Hindscarth and Robinson, from Knott Rigg

Hindscarth and Robinson, from Knott Rigg

Date completed: 13th April 2012.

Weather conditions:  Very good for both walking and photography; there was more cloud in the afternoon but it stayed dry and still.

Spring lambs

New spring lambs, at Stair

Fells climbed: Dale Head (2473 feet above sea level, no, 166), Hindscarth (2385’, no. 167), Robinson (2417’, no. 168), Knott Rigg (1790’, no. 169), Ard Crags (1860’, no. 170).

Distance:  11.5 miles approximatey.

Total ascent: 4250 feet approx. Perhaps surprisingly, this is the second-highest figure so far, surpassed only by walk 16‘s haul over Scarth Gap and up Pillar.

Start and end points: Started in Rosthwaite. Finished at the road junction in the woods near Swinside, at grid reference NY246219. This is on the route of the #77 bus, which runs between Easter and the end of October.

High Spy

High Spy, from the top of the Rigghead Quarry path

Pub at end: I walked past the Swinside Inn near the end of walk 27, eighteen months ago, and it was shut, which bothered me. Because a), I don’t want to see rural pubs shut (or any, really) and b) I wanted a beer at the time. As both of these things remain(ed) true as I passed the same pub today, I am glad to report it was open. And very pleasant it was too. (Be warned though: I’m 5 feet 9 and even I found the ceilings to be dangerously low.)

Route: This walk is a decent one, although it does have a couple of tedious passages (namely the ascent of Dale Head, and Buttermere Moss). The best thing about it is the brilliant and varied views. It could easily be split into two, at Newlands Hause (though if you do, descend direct from Robinson to Buttermere instead of to the Hause). And, as the total ascent figure shows, there’s a lot of up and down.

Scafell Pike and Great Gable

Scafell Pike (left, in snow) and Great Gable, from Hindscarth

From Rosthwaite, head down the lane past the community centre and out across the fields towards Castle Crag. This is the end of walk 33, in reverse direction: as indeed it remains all the way across New Bridge, then up the valley of Tongue Gill. This is not too bad a climb (in defiance of a comment I made at the end of the walk 33 commentary). At the point at which it risks getting too tiring, the very interesting ruins of Rigghead Quarry turn up to distract you. (Give me a parental moment to remind you not to go into, or let kids play in, the tunnels, which are dangerous.)

At the top of this path, Dale Head rears up obviously in front, but the path becomes harder to follow. I was trying to follow Wainwright’s advice on page Dale Head 8 to swing round to the left rather than go straight up the face, but ended up doing a bit of both, or possibly neither. Whatever, it was a pretty tedious climb. However, once at the obvious path at the top, it becomes easier, and the summit of Dale Head, with its spectacular drop off to the Newlands valley, makes it worth the effort.

Rain shower over Crummock Water

Rain shower over Crummock Water, from the summit of Robinson

The ridges from this point as far as the summit of Robinson are narrow, and the paths well-defined, so no one should get lost even in poor weather. But do remember that the summit of Hindscarth lies a good way to the right off the main ridge.

Coming down off Robinson, the route depicted on page Robinson 6 is difficult to find in reverse. I ended up being deflected along a fairly obvious path leading into the centre of Buttermere Moss – this is a tedious moor but not that wet (although it has been a relatively dry spring). I knew I needed to bear right, heading for Newlands Hause (the little car park there being a useful point of orientation), but care must be taken because the flat Moss ends in a very craggy escarpment, over which pours the waterfall of Moss Force. There is a path down from here to Newlands Hause, but it is further to the left (west), and needs to be found before the descent is attempted.

Dalehead Tarn

Dalehead Tarn

At the Hause, just cross straight over the road and up the path ahead, which will deposit you, at least three false summits later, on top of Knott Rigg: though this is not a very well-defined peak. The ridge does split at this point, and if here in poor weather, you will need to take care not to be deflected down to the right (this is Keskadale Edge: see page Knott Rigg 4). Ard Crags is straight ahead, along a very narrow ridge, easy walking.

Past that summit just continue on down the ridge, which eventually leads down to the little hamlet of Rigg Beck. Turn left along the road, ignore the first junction, and continue for about half a mile then take the road on the right, signposted Stair, then follow the signs at the next junction to Portinscale. The Swinside Inn is at the top of a (little) hill further on. The bus stop is about 200 yards further on along the Portinscale road (do check the map to make sure you’re heading the right way, particularly if you had a couple of beers).

Scene near Dale Head summit

Scene near Dale Head summit

Last of the North West commentary stuff: I wonder how I will feel when all these are done. Will I just go, OK, done that one: let’s find another project to do? Will I be full of regret, and just determine to do them all again? Will I work out which interesting bits (key ascents, top sights) I haven’t seen yet despite having bagged the summits, and go back every so often but without committing to the lot?

I think the latter. And there’s a good reason why I’m probably not going to follow through with my idea that I could do them all in one calendar year in 2014 (hence: 214 in 2014). The reason is my left knee. A few years ago – on another attempt to give myself a project that would stop me descending physically into middle age too fast – I was training to run a marathon but I got patellar tendonitis in my left knee which scuppered that idea.

The road up to Newlands Hause

The road up to Newlands Hause

Since then – and the replacement of that challenge with this one – it’s been manageable. On a few descents it’s hurt but once down at the bottom, a few stretches improve it. Today, however, it was hurting by Hindscarth and still giving me gip the following day (as it did after walk 53). It’s a worry.  Today was a fairly long walk with a lot of climbing but so are plenty of the remaining ones. Ah well, at least I am married to a masseuse.

I also think today was the last walk featuring my current pair of hiking boots, borrowed from the wife a couple of years ago and never returned, they fit so well (I have relatively small feet, she has relatively big ones). But the lace anchors have broken on the left foot, they’re starting to leak and the soles are now very lacking in treads. Whatever walk I do next I’ll probably be breaking in a new pair.

Walker on Hindscarth

Walker on Hindscarth. The Scafell Pike range (with Great End to far left) and Great Gable in the background.

The better news? Wonder of wonders, on the new summer bus timetable, Stagecoach have actually managed to fix a major bugbear; the terrible bus connections in Keswick. (See, for example, my rant on the walk 37 page.) The #555 service has been retimed, meaning a shorter wait in Windermere and an earlier arrival in Keswick, making it possible to comfortably catch either the Buttermere or Borrowdale buses there. Who knows whether they did this out of a residual sense of public service, or because Cumbria council actually asserted themselves at a planning level, because too many people complained for them to ignore it any longer. Whatever. It’s so much better now. There’s also a new Keswick – Ullswater bus, the #208, but because that’s not run by Stagecoach they don’t deign to publicise it in the glossy timetable they produce: it’s listed online, if you’re interested.

Buttermere Moss

Buttermere Moss. Red Pike is the summit on the left.

The walk? A good one, if not one of the classics. There are some passages of fairly tedious climbing, particularly on the way up Dale Head, although that fell is then vindicated by its excellent summit as well as great views. The path up from Honister (which I joined about halfway up) trudges up this slope and then suddenly, right at the summit, everything drops off into Newlands way below. A great moment. After that there is some fine walking on very narrow ridges combined with some less than exciting bits, particularly Buttermere Moss, which I seemed to spend way too much time wandering about. Cracking views all round, the walk is right in the heart of the district and on a day like this, with clear air and a mixture of cloud and blue skies, spectacular scenes unfold all around.

Photographer on Dale Head

I was not the only person taking photos of that view of Scafell Pike today.

One more thing is worthy of note and led to the speculation at the start of the commentary. Fell number 7 of this project, bagged back in July 2009 on our holiday in Keswick, was Whiteless Pike. 160 fells later, on the bagging of Ard Crags, I have now visited the summit of every fell listed in Wainwright’s volume 6, The Northwestern Fells.

I can’t claim that I now know the district, even this small part of it between the Cocker and Derwent rivers, as well as Wainwright did. That would be silly. The man described five separate routes of ascent up Robinson alone (six, if you include the ridge route from Hindscarth) and that’s just one fairly obscure fell.  I’ve just popped briefly to each summit. But there’s still a sense of achievement to it, and a definite feeling of completion. Ard Crags, listed first in the book, was like the final piece in a little logistical jigsaw which itself will eventually fit into a bigger puzzle. There are less than 50 fells to go now.

Wainwright's list of all fells in volume 6

…all done.

(And if you’re interested, I think – so far – that the best, or at least most interesting, fells in Volume 6 are Hopegill Head and Causey Pike.)

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