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Catbells and some misty mountains

Catbells and some misty mountains

Postby nigheandonn » Tue Jun 19, 2018 8:00 pm

Wainwrights included on this walk: Castle Crag, Cat Bells, High Spy, Maiden Moor

Hewitts included on this walk: High Spy

Date walked: 02/06/2018

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After so many different ways of reaching the far south and west it felt a bit odd to be starting a trip from Keswick again - but it made for an uneventful journey and a very pleasant evening, so warm that I could have been on holiday abroad, and all the doors of the hostel bar open to the river.

The morning was still warm, and there were ducklings in the river and an odd creature flashing along the bank and vanishing before I could figure out what it might be, but it was very hazy - not the cold sea mist which had been haunting Edinburgh, but covering everything just the same.

I could have walked down to Hawse End, but it was the perfect excuse for a boat ride, and to make the most of it I’d decided to go the long way round on the 10am boat, rather than straight there. Down by the lakeside there were goslings as well as ducklings, and although there still wasn’t much of a distant view, it was clearing a bit, and the lake looked lovely.

Derwent Water

It being Catbells, of course I arrived at Hawse End in a crowd, with another crowd expected to join them from the boat the other way, so I pushed on as soon as I got ashore to try to keep ahead. A path led up through woodland to come out at a bend in the road, from where a path through bracken led towards the hill - but a minute later I was back on a higher loop of the road, this time with no path in front of me.

Bracken path

A slightly faded sign offered a path somewhere along to the left and a path somewhere along to the right, so I headed for the nearest one, refusing to be led astray by hand-painted signs offering ice cream, and this time I was more successful, finding a path with a sign claiming that the summit was 1 hour away.

It was a steady climb from the start, and so warm and so still and so humid that I soon felt dripping wet - even my hair was wet. I found I was a middling kind of person - some people came past me, but some I pulled away from, and although the frontrunners of the big group did eventually come past me they were quite spread out by then, so that I could fit into the long gap between their quick people and their middling people without having a crowd all around me.

On a different kind of day there would have been very good views over the Newlands valley, but now there was just a vague idea of pointed hills looming, although Catbells itself was clear.

A first scrambly bit led up past a memorial tablet, and then beyond a first top the ridge stretched ahead. The group decided to stop here and regather, so it was a bit quieter as I went on past the dip and started climbing again.

On the ridge

From a distance the top part of Catbells sometimes looks steep enough to be unassailable, but it wasn't like that at all - just a mix of walking up bits and scrambly bits. There were quite a lot of children taking the most direct line they could find and enjoying it, but I wasn't in that kind of mood - there was often a decent path winding around the edge, and the bits where there wasn't were fun.

Scrambly bits

The top had a post which looked a bit like a trig point but was really a round view indicator, but without a view it wasn't very much use - a hazy look down to the valley was about as much as was available.

View indicator

The real summit is just a small bare kind of dome of rock - I sat down at the edge of it to drink some water and eat a celebratory piece of Kendal mint cake, but I didn't stay long, as I was soon attacked by a generous assortment of flies, some of them midges and mosquitos.

So I headed down the other side of the rock, and it was at this point that I remembered about the hour to the summit, and looked at my phone - exactly one hour to the minute since I'd last looked at the time when I was standing by the sign, although I'd taken a few minutes less than that to the summit.

Catbells summit

Beyond the summit the path led down to another broad dip and a view over to the scars of old mine workings on the slope beyond. One leg of the crossroad of paths in the dip, was the usual way down for anyone doing a Catbells circuit, so that as I began to climb again I found myself alone.

Climbing again

I climbed quite slowly up the other side - it wasn't really hard work, but I was in no hurry and couldn't manage to pretend I was. My excuse was that I was stopping to listen to the silence - although there was also a reasonable amount of view.

A misty view

The path led on up to a cairn on the edge of the summit area which was supposed to be a good viewpoint, but as I reached it I was plunged completely into mist, just as it had looked as if it might be clearing a bit.

Maiden Moor

And that was it, really - a choice of two paths led on, a clearer one to the left and a fainter one to the right, and I took the right hand one as the summit was supposed to be over there somewhere. And it probably was - it was supposed to be unmarked, but a tiny cairn was as good a high point as any, although at the time another could easily have been lurking on ahead.

Maiden Moor summit

Every so often people would appear out of nowhere from the mist, sometimes preceded by their voices - I asked one couple if they had seen a summit anywhere, but they said no, they had lost their route and turned back again, and another lady thought a summit was too much to ask for and was looking for plants and meditating on mist.

But I was definitely past the highest ground now, so if I hadn't found the summit I wasn't going to - and when I looked at the map, it did suggest that I'd walked over the highest point, cairn or no cairn.

As I walked past a gully on the right the mist suddenly parted below, giving me a view right down into the valley and a bend of the path and a bend of the river almost touching each other, as well as a very distinctive pattern of walls on the slope beyond - it was very satisfying both to be able to figure out where I was, and to find I was just where I'd thought.

View to the valley

From Narrow Moor the path rose again, skirting higher ground up past Bull Crag, and passing tiny pools which made good landmarks. It was a very good path up here, not just broad and distinct but cairned so well that even in the mist you could see the next cairn before losing sight of the last, although you couldn't quite see one from the other.

The next summit was a much more obvious affair, with a great solid cairn, and some good flat stones for sitting on to eat lunch, although the flies were about again.

High Spy summit

It was one of those summits - from the cairn a rise beyond was obviously higher, and from the rise it wasn't, but at least I knew I'd tried all the likely places.

The path down was a narrower and more winding one, and then suddenly there was something looming ahead of me, and then whether the mist had lifted or I had come below it the something became the great crags of Dale Head on the other side of the valley, and I was looking out between two lines of hills.

Dramatic view

It was a surprisingly nice spot - broader and flatter and more of a valley than I had expected, rather than just the place where one slope stopped falling and another started rising.

The valley between

Where the burn ran away, already quite substantial, it had cut a very pretty little channel for itself through the rocks.

Rocks and trees

A little further on I came to Dalehead Tarn, lurking and looking green. This was where I had to turn off the main path, and when I looked around I decided I better get on with it, because new mist was surging up the valley towards the tarn.

Dalehead Tarn

So along the side of the tarn and across the stream at its head, and then crossing a other stream to pick up a sketchy path across wetter ground to the fence at Rigg Head - the mist hadn't caught up with me, and I was glad of it, because this was the kind of path that was there for a bit and not there for a bit and then you saw it off ahead of you again.

Tongue Gill

Beyond that I was suddenly on a very clear path again, a stones and steps one winding down past old quarry workings - ruined walls and buildings, and occasional blasts of cold damp air from old levels, and once the remains of tracks.

Rigghead quarries

Where the paths split I headed down on a grassy one to cross the burn, dropping down well below the quarry ruins and the one remaining building, and somewhere on the other side of the burn my path became a good old road.

Mine road

I was making a detour to Castle Crag before heading round to Honister, and my good track led round until I was looking down the tiny valley which separates Castle Crag from the main bulk of the hill.

Little valley

Castle Crag, despite its size, was a surprisingly difficult undertaking - a loose shifting path of bits of slate, up an enormous old spoil heap, where I had to wait for someone to come nervously down first. But above that it was a lovely little hill, with a path winding up through trees to a kind of platform at the summit.

The real summit is the top of a rock with a plaque attached to it, a war memorial for the men of Borrowdale - I climbed up the end of the rock and then found there was an easier way up at the back, but I still came down the first way, because it was more fun.

Castle Crag summit

I had been working out how quickly I would get to Honister, but once I was on the top I found I was in no hurry to leave - it was a lovely spot, and I hadn't lingered on a summit all day, Catbells being too busy with both people and flies, and Maiden Moor and High Spy too misty and damp. So I sat for a while and looked at the view, and took a photo for two men from Dumfries, and was reminded of another day sitting up at Raven Crag on a splinter from the hills of another valley, and eventually made my way on.

Just down below the summit is the little quarry which presumably produced the spoil, and now makes a sudden drop from the edge of the summit.

Castle Crag quarry

Originally I had planned to walk down to the pub in Borrowdale first and up to Honister afterwards, but the fact that there was a path running round at all roughly the same height to the Honister road was too tempting, and it was that way I went, retracing my steps at first and leaving my good mine road for a much smaller path along the back of High Doat.

High Doat path

After a while this joins the old toll road coming up from Seatoller, which runs much higher up the hillside than the modern road at first.

Old toll road

Further on it skirts the modern road, joining it briefly and leaving it again, until the last climb on the new road to the top of the hause.

It was only about 5 when I reached the hostel, which was all a bit unheard of - I tend to walk on for as long as light or dinner time will let me, but I'd had a fairly short day, and not much temptation to linger along the way. So I just had a lazy time at the hostel, where there were two ladies walking the Coast to Coast in a hurry for charity, and the lady who meditated on mist, and later on two guys planning a Bob Graham round who had lost the friends who were supposed to be picking them up and came in to wait in the warm.

Late on I went out for a last walk, pottering about the road by the quarry and finding the line of an old tramline running across the hillside, still with most of its sleepers in place, keeping to much the height of the hause as the road dropped away below me, and ending up at a little ruined hut at the foot of a steep incline, which I didn't try to climb due to having sandals on - I might have been tempted otherwise, and regretted it!

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Last edited by nigheandonn on Sat Nov 03, 2018 10:44 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Catbells and some misty mountains

Postby yokehead » Wed Jun 20, 2018 5:36 pm

Lovely report, a great sample of all that's good about the hills and nice to see a linear route.

Glad it wasn't mist all the way and that you were able to get away from the crowds!
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Re: Catbells and some misty mountains

Postby johnkaysleftleg » Thu Jun 21, 2018 2:58 pm

Shame about the lack of views but at least you got some glimpses. I once saw a woman in near hysterics on the slate of Castle Crag acting like she was dangling over a 1000 foot precipice. In reality she was standing on some flat ground with lose slate on it. :? One climbers matterhorn is another's molehill.
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