View east from Skiddaw

The view east from Skiddaw. The Little Man to the right, Lonscale Fell in the centre, Blencathra behind.

Date completed: 2nd January 2019. This date has been a useful one in recent years with walks on 2/1/15 (walk 91) and 2/1/17 (walk 123). It’s only the second date to see three different walks, the other being July 23rd.

Weather conditions: Some high-level, blameless cloud at the start and end of the day, but between about 11am and 1.30pm, magnificent: clear blue skies, little wind and not particularly cold. Wonderful walking weather.

Derwentwater

Derwentwater, seen from Skiddaw Little Man

Summits bagged: Lonscale Fell (2344 feet above sea level, no. 175 of my second round), Skiddaw Little Man (2837’, no. 176), Skiddaw (3053’, no. 177), Bakestall (2208, no. 178).

Lonscale Fell was first bagged on walk 70, almost exactly six years ago (4/1/13). Bakestall was done on walk 50, also a January walk (16/1/12). The other two were done way back on walk 2, on the second day of this project, 20/7/09.

Start and end point: Started and finished in Threlkeld. I left there at 9.50am (on the usual 9.21 bus from Penrith rail station) and returned at just before 4pm, in time to catch a bus back to Penrith half an hour later, which saw me on the 17:03 train home.

There is a shorter option available, which is to finish in Bassenthwaite. For the reason why I did not do this, see the route advice below.

Headwaters of the Glenderaterra

The headwaters of the Glenderaterra. Mungrisdale Common to the right, doing its best to look pretty.

Distance walked: 14.75 miles approximately.

Total ascent: 3300 feet approximately.

Pub at end: It was time I tried the other pub in Threlkeld, the Sally (short for the Salutation). I don’t mind the Horse and Farrier, but past experience suggests it’s an expensive place. Well, the Sally, despite being a lot more basic inside and having only one real ale on, then charged me £4.35 for that beer, which even for the Lake District is a steep price; and self-defeating, because if it’d been cheaper I might have had a second.

Route: This is a long walk and it tired me out. Although much of it is relatively easy going, there is one very steep bit, the climb of Lonscale Fell. On a fine day, the views will be spectacular, almost as good as one can get in England. Solitude will be sorely lacking once the Skiddaw tourist path is joined, but much of the rest of the walk can be done in peace and quiet, although there were a few other walkers in Skiddaw Forest today.

Vale of St John

View from above Threlkeld: High Rigg, and the Vale of St John behind

From Threlkeld, you need to take Blease Road out of the village: you can avoid walking on the main road for a couple of hundred yards by taking the public footpath to the left of the Horse and Farrier, which brings you out in the right place. Take the road up past the Blencathra Centre, which is further away from Threlkeld than you think (a mile up the road); here the tarmac ends and you can carry on into the Glenderaterra valley.

Great Calva

View over to Great Calva, from the path below Lonscale Fell

The east face of Lonscale Fell looms large as you head up-valley, and it is worth surveying the terrain and comparing it to the notes on pages 5 and 6 of Wainwright’s chapter, as you need to make a decision about which route to take. The easiest, but longest, is clearly to keep going all the way to the head of the valley and then up the Burnt Horse ridge (page 6). I did think about doing the north-east buttress as described on page 5, but this really did look quite tough. So in the end I compromised and went up the east ridge (also depicted on page 5).

This is safe, as the thick covering of heather gives plenty of hand-holds, but you cannot just walk up the slope, it’s a definite scramble, and very steep. The east peak is reached with relief, and this is a good place to rest awhile — better than the main summit of Lonscale Fell, which is a couple of hundred yards further on. The view is awesome, although on a winter’s day, with low sun, not necessarily easy to capture on camera.

Skiddaw Little Man summit

The summit of Skiddaw Little Man

From here the route as far as Skiddaw, via the Little Man, should be obvious, although the Little Man is both further away (1.5 miles) and higher than it looks at first. The tourist path from Keswick is crossed, being as wide here, and as well-surfaced, as a tarmac road. Climb up first to the Little Man, enjoy its view (with the same caveat as mentioned earlier, on winter days with low sunshine) and then carry on to Skiddaw itself; there are a succession of summits but the ultimate top is the one with the OS trig column.

Skiddaw summit

And, finally, Skiddaw summit

To bag Bakestall, carry on over the final summit and then bear slightly right to reach the fence, which just follow on down. Insofar as Bakestall does lay claim to the status of a separate fell, its highest point is clearly the cairn right by this fence, but the one you can see a few yards away does have a better view.

Descend Bakestall to the right hand side of Dead Crags, not the left, even if you are heading to Bassenthwaite: the descent on that side is unpleasant (as I discovered on walk 50), but the slope to the right is quite agreeable thanks to plenty of vegetation cushioning the knees. Bear left to have a look over the escarpment and into the bowl of Dead Crags (pictured). This descent will drop you down to the Skiddaw House road, at the top of Dash Falls.

Dead Crags

Dead Crags

At this point it is necessary to make a decision about where to end the walk. To the west (left) lies Bassenthwaite village, and a bus at Bass Chapel on the main road. But the timing of buses here is awkward. On the day I did it there was a 14:57 service through to Keswick and Penrith, but I was not 100% confident about meeting it — I reached the top of the falls about an hour before this. If I had missed this service it would have been a two-hour wait for the next one and the pub in Bassenthwaite does not open until 4pm. There is the Castle Inn, but this is further away and a crappy establishment (really). Threlkeld has more buses (one an hour in each direction in winter, anyway), but is at least twice as far away: from the same point it took me two hours to get back there. But it is a chance to explore Skiddaw Forest, which on a day like today is a very beautiful spot (although I wouldn’t fancy trudging through it in the rain). Make your choice… I turned right.

Caldew crossing

Footbridge over the Caldew. Skiddaw House visible ahead.

Highlights on the way back include the skyline to your right, which, pleasingly, shows off all four of the summits you’ve bagged today, and then Skiddaw House in its glorious isolation. This is a Youth Hostel, at 1550’ above sea level the highest such establishment in Britain apparently. A sign outside claims it is open March to October, though there did seem to be some signs of occupation there today.

Just carry on past this and cross over the watershed back to the Glenderaterra. The north-east buttress of Lonscale Fell looks even more intimidating from this angle. Don’t forget to turn left by the enclosures, or you will be heading back to Keswick, not Threlkeld. Either walk is a long one and as you hit tarmac again you will remember it is still a mile from the Blencathra centre to the village, but you will get there in the end.

View from Lonscale Fell

View from the east peak of Lonscale Fell, with the peak’s own shadow below

Start as I mean to go on commentary: The first week of January is actually quite a good time to get a walk in. It’s a quiet time at work, and the weather does seem to improve around this time: most December days seem to be pretty gloomy (like last time) but the climatic patterns seem often to serve up some decent stuff once the year turns (like today). The relative appeal of the two months can be judged by the fact that today was the 15th walk of this project to take place in January (nearly 10% of them), whereas I have done only 6 in December.

Brockle Crag

The last sunbeam of the day illuminates Brockle Crag on Great Cockup

I certainly wasn’t ignoring the excellent weather forecast, anyway. On New Year’s Day I went to a football match (my other main hobby), and the sun shone all day out of pristine blue skies. Today wasn’t quite so stellar, and when I got out of the bus at Threlkeld I was a little disappointed to see a haze of grey cloud above — not covering the summits though — but this burnt off while I was pondering my route up Lonscale Fell at about 11am. Even up at 2300 feet, on this first top, the air was still and it was not very cold at all.

Bakestall

Bakestall, from behind

I hadn’t fully decided even on reaching this summit what my walk would contain, but to have not gone for Skiddaw at this point would have been silly, really. So on I pushed, and that then meant bagging Bakestall was the sensible option as well, and the walk then crafted itself. The outro, back through Skiddaw Forest, was perhaps a little over-extended but not too bad. So all in all, a good walk to begin 2019.

With my sabbatical coming up I’ve committed, to myself anyway, to do two walks a month through to August and to aim then to do at least 20 over the whole year. If I can leave myself with fewer than a hundred to do by 31/12/19 — that is, to aim to reach 230 fells bagged in total — that seems the very minimum target to aspire to: probably I can do at least sixty summits this year, which will bring me to 238.

Lesser Man summit

The summit of the ‘Lesser Man’

I can’t bring myself, yet, to comment on wider concerns: I’m sure we all realise the dreadful state of things right now and, like me, we have our ways of anaesthetising ourselves to it all. This is one of mine, and so, the walks will continue, deal or no deal. I hope you enjoyed the festive season as best as you were able, and here’s hoping for the future, whatever 2019 may bring.

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