The Calf & the Howgills
by 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: 1380m1 person thinks this report is great. Register or Login free to be able to rate and comment on reports (as well as access 1:25000 mapping).
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…
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
by colgregg » Tue May 06, 2014 7:06 pm
by johnkaysleftleg » Tue May 06, 2014 7:14 pm
by simon-b » Sun May 11, 2014 6:58 pm
by poppiesrara » Mon May 12, 2014 8:15 pm
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?
by CharlesT » Tue May 13, 2014 8:42 am
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.
by colgregg » Tue May 13, 2014 2:30 pm
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