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A mighty mission around marvelous Mallerstang

A mighty mission around marvelous Mallerstang

Postby stig_nest » Tue Oct 11, 2016 9:36 pm

Hewitts included on this walk: High Seat, Little Fell (Dales), Swarth Fell, Wild Boar Fell

Date walked: 08/10/2016

Time taken: 7.2

Distance: 26.5 km

Ascent: 970m

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Hello again folks.
It has been some time since I last placed a report on W/H and as I have recently returned to the North of England to start visiting a few of my remaining Hewitts I thought it was time I shared my adventures with you.

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It was probably the conversation through internet channels with my favourite walk report author Poppiesrara that finally gave me the kick I needed to return to The Dales for my last few tops. We had been chatting about the recent promotion of Calf Top and it seemed that no sooner had we talked it that he had been out and done it! Seeing those hills and knowing that I probably had the chance to finish off the English 2000 footers this year I freed up a couple of weekends.

Last weekend I had tackled the quartet of tops which encircle Kettlewell but this report will tell the tale of how I got around the Mallerstang four.

The drive up from Shrewsbury on a Friday evening was never going to be a great way to start the adventure. Although I left straight from work at 4 p.m. I was never going to clear the M6 bottleneck before rush-hour so decided that rather than sit in traffic for an eternity I would nip up a County top on the way. Billinge Hill was the obvious choice and it meant cutting off a fair section of motorway too. As it was the traffic from Runcorn to the other side of Warrington was fuss free and my county top was done and dusted well before sunset.

I arrived at my overnight spot just before 8 p.m. and aside from being spooked by a clutch of wild horses at 11 p.m. I had a restful night. The morning weather forecast had been pretty good but in reality the higher tops were shrouded in low cloud. still, at least it wouldn't be too warm on the big climb then!

I had overnighted on the side of the Tommy Road above Pendragon Castle and this seemed a logical spot to start and finish so I didn't even bother moving the car. By 8 a.m. I was already approaching the castle ruins and from there I took the lane to the clutch of houses at Castlethwaite before picking up the path up Gale Sike.

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Looking up Gale Sike to Mallerstang Edge

Looking at High Seat from across the valley there's no obvious easy route So I had picked this approach as much out of convenience as anything. As it was whilst rough and pathless in places and steep in most others the going wasn't all that bad. The ground is surprisingly firm and had it not been for the heavy dew I would have arrived at the top of the old hush pretty much dry.

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Mallerstang Edge. The "hush" is just out of shot to the left of frame

From High Brae to the hilltop could have been a bit of a nightmare had it not been for GPS technology. The terrain itself was not the issue, but the ground is relatively featureless and because of the lingering low cloud the top of High Seat was nowhere to be seen. It was only when I hit the 670m contour that I picked up a very clear track - I think we can put that down to the joys of off piste walking.

Arriving at the cloud shrouded summit of the 709m High Seat was one of lifes great anticlimaxes. The cairn one would expect to be a hefty pile is a pitiful dozen stones. Whilst a short distance away in either direction large mounds are to be found. It's surprising in this age of hill-bagging that a more conspicuous landmark hasn't been created. Don't get me wrong - this is not a rallying cry to the people of Outhgill to go build a monolith, I just find it a bit of an oddity.
The first of the days three Ordnance Survey concrete rings was observed and off I went, into the swirling mist once more.

Now, isn't it just the way that you leave a summit and no more than five to ten minutes later the clag lifts and a glorious view opens out. That's right, by the time I reached Archy Styrigg the low cloud had miraculously vanished! The thought of backtracking lasted all of about 5 seconds though - A long way to go yet and knowing there was a good chance I'd be scuba diving across the col to Little fell I pressed on.

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The cloud swirling, revealing a brooding Wild Boar Fell from near Archy Styrigg.

The next section to Hugh Seat was amazingly dry and a good clear trod followed the watershed pretty much all the way to Hugh Seat. I took stock here, marvelling at Wild Boar Fell across the unseen valley below and having a good study of the next segment. Little Fell looked okay but before I could get there I had the Scarth of Scaiths to cross.

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Scarth of Scaiths and Little Fell

With a name straight out of a Tolkein novel Scarth of Scaiths has in many a log or report been described as a none too pleasant a place. It sits in the saddle between Hugh Seat and Little Fell and retains its water very well. I had visions of some poor soul finding a walking pole sticking out of the mire sometime in April and finding me still attached to it below. Following the fence here could well result in that very scenario. I veered well to the right and following sketchy paths and sheep-trods found a way across with only one foot sinking in halfway up the calf. It would be a mad man who tried crossing this section after a prolonged period of wet weather. As it was though I started the easy climb up Little Fell thinking of places which were far worse. Grey Nag to Black Fell I decided was the winner.

Little Fell for me was an important point. From here I was on my return leg and also, once I was down to the valley bottom the difficulties would be all but dealt with. The terrain between me and the road though was far from easy.
I'd planned to go from the summit of Sails (where a second O.S. ring was found) pretty much direct to the Long Crag sheepfold then head for Washer Gill, following that back to the High Way. I can only guess that this section has in time gone by been worked on in an attempt to improve it for agriculture. I say this because I discovered a maze of ditches, troughs and holes which to the unwary could cause serious injury. It was a great relief when above the Gill I picked up a quad bike track. This led all the way to the ancient trackway and from there pastures and farm tracks brought me out at the B road at Shaw Paddock farm.

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Swarth Fell from the top of the Washer Gill ravine

So, First section done and from here it would have probably been further to walk back along the road. I was feeling the mileage a bit though I put it down more to the rough going. Still, once I was up to the 500m contour there was a decent path, the route up through Pasture Rigg though pathless wasn't all that bad. The higher up I got the drier the going underfoot became and less than an hour from the road I was sat on the stile next to the Cairn on Swarth Fell Pike. The third concrete ring was easily found here just a hop from the cairn. I've not yet worked out how the surveyors used these fixtures in their measuring duties. So if anyone has a clue please do feel free to tell.

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Wild Boar Fell from the slopes of Pasture Rigg

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Baugh Fell from Swarth Fell Pike

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Howgills from Summit area of Swarth Fell

Having recharged on food and drink I made the short transit across to the main top of Swarth Fell. What a fabulous spot this is too. The panorama South reads like a Dales greatest hits but it's the Howgills that really grab the eye. Then of course there's Wild Boar Fell.

Up until this point I'd not seen a soul in the hills all day. Imagine my amusement when over the crest of the hill appears no fewer than ten fellas coming from WBF. Whilst, I was on the summit I'd not seen them so they seemed to just materialise out of nowhere. The col was crossed and the slopes of Wild Boar soon climbed. I had spotted a traversing path which headed directly to the cairns of High White Scar so this cut a bit off the corner.
I think it's fair to say that the absence of cairn on High Seat can be best explained by the presence of nearly a dozen along the edge here. The middle cairn is an absolute work of art and what a spot! There's more drama to the setting here than at the nearby Nine Riggs Standard.

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Cairns above Mallerstang

A quick moorland yomp across the hill leads to the Trig point and the true summit but funnily enough the top is perhaps only the third best spot of the plateau. The grandest spot of all is undoubtedly the summit of The Nab.
I had toyed with the idea of completing my Hewitt round with an ascent of Wild Boar up The Nab but had decided there was no realistic way of doing this without finishing off on Swarth Fell. As it turns out that wouldn't have been a bad place to finish off but here I was descending back towards the car with just Calf Top and Black Sails left. Which should I finish on?

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Along Blackbed Scar from top of The Nab

The final section out over a second Little Fell and back to Tommy Road was quick and easy. A good path pretty much all the way down. That first post walk cuppa was soon brewed and back in clean dry clothes I headed back to Salop satisfied with my days work.
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Re: A mighty mission around marvelous Mallerstang

Postby poppiesrara » Tue Oct 11, 2016 9:54 pm

A sterling effort and some terrific blue-sky views, Stig. (and cheers for the credit! :) ).
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Re: A mighty mission around marvelous Mallerstang

Postby trailmasher » Thu Oct 13, 2016 9:20 pm

Great walk, great report, great photo's :clap: and a great area to spend a day in :D
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Re: A mighty mission around marvelous Mallerstang

Postby ChrisW » Fri Oct 14, 2016 6:43 pm

You've covered some ground there in a bit over 7 hours Stig and still found time to make some lovely images :clap: :clap:
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