Blencathra-Skiddaw round of 12 on a clear & VERY cold day
by Alteknacker » Sun Feb 12, 2017 12:51 pm
Wainwrights included on this walk: Bakestall, Bannerdale Crags, Blencathra, Bowscale Fell, Carl Side, Carrock Fell, Great Calva, High Pike (Northern Fells), Knott, Long Side, Lonscale Fell, Skiddaw, Skiddaw Little Man
Hewitts included on this walk: Bannerdale Crags, Blencathra, Bowscale Fell, Carl Side, Carrock Fell, Great Calva, High Pike, Knott, Long Side, Lonscale Fell, Skiddaw, Skiddaw Little Man
Date walked: 09/02/2017
Time taken: 10.5
Distance: 36.9 km
Ascent: 2670m14 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).
Skiddaw had until recently never figured on my bucket list: for some reason I'd got the idea that it was a rather boring lump; and the proximity to Keswick did nothing to heighten its appeal. However reports by among others trailmasher and mamoset, and more recently mrssanta, made me think again. Then the clincher: on the Helvellyn day I'd had the most inspiring views of Skiddaw and Blencathra, and had decided there and then that a closer acquaintance with these rather magnificent looking mountains was urgently necessary!
Long distance view of Skiddaw (LHS) and Blencathra (RHS) taken from Helvellyn on 29th Jan. Obvious from this view why I conceived a strong desire for a closer acquaintance with these mountains.
Gradually the forecast(s) seemed to be pointing to something of a break in the weather for Thursday 9th. There had been a lot of changing of forecasts generally from day to day...
I could have done with one of these....
....so I didn't make the final decision until Wednesday.
This was the prognosis...
- - - - - - - - - Wednesday Forecast: but it wasn't quite like this....
However, one thing that was correct was temperature: it turned out to be (at least for me) seriously chilly . I've experienced temperatures of -30 degrees Celcius on mountains, but on that occasion with no wind. The subjective experience on this day was the wind makes a truly massive difference - even greater than suggested by the Met Office (but then I am a bit of a wimp...). I've never before had to maintain 4 layers when climbing...
I'd worked out 3 routes, the longest being not far short of 12 hours Naismith; and allowing for snapping time, there would be another hour to add to that. Meaning quite a bit of walking in the dark - only worth it if the reward is commensurate; unless I could get round a bit more quickly. So I decided to get there early and make the decision at the 11.99th hour.
Unfortunately I wasn't able to get an early night - concert tickets booked aeons ago; so the alarm going off at 03.30 was indeed the proverbial rude awakening...
But having got everything prepared the night before, I was off well before 04.00am. On the basis of the weather so far since the last but one Saturday, I'd made the assumption that there wouldn't be too much snow on the summits, and so didn't pack boots, crampons or axe - on the basis that anyway I wouldn't be able to get much of an idea of conditions on the tops from a car park in the dark...
The beautiful thing about travelling in the night hours is that there is relatively little traffic; so I arrived, without traffic incident, at the car park just beyond the Blencathra Centre just before 07.00am (BTW: good starting point, and if you're a Yorkshireman like me, doubly attractive because nothing to pay!!).
I forgot to check the temperature at the start, but it certainly felt to be around freezing; so I started with 4 layers.
I try to take a pic at the start, but the lack of photons defeats my camera...
The route from the car park is very well signposted, and - at least for the first km or so - even though it is still pretty dark, very clear and easy to follow.
20170209_07312. However, after a while the track I am on seems to peter out, so I just cut off left following a compass bearing - I'd like anyway to get on to the ridge as soon as practicable - more or less at the point where this pic is taken (Blencathra summit in the background).
170209_073100. Looking more or less South, featuring Helvellyn on the left - now snow-capped - and a hint of Derwentwater on the right.
Pretty soon I'm up on the ridge, where the views cause a noticeable adrenaline rush.
20170209_075837. looking slightly North of West: Skiddaw - this is where I hope to be mid-afternoon. Viewed from here, and with winter garb, it's hard to see why I'd dismissed it as 'just a lump' .
20170209_080417. Looking towards Blencathra summit: pretty damned fine!
20170209_081119. A hint of sun.... Bit different from the forecast...
20170209_081347. Again, looking more or less South towards Helvellyn - what a change in the 10 days since I was up there.
20170209_081602. And looking back again towards Skiddaw. From left to right: Skiddaw Little Man, Skiddaw, Bakestall, Great Calva. In the notch just right of centre, the isolated hill that is Binsey can be seen in the background.
20170209_081622. It seems like there's been a recent thaw-freeze: the older snow is frozen solid, with a light dusting of recent snow on the surface, that is constantly blown up as spindrift in the now strong breeze.
On with another layer, plus mitts and beany: it's markedly cool now I'm no longer climbing.
20170209_082424. Looking back to Knowe Crags along the ridge.
- - - - - The pics from Blencathra are slightly blurred, due, I think, to being unable to hold the camera still in the wind, or feel much in my digits when I take off the mitts.
20170209_083429. Now there's a steepish descent from Atkinson Pike towards Bannerdale Crags (just out of sight on the extreme RHS). The path ahead to Bowscale Fell is clear and easy to see, so it would not be difficult to follow, even in clag.
20170209_083957. The sun keeps threatening to break through, but it never really succeeds.
20170209_084307. Easy upland walking, with the path to Bannerdale Crags clear on the RHS.
20170209_085631. Pretty well the whole of the flat upland areas of this route is one continuous bog - perfect for those of a telmatological bent . But with it being so cold, all the bog is frozen solid. Result: my trainers remain perfectly dry (until right at the end of the walk...). I would not like to do this route in damp weather .
20170209_090446. Looking back from Bannerdale Crags high point towards Atkinson Pike and Blencathra on the LHS, with Skiddaw in the background, centre.
20170209_090614. And looking ahead to the route along the edge of Bannerdale Crags, with Bowscale Fell in the near background, and in the far distance the summit of Carrock Fell.
20170209_091633. A bit further along, looking back at Bannerdale Crags, with Atkinson Pike in the background, Blencathra hidden behind.
20170209_092526. Approaching the pile of stones at the end of Bowscale Fell. Now it's decision time. Do I now head West to Knott and/or Great Calva, and be certain to finish in daylight; or do I go for all 12 Hewitts, and head now for Carrock Fell? I reckon I'm about an hour ahead of schedule, and the full round really does look doable... And in the event that I'm too slow, or the weather takes a turn for the worse, it'd be quite easy to drop down into the Caldew River valley and head back to the car via Skiddaw House.
20170209_093518. Roundhouse, where I'm now headed. The ascent up to Carrock Fell looks like it's going to be a bit tough: all scree and heather on the face of it, with no obvious path or route up.
The route around the cliff tops that surround Bowscale Tarn is quite superb, though quite difficult to photograph. I have to stop frequently to admire it.
20170209_093708. Looking back during the easy grassy descent: Bowscale Fell in the background, and Bowscale Tarn in the centre. It looks like a wonderful place to stop for lunch in summer - but not when it's this temperature!
I'm heading for what is shown on the map as a footbridge over the River Caldew, but I'm now about half way down and can't see it. On the other hand, I can see what look like a couple of bridge abutments. A thought occurs to me suddenly: had it been washed away in the mega-floods a couple of years ago? I'd seen all the flood defence work going on in Glenridding a couple of weeks ago, so the thought doesn't seem so stupid. I stop and get out my binocs for a closer inspection; and - sigh of relief - there is indeed a small footbridge! In fact I've brought a couple of plastic rubble bags for fording larger streams, but it's good that it's not necessary. (It's a technique I picked up from a BlackPanther report, but haven't yet tried out.)
I pause briefly to breakfast on a couple of marmelade croissants, and use the opportunity of being out of the wind the refold my maps - quite impossible to do in the strong wind on the exposed hillsides and tops. I then examine the fell side in front of me. I still see no clear route, so I just head straight up as the crow flies. Initially the scree is quite large and stable, but further up it becomes increasingly loose, and after that it's deep heather. Really pretty tough and slow going.
20170209_100910. This is looking down the valley towards Swineside and Mosedale (the latter just out of sight), about half way up the slope. The nature of the terrain can be seen here.
20170209_101809. And viewed from a bit further up, looking up the valley, with (I think) Great Calva in the background.
20170209_102410. Tough terrain...!
20170209_105426. The slog continues until - at last - the summit of Carrock Fell appears!
20170209_10541720170209_105417. View looking back from the same point: Blencathra on the LHS, Skiddaw on the RHS.
20170209_10583. Pano looking WSW from the summit of Carrock Fell.
20170209_105811. Next stop: High Pike. All straightforward upland walking, made wonderfully easy (and - importantly - speedy) by virtue of the frozen ground.
Just before I reach the point to turn off to High Pike, unfortunately and suddenly, and for no obvious reason, something gives at the front of my left ankle. Damn! Sod's Law: this is pretty well the very furthest point from the car. No option but to see if I can walk through it. This kind of thing seems to be an inevitable concomitant of passing three score... Fortunately I reckon I'm still an hour or so ahead of schedule, so a bit of a time cushion there...
I continue on, hobbling rather, to High Pike. Where I meet the first fellow walker of the day. He's weighing up whether to do Carrock Fell followed by Bowscale Fell, or vice versa. I point out the lack of a direct path down from Carrock Fell in the direction of Bowscale Fell, and he makes his decision. Just the couple of minutes chatting, and I'm really feeling the cold; and from the drip on the end of his nose (as on mine) I conclude I'm not the only one . So it's off again toward Lingy Hill and behind it, Knott.
20170209_113226. Half way to Lingy, looking back at High Pike. I'm not normally very inspired by this kind of featureless upland, but I'm finding that the bleak spare landscape certainly has its own special appeal, particularly when it's bracketed by views of white-capped distant hills.
20170209_115528. Then, as I crest a slight rise, this... Lingy Bothy - not labelled on my map, though there is a tiny square in the middle of the Cumbria Way, which I take it represents the bothy. It is very welcome, meaning I can take a bite to eat and refold my maps out of the wind. The pain in my ankle seems to have faded, and whatever crunched to have settled down.
20170209_120056. View looking out of the bothy back towards High Pike.
Then on to Knott, passing a couple of walkers coming from the summit. We briefly share our positive views of the advantages of frozen ground.
20170209_122639. Pano from the summit of Knott looking broadly South West: Blencathra on the LHS, Skiddaw on the RHS, and Great Calva, just touching the skyline behind in the centre of the pic.
0170209_122843. Knott summit cairn, with trusty Eurohike sac (now a bit the worse for wear following a merciless attack by a voracious rodent on the pocket containing my energy bars while it was stored under the roof... ).
20170209_123926. From Knott, on to Great Calva, here on the RHS, with the Blencathra ridge in the background.
20170209_130648. Looking from the summit of Great Calva towards the final Hewitt of the day, Lonscale Crags (just right of centre), Blease Fell (side of Blencathra Ridge) on the left, and in the far background, centre: Helvellyn. The forecast was certainly right about visibility!!
Looking back ENE from Gt Calva.
20170209_130728. Now back to little Calva and on towards Skiddaw. In the background in the middle of the plain is the isolated hill of Binsey.
20170209_132210. Skiddaw is looking increasingly dramatic in the steadily descending cloud.
20170209_132547. No path is shown on the maps to get one to the base of Skiddaw (Black Nettle Hause), but one is visible following the zig-zagging fence line. Initially I follow this, but then foolishly decide to take a direct route. And end up descending a complete hillside of heather, eating into my time cushion.
In the centre of the pic is Binsey again - quite a nice looking little hill, I think. In the far background the Solway Firth can be seen.
20170209_133431. Nearly at Black Nettle Hause: Dead Crags ahead to the right, and to the left the path that follows Birkett Edge up to the Wainwright of Bakestall.
I stop briefly to extract a sarnie from my sac and to take a drink, only to find that the water is partly frozen in the plastic bottles, and an ice plug has formed in the neck! Quite unable to shift it! Yep, it is surely chilly today .
The wind really seems to pick up as I ascend the path up Birkett edge. Even my thick snood isn't fully effective in protecting my face, the left side of which is quite numb.
20170209_141131. This shot is looking back from Bakestall at the horrible heathery hillside I descended. It definitely would have been quicker and easier to follow the path adjacent to the fence.
Great Calva in the distance on the RHS.
20170209_141628. Ahead the ascent to Skiddaw... Looks quite blowy up there!!!
The howl of the wind is accompanied by the rhythmic crunch-crunch-crunch of my footsteps on the icy snow.
20170209_145604. I get to the cairn. This the view looking West. The cloud is quite low now.
In the freezing wind, I've lost all feeling in the left side of my face, and vision in my left eye is completely blurred...
20170209_145620. Looking along the ridge towards Little Man, with Lonscale Crag on the LHS much lower down.
20170209_150917. Now I have to cut off right down to Carl Side, some 175m below Skiddaw. It turns out to be a slightly awkward way down - a slatey scree, and no clear path in the snow. About a quarter of the way down I intercept what I take to be the path, and follow it to the bottom. It's not very good as a secure path, especially not in these conditions: the slatey stones slide... And the ankle starts playing up again.
On this pic there is Carl Side to the left, and on the right: first Longside Edge, then Ullock Pike.
20170209_150942. Looking back South towards Derwent Water on the descent to Carl Side.
20170209_152225. Some fine views to be had from Carl Side itself - here the Helvellyn group on the LHS, and Derwent Water on the right.
20170209_152300. I blame frozen digits for the skew angle of this pano...
20170209_152328.. And looking back up at Skiddaw from Carl Side.
20170209_152518. Long Side, viewed from Carl Side.
From Carl Side to Long Side it's a quick walk along a very clear path.
20170209_153543. Looking North West from Long Side to Ullock Pike.
20170209_153604. Skiddaw looks pretty dramatic from this vantage point also.
Then back along the path past Carl Side.
20170209_154839. Helvellyn group behind Carlside Tarn. I did take rather a lot of pics of this - it was a 150+ pics day, notwithstanding the cold .
20170209_160704. From here I plan to contour round to the saddle between Skiddaw and Little Man across a scree labelled on the map as Fox Bield. I don't see any path, and on the slidey slate scree with my dicky ankle, this proves a sore trial, and seems to take an age.
But eventually it's behind me, and it's a gentle trog onwards up to Little Man. The threatening clouds of earlier have in fact remained well above 1000m, and it's still pretty clear.
20170209_162057. Looking back at Skiddaw from Little Man...
20170209_162245. ....and along to Lonscale Fell, the last Hewitt of the day. Knowe Crags and the Blencathra ridge in the background. It's looking like I will make it in daylight, after all .
20170209_165019. The path runs parallel to a continuous fence, so it would be easy to follow even in clag.
This view is looking back at Jenkin Hill, Little Man and Skiddaw.
20170209_170925. The final stages of the descent from Lonscale Fell. I follow the fence from the summit, and although not shown on the map, there's a pretty clear path down to the bottom. But - there's always a but! - I don't look carefully enough at the map. I have to cross Glenderaterra Beck, and I haven't noticed that a little further downstream there is a FB, clearly marked on the map. So I just follow the fence down to the beck; which is just that awkward size where it looks like there should be somewhere a grouping of stones that allows one to hop across while maintaining dry feet. So instead of getting out the rubble bags there and then, I walk along the beck side for a hundred metres or so looking for a crossing spot. Only to disappear up to my knees in the soggiest of soggy bogs. (Expletives ). Now I do the sensible thing and get out the rubble bags; which work perfectly . Why didn't I do this immediately? .
Now I head up the steep hillside planning to hit the track down which my car is parked. But again I don't look at the map properly, and fail to see that I need to cross the first track to get to the correct one. Result: further detour, until I do the sensible thing, get out my torch, and sort out where I am. Quite an annoying sequence of common sense failures... .
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - I haven't been able to drink more or less since midday because of the frozen water in my water bottles, so there is now an urgent need to repair the "insensible loss" of moisture that occurs when one is exercising (reliable information from my GP brother). So I do the only thing that can be done in such circumstances, and repair to a local establishment of historical, cultural and architectural distinction to replace that loss.
Summary: an excellent day, though one that would be very boggy underfoot if the ground were not frozen. Skiddaw and the Blencathra ridge are both marvellous, and wild and desolate ground between them has its own special attraction, not the least the views it affords of these two biggies from multiple angles.
3D view of route.
by arjh » Sun Feb 12, 2017 2:24 pm
by johnkaysleftleg » Sun Feb 12, 2017 4:31 pm
by dav2930 » Sun Feb 12, 2017 5:58 pm
Back in 2008 I was training for a trip to the Andes (which never came to fruition) and did a number of big walks including a very similar one to this. My starting point was Mosedale and I went clockwise starting with Bowscale Fell and ending with Carrock. From Blencathra I went across to Mungrisedale Common and down to Skiddaw House so I lost less height for the ascent to Lonscale Fell. And I didn't take in Carl Side and Longside Edge either so my round rather pales in comparison with yours (though I was quite pleased with it at the time!).
Makes we want to get back into those big walks again. Keep up the good work AK and watch that ankle!
by Guinessman » Sun Feb 12, 2017 8:01 pm
by Alteknacker » Mon Feb 13, 2017 12:30 am
arjh wrote:That's... a long way. Clearly I need to try marmalade croissants, they must be potent... Well done
My brother has a secret ingredient for his marmalade - a teaspoon of malt whisky in each jar. This was my own, so without the real potency...
RTC wrote:Two enormous Lake District walks in a row! + Long drives before and after the walks. Very well done.
Thanks RTC. The long walks seem to make the long drives more worthwhile...
johnkaysleftleg wrote:.... the Northern fells certainly have there own charm, even more so in the bleak midwinter.
I didn't mention it in the report, but your WHR on Blencathra some time in the middle of last year was also one of the catalysts for my making a mental note to get up these hills, so thanks for that.
dav2930 wrote:.....Back in 2008 I was training for a trip to the Andes (which never came to fruition) and did a number of big walks including a very similar one to this. ... and watch that ankle!
Sorry you didn't get to the Andes - yet another place I'd really like to go to. Looking at the map seems to cry out for Hewitts Round in this group of hills, so I'm not surprised that the same thought occurred to you also.
The ankle thing was really strange - I was hobbling a bit the next day, but I've been for a run since with no problems...
Guinnessman and all - thanks for the kind comments.
by HalfManHalfTitanium » Mon Feb 13, 2017 10:45 am
by trailmasher » Wed Feb 15, 2017 8:00 pm
by malky_c » Thu Feb 16, 2017 11:13 pm
When I was working briefly in Birmingham a few years ago, I came up to the Lake District and did a long walk in the Eastern Fells. It was supposed to be the first of a few trips, with something very much like this on the agenda next (albeit over a weekend with the tent - I would have been coming on the train to Penrith). Instead I thankfully finished up in Brum and moved home, but I would quite like to have done this walk. Oddly, Skiddaw has been my only unclimbed 3000er in the UK for the last 10 years - no idea why I haven't got round to it yet.
Great report as ever
by Alteknacker » Sat Feb 18, 2017 3:11 pm
HalfManHalfTitanium wrote:great report and some very atmospheric lighting in those photos!
Thanks HMHT. That's praise indeed coming from you. However, I don't feel I can take much credit for any merit in the pics - sadly I'm very much a point and click person (especially when it's absolutely freezing!). But if anything of the really remarkable lighting that I experienced on the day has come across in the pics, then I'm very pleased.
by simon-b » Sun Feb 19, 2017 10:00 pm
by Alteknacker » Mon Feb 20, 2017 3:49 pm
trailmasher wrote:You must have had 3 Weetabix for breakfast for this one 'cause what a superb day out Alte great route and superb photos endorsing your fantastic day on the Northern Fells Not bad for a chap with a newly repaired knee and a damaged ankle on this one Nice to see that you have finally embraced Skiddaw and given it the credit it deserves Well done you
Thanks for the kind comments, TM.
Actually the standard breakfast - marmelade croissants!!! (But then the marmelade was made by my own fair hand ).
.malky_c wrote:Not quite as colourful as your Helvellyn wander, but a very interesting report nonetheless (not to mention a long day for any time of the year!).
....Oddly, Skiddaw has been my only unclimbed 3000er in the UK for the last 10 years - no idea why I haven't got round to it yet.
Great report as ever
Thanks for the kind comment.
I was quite surprised how impressive this round was from the character perspective - I hope you get round to it: I think you'll also find it worthwhile.
simon-b wrote:A superb round. The Northern Fells do have their own appeal; I've found that this part of Lakeland can really grow on you. Wainwright described that view south from Great Calva as being like looking along the barrel of a gun: all the way along the Thirlmere valley to the low hills around Windermere. Nice that you captured it on camera. There are so many great ways up Blencathra, so it's one hill definitely worth revisiting.
Thanks Simon. I must admit that I didn't realize when I took the pic from Great Calva that the 2 lakes in the far background were Thirlmere and Windermere...!!! But Wainwright was certainly right about it being like looking down the barrel of a gun.
by ChrisW » Tue Feb 21, 2017 5:03 am
by mamoset » Tue Feb 21, 2017 7:12 pm
by Alteknacker » Wed Feb 22, 2017 9:15 pm
ChrisW wrote:Good lord that's some ludicrous length of a hike for february....
mamoset wrote:That's one hell of a yomp there alte, well done. At this rate you will finish the Wainys in about 25 walks
I think I was helped greatly by both the perfect conditions underfoot, and the impossibility of stopping (too cold!) and the need to keep moving (to keep warm!).
As for the Wainys, I don't suppose I'll ever finish them ... But they provide a kind of framework for walks, and I reason that if I keep track of them I might be one day motivated to try to bag them all