Walkers on Great Dodd

Walkers on Great Dodd, seen from Calfhow Pike

Date completed: 7th February 2012.

Weather conditions:  Obvious from photography. Actually, there was not as much snow on the ground as I had expected: south of Dunmail Raise everything was much more covered, down to valley level. By the time I got to Threlkeld it was quite springlike, and even on the tops it was never particularly cold today.

View towards Causey Pike

View towards Causey Pike and Eel Crag, from Threlkeld

Fells climbed: Great Dodd (2807’, no. 155), Clough Head (2381’, no. 156).

Distance:  7.3 miles

Total ascent:  2699 feet.

Start and end points: Started at the Legburthwaite road end, where the A591 road meets the B5322, at NY317189 (what’s this?). This is the exact point (bar being on the other side of the road) where I ended walk 47, which reinforces the idea that the logical thing to do would have been to tack these two fells onto the end of that walk. But it didn’t happen, so here we are. Ended at the bus stop outside the Horse & Farrier pub, Threlkeld. From there you can catch a bus back to Penrith rail station.

Footprints in snow on Great Dodd

Footprints – mine as it happens – in the snow near the summit of Great Dodd

Pub at end:  The Horse & Farrier, Threlkeld. We ate here on the first night of our stay at Doddick farm last month, but I had never previously ended a walk here. It’s a pleasant place, with really good – though quite expensive – food.

Route card: Click here to download a route card which includes an elevation profile (how hilly the walk is), waypoints with grid references, and a summary map. Route card for Walk 51: Great Dodd and Clough Head

Route: Head up the Legburthwaite/St John’s in the Vale road from the junction for a few hundred yards, until, after passing the first lane on the left and a building right next to the road that looks like an old schoolhouse, there is a ladder-stile going up to the right. This is where to leave the road. (At the time I passed there was a notice on this gate warning of the safety of the Castle Rock for climbers, but don’t worry – you won’t be going that close to it.)

Thirlmere

Thirlmere, this morning. One of the nicer pictures I have ever managed to take from the top deck of a moving bus, behind glass.

The paths and tracks around here are a little confusing but basically you want to be heading up to the lower left-hand side of the Castle Rock (thus, keeping it on your right) and then looking to cross Mill Gill at a point indicated by a couple of flourescent green sticks poked into the soil. This is the only place the stream can safely be crossed between its two ravines. Then just start heading up the hill, keeping the ravine on your right.

This is, to be frank, a very dull and monotonous climb, and – as you probably suspected – the skyline ahead does not mark the summit of Great Dodd, which is a good few hundred feet higher still. But, once you pass Wainwright’s ‘inexplicable cairn’ – see his comment on page Great Dodd 8, the route of ascent depicted here being the one you are following – the gradient does get easier.

From this point the view opens up and Great Dodd’s summit, Clough Head and, between them, the cute little tor of Calfhow Pike are all now visible. In clear weather directions to all three are unnecessary. It is impossible to say from my visit what condition the paths are in, because they were covered in snow, so I have no idea what route-finding would be like up here in bad weather. The ridge is relatively flat and ill-defined, which may not help.

Calfhow Pike

Calfhow Pike – the 500-mile point.

Calfhow Pike (where I had lunch) is worth a rest stop – the pull up to Clough Head from there is longer than it looks as if it will be. But to be honest, the whole walk between the two summits is pretty easy. [By the way, Calfhow Pike becomes, pretty much, the 500-mile point of this project.]

According to Wainwright, the easiest descent off Clough Head is to the right (north-east), down to the cart-track at Hause Well, so that’s the one I took. But I still needed to wield my ice axe in anger today for the first time. Had I not been able to use it to cut steps down the icy (because north-facing) slope which awaited me today then I would not have been able to get off Clough Head safely (except, all the way back that I had come). Worth remembering if climbing it in the winter months.

The ‘old coach road’ was met with mild relief, but did not then offer any – if anything, its surface for a few hundred yards was the most cut-up and iciest ground I had to deal with all day. But it did get better. However, Threlkeld – which is by now clearly visible across the valley, at what looks like about a 15-minute stroll – proved harder to get to than I thought.

Looking back up the slope to White Pike

Looking back up the slope to White Pike. Ice axes obligatory,

I was about to follow a fence down to the right but that looked far too much trouble, so just kept going down the coach road until reaching the old quarry, at which point, bore right. This new track looked like it was then heading too far uphill, so I took a gate (shiny and new-looking) on the left, aiming for the obvious little housing estate below, but there is no path – I had to pick my way through fields, criss-crossed with ugly new ditches, before coming out at the road leading past the estate.

At that point, should you have followed me, turn left, then once on the main road, right. This will take you to the Threlkeld bypass, which cross – with care! – and head up the lane opposite (the pre-bypass continuation of the road you have just been following, if you think about it), Once on the main road through Threlkeld, there is a bus stop right there, but far more appealing is the Horse & Farrier some 250 yards to your right. Cheers.

Semi-winter wonderland commentary: Basically I like my job, But last Friday I was sat doing one of the most tedious and pointless tasks I ever get given, something that my ultimate bosses had decided was of the utmost urgency, which it was not. And there was the Lake District Weatherline web site saying, and I paraphrase – but not by much – “It’s a great snowy day in the District! Come prepared, but you’ll love it!”.

Snowdrift on Great Dodd

Snowdrift on Great Dodd. Watson’s Dodd summit behind.

After a weekend of fresh snow, much the same was said on the same web site last night. I was not missing two of these in one week. I had to take some work with me for the morning journey, so I’m now working Sunday. For domestic reasons I had to make sure I was home by 7pm – which meant a very carefully planned choice of walk (and I’ve got increasingly limited possibilities). But I was not missing out on today. Snow, but relatively mild temperatures, bright sun, light winds – would you stay at home?

Bloody Virgin Trains are the only things to irritate today, running both their services that irritating 10-12 minutes late, while everyone else is punctual. But let’s ignore the World’s Most Inept Company and talk about the walk. (See the Postscript.)

View near Legburthwaite

View from the starting point of the walk, Legburthwaite road end. Blencathra in the background, part of High Rigg on the left.

Under foot, this was definitely the snowiest walk I have done, but actually I expected worse. Most of the Pennines reside under a good couple of inches of snow and on arrival in Windermere this morning, everything from there up to Grasmere, even in the valleys, is white. I am simultaneously admiring the landscape and mildly apprehensive about how easy it is going to be to plough my way through this. I intend to get up to over 2800’ feet today and I have no choice but to be done in, at most, 4 hours and 45 minutes.

But as we get over Dunmail Raise, there is noticeably less snow on the fells to the north. Strange. This means that, once I start walking, I can get up to about 1200’ before I hit the white stuff. I see the Castle Rock of Triermain properly for the first time (see the Watson’s Dodd page), which is impressive, but after that it’s a long haul up the slope of Great Dodd. I can assure readers of this blog that the promise offered by Wainwright’s page Great Dodd 8 – of a tedious, monotonous, pathless haul up a grassy slope – is quite accurate. I have the added enjoyment today of soft snow to start hauling myself through, and it really does become quite tiring.

Mill Gill

Mill Gill, below the Castle Rock

If the whole walk had been like that from then on I don’t think I’d have enjoyed it at all. But thankfully, once I pass the ‘inexplicable cairn’, something changes in the chemistry of the snow underfoot and instead of falling into it past ankle-level with every step, I start skipping across the surface like Legolas the Elf. (Well, kind of.) Every so often there are steps where I break the crust and go downwards, but it’s still a damn sight easier than it was on that ascent.

Great Dodd is just a big grassy mound, and I don’t see Clough Head’s crags properly today, but from that point it doesn’t really matter – I do begin to enjoy the walk properly. The views are familiar to me by now – there are only about a dozen fells visible in Great Dodd’s extensive view that I’ve not yet trodden – but given added interest by the varying depth of snow, lots to the south, less to the north.

Walker near Calfhow Pike

Walker near Calfhow Pike

I need to wield my ice axe properly for the very first time, as otherwise I would not have got down the Hause Well slope of Clough Head, but once back down below the snowline it begins to feel – and smell – almost like spring. It’s not, of course, but what the hell.

Two more down. 58 to go. And, basically – if the rest of my life goes according to plan – I have a year to do them, as for reasons I won’t bore you with here I need to finish by mid-February 2013. Think I’ll manage it? Yeah… I reckon so. Then I’ll have to find something else to do.

POSTSCRIPT: Oh yeah. I have to mention this. I typed up all the above text on the train back to Preston and am now on the last public transport service of my day, back to Hebden Bridge. I have been on five trains and two buses today and of those seven services, five were perfectly punctual – in fact a couple of them even arrived early. These were: 2 Northern Rail services from Preston – HB both ways, 2 Stagecoach buses, first from Windermere to Legburthwaite and then from Threlkeld to Penrith, and a Transpennine Express train from Oxenholme to Windermere.

Skiddaw and Lonscale Fell

Skiddaw and Lonscale Fell, from Clough Head

The other two services in my day were both run by Virgin Trains. Now, let’s have a look at this.

The 0753 train which I need to catch from Preston to Oxenholme – and about which you’ve heard before – arrived in Preston on time this morning. Glory be. It then departed 6 minutes late, without explanation, and lost further time as it went north until we got to the point where, once again, TPE had to hold the Oxenholme connection a couple of minutes (time it eventually made up, I would add).

OK, so, that’s one out of two. And the other?

Virgin’s 1621 out of Penrith arrived 11 minutes late, but, let me be honest here, made up a few minutes on the journey to Preston where it arrived 6 minutes late. I did not mind – I had a half hour connection there.

However, as I leave, on the punctual 1744 Northern rail train back to HB, the Virgin train I came in on is still there. It hasn’t left yet. This was the scheduled 1717 to Birmingham New Street. It’s still in Preston station. Good grief.

The man who ‘runs’ this service has just been put in charge of a nationalised bank and is now in charge of billions of pounds of British taxpayers’ assets, not to mention a large amount of private capital and businesses in almost every field from music retail to aviation. Be afraid.

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2 Responses to “Walk 51: Great Dodd and Clough Head”

  1. […] more pictures from today have been uploaded onto my other blog. Share this:TwitterFacebookLike this:LikeBe the first to like this post. Tagged 42, Cumbria, […]

  2. […] but I wasn’t letting a second chance pass up. And it was well worth it. Two fells bagged on walk 51: Great Dodd and Clough Head, in conditions that were snowy but otherwise quite pleasant. All my […]

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