White Side from the north
White Side, from the north. The two walkers depicted may, or may not, remember the URL I told them to look at to see this picture…

Date completed: 29th November 2017.

Weather conditions: Dry, but cold, bitterly so when I was on the tops and facing the northerly wind. Although not deep, there was a crust of icy snow above 2000 feet. Definitely the first winter walk of the season.

Summits bagged: Glenridding Dodd (1450’ above sea level, number 127 of my second round), Sheffield Pike (2215’, no. 128), Raise (2897’, no. 129), White Side (2832’, no, 130).

Ullswater and Pennines
Ullswater and the Pennines, from the plateau atop Sheffield Pike

The last two, White Side and Raise, were last bagged on walk 47, in very similar conditions, 2/12/11. The other two were previously bagged on the following walk, walk 48, 13/1/12.

There are a couple of additional Birketts bagged en route: Heron Pike, on the ridge up Sheffield Pike from Glenridding Dodd (2,008′, #215 on that list by altitude) and Brown Crag, on the way down to Thirlspot (2,001′, #218).

Start and end points: Started in Glenridding. Finished in Thirlspot. Glenridding can be reached all year from Penrith on the #508 bus. Thirlspot is likewise linked to Keswick and Windermere by the #555 service.

The walk took just over four hours, and fitted between the 10:10 (approx) drop off in Glenridding, this had left Penrith station at 9:20, and the 14:45 pick up at Thirlspot.

Grouse, failing rule one of grouse school (if a human gets close, flee)

Distance walked: 6.5 miles approximately.

Total ascent: 3100 feet approximately.

Pub at end: Perhaps surprisingly, only my second ever visit to the King’s Head in Thirlspot: the other being way back on walk 11. It’s almost the perfect end to the walk, as you drop off the fell side almost straight into the pub garden, and the bus stop is then immediately there too. Those who object to being barked at by farm dogs still get good chance to wind them up.

Route: This is a relatively short walk, but seeing as you are hauling yourself transversally over the biggest mountain wall in the Lake District, there’s plenty of climbing to be done, much of it steep, though not excessively so. The views are very good. Wainwright warns against attempting Sheffield Pike in bad weather, and that’s probably sound advice.

Stybarrow Dodd
Stybarrow Dodd, from Sheffield Pike

From the bus stop at Glenridding, go up the road to the right of the Fairlight restaurant, and keep going past the Travellers’ Rest pub. Glenridding Dodd is rising on the right and it should be obvious where to go. Look for the path heading up that way just before the row of cottages, where the road loses its tarmac. This is a steep but short climb up to the little col between the Dodd and Sheffield Pike, where turn right and just follow the path to the first summit of the day. Half an hour from the bus stop should be enough time.

Glenridding Dodd summit
The summit of Glenridding Dodd. Raise and White Side behind, in snow.

Come back down off Glenridding Dodd to the col and just head straight on and up the south-east ridge of Sheffield Pike. When I was last here on walk 48, on the descent, I missed the ridge path and had a troublesome time of it, but it’s much easier to stick to the path in ascent. This is a bit steep in parts but not disagreeable. There are some fine views behind you, of Ullswater and over to the Pennines.

Once at the top of the ridge there’s still a bit of walking to be done across the plateau to reach the summit of Sheffield Pike. Landmarks and paths around here are sketchy, hence the warning about not doing this in bad weather as crags fringe the summit plateau on three sides. In clear weather, though, it is obvious which route to take and then the lack of clear paths is not a problem.

Raise and chimney
Raise, and the disused chimney (or is it an aqueduct?).

From the summit of Sheffield Pike one can survey the route up Raise, from the remains of the lead mine workings. There seems disagreement as to whether the construction snaking up the eastern slope is an old aqueduct (as identified in Wainwright’s maps) or a chimney (OS map); either way it provides a good guide to the first part of that ascent.

Head down from Sheffield Pike to the spoil heaps below, crossing the beck at the little footbridge among the grey wastes; though realise if you clamber up the spoil you achieve nothing but the chance to clamber back down it again. Instead, round the heaps to the left and start the climb of the aqueduct/chimney. Once past the chimney itself you just have to keep going up the slope, aiming for the prominent rock tor illustrated by Wainwright on page Raise 2, and then past this to the summit. If you see the top of the ski lift, bear left. On the day I climbed this slope it was covered in snow, so I have no idea what it is like in normal conditions, but while a bit of a haul (it’s a thousand feet from the start of the chimney to the summit) it didn’t seem too bad to me.

Raise from White Side
Looking back to Raise, from White Side

Raise to White Side is a simple (though, for me, very icy) 15-minute walk south along the ridge. At White Side, you could, of course, carry on up Helvellyn, but I want to reach that summit by other routes, so I began my descent to Thirlspot, following the advice on page White Side 7 to head in the direction of Bassenthwaite Lake. A couple of cairns guide you down to the path, the ‘old pony route’ up Helvellyn, and this can be followed down almost to valley level. Where it reaches the intake wall, follow this up and round to the left, then take the path on the right which goes across the water race to the King’s Head. The bus stop is right there too.

View of Thirlmere on the descent. No zipwires, please (see commentary)

200-to-go commentary: Back when I started these walks I lacked the confidence to go out in the depths of winter, but eight years now of tramping round the District have cured me of that particular affliction. I don’t really now have any concerns about getting out in the snow. I have the necessary gear. The photography is just so much better in the winter, too: even when there isn’t any snow around, the light shines more obliquely, picking out the fells properly (rather than simply washing them in bland, bright light, as can happen in the summer).

Catstycam in snow
Catstycam in winter raiment, from Sheffield Pike

And when there is snow…. well, I struggle to believe that any photographer would regret the chance to capture the (near-)perfect mountain form of Catstycam in its winter plumage, for a start. Certainly the Helvellyn range is the place to head for if it’s snow you want. Several times — today joining walk 47 as demonstration of this — I’ve seen it being the only area of the District covered in a proper coat: only the tip of Skiddaw and the fringe of Blencathra (say, 2,800 feet plus) were white today, but everything on Raise, White Side and points around were covered above 2,000 feet. It was cold though, no doubt about that. On my two walks at the start of November I didn’t need the outer fleece, but today I was in full Kilimanjaro summit gear, and needing it in the north wind.

High Rigg and Skiddaw
High Rigg and the Skiddaw range, with its distinct lack of snow

Glenridding is still a mess, repairs continue after the floods which happened nearly two years ago now (5th December 2015). And a sign attached to the bus stop in Thirlspot gives notice of a proposed development which will involve running zip-wires across Thirlmere, a truly absurd idea that I can only attribute to hubris produced by seven-years of people-hating, land-hungry right-wing government in this country: even the planning notice announces, in capital letters, “THE PROPOSED DEVELOPMENT DOES NOT ACCORD WITH THE PROVISIONS OF THE DEVELOPMENT PLAN…” nor, surely, in any rational assessment of just what it is that people come to this area to see…. Thirlmere is a beautiful lake, no less so for being a reservoir: I am not against the development of infrastructure and attractions per se, but what possible mentality could imagine that stringing zip-wires right across the lake is something that would bring wider benefits to the region? If you want to object to this — and anyone can object, from around the world if need be, the application number is 7/2017/2298, objections can be sent to the Lake District National Park Authority. — or see this page on the Friends of the Lake District site.

View from Raise
View south east from Raise, over High Raise to the Scafells

Maybe there’ll be another walk before Christmas, but it won’t be until the week of the 18th December so we’ll see what the weather’s like. White Side was the 130th fell in the second round, meaning I now have two hundred to go.

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