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Mickle Fell

Mickle Fell

Postby steve » Tue Mar 30, 2010 1:28 am

Hewitts included on this walk: Little Fell (North Pennines), Mickle Fell, Murton Fell

Date walked: 07/03/2010

Time taken: 7

Distance: 24 km

Ascent: 800m

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Little Fell and Mickle Fell are within the Warcop Tank ranges so it is with good reason that the this route is treated with a little caution, apparantly strange metal objects litter the ground, although I saw none. The weekend choosen was advertised by the MOD as non firing access days so I took the oppertunity of writting to the range office to request a permit for Mickle Fell and hopefully some advice for Little Fell. In the event I recieved no reply! Well the three tops were the last to complete my round of The Nuttall's, and having booked the weekend I went anyway.
The route follows a right of way from Hilton, along Hilton Beck on a track and then on a path following Swindale Beck. At Siss Gill the bridalway is left and the line follows the gill over easy slopes to Little Fell. At about 600m the snow cover was complete and any spent ordnance was covered by a deep even layer that bore my weight (for the most part). On a day when not one cloud dared to intrude on the clear blue sky I was to regret not having sunglasses, but the best line was as clear as it could be and the ground sculpted by the low but strong sun. After locating the highest point on Little Fell the broad col was crossed to Mickle Fell. In any other conditiontions I'm sure this col would leave one fairly well spattered with peat, but in the event was the most pleasant stroll. With most impressive views I walked the broad ridge of Mickle Fell and picked an easy line stepping overthe fence and following Fisher Sike, Swarth Beck and Master Sike to the top of Murton Fell just outside the limit of the danger area. From the summit SE and then NW brought me to the head of Scordale Beck and this is followed through an impressive and steep sided valley to rejoin Hilton Beck and the track back to Hilton. Scordale beck has a bridalway which is waymarked with posts at frequent intervals, redundant in the main as the valley bottom is the clear line, at one point however the path splits and the waymarks indicate 'permissive bridalway' to the right and 'bridalway' to the left, the left fork brought me to the head of a waterfall and an easy scramble to rejoin the other path; it would have been some leap for my horse!
This was among my most memorable days in the hills; its is rare to enjoy such weather and ground conditions, navigation in cloud would have been quite challenging I'm sure, and I think I am grateful to the Range Office for the lack of a reply, they would certainly have prohibited access to Little Fell.

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Re: Mickle Fell

Postby 37201xoIM » Mon Jul 15, 2019 2:23 pm

I did approximately this route yesterday, Sunday 14 July 2019, having permission from MoD to do the northerly route to Mickle Fell (albeit not of course to do Little Fell...!). However I went in the other direction (clockwise) and omitted Murton Fell. I must admit that I found it remarkably hard going, beyond the easy first ca. 3.5km along the track from Hilton up to the head of Scordale. When the track gives out, it's still fairly easy to follow the obvious route up the Gill, but once at the top the bridleway is more of a legal fiction (right of way) than an actual track or path on the ground, though in some places it's reasonably visible. I headed NE for the top of Swarth Beck, and then just followed the beck, which made for reasonable progress - though the bad news is that doing so costs you about 70m in altitude that you then have to recover...

However, I made the mistake of turning SE towards Mickle Fell too early (to be honest, I think it's broadly the same way you did it, Steve, but I guess that going downhill and on frozen ground would be easier... I was aware of the fence-line marking the "official" route up Mickle Fell from the north, but as it was not visible from where I was I wondered whether it was only a line of posts or suchlike, as there was at the point I did turn SE. In any case, I thought, it looked like a bit of a short-cut onto the Fell. Bad move: while not particilarly wet underfoot, it's that type of moorland heathery undergrowth that abounds in the north Pennines and is exceptionally difficult and tiring to walk over; suffice it to say I took a spectacularly long time to reach the summit ridge (and the fenceline, which did indeed exist!). One minor consolation was that there didn't really seem to be much of a trodden path even along the 'official' route along the fence from the north, so I like to tell myself that my ascent might have only been marginally easier if I had followed Swarth Beck for longer and followed that..... it might or might not be true!

As Steve says, there is then an easy path up to the (substantial) summit cairn of Mickle Fell. Returning to the fence line, I decided that, knackered as I was (and, truth be told, mildly dehydrated!) from the slog up the fell, I couldn't not do Little Feel as well: to be honest I didn't fancy having to come back to get my last Hewitt in the North Pennines, as it would probably end up being!

The good news is that, while the way across the broad col from Mickle to Little looks extremely boggy indeed, it actually isn't at all! The thing to do is simply to keep to the NW of the col, where there is a quad-bike track for essentially the whole distance once you've dropped down from Mickle Fell, and you don't have to go lower than about 670m. This makes for surprisingly quick and easy progress. Keep following said track and then go slightly back on yourself to climb the northern corner of Little Fell, again on a (slightly fainter and marginally damper) quad-bike track. From there, it's a case of blundering around to the summit, which is not easy to find... What i think is the highest point (the one marked as 748m on the OS map) has the world's smallest "cairn" - well, about four or five stones left behind, on an almost imperceptible rise. I think that looks good enough for me, anyway. In any case, I was reasonably pleased to realise that the fairly prominent structure a good couple of hundred metres away at the trig point definitely isn't the true summit... I was glad to avoid the walk!

From there, my route down was broadly parallel to Steve's route up - fairly rough for the most part and of course pathless, though there was the odd trodden "path" for the odd spell, until eventually (and it did seem forever!) I reached Swindale. Descending into its deep valley, the "bridleway" is fairly easy to find, primarily thanks to the RoW posts, though is actually a fairly narrow path that I'm not sure many horses would enjoy! However, following this down the gill W and then NW, the valley itself is quite striking in places, and some sections of the path are actually quite wide and fast. Needless to say, I followed this down to Scordale Beck where the main track back to Hilton was joined.

The whole thing took me a good 7 hours just to cover 22km, and made me feel that five weeks away from the hills might be enough to make me feel unfit again!

I've attached my GPX track - while much of my route isn't anything particularly worth recommending, the bit between Mickle Fell and Little Fell tops is perhaps worth sharing, as I'm pretty sure it would be by far the best route to take between them, avoiding as it does all the peat-hags and not losing much altitude.

As a PS... This was actually the second time I'd tried these hills: I got myself a permit back in December 2016, but ended up abandoning the walk not far up Scordale Beck due to awful weather conditions (driving wet sleet and gales!)... in retrospect, I'm very glad I did that, as I'm very doubtful I'd have managed something like the above in winter conditions, and in any case would almost certainly have run out of daylight!

2019-07-14 1154 Mickle and Little__20190714_1154.gpx Open full screen  NB: Walkhighlands is not responsible for the accuracy of gpx files in users posts

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Re: Mickle Fell

Postby Sgurr » Fri Jul 19, 2019 6:57 pm

Got a permit from the South with instructions to phone when we set out. Vodafone has no coverage there so I don't know what They use.
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