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A mixed bag of 5 Wainwrights - 2 Ridges - 1 Birkett
by trailmasher » Tue Jul 28, 2015 1:25 pm
Wainwrights included on this walk: Grey Crag, Harter Fell (Far Eastern Fells), Kentmere Pike, Shipman Knotts, Tarn Crag (Far Eastern Fells)
Hewitts included on this walk: Grey Crag, Harter Fell (Far Eastern Fells), Kentmere Pike, Tarn Crag
Date walked: 23/07/2015
Time taken: 6.17
Distance: 20.69 km
Ascent: 1372m1 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).
Looking around at the dark, damp fells and the grey coloured Haweswater I feel as though my get up and go has gone. The morning sky at Haweswater, Mardale Head car park was cloud laden with rain threatened for later in the day, there was also a February like wind blowing. Cold and strong it was as I sat on the back of the car putting my boots on and wondering why the hell I'm about to set out on this miserable winters day in July. But you do. I stiffened the upper Yorkshire lip, threw the bag on my back and set off through the first gate and onto the start of the Gatescarth Pass track. The track is wide, stony, and fairly steep in places but all in all not too bad, and as it is sheltered somewhat by the high fells of Mardale Ill Bell and Harter Fell the wind for the moment has eased off.
I got to the top in good time, only stopping on the way up to take a couple of photos, replica's of ones that I've taken from the track in the past, but there's always something different to see depending on the day and conditions. On previous visits to Tarn Crag and Grey Crag I have left the top of Gatescarth Pass and followed the lower contours of Branstree so as not to lose too much height and it also allows me to keep off the wet path that leads into Mosedale from Brownhowe Bottom. But on this occasion I wanted to have a poke around in the old quarries that sit under Selside Brow. There are a couple of quarry waste tips there and the remnants of a building at the entrance to the first gully which leads into the small quarry proper. Not much to see really but one gets to wondering how hard it must have been for the quarrymen in the old days.
I once took the path from Haweswater to Blea Water and after crossing Blea Water Beck and staying on the higher ground of Mardale Waters a faint path can be found which does disappear after a short distance. However, head off across the rough scree and begin to make your way to the ridge area. From there if the fairly steep fell side is climbed and more or less following the ridge under Piot Crag the old quarry and tumbledown buildings can be found on a fairly level area. From here the view towards and over Haweswater is well worth a photo or two for the album. Then if the ridge is followed up it will lead directly to the cairn on Mardale Ill Bell.
Anyway now I digress. Leaving the old workings I worked my way across the large tussocks of grass whilst climbing in and out of a couple of nearly dry gullies and moaning to myself that maybe I should have done what I have in the past and followed my usual route below Branstree as it is an easier option. But before too long I came across the wet section of the Mosedale path which I followed for a few metres before turning roughly south over wet, soft, and boggy ground to pick up the path which will take me to the top of Tarn Crag.
The path makes its way towards the fence and follows more or less alongside it all the way to the summit, only moving away from it where the ground is very wet and boggy. There are a couple of peat hags to negotiate but the path - though wet and soft in places - is, in itself not in too bad a condition and once past the area of the larger rocky spurs is a lot drier. I stopped at this point to take a few photos of the views across Mosedale, Branstree, Little Harter Fell, and Mardale Ill Bell over to the south west.
I now come across one of the few obstacles of the day, the intake fence which is crossed by way of a wooden step stile. From this fence the path once more continues to follow the main uphill fence for a while only to form a branch which heads off south in the direction of Tarn Crag and the old Haweswater Survey Pillar which was used to construct the building of the tunnel which takes water from Haweswater to Manchester. There is a second one just to the east of Artle Crag and just over the fence which leads down to Captain Whelter Beck. A third one sits on the east side of Great Howe - Birkett No. 175 - the main object of this walk.
Looking ahead I saw a group of around a dozen walkers heading for the same destination as myself and wanting to keep back from them I continued on the fence side path until the cairn came into view. I now made my way to the cairn and whilst looking around one of the large group came across to me and asked if I was with them! Replying to the negative and thinking to myself - imagine a thought cloud here - who are these people who don't even know who is in their group? Hope none of them lag behind and get lost 'cause they may never be missed.
Now that I'm on the open fell top the wind is stronger and chilly which was made more evident when I stopped and it began to cool me down.
I circled around them to get to the pillar and then down to the subsidiary and lower top from which a good view both ways along Longsleddale can be enjoyed. Opposite me is the ridge of Kentmere Pike, to the south Skeggles Water is just visible with Sleddale Forest behind that. From the cairn I can see the ground east that I covered whilst doing my circuit around Wetsleddale with the tall column on nearby Harrop Pike standing boldly on the nearest ridge. Turning clockwise and looking further south the green but dismal looking top of Grey Crag can be seen and with the couple or three wet nights that we have had I'm not looking forward to the trudge along the lower section of the path which is usually wet and boggy on a good day.
Leaving Tarn Crag and 'the don't know who's with us group' I returned to the north easterly running fence and simply more or less followed it along on the not too bad of a path and then when the short descent into the wet area began there was a bit of dodging about to do to keep out of the worst of the mire. The path down is plain to see but as the bottom is reached the path now gets very wet and boggy and tends to wander and disappear as is its wont as meandering efforts are made to keep the feet dry which is quite some feat whilst crossing this area which sits between Galeforth Gill and Little Mosedale Beck. This must be the water collection point which feeds both.
I get across with dry feet but very wet boots which were just high enough up the ankle to keep the water at bay. As I climbed out of the wetlands the path became much drier and easier to find apart from having to once again skirt around some peat hags. The climb is short and easy and I was soon at the summit cairn which consists of a small pile of stones and from where the views once again are wide ranging over Longsleddale and on towards Kendal. Over to the west there is Yoke, Ill Bell, and Froswick. The clouds are still broiling about high above me and there has been a hint of rain whilst the wind is now so strong that I have a job on to hold myself steady whilst attempting to take a photo or two as I wander a short distance south and to the steep edge of the fell to maybe get some better shots.
My next top - Great Howe - is some 145 metres below and south of Grey Crag summit and I need to find a suitable way to go. There is a decent looking path leading off to the south west which will at least take me to friendlier slopes for my journey down. After a short while I came across a tumbledown wall which was running roughly south east down the fell and generally in my direction. From here the going was pathless but easy as I followed the line of the wall which was missing in many places but as it is not shown on the map it was a pleasure and a nice surprise to bump into, and accompany it as I made my descent. It was still blowing fairly hard and cold so I decided that it was time to stop for refuelling.
Finding a suitable rock as a back rest and out of the wind I found myself facing the lower reaches of Longsleddale and slightly to my right the grassy dome of Great Howe. Looking at Great Howe from where I am sitting I noticed that I have inadvertently and slowly wandered off slightly too far to the east and that must have been a function of following the wall and not really keeping a check on direction. No matter, it's no big deal to cut across the grass but it has added slightly to my journey. I espy someone crossing the lower slopes of Great Howe and wonder if it is another Birkett bagger, I'll soon find out.
Setting off once again I work my way back to a more respectable line of descent and now reach a fence with a broken down wall behind it. This I stride over and after a short walk across the grass I find myself on a faint path which will take me directly to the summit of Birkett 175. The person that I had seen earlier now reappeared and was heading in my direction and upon meeting him he asked me if I had seen any old quarries on my down to here. No, I told him, but they can't be far away as they would have got the stone for the walls from there.
He explained that he was from Penrith, a geologist, and had been told that these particular quarries were good hunting ground for fossils. We chatted awhile about the trials and tribulations of the life of the old miners and quarrymen of 200 years ago and then went our separate ways once again. A few minutes later I am on the top of Great Howe which has no cairn and is adorned only with the grass it was born with.
I walked forward and in between some small rocky knolls and then climbing onto the outermost one from where the view along both ends of Longsleddale are the best that I've seen yet.
Looking south everything is green including the valley sides, but as the valley progresses north of Sadgill the green is slowly stolen from the sides as the rocky features of the crags begin to appear and push the tamed land down beneath Dun Crag and Shipman Knotts, until by the time Goat Scar is arrived at the rocks and the scree have won the battle, and apart from a short and narrow strip of 'cultivated' farm land in the valley bottom the landscape is once again typical Lakeland scenery.
After lingering for a while to soak in the views I picked up a good path which looked as though it would take me down into Longsleddale. My assumption was correct as it continued down at an easy gradient under the front of Great Howe, first heading east and then turning south until reaching a wall which it followed south west before turning south again at a marker post to pass down steeper and bracken covered slopes. Eventually leaving the bracken behind the path now gets a bit rougher with some loose material of a dried up gill under the feet until we reach a fenced off wall gap which has a wooden step stile and also an access for dogs. From here it is a walk down a fairly steep green field to reach the metal gate in the wall which runs alongside the stony Longsleddale road with Sadgill just a short distance south.
There are a few cars parked at Sadgill where the tarmac ends after its northward journey from Garnett Bridge and the A6 road. From the end of the tarmac the road which runs along the valley bottom terminating in the north at Haweswater is rough and stony, quite level until it reaches Brownhowe Bottom below the old Wrengill Quarry before making a steep and lung gasping climb in places up to the top of Gatescarth Pass.
But my journey is not that way back to Haweswater but crosses the bridge over the River Sprint and through the hamlet of Sadgill to take the bridle path which leads the 2.41 kilometres - or 1½ miles - to Kentmere. This track is similar in nature to the Gatescarth Pass one, stony with one or two paved and steep sections but overall is in good condition and presents no problems. I pass south under Sadgill Wood where the midges must be hungry and after quite a long distance it bends west.
I have gone through two gates up to now and upon reaching the third - and for me - final one and after just a few metres I take the path on the right which will take me on my homeward journey back to Haweswater.
The path is clear to see and just a bit wet in places until I begin the short rocky climb up to the top of Wray Crag from where a view down into Longsleddale and the large green hump of Green Quarter can be seen. There can be no chance of losing one's way on this route over to Haweswater as the path simply follows the wall and then the fence all the way to Harter Fell. The path from Wray Crag climbs steadily between the wall on the right and the low crags on the left is stony and rough in places but at least it's dry before arriving at Shipman Knott at 587 metres. It was between Wray Crag and Shipman Knott that I had my second break whilst once again sheltering from the strong wind. It has threatened rain again but after a few drops away it went to annoy someone else.
Upon leaving Shipman Knott the path is now on grass for the remainder of my journey to the top of Harter Fell. It's a good path, wet in places but I found it a tedious trudge as I followed the wall over the top of Rough Crags until reaching a ladder stile that allows you to continue on the path to the summit of Kentmere Pike which is in evidence some 145 metres above me. From the stile there are two paths. One continues north away from Goat Scar and cuts off a large corner to continue up the ridge. I elected to take the second option which runs alongside the section of fence which has now replaced the wall in various places for the remainder of the climb up to Harter Fell. The reason for this choice was that I wanted to reach the cairn on the top of Goat Scar but I couldn't see it. Maybe I didn't go far enough to the front but apart from the few rocky spurs sticking out of the grass there was nary a sign of it.
So I continued on my steady climb alongside what is now a section of wall again. I am on a good path but the ground has been broken through in quite a few places to expose the white coloured stones beneath the peat. As I near the small 'tarn' just below the top of Kentmere Pike I can see the rock which begins to appear through the grass around the summit area with the OS column decorating the opposite side of the wall.
The summit cairn is sat on a small rocky knoll on the west side of the wall whilst the stone built trig point No. S5636 can be reached by climbing east over the wall with the aid of the slate step stile.
After departing from Kentmere Pike I continued following the wall for a few minutes before it then became a fence for the remainder of the climb up to Harter Fell summit. The path remains good as I drop down into the small depression where there are a couple of very wet area's to negotiate, but once past these the going is good all the way to the next top. There is only around 90 metres of climb from the depression below Kentmere Pike as I pass over Brown Howe and The Knowe to reach the summit of Harter fell but it feels much more than that as I continue my steady trudge uphill. I have seen one or two other walkers making their way down to either Kentmere or Sadgill and must admit that I envy them there easier direction than mine just now.
As I climb I keep looking at the three summits on my left, Yoke, Ill Bell, and Froswick…
and promise them that I will be visiting them soon. South west High Street is now in my sights along with Kidsty Pike in the north, whilst to the north east Branstree, Artlecrag Pike, and Selside can be picked out. Behind me and looking south east I can see my outward journey and yes, it looks a long way away from where I am now. I'm at the summit cairn of Harter Fell and looking at the mixture of rocks and old iron fence posts which form the top of it and hasn't changed much in many a year.
I take a moment to swallow some water and now that I can get a signal clock in to home to assure E that I am still alive and kicking and that she can certainly make tea for two.
I am going to take the more rugged path down west as I want stone under my boots instead of grass for a while. After a fairly steep but safe descent down to the shelter at Nan Bield I descend rapidly down the rocky stretch of path which takes me under Piot Crag, down to Small Water, past the three old stone shelters, and over the stepping stones across Small Water Beck which are just below the outflow from the tarn. It is now not far back to the car as I follow the good path which has been badly eroded down to bare rock in places. There is plenty of water in the beck today showing white as it drops over the many small waterfalls but the path soon wanders away from the beck side as it heads unerringly down to the two access gates through the walls and the car park at Mardale Head.
This has been a good walk despite the strong winds at height and full cloud cover. There have been a few breaks in the cloud from around 3pm which allowed the sun to throw its glow over a few distant fells. Withstanding the chill in the wind I have kept warm due to the efforts of putting one foot in front of the other and am pleased that I decided to continue with the whole of the walk instead of taking the easier and shorter option of returning back by way of Gatescarth Pass. The forecast of rain came to nothing which made this walk even more pleasant. Alright, so a nice sunny day would have possibly produced better images but I'm also quite happy with the ones that I got.
I also acknowledge that it is a long way to go to claim an isolated Birkett and I could have driven around to Sadgill to get it the short way, but where's the fun in that, and as I hadn't been on Shipman Knott and Kentmere Pike for quite some time I have killed two birds with one stone, so to speak.
by ChrisW » Wed Aug 05, 2015 3:52 am
by trailmasher » Wed Aug 05, 2015 2:22 pm
ChrisW wrote:For someone who wasn't so keen to start tout today you seemed to be unable to stop once you got going Another wonderful tale with lovely photos all the way. I do think you should have told that group you were with them (just for a minute or two) as there may have been free sandwiches Great read as always TM
I nearly changed my mind and looked at a shorter one but I wanted the Birkett and a decent walk so off I went and was glad that I did as the walk, although a bit weary in places trudging up the Kentmere ridge was pretty damn good. Got a report that the group was just descending Gatescarth Pass back on there way back to Sadgill when I was on top of Harter Fell so don't what they had been up to from Tarn Crag as it's only a cock stride from one to t'other. Maybe recruiting itinerant walkers
by johnkaysleftleg » Wed Aug 05, 2015 2:56 pm
by trailmasher » Wed Aug 05, 2015 7:26 pm
johnkaysleftleg wrote:Enjoyed your report of an area I quite like, I think of it as a Lakes/Dales hybrid in may ways. While appreciating your desire for a longer walk I'm slightly puzzled why you didn't set off from Sadgill and save your legs quite a bit climbing.
Well the story is that minirambo asked me to sort out a route starting from Mardale Head that would take in all of the Wainwright's on those two ridges in one visit with me going along with him . As I have done them all before but seeing a chance to slip in the Birkett I agreed to that not hard mission. As I have more time on my hands than him and we can't meet up for a walk all that often I have done it just to describe the route and conditions that he can expect to meet as I will not be going with him on his trip out on this one.
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