2,405’, (733 m) (a good job or I’d have finished the liquorice).

 

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Looking back to Haycock from Little Gowder Crag

 

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To Caw Fell and Iron Crag

From here it was a case of following the Ennerdale Fence, which if you read yesterday’s report isn’t a fence at all, but a stone wall.  There’s a path on each side of the wall here  and it doesn’t matter which side you walk, as the wall is easy to cross by stile when you get to Caw Fell (2,288’, 697 m). A large cairn marks the spot and the views are pretty good.

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The summit of Iron Crag (Ennerdale Fell)

The final fell, known as Ennerdale Fell or more poetically Iron Crags (2,113’, 644 m), also lies just to the north of the wall, but the path (which drops down a long way to a col before rising again) is on the south side.  So naturally I expected there to be a stile near the top. No such luck. It seemed very odd to have the summit on one side and the path on the other, but there it was, and without a stile I had to ‘hop’ over the wall (now adorned with barbed wire), taking extra care, of course.

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Look as hard as you like, there’s no path down there!

Mr Birkett now describes the return journey to the Ennerdale path as a simple descent by Silvercove Beck – naturally I assumed there would be a path, but I was clearly being optimistic. So there followed a mile (it felt like two) of difficult hacking through rank heather, with harsh ups and downs to cross the little tributaries, then bracken, and it was with some relief that I finally arrived at a decent path leading down to the Ennerdale track again.

haycock-route

Just before arriving at the car park I passed a couple with a toddler; whilst taking off my boots at the car the young man came up to me to say that he’d found one of my summit cards several weeks ago. So ‘Hello’ to Michael Rodney and family, and thanks for your donation!

After 5 fells today the total is now 513. Quite a long walk at 11.2 miles (18 km) with 2,636′ (803 m) of ascent.

Later on I headed to the Woolpack in Eskdale for something to eat, only to find a group of cyclists from Clitheroe, including Big Al Taylor and John Wilmott, who were in the area for the weekend. It’s a small world!

Day 80 – Nine summits in the Lank Rigg Group

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If you look carefully at this view of Ennerdale from Crag Fell you’ll see a skein of geese

Excuse the delay in posting updates. I’ve been to the Isle of Mull for four days with no wifi, but a great weekend with lots of rally friends old and new. Now back to the Big 542 in 2016 Challenge for Cancer Research UK…

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The rather unexciting start near the Cold Fell road

From Appleby Val and I went home for a day. I guess it was really a laundry trip for me, having done six consecutive days’ walking, and with the weather forecast still looking good I wanted to get back to the Lakes as soon as I could, without smelling worse than the sheep.

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Looking to the Irish Sea, and Sellafield

The next day I had a group of nine fells to do in the far west, starting from the road known as Cold Fell which is definitely a short cut from Ennerdale Bridge to Calder Bridge and no doubt gets busy with Sellafield traffic at certain times of the day. It’s a long way from home – nearly 100 miles and 2½ hours. A huge flock of Goldfinches flew ahead as I passed the first farm.

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The summit of Blakeley Raise (no 500!), with the summit boulder mostly hidden

It looked like another day for wellies, although without any significant rain for the last few days it’s remarkable how quickly the ground dries out.  It didn’t take long to march to the top of the first fell, Blakeley Raise, 1,276’ (389 m) above sea level, where the summit is at the corner of a fence and marked by a cairn which now almost hides the big boulder underneath. Bill Birkett’s notes refer to forestry plantations all around, but these have long been felled – a great help for navigation!

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The not-too-exciting view to Grike…
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… and the summit itself, with the Isle of Man in the background

Once again skeins of Pink-footed Geese were on the move, always flying from north to south, with the birds constantly chatting to each other. As on previous (and future) days, they seemed to peak between 8.30 and 10.30 am. Grike (1,599’, 488 m) came next – a Wainwright as well as a Birkett – and getting there involved a straightforward march and climb. The top was always in sight, which presumably wasn’t the case before the trees were felled.

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Crag Fell (and the Isle of Man again!)

From the Bowness Knott car park by Ennerdale (I was last there on 5 August and will be there again tomorrow) a large crag dominates the opposite side of the lake: Angler’s Crag forms the lower part of Crag Fell (again a Wainwright), and today I was to approach from the opposite direction.  Much of the ground from Grike was boggy, and a communications aerial dominates.  The summit (1,716’, 523 m) is set back from the crag edge so the view wasn’t as spectacular as I’d hoped!

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The very substantial Ennerdale Fence

Three down, six to go.  I dropped down to cross a marshy area on a raft of old fence posts, then headed up alongside the Ennerdale Fence.  This is a well-known landmark several miles long, and very substantially constructed in dry stone – so you’d think it would be called the Ennerdale Wall, but it isn’t. After a while I veered away across the moor to the unspectacular top of Whoap (1,676’, 511 m), where the complete lack of features other than grass meant that there was nowhere to leave one of my summit cards. But I did flush a Snipe (they ‘explode’ from just a few feet away as they fly off) and then I saw the day’s first human being, together with his dog, and soon after (almost like London busses) another man and his dog.

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The summit of Lank RIgg

After a steep climb I was on top of Lank Rigg (1,775’, 541 m), standing next to my first proper Ordnance Survey trig point for some time. About 100 metres further on, past a little tarn, was another stone cairn on top of a feature which turned out to be an ancient tumulus. Whose bones was I standing on, I wonder…?

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The view from in front of the tumulus

On the descent to Kinniside I stopped to have a sandwich.  I’d heard the occasional plaintive whistle of a Golden Plover when all of a sudden at least forty of them came out of the blue and shot past my left ear, crazily wheeling this way and that before disappearing into the distance. Nearly dropped my meat pie!

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Kinniside

Kinniside (1,230’, 375 m) and Latter Barrow (1,161’, 354 m) are two smaller hills, the former completely grassy, the latter (or Latter…) with a boulder top which continues down the north-western slopes, where I was surprised to see a Wheatear. These birds love areas of mixed grass / heath and rocks, but like Swallows fly south to Africa for the winter, so this one was leaving it late.

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Latter Barrow
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River Calder

It was a steep (and quite long) descent to the River Calder, and I was now well below the level of the road where I’d parked. Crossing the river (more of a little brook really) required care and was then followed by a steep climb to the top of Swarth Fell (1,099’, 335 m) and a further march to the ninth and last summit of the day, Burn Edge (1,050’, 320 m).

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Swarth Fell summit

From the top I could see the car, and it was a short and gentle descent to get back after another good day, with 9 more summits claimed (508 in total); 7.51 miles (12.08 km) walked and 1,883’ (573 m) climbed. I’ve now walked a total of 700 miles (1,127 km) and climbed over 210,000’ (64,000 metres).

lank-rigg-route

Day 79 – There’s no incentive like a pint in the Kirkstile Inn!

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Crummock Water and Buttermere from Mellbreak

Wednesday 5 October. Still based in Appleby, and today Val had decided to join me, as had Jeff Ford (he’s Chairman of the Mountain Heritage Trust that does a lot of good work in the Lake District and elsewhere) and Andrew Jackson from Clitheroe. Whilst Jeff had a short drive from just north of Keswick, Andrew had been on the road for two hours by the time we met at the Maggie’s Bridge car park near Loweswater. It would have been less but both Andrew and ourselves, a few minutes earlier, had been ‘herding’ sheep along the narrow lane so the last half mile took a lot longer than expected!

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The more you look at it, the better it gets!
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Mellbreak’s foreboding North Face

I love the signpost in Loweswater village, and always hope no-one has removed it since my last visit. With its completely negative indications, and really of no help whatsoever, it’s marvellously British! As you approach Mellbreak its north face looks a bit like a miniature North Face of the Eiger, and seems to be equally forbidding, but there’s an amazing path that winds its way up between the crags and rocks without any sense of exposure. The rock is a bit crumbly though, and I would say that the path has deteriorated since I was here seven years ago. Then again, no doubt thousands of boots (and a few wellies, like mine) have trudged up there in that time.

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This is the North Top of Mellbreak, although Val seems to think it’s the bow of the SS Titanic..

Once on the top it was pretty windy. Mellbreak has two tops about a kilometre apart, at 1,670’ (509 m) and 1,678’ (512 m) separated by a shallow col: each one is a Birkett, the south top being slightly higher and therefore (in this case) is Wainwright’s ‘official’ summit.  There was no shortage of conversation as we walked along, although the wind made it difficult to catch every word!

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Looking from the South Top to Grasmoor and Whiteless Pike

 

A steep descent from the south top led to a quiet area out of the wind where a couple had stopped for sandwiches and a hot flask. After a quick chat we headed slightly ‘off-piste’ to the top of Scale Knott (1,109’, 338 m) for our third summit of the day, before heading across to the Mosedale bridle path. It’s surprising what the passage of time can do – an old gate, a full track’s width off the path, could only have been situated on the track itself originally: now it looks most peculiar as gradual change has taken the track completely to one side (it seems I forgot to take a photo, sorry.)

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Hen Comb, steeper than it looks
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On the trail of the lonesome… Holly Tree

Also rather odd – although easy to overlook – is the Mosedale Holly, a lone tree standing completely isolated in an ocean of long grass, heather and bracken.  How did it ever take root, then survive, and… does it feel lonely I wonder?

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Val at the summit of Hen Comb, contemplating her new hair style

At this point there’s no choice but to leave the track, wade through boggy, rushy ground (with a half-hidden smug smirk if wearing wellies) to cross Mosedale Beck and head up the ridiculously steep grassy flanks of Hen Comb. After a long descent (from Mellbreak) being aware that Hen Comb is exactly the same height as Mellbreak (N Top) leaves you in no doubt that it’s going to be a slog – and it was. We headed towards the north ridge to make things a little easier, then as we arrived at the summit the wind was even stronger than before.

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If only I had enough hair to blow about. Note the mountaineering wellies…

One more to go – this time a fairly pleasant stroll north along the ridge, descending all the way, until a slight rise took as to the top of Little Dodd (1,188’, 362 m).  The path off the north end continues to be straightforward and it was only a few days later when looking across to Little Dodd from Gavel Fell that I realised how craggy the west ‘nose’ of the fell is.

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Mellbreak from Little Dodd
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Grasmoor

As we lost height the wind dropped, the sun was still in charge and the views towards Grasmoor and Whiteless Pike were magnificent.  I believe it to be one of the fundamental laws of nature that it’s impossible to walk through Loweswater village without calling in the Kirkstile Inn, and what better way to finish a good day’s walk than with a pint of Loweswater Gold? We met the couple with the flask in the beer garden – having reached the north end of Mellbreak they didn’t fancy the steep path down so returned to the col where an easier path brings you to the bridle way.

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Never mind taking the photo, get the next round in!

So after a day of good walking and good company, I was another five Birketts nearer the final target – on 499 (what a shame there wasn’t just one more today!) – so 43 to go.  We’d done almost 8 miles (13 km) and climbed over 2,500’ (780 m). Tomorrow was to be my only day off in 11 days, before returning on Friday. At long last I was feeling pleased with the weather-gods!

mellbreak-route

Day 78 – East of Skidda – with good company

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Graham and Ann Haley – for more details, read on!

After yesterday’s walk I drove to Appleby, where Val and four friends were having a ‘girlie’ weekend. What an experience! Five women, 15 simultaneous conversations going on for hours – without, apparently, taking a breath. Amazing! I sneaked off to a quiet room…

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The Glenderaterra Valley

Today’s plan was to do seven summits to the east of Skiddaw, four months after I climbed the main mountain itself – though it doesn’t seem that long.  I was also to have some company. You may have noticed the pin map which I sometimes use to show what progress has been made: this comes from an iPhone app called the ‘Hill Lists’, which is developed and maintained by a gentleman called Graham Haley. Graham and his wife Ann were in the Lakes for a week’s walking holiday so we agreed to team up.

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Graham’s ‘Hill Lists’ is available on the iPhone AppStore and has lots and lots of great features including this map. Red = yet to climb, green = already climbed. Looking good!

 

 

 

 

Also walking part of the way before he dashed off to visit other summits was David Elliott from Langho – so it was a nice change not to be walking alone.

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Looking back along the Cumbria Way to the Dodds and High Rigg

We met at the Latrigg car park above Keswick and after polite introductions set off on the main tourist route to Skiddaw before heading off right on the Cumbria Way, following an old bridleway which contours above the Glenderaterra valley, the big geological fault dividing the Skiddaw massif from Blencathra. Although it was windy, the weather was once again fine.

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Skiddaw House Youth Hostel

We must have talked a lot because it didn’t seem to take long to get the three miles to Skiddaw House, a Youth Hostel in the middle of nowhere – and certainly many miles from the nearest tarmac road. At this point Graham and Ann wanted to visit the summit of Skiddaw, so headed off left, while I needed to start with Hare Crag (1,765’, 538 m) so carried straight on with David. Before long we had to leave the main track and take an almost non-existent footpath up through heather to the top.

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David Elliott at the top of Hare Crag, with Lonscale Pike in the background

Now David headed up towards Skiddaw summit, leaving me to return the kilometre to Skiddaw House and then set off up the track in the steps of Graham and Ann. The path was boggy and muddy in places, but on the whole it was a nice steady climb to the summit of Sale How (2,185’, 666 m), which is really just a medium-sized bump on the ridge – so after a brief descent it was back to climbing, heading for the col between the main Skiddaw summit and Skiddaw Little Man.

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The rough and boggy path up to Sale How and beyond

Graham and Ann were waiting for me at the col, and David appeared at exactly the same time as I arrived, said a quick ‘Hello, Goodbye’ and headed down to Sale How! Graham reported that the wind at the top of Skiddaw was at least twice as strong as here – and it was windy here! Three summits followed in quick succession (Skiddaw being a happy Birkett hunting ground!) – Little Man (2,837’, 865 m), Lesser Man (2,674’, 815 m) and Jenkin Hill (2,411’, 735 m).

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Ann at the top of Lesser Man, with Little Man behind

Because the main summit of Skiddaw is hidden from the sight of those walking up the main path, we guessed that many of those toiling upwards assumed that Little Man was the summit, not realising that they had almost a mile and another 217’ to climb!

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Shock horror! Me at the summit of Jenkin Hill (Derwentwater behind)
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Lonscale Fell

The last two summits were Lonscale Fell (also a Wainwright, the highest point on its eponymous fell at 2,344’ (715 m), and Lonscale Pike (2,306’, 703 m), by far the most spectacular, situated at the edge of a steep drop to the Glenderaterra valley.

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Quite a drop from the summit of Lonscale Pike

From here it was an easy walk back down the shoulder to the Cumbria Way path and back to the car park again, where a mobile brew-van was in attendance – so we could enjoy a cup of tea / coffee before parting company. I headed back to Appleby, while Graham and Ann set off on the briefest of walks to the summit of Latrigg, the Wainwright which overlooks the town of Keswick (and which I did way back in January).

David arrived back just as I was leaving!

e-skiddaw-route

7 summits;  11.05 miles (17.78 km);  2,545’ (745 m). Total now 685 miles (1,102 km) and ascent of 206,000′ (62,750 m).