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The Calf & the Howgills

The Calf & the Howgills


Postby poppiesrara » Mon May 05, 2014 12:01 pm

Hewitts included on this walk: Calders, Fell Head, Randygill Top, The Calf, Yarlside

Date walked: 03/05/2014

Time taken: 5.25

Distance: 18.75 km

Ascent: 1380m

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A long roller-coaster walk to complete the Yorkshire Dales Hewitts.

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Stuck out on the west of the range, far nearer to the Lake District both in character and distance than to the farmlands of Wharfedale and Wensleydale, the Howgills are nothing like other Dales hills. The slopes are much steeper, there isn’t a drystone wall to be seen for miles, and the valleys are not broad and green but sharply defined Vs cut by fast-flowing streams. The going underfoot is good though, even offpath, on firm shortish grass with very few of the hags and marshes found on the heights further east - and while there isn’t much rock breaking through the grass, where it does around the high falls of Cautley Spout it does so dramatically.

There isn’t too much parking at Cross Keys (full up by 10am on Saturday) or too many options nearby, considering that this spot offers an easy tourist’s walk to Cautley Spout, so this is probably a route only for midweeks or early starters. Everyone was heading there, and perhaps continuing to The Calf, not many turning north…
Howgills 001.jpg
Great Dummacks

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Cautley Spout between Cautley Crag and the slopes of Yarlside

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Cautley Spout

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Cautley Crag

The daunting wedge of Yarlside doesn’t seem to fit into any natural route and there seems little evidence that anyone bar a few sheep has previously been this way up, to the right of the stream from Bowderdale Head (steep), or down, to the Saddle before Kensgriff (even steeper, precipitously so…). I’d invested in a steadying walking pole - quite probably to be used once and once only! - out of trepidation about past reports of the latter route, and it might well have helped, but it’s still a painstakingly careful zigzag and definitely to be avoided if at all slippery.
Howgills 016.jpg
Baugh Fell over Cautley Holme Beck

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Red Gill Beck rising to Calders on the skyline, slopes of The Calf right

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Kensgriff & Grere Fell

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Down Little Randy Gill to Bowderdale and West Fell

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Back to the steep descent of Yarlside (from the top right, diagonally across the scree and then straight down the middle!)

The next few miles are a relentless series of ups and quite deep downs, if not quite as tough as those first slopes, over Kensgriff, Randygill Top, and Hazelgill Knott, and – although following the valley of West Grain up towards Fell Head is initially easier – like most ‘follow-stream’ routes it ultimately steepens and tightens until you are scrambling breathlessly out for the ridge.
Howgills 046.jpg
Swarth Fell over the Rawthey valley from Kensgriff

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The Calf, Bush Howe & Fell Head, from near Hazelgill Knott

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Langdale

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Once up at Fell Head, out on a limb looking over the M6 towards what (without this day’s haze) could well have been a long view of Lakeland, the hard work is done – only gentle slopes on the high ridge from there to Calders, even flat enough to hold a little water in places. The Calf itself, the hub of this range, brings the first close-up signs in hours of recent human visitation – a trig, a made ‘motorway’ north-south path (actually pretty grinding on tiring feet), and relative crowds of people.
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Grayrigg Forest over the M6 from Fell Head, and some hazy Lakes shadows...

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White Fell Head, rising to The Calf (top left)

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Looking down Long Rigg Beck

From Calders, set on the edge of a pretty dramatic drop to the south, it’s more pathless but easy walking following Red Gill Beck down past a series of little falls to a beautifully resculptured sheepfold (http://www.sheepfoldscumbria.co.uk/html/info/info00.htm), and then the carefully-stepped tourist path back down past Cautley Spout. The falls themselves, having carved a deeply wooded and inaccessible gorge, are out of sight for much of this, and probably better seen from below.
Howgills 100.jpg
Arant Haw from Calders

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Falls in Red Gill Beck

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The Goldsworthy sheepfold, Yarlside behind

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Falls in Red Gill Beck, above Cautley Spout

This was a pretty tiring and slightly unnatural ‘bagger’s route’, but there seem to be plenty of other options for an easy day out in good and unusual walking country – the long approach to The Calf up Bowderdale and a circuit of the southern foothills looked especially tempting for another day.
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poppiesrara
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Re: The Calf & the Howgills

Postby colgregg » Tue May 06, 2014 7:06 pm

That was a BIG walk. The Howgills are superb and normally crowd free. You can pick any of the ridges to go up and down and they all end up on the Calf. As you thought the Southern approach is excellent. from Crosedale area to Winder, Arant Haw, Calders, The Calf then a return down Bram Rigg's Western ridge is one I've done.
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Re: The Calf & the Howgills

Postby johnkaysleftleg » Tue May 06, 2014 7:14 pm

A fine effort to bag all five in one walk :clap: My effort to bag them all ended with me knackered on the summit of Yarlside leaving Randygill top for another day. Not sure there is an easy way up Yarlside, certainly hard work!
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johnkaysleftleg
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Re: The Calf & the Howgills

Postby simon-b » Sun May 11, 2014 6:58 pm

Definitely a range worth visiting , poppie, particularly that area. A friend and I were around there just two days after you. Cautley Spout was very impressive. No longer somewhere to go for solitude on a bank holiday, though, unlike Wainwright's era. But it's good to see plenty of people appreciating the place.
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Re: The Calf & the Howgills

Postby poppiesrara » Mon May 12, 2014 8:15 pm

Thanks all!

Although it's a nice area, this route was definitely quite a lot of work (there are plenty of longer walks and ones with more ascent, but the first half here is painfully, relentlessly steep up-down) and I'm not sure how strongly I'd recommend it. I think Colgregg suggested doing the Hewitts in two walks (perhaps Yarlside/Randygill Top and Fell Head/Calf/Calders) and that's probably a better approach.

As above, I don't blame you for splitting it, JK! Yarlside is certainly a challenge and I didn't find either the ascent or descent too much fun... The NNW ridge looked quite nice though - someone could perhaps climb the opposite side direct from Cross Keys, drop down that way, and go back via Bowderdale and the foot of Cautley Spout for a decent little half-day?
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poppiesrara
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Re: The Calf & the Howgills

Postby CharlesT » Tue May 13, 2014 8:42 am

Nice report and great pictures Poppies, you certainly take a lot more than I do and move quickly as well. I followed exactly the same route as you when I did them in autumn 2009 and I think it took me about 7.5 hours. Brought back some good memories of these fine hills.

Didn't find the route over-demanding though there are a lot of ups and downs, some long and steep, but there are also some long stretches of levellish ground on which to recover. I had brilliant sunny and fairly cool weaher and suggest this is not a route for rainy or low cloud days. Pick a good day, take your time and enjoy some great rolling hills and a close up view of the finest waterfall in the region. Not to mention the delightful solitude.
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Re: The Calf & the Howgills

Postby colgregg » Tue May 13, 2014 2:30 pm

I went x keys the spout. Over the top of the crag. Calders. Calf. Bowderdale head. Yarlside and back to keys from the col before kensgriff. Second walk wak randygill from the north via wooksey. Then a down and up to the calf. Onto fell head dropped down to top of black force and down langdale before cutting across base of fell to start point. Two great days out. Have done A couple more in the howgills yet there are still more ways onto the Calf to discover.
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