Miterdale revisited: Illgill Head and Whin Rigg again.

Another gathering of the clans, a few weeks back now. This time our annual May Bank Holiday camping trip to Church Stile at Nether Wasdale. A good time was had by all. Lots of football was played, sometimes in the rain. The kids were once again victorious in the races at the very welcoming Wasdale Show, where they also enjoyed participating in the maypole dancing and watching the Morris Men. The new campsite owners were terrific and invited the kids to hand-feed some lambs. As ever, too much meat was barbecued, too many stories were recounted and the odd beer was quaffed (not too much obviously). When you next meet the Junior Sherpa ask him about the unfeasibly large gammon steak he consumed at the Strands pub (which, by the way, is highly recommended ).

We even managed to squeeze in some walks, the longest of which was a ramble over Irton Fell, down into Miterdale, up that valley and then up onto Illgill Head, then onto Whin Rigg and finally steeply back down to Wasdale.

Caption competition

The top end of Miterdale is quite Pennine in character, very quiet and – whisper it – a little known gem.


Lunch stop 2 - by the infant mite 

The head of Miterdale  


Looking back down Miterdale 

Scafell, Great How above Burnmoor Tarn

This photo, taken rather early in our steepish climb to Illgill Head, was the last I took. On the top we followed the dramatic edge of the top of the Wasdale Screes, but I neglected to photograph them. I think I was cold, because, despite the optimistic shorts in evidence above, and the sunshine, the weather was perishing. February seems to claimed squatter’s rights. Hopefully Andy will have some good shots whenever he gets around to posting this trip.

Whin Rigg map

Miterdale revisited: Illgill Head and Whin Rigg again.

North Side of Ennerdale: Bowness Knott to Seat

Angler's Crag and Crag Fell seen across Ennerdale Water

This walk was just a week after my walk on Dow Crag, but has had to wait patiently to be posted due to work, work and…well, yet more work, getting in the way of everything bar eating, sleeping and just squeezing in a little more work before slumping comatose over my desk. There – rant over.

Having been chilled to the marrow on Dow Crag, I came prepared for another frosty outing, with full thermals and lots of spare clothing, but soon realised that this was destined to be a far warmer day.

I parked in the Bowness Knott car park to the north of Ennerdale Water and followed the path close to Rake Beck which brought me up ‘behind’ Bowness Knott. After a trouser-destroying altercation with a wire fence, and some tricky route finding through the detritus left by some major tree felling I reached the summit of Bowness Knott.

 Crag Fell and Angler's Crag from Great Borne

It was an incredibly hazy morning, still and mild. The view across the lake to Crag Fell and Angler’s Crag below it was superb, but down the valley, Pillar and the other Ennerdale Fells were indistinct in the murk.

At least I had a fine prospect of the route ahead: over the underwhelming Birkett of Brown How followed by a steep climb beside Rake Beck again to Herdus and Great Borne.

 Herdus and Great Borne from Bowness Knott

Before the steep ascent, I found a quiet spot by the beck to hunker down and adjust my layering. With my thermals removed and with the benefit of the extra ventilation provided by the new rents in my trousers, I was better prepared for the warm work of the climb. And it did feel really quite warm, although rocky sections of the path – shiny with a thin veneer of ice – reminded me that all might not quite be as it seemed.

The fox trap 

This curious, circular hollow construction is apparently an old fox-trap.

Near the top of Rake Beck, where the gradient eased, there was a grassy, sheltered spot where I might easily have settled down, out of the wind, for forty winks. In fact, on Bownes Knott I’d resolved that after several very cold wintery walks, today I would seek out every opportunity for loafing around and admiring the view, but having passed up the opportunity by Rake Beck, I was possessed by an impish peak-bagging spirit and stops thereafter were brief and infrequent.

Great Borne from Herdus 

Great Borne from Herdus.

From Great Borne: The route ahead - Starling Dodd and Red Pike beyond 

The views were still very hazy. I took lots of photos, but frankly I expected that they would be dreadful. In the event, I’m quite pleased with some of them.

Looking back to Great Borne from Gale Fell 

The pictures pretty much tell the story I think: a romp along the ridge.

Starling Dodds twin cairns - Red Pike and High Stile ahead 

After another underwhelming Birkett on Gale Fell (The Most Disappointing To Date) came Starling Dodd and then Little Dodd. Birkett’s route heads down from there, but the weather was too fine for that. Besides which, TBH had friends coming round for a Dinner Party and she’d assured me that I was welcome to stay out for as long as I wanted. (No really. And I can use a knife and fork and everything. Haven’t picked up my plate to drink the gravy for ages!)

Looking towards Pillar - the haze starting to thin 


So – I plodded up Red Pike, and from there round to High Stile.

High Stile from Red Pike 

I haven’t been this way for many a moon, and I’d forgotten what a great ridge walk this is.

Looking back to Red Pike 

I particularly enjoyed the walk from High Stile to High Crag.

High Crag from High Stile 

Looking back to High Stile 

Haystacks and Seat from High Crag 

And the steep descent from there was mercifully free of snow and, with an artfully constructed, flagged path down the lower half of it, not as punishing on the knees as I had expected.

 The steep descent from High Crag

One last hurrah over Seat.

 Haystacks and Seat

 Haystacks and Gable from Seat

Brought me to Scarth Gap and whilst it would have been nice to continue, time was marching on. I took the path heading down almost to Black Sail Hostel, and then turned to head back down Ennerdale to the car.

Forest track: Bowness Knott Car Park 6 miles!

The track is a bit of an eyesore, but the walk down the valley was more pleasant than I had expected, if a little long at the end of what had been a challenging day by my own modest standards. (About 1000m of up and around 14 miles, is my guestimate.)

Ennerdale Map

Hmmm – that hasn’t worked too well has it? Click on it – you never know, it might be better.

North Side of Ennerdale: Bowness Knott to Seat