Walking from side to side.
by trailmasher » Fri Sep 18, 2015 4:24 pm
Wainwrights included on this walk: Hopegill Head, Whiteside
Hewitts included on this walk: Hopegill Head, Whiteside
Date walked: 18/09/2015
Time taken: 2.47
Distance: 8 km
Ascent: 933m2 people think this report is great. Register or Login free to be able to rate and comment on reports (as well as access 1:25000 mapping).
I started this walk on a cloudy morning that was mild and windy after a frustrating search along little lanes for the parking spot which is on a minor road that leads to Hopebeck. I turned off the A66 at Braithwaite and took the B5292 Whinlatter Pass road until a minor branch road goes off to the left between Lorton Fells and Scawgill Bridge. The road passes over Blaze Bridge which obviously crosses Blaze Beck. Simple enough one would think. But no, as at the road entrance there are two signs one telling me that it is a gated road and the other that there is no vehicular access even though I'm staring at a good blacktop surface. Fair enough I thinks, there must be a good reason for the signs to be there. I set off and continue on my way and ended up in High Lorton where there are a myriad of narrow lanes leading to - as I scrutinise the map - to more little villages and hamlets. I espy a local and ask for directions to Hopebeck. She couldn't tell me but "if you go down here and turn left and then left again you should be somewhere near." I ended up in Boonbeck where some dog walking local was asked the same question. I followed the instructions given and finished up at a farm that advertised fishing - for a fee of course.
I can see what I want through the trees but I can't find a way to it.
The lane was a dead end and narrow so turning around now became a mission I could do without. All I want to find is High Swindale Farm which is on the gated but no vehicular access road. I have now asked directions from four lots of local people and not one can direct me to my destination. I can see it on the map, it's not far away. I'm now driving in desperation and wondering if I'll ever find my way out of this rural jungle of narrow lanes edged with tiny cottages that all look the same in my frustrated state.
As I am on the point of surrendering I spot a small sign telling me that Hopegill is somewhere in front of me. I gratefully take the challenge of it being the right road and forge ahead. As I enter the hamlet I spot a side road on my left and it can only go one way, uphill. As I drive up the road I pass the farm called The Hope, and a short distance further on arrive at a gate. Ah, ah, this must be it thought I as I passed through onto the' no vehicular access' road and could see high fells in front of me. As I closed the gate I saw a small area of level ground on my right that had been dug out of the fellside. This is what I have been looking for and a quick check with the GPS confirmed that I was in the correct start of walk position.
I set off from home at 9am, it's now 11am. It should have taken no more than an hour to get to this point, I've forgiven the locals.
On this walk I am going to tackle Whiteside from its north ridge but first of all picking off the Birkett of Dodd which lies at the foot of the main bulk of Whiteside itself. After booting up I climbed the short bank up to the intake wall which I followed south passing the old sheepfold which lies just before Hope Beck that I crossed as I continued south for a few more metres. I looked up at the massive flank of Dodd and thought what a way to start a walk.
About 250 metres of steep and grassy hillside is in my sights so I search around for the easiest line of ascent to the path I know is there, but it is buried under a great swath of bracken. I decided to follow around the edge of the bracken until I could maybe see a break where the path was and this proved to be the right move as I came across a faint line which turned away in a north westerly direction, the way that I need to go.
Once on this path it is easy to follow through the bracken and after continuing on a more or less straight line and rising steadily for a good 300 metres the bracken is left behind and it turns south and heads uphill towards a col that sits between Dodd and the main fell. As I begin the climb up to the col I passed an old sheepfold from where the views along the length of Hope Gill and towards Hopegill Head and Ladyside Pike are amazing despite the cloudy skies and light misty conditions.
I feel fortunate as the path is well graded, dry, and grass covered and is taking me straight up to the wide stoney col with high crags on the Dodd side and the steep grassy slope of Whiteside on the other. From the col one path continues south over the shoulder to descend northwest by Cold Gill, one turns directly south to climb the north ridge of Whiteside, whilst the one I need climbs steeply south up the side of the crags through heather and is covered in a loose shingle type material on which care must be taken when descending.
Upon reaching the top I found a small flat stoned cairn sat amongst the lovely purple heather from where the views over Lorton Vale, Loweswater, and around to the northeast some of the Whinlatter Fells.
It's windy but there is still a haze making the distance not too clear. After lingering for a short while I set off down only to stop for a break from the wind and have something to eat and drink under the shelter of the large overhang of the crags which dominate Dodd's south face.
Rested and thirst sated I completed the descent down to the col and taking a deep breath proceeded to climb up the steep south side of Whiteside on the narrow but good path that runs through the heather.
After the first 100 metres or so the path eases off somewhat for about another 100 metres before steepening again for the last 750 metres or thereabouts before the last final gentle slope up to the ridge above Gasgale Crags, about halfway between Whiteside and Gasgale Crags summits.
The wind has picked up in strength and I wonder what it will be like on the climb out on the rocky ridge to Hopegill Head summit. In spite of the strong wind there is still a fairly heavy haze hanging about making the distant views rather opaque in appearance. I am taking a few pictures but am having difficulty in holding steady in the wind. Fortunately there is no sign of rain in spite of the full cloud cover as it would be an uncomfortable walk with that to contend with as well.
As I make my way west along the ridge I can see a couple tentatively negotiating the craggy ridge leading to the summit of Hopegill Head as the wind is still increasing in strength. The clouds are opening slightly with a touch of sunshine now falling on Ladyside Pike which is across the Hope Gill valley when looking northeast. Below me on the south side there is a good view into Gasgale Gill/Liza Beck with Grasmoor and Crag Hill towering over everything else. For the views on a good day this must be one of the best ridge walks in the district.
Getting nearer to the rocky part of the ridge I decide to take the better part of valour and ascend on the more sheltered north side path as far as I can before having to get on the last bit of ridge proper.
Reaching the summit and now really struggling to stand I had to lay down to take a few pictures of things that I have covered before on previous visits.
It's time to move on and try to get some shelter from the wind which I will hopefully find on my way across to Ladyside Pike. As I step over the edge from the summit of Hopegill Head the wind hit me hard and all but blew me over and down the rocky slab below me.
I regained my balance as that is not the way I would like to begin my descent down to Ladyside Pike. That might sound Irish but to get to Ladyside there is first of all a bit of a scramble down a fairly large, steep, shiny slab of rock which is particularly slippery when wet or damp.
A decent path is picked up once the slab is behind you and this then proceeds to climb steadily alongside an old tumbledown dry stone wall to reach the large cairn of stones which have presumably been taken from the old wall.
Ladyside Pike is only some 67 metres lower than Hopegill Head so I can't understand Wainwright's logic when selecting such like as Binsey over a fine looking peak as this one. Just to the north of the cairn there is a fairly large hollow in the ground and this is where I found shelter from the incessant wind whilst having my latest break.
From here I can see right along the ridge leading off the fell and over into Lorton Vale in the north whilst over to the northeast all of the Whinlatter Fells can be seen in all their glory. Kirk Fell, Graystones, Broom Fell, Lord's Seat, and a host of smaller ones covered in patches of cloud and sunshine as the wind determines which has priority of the two. Binsey is also somewhere out there faintly visible through the haze.
Late lunch over I get my things together and walk down the ridge on a good path and still following the old wall reach a gate in a fence. Going through the gate the wall which is still a bit decrepit but at least has the semblance of a wall is now accompanied by a wire fence. This I continue to follow until I came across a wall with a barbed wire fence across the face of it.
I scaled the fence by using the corner fence posts as a hop up and continued on my way as I am now searching for Swinside. The wall has now been replaced by a wire fence as I continue walking downhill until I see a hump on my right, the highest piece of ground around here. I leave the path and walk across the heather, bilberry, and long moor grass, down into a dip to a wet patch and upon reaching the high ground again found the small summit cairn of my second searched for Birkett.
Now my quest is over I walk back to the west fence, climb over it and proceed to find a way down the steep and rough fell side. There is no path here so I just had to make my way over the best ground that I could find.
I meandered around as I worked my way down using the odd sheep trod and finding heather free grassy breaks as often as I could. It's steep and it's rough so the going was fairly slow to begin with but as I got lower the incline eased and the trods got more frequent. Then I came across the dreaded field of bracken again. I could see my car to my left in the distance and moving that way through the thinnest areas of bracken I could find I eventually worked my way down and across until I came across a good path hidden in the bracken. This I took as it rose slightly back up the hill - but at least it's easier then battling through metre high fronds of vegetation - until I reached the intake wall near my original point of starting the walk.
This has been a good walk despite the strong wind and hazy conditions. I've kept dry and warm which is always a good condition to be in. The sun made an appearance around noon and continued to show itself between the clouds at regular intervals so that was an added bonus. Frustrated in trying to find my way here but I blame the Hopebeck road signs for that 'mis-information'. The route has been fairly easy to negotiate with good paths throughout and one or two steep sections, but I've had worse.
I was determined to see what, or if, there is a problem with this road as I set off uphill following the road north until I came to a gate across the road - only the second one including the one at the beginning - which was opened and closed without difficulty. I drove along a good tarmac road with fields either side of me until reaching a Y junction where I turned right and picked up the Whinlatter Pass road and wondering why there would be two road signs intimating a lack of access along it. Never mind job done and I now know that the Hopebeck road is alright to travel along.
by johnkaysleftleg » Fri Sep 18, 2015 6:01 pm
by trailmasher » Mon Sep 21, 2015 4:31 pm
johnkaysleftleg wrote:Including one of the Lakes best ridges while bagging a couple of Birketts sounds like a great plan. That isn't the only road around there marked as not suitable for motor vehicles. I think the locals are trying some traffic calming methods of there own.
Thanks for your comments Anthony and as I said it was a most frustrating time not being to get at what I could see so close to me . It was worth the effort as despite the wind it was, and is, a great ridge walk
by ChrisW » Tue Sep 22, 2015 5:12 am
by trailmasher » Tue Sep 22, 2015 10:20 am
ChrisW wrote:Well that's an eventful start TM, not sure I'd have forgiven the locals as quickly....I would have at least made the first summit....and then it would have been begrudging The heather looks fantastic and the pictures don't show the wind so it looks like a perfect day
As usual your comments are welcome and I'll forgive almost anything when out walking . The heather is really beautiful at this time of year and if I had shoulder length hair, took a selfie then it would have shown the strength of the wind .
by mamoset » Tue Sep 22, 2015 2:04 pm
by trailmasher » Tue Sep 22, 2015 4:32 pm
mamoset wrote:Looks a nice route that, some good heather shots also there.
Thanks mamoset and aye, it is a great route and I found it easier than I thought it would be up the ridge to Whiteside
by ChrisW » Tue Sep 22, 2015 4:37 pm
if I had shoulder length hair, took a selfie then it would have shown the strength of the wind .