Sheffield Pike Circuit

Glencoyne Bay – Mossdale – Glenridding Dodd – Heron Pike – Sheffield Pike – White Stones – Hart Side – Birkett Fell – Brown Hills – Swineside Knott – Watermillock Common – Common Fell – Round How – Bracken How – Aira Force – Glencoyne Bay

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The view from Glencoyne Bay – Gowbarrow on the left, part of Place Fell on the right.

This was the weekend after our Scotland trip. Note the blue skies. The week before our weekend at Bridge of Orchy I was in Langdale enjoying splendid weather. The week after by Ullswater: more sunshine. But for our long planned get-together: wild weather. Sod’s Law in action!

I parked at Glencoyne Bay, which, on this sunny Saturday, was surprisingly quiet. Most people there seemed to have water-sports in mind and were unloading canoes from roof-racks or inflating paddle boards. It’s a National Trust car-park, so it’s ‘free’ for members like me, just like the Stickle Barn car park a fortnight before had been, a fact which pleases me out of all proportion to the money saved.

I’d spotted a dotted black line on the map: a path which would take me up Mossdale to the col between Heron Pike and Glenridding Dodd. It climbed steeply through woods at first, and, unusually this spring, I actually felt pretty warm as I climbed.

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Colt’s-foot.
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Large bee, small daffodils, or both?

Photos of Robins are a staple of this blog, but have been far and few between of late; here’s a couple to compensate…

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Robin. Ragin’ Full-on.
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Because the path climbed quite steeply, views quickly opened out behind…

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Ullswater.

The route spiralled in on Gelnridding Dodd. I would be coming back to the col to head for Heron Pike before long.

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Heron Pike.
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Nab Crag and Blea Cove on Birkhouse Moor.

There was, inevitably, a cold breeze on the top, but I nestled down in the heather, just off the summit and stopped for a brew with a view…

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Gowbarrow, Ullswater and Place Fell from Glenridding Dodd.
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Nab Crag and Catstye Cam.
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Looking back to Glenridding Dodd, Place Fell and Glenridding.

The ascent of Heron Pike is steep and rocky, in complete contrast to the moorland which follows up to Sheffield Pike. Heron Pike, a Birkett, is not really a summit at all, but was a great place to hunker down in the shelter of some crags for a view with an even better view.

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Ullswater from Heron Pike.

I’m glad that I stopped there. Out of the wind it was lovely, but as I continued to climb the wind became increasingly bitter and shelter was not always easy to find.

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Helvellyn from one of the Heron Pike tarns.
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Watermillock Common and the Mell Fells beyond from Sheffield Pike.

What made me choose Sheffield Pike from all the other potential hills in the Lakes? A recently retired former colleague had posted photos of Sheffield Pike and Glencoyne on Fakebook, which had me thinking about how very long it must be since I last climbed these hills. It wasn’t far from there to planning a trip to Ullswater.

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Striding Edge, Helvellyn, Catstye Cam, Lower Man, Whiteside, Raise.
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My onward route to White Stones. Glencoyne Head on the right.

It doesn’t look, on the map, like Nick Head, the col between Sheffield Pike and White Stones, will offer much shelter, but there’s actually a quite steep-sided little hollow there and I stopped again for another quick sup from my flask. I was torn: my vague plan had been to continue to White Stones, but I was looking at the path which contours around Glencoyne Head. I love paths like that and I was very tempted. While I sat, however, several groups passed, all decked out in day-glo and, like me, shorts, and those life-jacket style rucksacks which seem to be all the rage with fell-runners. There will little posts with arrows by the path too. Clearly, there was some sort of event on, and the groups were all taking the Glencoyne Head path. It had been reasonably quiet up till now, despite the fine weather, and I decided to stick with my original plan on the basis that I’d get more peace that way.

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Sheffield Pike. High Street range beyond.
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Stybarrow Dodd from White Stones.

It would have been easy to bag Stybarrow Dodd from White Stones, but I’m glad I decided not to as the day turned out to be a long one as it was.

White Stones is not a Wainwright, but Hart Side is. It all seems pretty arbitrary. Both are Birketts, as are a whole host of little pimples between those two and Aira Force. It’s a broad grassy ridge, a tad boggy in places, but I only saw two other people on it, the views were expansive and it made for great walking. Mostly downhill too.

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Blencathra from Hart Side.
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As I said, it was a bit damp in some spots. For some reason this marooned stile tickled my funny bone.

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Place Fell from Swineside Knott.

Talking of arbitrary, Swineside Knott has two whole contours to call its own. It’s a few strides off the path, but Wainwright promises the best view of Place Fell, a hill which is very high in my estimation. Add to the that the fact that Swineside Knott is another Birkett, so another tick to be grabbed and I was persuaded to make the very slight detour. The top is completely underwhelming, but step a few paces more, to the crags below, and the views are indeed superb. Time for one final drinks stop!

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Ullswater and Patterdale from Swineside Knott.
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Swineside Knott. Sheffield Pike behind.
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Dowthwaite Head and Dowthwaite Crag. Blencathra behind.
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The Mell Fells and Gowbarrow from Common Fell.

Common Fell, on the other hand, has the feel of a proper hill, if a low one. It’s probably not the best one which Wainwright left out of his books, but I liked it.

Now – there’s a rabbit hole to get lost down – which is the best hill in the Lakes which isn’t a Wainwright? Black Combe? (Although that will be an Outlying Fell).

Round How and Bracken How are also Birketts, and again they seem a bit like pointless pimples on the map, but it turns out that Round How also commands a terrific view of Place Fell and Ullswater. Bracken How has no such redeeming feature, but it doesn’t take much climbing.

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Place Fell from Round How.
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Aira Beck.

No photograph of Aira Force – the paths down to the waterfalls are currently closed after a tree fell and has made the paths dangerous. Walking down through the woods by Aira Beck was very pleasant though. The longish walk back to the car was much nicer than it might have been because there’s a path which keeps you off the busy A592. In fact, I suspect that you can walk from the Aira Force car park all the way into Glenridding without having to walk on the road.

MapMyWalk gives about 11½ miles and 785 metres of ascent. I think the latter is a bit of an underestimate.

Also 3 Wainwrights: Glenridding Dodd, Sheffield Pike and Hart Side.

And 11 Birketts: Glenridding Dodd, Heron Pike, Sheffield Pike, White Stones, Hart Side, Birkett Fell, Brown Hills, Swineside Knott, Common Fell, Round How, Bracken How.

Phew! Good training for some bigger days to come.

Sheffield Pike Circuit

Langdale Pikes Plus

New Dungeon Ghyll Hotel – Stickle Ghyll – Stickle Tarn – Sergeant Man – High Raise – Thunacar Knott – Pavey Ark – Harrison Stickle – Loft Crag – Pike of Stickle – Mark Gate – New Dungeon Ghyll Hotel.

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Stickle Ghyll

March arrived and brought with it some clear, blue skies. Time to get back to the Lakes! I didn’t get off particularly early, I can’t remember why, and was lucky to squeeze into a space in the National Trust’s New Dungeon Ghyll carpark at around ten. (Does everyone refer to the two Langdale pubs as the ODG and the NDG?)

Of course, Langdale is always going to be popular, especially with a good forecast, and there were a few people ahead of me on the path heading up Stickle Ghyll. Somewhat to my surprise, I gradually overhauled several groups and we leap-frogged each other up the path. Just in case I was getting ideas above my station however, a group of younger walkers caught up with me just short of Stickle Tarn and flew past as if I were barely moving.

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Stickle Ghyll.
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Pavey Ark and Stickle Tarn.

Although the air was quite cold, in the sunshine I had warmed up well during the climb and was down to a t-shirt. Time to shove a few layers back on at Stickle Ghyll where, as well as a new, splendid view, we were exposed to a biting wind.

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Harrison Stickle across Stickle Tarn.

Despite that very icy wind, a couple of people had changed into bathing costumes and were wading out into the tarn. One of them was protesting loudly and I’m not sure whether either of them actually swam. I’m sure it would have been extremely bracing.

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Pavey Ark again. Jack’s Rake fairly prominent.

I think the last time I did Jack’s Rake was on my first hike with TBH, so over 20 years ago. It looked popular today, as did the alternative route on the path up the eastern shoulder of Pavey Ark. I had been considering the latter as one possible onward route, but decided to head for Sergeant Man instead, since it looked like I would have the path to myself.

I did, and it was a marvellous route, a fairly faint path following a small stream above the valley of Bright Beck, not one of the paths on the map, which all head further east onto the Blea Rigg ridge. I think you can see the stream I followed on the map below, enclosed by a rocky rib on its western side. Eventually the path left that stream and headed across and up to meet the stream which drains the cluster of small tarns between Sergeant Man and Codale Head.

Anyway, I’m getting a bit ahead of myself: this….
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…is the first of those becks. You can just see Sergeant Man left of centre. It was pleasantly sheltered here and I took advantage of that fact and stopped for a hot drink.

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Looking back down to Stickle Ghyll from my brew stop.

The path kept splitting and got steadily fainter and harder to follow.

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Approaching Sergeant Man.

Eventually, I lost the path and followed the stream which I presume flows out of the tarns.

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Looking down the stream. Forest of Bowland and Morecambe Bay on the horizon. Gummer How quite distinctive in the distance. Lingmoor and Side Pike in the foreground. Wetherlam and the Coniston Fells on the right.
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Sergeant Man.

Eventually, I left the stream and the shelter that its banks offered, and took a direct route to the top. The crags are broken, but I enjoyed stringing a route together which stayed on the rock as much as possible and offered some easy scrambling.

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Codale Head. Snow-capped Fairfield right of Codale Head.
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From Sergeant Man: Scafells, Bowfell, Esk Pike, Great End.
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Codale Head. Helvellyn ridge on the left, Fairfield to the right.

Codale Head is not a Wainwright, but is a Birkett. A bit like Sergeant Man, it isn’t exactly a prominent summit, but it is well worth a visit.

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Eastern Fells from the slopes of High Raise.
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Esk Pike, The Scafells, Great End, Gable and Pillar from High Raise.

I know that High Raise is essentially a big lump, but it has a rocky top and always feels to me like its very central in the lakes. You can certainly see a lot of the area’s more distinctive hills from there.

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High Raise summit cairn. Glaramara, Dale Head and the North-western Fells behind.
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Another High Raise view – North-western Fells, Bassenthwaite, Skiddaw, Blencathra.
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Crinkle Crags, Bowfell, Esk Pike, Scafell Pike, Great End, Great Gable. The ridge extending towards the camera is the Rossett Pike, Buck Pike, Black Crags ridge. You can pick out Lining Crag on the right of the ridge too.
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Glaramara.
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Looking back to Sergeant Man.
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And again, from futher away.
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Harrison Stickle from Thunacar Knott.
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Sergeant Man again from close to Pavey Ark. St. Sunday Crag prominent through Grisedale Pass.

After leaving Sergeant Man there was very little opportunity to find any shelter on High Raise or Thunacar Knott, but I had high hopes for Pavey Ark – well justified high hopes as it turned out. I dropped just a little way below the top, on the Langdale side, and was soon out of the cold wind and enjoying the sunshine, the views, a hot drink and possibly even a moment’s snooze. I think I sat there for almost an hour. A very peaceful hour.

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Langdale, Lingmoor and Side Pike. Blea Tarn just visible on the right. Windermere in the distance.

It felt quite warm out of the wind, but just after finally setting-off again I slipped on verglas and found myself sitting in a puddle. One sleeve and the seat of my pants were wet, but fortunately only my pride was hurt. There was a fair bit of ice about and I ought to have payed more attention to this slip.

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Harrison Stickle.
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Looking back to Pavey Ark.

There seemed to be several paths between Pavey Ark and Harrison Stickle, weaving their way through the craggy terrain. I chose to stick close to the rocky edge and then found myself on a good path which contoured around on to the south facing side of Harrison Stickle, i.e. the steep face. When that path seemed to be losing height, I looked up to the crags on my right and spotted a small chimney which seemed to offer an easy route upwards. I climbed up to a wide ledge and then started to shin up the chimney. My legs aren’t as flexible as they once were, and in trying to lift my right boot just a little higher to reach a toehold, I shifted my weight and ….off I went. I didn’t fall far and landed on my feet, back on the broad ledge. I wasn’t hurt, but I was a bit shaken. Now I had to choose between two unpalatable options – backtrack down to the path, or have another go at the chimney. The chimney still looked very easy, especially now that I had rehearsed my moves, and in the end I decided to give that a second try, with a bit more circumspection. In fact, it was very easy. What’s-more, once up the chimney I was very nearly on the summit.

On the summit I met a party of three ladies whom I’d been following up the Stickle Ghyll path. They’d been walking faster than me, but stopping more often, which meant that I kept catching-up with them, whereupon they would set-off again. If they’d overheard my colourful response to slipping off the crag just below, they didn’t show any signs of disapproval!

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Harrison Stickle from the west.
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Pike O’Blisco. Coniston Fells behind.
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Pike O’Stickle from Loft Crag.
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Harrison Stickle, Loft Crag and Windermere from Pike O’Stickle. With intruding finger.
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Loft Crag.
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Harrison Stickle.

Some hike stats: MapMyWalk gives a little under 7 miles (before my phone ran out of juice), and 830 metres of ascent.

More importantly, seven more Wainwrights ticked off: Sergeant Man, High Raise, Thunacar Knott, Pavey Ark, Harrison Stickle, Loft Crag, Pike O’Stickle.

Even more importantly – an absolutely cracking day out.

(I had planned to extend the round to take in Rossett Pike, but by the time I got to Loft Crag, with clouds accumulating overhead, that seemed like a long way away, and I took a more direct route back to my car instead.)

Langdale Pikes Plus

Back O’Skiddaw

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Orthwaite Bank and Great Cockup.

After my great start in January, February had almost sneaked past without so much as a single tick. Time for some rearguard action, and some hills to the north of Skiddaw which were all new territory to me. I parked near Peter House Farm, having failed to find somewhere closer to the village of Orthwaite. That meant that my route started with a bit of a road walk, but it was a very quiet lane, so not really a hardship.

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Little Calva and Bakestall. Whitewater Dash just about visible between.
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Fantastic display of Snowdrops at Horsemoor Hills.
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Skiddaw massif. Ullock Pike in the centre, North-Western Fells on the right.
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Binsey and Latrigg.

Binsey is another Wainwright which I’ve never climbed. It dominated the view for much of the early part of the walk and looked, I thought, well worth a visit.

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Longlands Fell, Lowthwaite Fell, Little Cockup.

After Orthwaite Bank (a Birkett), I diverted to take in Little Cockup – another Birkett and one of those on his list which look totally underwhelming on the map, but which turn out to be great viewpoints.

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Bakestall, Skiddaw, Ullock Pike.
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Little Cockup ‘summit’ cairn. Binsey, Latrigg, Over Water.
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Great Cockup from Little Cockup.
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Longlands Fell, Lowthwaite Fell, Brae Fell.
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Binsey. Criffel beyond the Solway Firth behind.
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Skiddaw – briefly out of the clouds.
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From Great Cockup – Meal Fell with Little Sca Fell and Great Sca Fell behind.

Between Great Cockup and Meal Fell is the steep-sided pass of Trusmadoor, where I was hoping to find some shelter from the strong winds. I did, to a certain extent, and stopped for a drink a bite to eat.

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Looking back to Great Cockup.
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The summit shelter on Meal Fell.

A party huddled in the summit shelter were very welcoming and offered to make room for me, but since it wasn’t long since I’d stopped I was keen to keep going.

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Great Cockup from Meal Fell.
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Little Sca Fell and Great Sca Fell.

Little Sca Fell is another Birkett, so I took the path which cut up to the left to include that in my round.

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Looking back to Meal Fell and Great Cockup.
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Skiddaw from Great Sca Fell.

I’d been a bit surprised and impressed with how dry the ground had been to this point, but that was all to change from Great Sca Fell onwards, with a lot of fairly boggy going to come. Having said that, although it was very windy and wet underfoot, I was below the clouds, it wasn’t raining and after Great Sca Fell I only met one other walker. I was enjoying the wide open spaces and the seclusion.

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Knott.
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High Pike and Carrock Fell.
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Lonscale Fell, Great Calva, Skiddaw, Little Calva.

From Knott, there was the potential to take a path down towards the car, which had been one possibility I’d contemplated, but once I’d seen Great Calva, my mind was made up: I was smitten and definitely for continuing.

Hoping to find a bit of shelter from the wind I struck away from the path, with the wind at my back and found a steep and quite high peat hag which offered pretty good protection from the breeze for another drink and butty stop.

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Peat Hag shelter.
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Great Calva.
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Great Calva.
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Skiddaw from Great Calva.

Great Calva didn’t disappoint with a rocky summit and great views over the empty spaces of Skiddaw Forest.

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Blencathra in the cloud, Lonscale Fell.
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Bowscale Fell across Skiddaw Forest.
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Carrock Fell.
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Looking back to Knott.

The less said about Little Calva, however, the better. It was bogtastic.

Somewhere in the vicinity of the top of the Whitewater Dash waterfall my phone’s battery conked out. So I have no photographs of that highly impressive falls. Also none from my journey home, when the skies cleared and the light was glorious.

The battery running out of steam also means that MapMyWalk didn’t complete my loop. I will guestimate that the full distance was around 18km, so between 11 and 12 miles. It also gives about 760m metres of ascent, which I think checks out pretty accurately.

To complete the hike stats:

Five Wainwrights: Great Cockup, Meal Fell, Great Sca Fell, Knott, Great Calva

Nine Birketts: Orthwaite Bank, Little Cockup, Great Cockup, Meal Fell, Little Sca Fell, Great Sca Fell, Knott, Great Calva, Little Calva.

If I’d been a bit more thorough with my planning in advance I might easily have included Frozen Fell and Burn Tod for two more Birketts, but not to worry, I’ll just have to go back at some point.

Back O’Skiddaw

Two for One: The Mell Fells

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Despite what I’d said to TBH about having climbed ‘most’ of the Wainwrights, there are actually quite a few I’ve never been up; Great and Little Mell Fell being a case in point. Although they aren’t particularly high, they really stand out from anywhere in the north-eastern Lakes, so they’ve been on my ‘to do’ list for years. On this Saturday, at the end of January, the forecast wasn’t very promising, so they seemed like an ideal target.
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From the lane to the east of Great Mell Fell there’s a path which heads directly for the summit and I guess that most people go straight up and down by the same route, but Aileen and Brian Evans’ ‘Northern Lakeland’ book (Short Walks in Lakeland Volume 2) has a circular route which follows the edge of the woods before ascending the shoulder on the North-East side of the hill. There’s a path, seemingly quite well used, quite boggy in places.

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On the shoulder we didn’t find much of a path, but it was pleasant enough winding up through the trees, it helped that the weather was unexpectedly brightening up, there was even the odd shaft of sunlight getting through.

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Some of the trees were twisted and gnarly – I guess they are very exposed to the winds.

As we cleared the trees, and the gradient eased, the going became very tussocky. Quite hard going. TBH hates this kind of thing. There is actually a path – we just missed it somehow.

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TBH on the top – Blencathra in the cloud behind.

It was pretty windy on the top, but we thought we’d find a sheltered spot on the way down. TBH had bought me an insulated mug, similar to one she has herself. It was full of hot tea and stowed away safely in the outside pocket of my rucksack. Except it wasn’t, I discovered when we stopped: it must have fallen out when I took my bag off near the summit. TBH went to look for shelter and I went back up. Couldn’t find it, so I retraced our steps, part of the way down our ascent route, with no luck. That was how I found that there was actually a path just a few yards across the hill from where we had come up. In all then, I ‘topped out’ on Great Mell Fell three times that day – can I count that as three separate ticks?

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I’m a bit confused by this low ridge – I think, by a process of elimination, that it must be Great Meldrum and Gowbarrow Fell.
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Descending towards Little Mell Fell.

TBH had found ‘a lovely sheltered spot’ but had also got cold waiting for me, so we returned to the car and ate our lunches there.

The weather was clearly worsening, but we decided to risk an ascent of Little Mell Fell. Lazily, we drove around to The Hause, where there’s a lay-by with room for a few cars, and from where there’s a short, sharp climb to the top.

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Great Mell Fell – Blencathra seems to have cleared.
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Hallin Fell and Place Fell across Haweswater.

We made it back to the cars just as it started to rain in earnest.

So, two more ticked off, making seven Wainwrights for January, which I thought was a reasonable start, could I maintain that pace?

Two for One: The Mell Fells

The Old Man in the Rain

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Coniston Water.

The forecast was promising: ‘Low cloud, with a strong chance of cloud inversions on larger fells, particularly in the South.’ I was hooked (line and sinker!) and was out early and parked up in the car park at the top of the metalled part of the Walna Scar road. Despite the early hour, not long after eight, the car park was already pretty busy and filling up fast.

The OS map shows a path climbing the southern slopes of The Old Man, skirting the quarry and joining the more popular route above Low Water. In fact, there are lots of minor paths and if you pick one which heads further west you can keep plodding up through interesting terrain to Old Man Breast and then the top.

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Limestone Haws.

I was suspicious of what seemed like quite high cloud for an inversion, but continued to climb hopefully.

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The view begins to disappear.

Once entered, the mist turned out to be the sort of mist which has you soaked through before you’ve fully realised just how wet it is. Still, it remained quite pleasant. I sat by the enormous summit cairn on the Old Man, looking at the lack of view and willing the cloud to clear, whilst I supped a couple of cups of cordial from my flask.

Then I set off along the ridge, over Brim Fell to Swirl How. The weather gradually deteriorated. Not only did the fine mist turn to a heavy downpour, but the wind picked up too so that the freezing cold rain was driven horizontally across the ridge.

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The cairn on Swirl How.

It was all a bit horrible. In different circumstances, I might have done an out-and-back to Great Carrs, and I originally intended to include Wetherlam, but now I just wanted to get off the hill.

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The ‘view’ along the ridge.

Fortunately, once I started to descend Prison Band I dropped out of the worst of the wind, and although it continued to rain, on and off, without the driving wind it didn’t seem so bad.

I chatted to a couple of chaps who asked if they were on Prison Band (I’m not sure where else they could have been?).

“What’s it like on the ridge?”

“Wild.”

“Yep, it was pretty foul on Wetherlam,” they chuckled, before continuing on up.

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Re-emerging from the mist.

From that point, I enjoyed the rest of the walk, rain or no rain. Showers kept sweeping through, but they were less and less frequent.

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Levers Water.

The sharp showers made patterns on the surface of Levers Water and I watched them being driven across the tarn.

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No swimming! No difficulty complying with that injunction on this occasion.
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Levers Water Beck.
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Levers Water Beck again.
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I love these constructed paths, associated with the mine-workings. I followed this one around to Low Water Beck and the Pudding Stone.
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Low Water Beck.

Stepping off the path by Low Water Beck, to let a couple past who were coming the other way and who seemed a bit nervous of the uneven and slippery surface, I skidded on the wet grass and went arse-over-tit. They seemed quite concerned about me, I’m not sure whether that was despite or because of the fact that I was laughing at my own clumsiness.

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Another mine track.
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Sod’s Law in operation – as I sat in my car finishing my flask and eating my lunch, sunshine appeared down in the valley, bringing a feeble rainbow with it.

A surprisingly enjoyable outing, all told. And the fact that I shall need to go back to pick up Dow Crag, Grey Friar etc is not a hardship at all.

The Old Man in the Rain

Sour Howes and Sallows

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River Kent from Ullthwaite Bridge. The monument on Hugill Fell visible on the skyline.

For Christmas, TBH bought me a Wainwright Map:

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“But I’ve done most of them,” I protested, “several times.”

“I know, I thought you might like to start again.”

A map, a ticklist, and a project – an irresistible combination!

Meanwhile, Little S has become highly engaged in his BJJ and trains several times a week, but has decided that the Saturday morning class, which he has regularly attended for years, is no longer appropriate since most of the participants are genuinely little, unlike the rangy Little S.

So, spurred on by TBH and with my calendar suddenly blank every Saturday, I’ve been getting out on the hills much more frequently than I have for a while.

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Croft Head.

Having said that, this walk, from mid-January, started late, after midday – I can’t remember what had kept me occupied in the morning, so a shortish route was required. I was very lucky, at that time of day, to get a parking spot in Kentmere, conveniently next to Ullthwaite Bridge.

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Bothy? by Acretarn Plantation.

We used to tease our friend UF for his obsession with seeking out small buildings which he had identified on the map as potential ‘secret’ bothies. This building looks relatively salubrious compared to some of his hopefuls: the glazing and interior decor are a bit lacking and the ceiling was falling in, but it looks like somebody has used the fireplace, so maybe it’s ripe for adoption by the MBA?

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If there’s been a common theme to my days on the hills to date this year it has been wind, wind and more wind. Cold and often very strong winds.

“Oh, you’ve caught the sun!” People will say.

“No, I’ve been wind-blasted.”

This afternoon was the single exception so far, a fairly mild day, especially for January. A faint path ascends alongside Park Beck, a really pleasant route.

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Park Beck. Sallows behind.
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Brunt Knott, Millrigg Knott, Spy Crag, Hugill Fell. And Mackerel sky?
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Pano. The humps and hollows of Sour Howes on the left. Moor Head, the broad ridge in the middle and Sallows on the right.
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View down Windermere.

It’s a long while since I was last on these hills and I’d forgotten what great views they have, Sour Howes in particular.

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Sour Howes pano.

I parked myself just off the top and enjoyed a late lunch and some hot cordial.

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Looking down into Troutbeck. Wansfell Pike behind. Scafells and Great Gable on the skyline.

The cloud was breaking up, and the sunlight began to alternately pick out different patches of hillside, which was wonderful to watch.

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Red Screes and Stony Cove Pike.
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Sallows.
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Howgills catching the sun.
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Stony Cove Pike, Thornthwaite Crag, Ill Bell, Yoke.

It looked like it would be the easiest thing in the world just to romp up onto the western ridge of the Kentmere Horseshoe, but that will have to wait for another day (and almost certainly won’t be ‘ the easiest thing in the world’ when that day comes!)

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Scour Rigg.

On the way down, I found a path and rather heedlessly followed it, which serendipitously brought me to the curious knolls of Scour Rigg. Then I wandered around Mould Rigg. The OS maps app was an invaluable aid in locating my position and guiding me down Whiteside End and onto the track which would take me back to my car.

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Kentmere Tarn.

MapMyWalk gives a smidgen under 7 miles and close to 400m of ascent (I reckon 420 from the map, so that’s not a bad figure, I don’t think). Not bad for a short winter afternoon. I was also thinking that these hills would be ideal for a summer evening stroll.

So, two down (and Capple Howe is a Birkett), just two hundred and twelve to go!

Sour Howes and Sallows

Skiddaw by Ullock Pike

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Bassenthwaite, the Solway Firth and the distant hills of Galloway.

This was actually a weekend away with old friends, the usual crowd, if you are familiar with the blog, but I’m only going to post about the Saturday because we dipped out on the Sunday, due to a dodgy knee and a discouraging weather forecast.

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Ullock Pike.

As you can see, by contrast, Saturday’s weather was superb, although the photos don’t convey the strong wind which was blowing.

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The stoney slopes of Skiddaw.

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Longside Edge.

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Derwentwater and central Lakeland.

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Looking back along the ridge.

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Skiddaw again.

In the photo above, you can see the scar of the main path up from Carlside Tarn to the summit of Skiddaw. Some of us took a more direct route up to the southernmost end of the summit ridge.

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Binsey, with the Galloway hills behind.

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Finally some shelter from the wind and the chance to enjoy some the sunshine.

A great day out in wonderful company. Having said that, I don’t seem to have managed to take many photos of the assembled masses. Andy’s post has more photos generally and more photos of people in particular.

There were a whole host of Birkett’s on this circular and it occurs to me that, now that I’m off it’s high time I updated my Birkett tick list, with which I am way behind.

The last time I climbed Skiddaw it was an overnight affair with a couple of hours of sleep snatched on its stoney flanks.

Skiddaw by Ullock Pike

Harter Fell and Birks Bridge.

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On the Saturday of our Easter weekend I stayed at home with TBH, who, unfortunately, was suffering from her worst bout yet of labyrinthitis. Most of the rest of the party went for a swim in the Kent at Levens. It really was that warm, which is hard to believe now that it’s late May and the wind is howling outside beneath grey skies.

Easter Sunday was B’s birthday. How to entertain a teenager on their birthday? Fortunately, B was happy to fall in with our plans for a shortish walk up Harter Fell, followed by a swim in the River Duddon. TBH was feeling much better, but not well enough to want to join us.

This…

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…is Birks Bridge, where we planned to have a dip after our walk.

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You can see that the water is crystal clear. Deceptively deep too, it was possible, we later found, to jump from these rocks into the water without hitting the bottom.

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River Duddon.

First of all though, we had a hill to climb. The initial ascent was very steep and it was unseasonably hot. Here we are…

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…resting after the first steep pull.

This rocky tor…

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…is Maiden Castle. It’s very imposing and we’d picked it out from the car park as somewhere worth visiting. Actually, around the far side it can be easily scaled via a grassy ramp. That’s be sat on the top.

From this point on, not only did the angle ease, but there were lots more rocky knolls, so that a variety of different entertaining options for scrambling to the top were available. Andy and the DBs were in their element. I followed on more slowly, picking my route and avoiding some of the steeper sections they sort-out.

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At the top itself, there were plenty of sheltered spots for some lunch and a sunbathe…

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But also lots more rocky knolls to enjoy…

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B tells me that this photo…

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…gives a misleading impression about the route he is climbing, which, apparently, was “much steeper than that!”

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A and B have been up here once before, although I’m not sure how well they remember that visit , it was a long time ago after all.

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Hazy view of the hills around Upper Eskdale.

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Bird’s-eye view of Hardknott Roman Fort.

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We chose the simple option of retracing our steps down to the valley. By this time, the haze had begun to clear and the views were improving.

The others were setting a cracking pace, no doubt eager for the swim to come, but I was distracted by the great number of Peacock and Orange-tip butterflies which were flying.

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Orange-tips are one of those species of butterfly which rarely seem to land, at least when I have my camera handy. Fortunately, there were other distractions…

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…I love the way the almost lime green new Beech leaves complement the layer of old orange leaves which always blanket the ground beneath Beeches.

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They look pretty good against a blue sky too.

Eventually, a couple of Orange-tips decided to oblige and pose for photos…

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All that and a swim still to come!

Andy has photos of us swimming (as well as lots more pictures of the DBs scrambling). The water was refreshing of course, but not as cold, frankly, as I thought it might be. My theory is that the rivers are a good bet after prolonged dry spells, which is exactly what we’d just had. Once you were immersed, it wasn’t bad at all, and even Little S, who has no padding whatsoever and often suffers with the cold, managed a good long swim.

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Little S and I both like to climb a hill on our Birthdays if possible. I think this might be a first for B, but the combination of sunshine, old friends, some scrambling, and a swim is surely a hard act to follow.

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Harter Fell and Birks Bridge.

Helm Crag.

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Sunrise from our patio.

The first of three Mondays in our Easter break. Having only climbed Arnside Knott on my birthday, our plan was to get out and bag a bigger hill, to take advantage of the glorious weather and to scratch my itch for a ‘proper’ fell on or near my birthday. In fact, I was hoping that we would get around the entire Greenburn Horseshoe, a pretty modest outing, but we needed to get back because B had rugby training in Kendal in the evening.

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Helm Crag.

We were away quite early, for us, and parked, for free, in the layby on the main road outside Grasmere. From Easedale we took a path through the grounds of the Lancrigg Hotel, which the owners have wisely opened to the public – it must bring in extra passing custom. I shall certainly be hoping to pop in for a drink after a walk one sunny summer day. The gardens are lovely – well worth a visit.

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In the gardens of the Lancrigg Hotel.

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A simple memorial to Dorothy Wordsworth.

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“Dorothy Wordsworth used to sit at this spot, writing down the poems that her brother dictated as he walked nearby.”

From the gardens we took a slightly wrong turn which brought us to what seemed to be a small disused quarry. It was a fortuitous mistake, because in a small tree at the base of a crag a Tawny Owl was perched, no doubt resting out the day in what it considered to be a quiet, out-of-the-way spot until we stumbled by. Much like the owl which we found on our window ledge a couple of summers ago.

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Back on the path we’d soon stopped again. It was ridiculously hot for early April and we wanted to take on some water. There were lots of butterflies about and I tried, without much success, to get some photos.

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Far Easedale.

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Seat Sandal and Fairfield.

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The boys enjoyed scrambling on the rocky tors near the top, particularly this one…

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…which is the actual summit.

After some lunch, we continued along the ridge…

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Last time we all came this way together, I carried Little S most of the way up and down Helm Crag. On this occasion he was moving under his own steam, but not with much enthusiasm. His walking boots were too small and his feet were feeling the pinch.

In those circumstances it would have been daft to continue with our planned itinerary. Here we are…

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…dropping down off the ridge toward Greenburn Bottom. Paths in the Lakes which are marked on the OS map as a green right-of-way and not as a black dotted line always make me very suspicious: sometimes they aren’t to be trusted, and turn out to not have any existence beyond the cartographers imagination. This one, however, was clearly of some vintage, having been carefully constructed in the dim and distant past and was a delight.

This caterpillar was using the same path…

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…I think it’s a Fox Moth caterpillar.

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Crossing Greenburn.

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Helm Crag.

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The path down the valley.

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Crossing the River Rothay.

Little S has some new footwear now – shoes rather than boots, which he’s much happier with. They’ll be getting lots of use because he’s going to be doing his Hiking Badge with the Scouts.

 

Helm Crag.

Fairfield Horseshoe

Ambleside – Nook Lane – Low Sweden Bridge – Low Pike – High Pike – Dove Crag – Hart Crag – Fairfield – Great Rigg – Rydal Fell – Heron Pike – Nab Scar – Rydal Hall – Rydal Park – Ambleside

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Mist over Ambleside.

A friend from the village has decided to join B in playing rugby for Kirkby, which means I now have someone to share lifts with. Presented with a first opportunity to miss a game and have a day off, I dithered; B has been playing for several years and I’ve missed very few games. I enjoy the matches and recently the team has hit a rich vein of form. On the other hand, the forecast wasn’t too bad and the hills beckoned. I was torn, but you can see which outcome eventually won.

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Heading towards the ridge, Sweden Crags, Low Brock Crags and High Brock Crags on the skyline before the snow. High Pike behind.

I was out early, partly because one of the forecasts I looked at suggested clear skies around dawn and also because I discovered that certain Lake District carparks cost just a pound for the day, if you arrive before nine in the morning, including the Lake Road carpark in Ambleside.

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Looking south over Windermere.

The Fairfield Horseshoe must be one of the best known and most popular walks in the Lakes. Even early on a cold, wintery day, with a mixed forecast, there were a few people about.

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The Coniston Fells.

In actual fact the weather was much better than any of the forecasts had suggested. The weather did eventually deteriorate, but not before some marvellous views over a mist covered Windermere and then a spell of glorious sunshine. Even when the weather worsened, the clouds veiling and unveiling the hills and the light shining through gaps in those clouds and spotlighting parts of the scene were dramatic.

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From Low Pike. Another view over Windermere.

On Low Pike I stopped for a while to take in the view and catch up on some breakfast: tea from a flask and some leftover low-carb Spanish Omelette. (Cauliflower replacing the potato: works a treat. Curiously, radishes are not bad either)

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High Pike from Low Pike.

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Heron Pike, Rydal Fell and Erne Crag catching the sun. I would be on the ridge later, but without much sunshine.

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Low Pike, Scandale and Scandale Beck from the High Pike ridge.

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Heron Pike and Rydal Fell again. Scafells and Langdale Pikes beyond.

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Coniston Fells. A great view of the horseshoe I walked quite recently.

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The long steady pull to Dove Crag from High Pike. Fairfield behind.

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I want to call this snow/ice on the wall rime, but I’m not sure that that’s the correct term. There seems to be a paucity of terms to describe snow and ice features in English, so that we often have to use terms from other languages – névé from French or sastrugi from Russian for example.

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I suspect that these beards of snow are the result of snow being forced through the wall by strong winds and building up these shapes on the lee side.

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Fairfield and Hart Crag.

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The Eastern Fells.

With the sun really shining now, I stopped for more tea. Out of the wind, it felt quite warm and I enjoyed sitting in the sun and listening to the drip of the snow melting.

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Looking back to Dove Crag.

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Great Rigg and Rydal Fell.

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St. Sunday Crag.

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Scrubby Crag.

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The horseshoe and Rydal Beck.

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Hart Crag.

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Cofa Pike and St. Sunday Crag.

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Hutaple Crag, I think.

The cloud, as you can see, was coming in quickly, which it had been threatening to do for a while. There was briefly a view of all of the fantastic ridges on the Helvellyn massif. I would have taken a photograph or two, but just at that moment I met an old friend who was walking the horseshoe clockwise with a small group and we stopped to catch up whilst the mist descended around us.

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Fairfield summit.

I was over Great Rigg in thick mist with no views at all, but then dropped below the cloud as the ridge descended. Somewhere hereabouts I found another sheltered spot where I could hunker down and eat my lunch: cabbage and chorizo soup from another flask, the warmth of which was most welcome.

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Rydal Fell and Heron Pike.

The cloud was swirling across the ridge, alternately hiding and revealing the view. The photograph above came after numerous frustrated attempts when the clouds made the ridge ahead vanish at precisely the wrong moment.

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Fairfield from Rydal Fell.

I took a photo from almost the same spot only last summer. Although I haven’t walked the entire round for many years, I’ve often visited some of the individual tops in the meantime. Unusually, I know exactly when I did last walk the whole horseshoe, because it was the second hill-walk which TBH and I did together. (The first was the Langdale Pikes via Jack’s Rake on Pavey Ark.) Which dates it as early in the summer of 2000.

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Heron Pike and Windermere (now mist free) from Rydal Fell.

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Rydal Water, part of Loughrigg and Windermere from Nab Scar.

On the lower slopes the snow had turned to slush and for a while the going was tediously slippery.

By the time I met my friend again, on the track through Rydal Park, it was beginning to rain a little and it was almost dark. It had been a long day, but very satisfying. Bill Birkett gives 10.25 miles and 1045m of ascent for this route. Mapmywalk gave 14 miles, but only 957m. I don’t suppose it really matters which is right, although the magnitude of the discrepancy is a bit alarming.

And the rugby? They won. And survived without me, funnily enough. If I could guarantee a day as fine as this one, I might even be tempted to miss another match at some point.

Fairfield Horseshoe