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Skiddaw "The Best Way"

Skiddaw "The Best Way"

Postby pic4186 » Wed Nov 11, 2009 10:36 pm

Wainwrights included on this walk: Carl Side, Long Side, Skiddaw, Ullock Pike

Hewitts included on this walk: Carl Side, Long Side, Skiddaw

Date walked: 31/10/2009

Time taken: 5

Distance: 12 km

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This is the 2nd time this year I've walked Skiddaw. The first one is decribed in my "Skiddaw" report on 12th August. On that occasion my wife and I walked up the "usual" route from the south. The day was beautifully clear and the views simply fantastic to all points of the compass. The one that particularly inspired me was from the summit of Skiddaw across Long Side and Ullock Pike to Bassenthwaite Lake - I decided there and then that my next ascent would be via that dramatic ridge route.

Setting out early from Kenilworth on Halloween morning (in order to get the best of the daylight - why did they have to put the clocks back?) and picking up a couple of friends and my son en route - we commenced our walk from Ravenstone mid-morning.

No messing about with a long walk-in - the climb started straight away with a steep path running up from the Ravenstone Hotel and quickly past the tree-line, to ultimately join the path along The Edge heading towards Ullock Pike. After experiencing pretty dodgy weather on the way up we were treated to glorious conditions for this early part of our climb - and we were able to sit basking in the sun at each rest break.

IMG_0885 Ullock & Longside ahead.JPG

I really enjoyed Ullock Pike. It is a serious enough walk up a steep slope - where hands are needed as well as feet in the odd place. Throughout you are treated to a view of the shapely summit (although for some of the way this is a false summit) and the views backwards give an appreciation of the progress made up The Edge, and increasingly impressive views across Bassenthwaite Lake.

IMG_0892 The Edge from Ullock ascent.JPG

Ullock Pike feels like a proper pointy topped mountain. Even though it was the smallest of the four we climbed on the day it represented the end of the initial ascent - and there was a feeling of elation as we rested on top to take on food / drink and even enjoy a little sunbathing. From here on Ullock Pike was in view for most of the rest of the day - and the views of the sheer drop of it's eastern flank are even more impressive than those from the summit.

IMG_0900 Longside from Ullock.JPG

The route to the slightly higher Long Side is clear, quick and easy - although it's worth taking time to appreciate the ridge. I think this is where it is at it's narrowest and therefore most impressive. I have to say though that for most of the long ridge walk from the bottom of the hill right up to Carl Side it feels a lot wider than it looks from afar - it is only when you look back from the Skiddaw ascent later that you really appreciate the route walked.

IMG_0902 Ullock from Longside.JPG

Long Side summit is another very pleasant place, but being in the centre of a chain of hills it doesn't look or feel especially impressive. The third hill of the day was Carl Side - reached by continuing along the ridge path from Long Side. Here the hill widens considerably and the approach is a longish but gentle ascent up a wide grassy field. Carl Side itself isn't especially noteworthy and was really our stopping off point ahead of our final approach to Skiddaw. It is a little higher than the previous hills and on this particular day close to the cloud-line. As a result it was little misty and quite atmospheric.

IMG_0903 Skiddaw in cloud.JPG

Ever since we emerged onto The Edge above Ravenstone the scene had been dominated by the brooding mass of Skiddaw - it's top covered with cloud throughout. It was as if the whole day so far had been in preparation for the next push - up to the summit of Skiddaw itself. After a short descent from Carl Side the climb started gently enough - but quickly steepened - from here on in the going was pretty challenging. I don't think there was a point where hands were needed but it was steep enough to make balance tricky even when standing still.

IMG_0914 Longside & Ullock from Skiddaw ascent.JPG

IMG_0917 Into the cloud - Skiddaw ascent.JPG

As we climbed higher the vegetation and greenery faded gradually until there was nothing but bare scree on the ground - and in parallel with this the visibility faded as we climbed into the cloud. What remained was a blind trudge up the steep slope - visibility was so limited we couldn't make out where the top was until we arrived! It had seemed like quite a long climb (probably as much to do with the conditions as the climb itself) but all of a sudden a shelter came into view and we were on the summit ridge. From here we turned left (it helped that I'd been here before) and headed up the undulating summit ridge to the trig point a couple of hundred yards away.

IMG_0919 Final ascent to Skiddaw - check out the view.JPG

Last time I was here I was treated to panoramic views of the entire Lake District. This time we could barely make each other out through the mist - even though we made a point of sticking together. Now it felt like a very bleak place indeed - and needless to say we were alone there. For me it held a special eerie beauty.

Sadly we couldn't stay long - the cold and damp would start to get to us soon - and we only had a couple of hours daylight left. Whilst we were carrying head-torches none of us especially wanted to be on the hill after dark.

We continued north, initially along a marked shallow downhill path in the scree and then across open ground. For anyone taking this route in the future - be careful not to stray too far to the left - there are dangerous crags and not a safe place to be. We initally veered right and then straightened in preparation for a left turn towards base as soon as the terrain allowed.

IMG_0927 Back into the light - Bassenthwaite Lake from Skiddaw descent.JPG

As we descended below the cloud visibility returned, and ultimately once more the sunshine. Still walking downhill across open ground we were now able to make out the paths below and our exit point from the hill. The scree slope steepened and ultimately gave way to a made-up path though the grassy hillside. This was a steep and direct descent that quickly brought us to the base of The Edge.

We paused regularly (whilst always mindful of the need to keep moving) during the descent to appreciate the stunning sunset - and take some prize photos.

IMG_0935 Ullock from Skiddaw descent.JPG

IMG_0934 Ullock from Skiddaw descent.JPG

Rather than hop back over The Edge we elected to walk around to the north and west along made up paths - ever mindful of the fading light. Finally across fields and onto the road for a short walk back to Ravenstone. We arrived at the hotel there for a well earned glass of beer just as the light finally gave way.

An excellent day out on the hills - and definitely to be recommended. It is quite a lot more challenging than the "usual" Skiddaw ascent (although by no means a killer walk), but it is much more fun. The final ascent to the summit is pretty hard-work - but that is surely the way it should be on a 3,000ft hill.

We finished in fine style by enjoying the Halloween atmosphere in Keswick (and perhaps one or two glasses of beer).
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Re: Skiddaw "The Best Way"

Postby mountain coward » Thu Nov 12, 2009 1:21 am

That is my usual ascent route! My caravan is at a village almost within walking distance of Skiddaw (out Back O' Skidda as they call it) so I'm using that route a lot. It's my test of whether I'm fit enough to do really strenuous things in Scotland. I think Skiddaw is by far the hardest mountain in the Lakes effort-wise and one of the steepest in many places - especially up the scree cone at the end which is about 700feet of climb - a lot when you're already flagging after the ascent of the previous bits! You would have been a lot better going up the old zig-zag path to the right of the one you took from Carlside Col - still very strenuous but a bit less tedious and doesn't have that nasty broken crag bit in the middle. Another point Skiddaw has is that it's by far the coldest summit in the Lakes (or pretty much anywhere in Britain for that matter).

Nice report and good to see one of my fave Lakes mountains 'The Grand Old Man of Skidda'
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Re: Skiddaw "The Best Way"

Postby 37lumleyst » Thu Nov 12, 2009 9:44 am

A very good report and detailed account of your day on Skiddaw and some great pictures to boot! I particularly like the passion that it clearly present in the way you have narrated your report.

Unfortunately I haven’t climbed Skiddaw yet – but after reading your report and mountain cowards reply, I think I have moved it up my scheduled wish list. I have memory map on my lappy and have all sorts of routes mapped (Or wish listed) out in anticipation of visits to the Lakes, I had my proposed ascent of Skiddaw the same as your account here but had my descent route back tracking to Carl Side and coming off the Southern edge to the tree line just under Dodd at Long doors I would have followed Skill Beck to the lower car park and turned right to follow the forest track back to the Ravenstone Hotel.

After reading your report though, I quite like the descent coming off the Northern end of Skiddaw and coming out via Brakbethdale, Little Knot and back to the Hotel – that route would have given me a distance of 6 to 7 miles round trip.
pic4186 wrote:be careful not to stray too far to the left - there are dangerous crags and not a safe place to be

After looking at your descent route I can only presume you mean the dangerous place to be would be Gibraltar Crag? I can see how this would catch people out, especially if coming off in low cloud. I think subconsciously you would always tend to veer off to the left as the finishing point is to your left?

Very good report to read and one that has definitely spurred me on to ‘do Skiddaw’
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Re: Skiddaw "The Best Way"

Postby susanmyatt » Thu Nov 12, 2009 7:01 pm

Great report and photos, hubby says this is on our to do list as well :D
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Re: Skiddaw "The Best Way"

Postby mountain coward » Thu Nov 12, 2009 9:11 pm

Gibraltar Crag's fine - a bit steep and loose (like probably most of Skiddaw) but fine - it's part of a route (a very, very hard one effortwise!). There is a slightly craggy area on the western flank after you've dropped down from the North Peak to the plateau. It's nothing more than a bit of broken crag though and the plateau is extremely wide at that point - you would have to be exploring to hit it. Having said that, there isn't really an obvious path across that bit of plateau in misty weather, in those conditions you'd just have to use your compass and not descend steeply over any broken ground - if you find yourself doing that, you're off route. It is the one fell you could get off with a broken leg - just pick a slope (either scree or grass) and slide down it on your bum! Skiddaw is one of the most straightforward Lakes mountains for safety - it hardly has any bad bits on it, even in winter.

After you've worked your way down to a shoulder above Barkbethdale, if you head left across to the edge, you should see a faint path raking across that flank of the mountain through heather to the head of Barkbethdale (looks like a sheep path). The path then loops around the head of the dale on a slightly descending route, over the grassy arm which heads up the Gibraltar Crag route, dips to Southerndale, you then cross the beck and follow the relevant path from there (depending on where you parked). A really nice round if you went up the Ullock Pike Ridge on the way up.
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