The High Spy Ridge

20th November 2011

It probably hasn’t gone unnoticed that I may have one or two favourite walks under my boots by now & at times its so difficult to remember them all…but this one, The High Spy Ridge just keeps coming back to haunt me, whenever I think of somewhere special to walk this route comes pretty high on the agenda.

I suppose that right now, after barely completing my Wainwrights, that I am allowed some quality & well kindled walks before: if & when I decide on what to do next… I do have a few ideas up my sleeve, but I will never be far from the place I love & hold dear.

This route will always be remembered by myself as being the first ‘long haul solo walk’ well, back in 2009 it was long haul then anyway! It will always be remembered as that solo pitch, my first ever circular route, where I didn’t return my footsteps the same way I came, And for any walker this is a hugely significant landmark, we all have them somewhere & they will never be forgotten.

This is mine.


Wainwright Guidebook

The North Western Fells

High country can rarely be appraised properly from valley-level, however. The long skyline visible from below is not the ridge of the fell, as it appears to be, but the edge of a wild plateau where the steep rise of the slope eases to a gentler gradient, the true spine lying well back, and it is here, along a crest, that one really enters upon fell walkers’ territory, a splendid elevated track traversing the whole length of the fell.


Ascent: 2,142 Feet, 653 Meters
Wainwrights: 3, Cat Bells, Maiden Moor & High Spy
Weather: Overcast To Start, Low Cloud Base At 550 Meters, Turning Bright & Sunny PM, Highs Of 11° Lows Of 8°
Parking: Gutherscale (Off Road Parking) FOC
Area: North Western
Miles: 8.7
Walking With: On my own
Ordnance Survey: OL4
Time Taken:  
Route: Gutherscale – Cat Bells – Maiden Moor – High Spy – Dalehead Tarn –Newlands Beck – Little Town – Gutherscale

Map and Photo Gallery



7:40am, ‘Derwent Cruisers’ from Nicol End Pier.

Its a paltry 8° yet the wind is a dead calm as I drove along a low mist induced A66 making for some very cautious driving indeed, with not more than 20 feet visible in front of the car, it was a slow tedious drive in, I had all intentions of making my first visit to Nicol End Pier a memorable one, but today it was like a boat grave yard, nothing like the pictures I had seen previously, even the iconic wooden laded jetty had succumbed to a ravel of old tyres & moss encrusted buoys.

I take a walk over to the end of the jetty & take my first picture of the day.


I make my way over to Gutherscale CP, an attainable car park situated in the lower flanks of Cat Bells northern tip & right next to this footpath, the CP is large enough for a half a dozen cars, in fact: if this CP does have one fault, it is the very fact that after locking your car & putting keys away that you are almost within seconds on this steep(ish) footpath, No time to stretch the leg muscles here…


Sunrise over Derwent Water & the High Tove ridge.


Now looking towards Keswick and the stillness of Derwent Water.


Incredible light over the Borrowdale valley.


The Thomas Arthur Leonard plaque.

There’s a little scramble to be had at this point, where here you will find this plaque commemorating Thomas Arthur Leonard, one of the founders of co-operative and communal holidays.


The burst of light dominates my ascent.


Spirits are high as I open up a Satsuma & take in the spine that creates Skelgill Bank.

I spot my ambitious walker on the crags way ahead, from here I cant tell if he is running or not, but what I do know is, on the rare occasion on a sun blessed morning I may have Cat Bells summit all to myself.


Looking west & over Newlands towards Rowling End, Causey Pike, Scar Crags, Sail, Ard Crags & finally Knott Rigg on the far left, all favourite summits of mine and blessed with the morning light.


Looking down the spine of Cat Bells from just below the summit.


Cat Bells summit cairn.

Its not very often you get the summit of Cat Bells to yourself, its such a shame that within the last ten minutes a bank of cloud holds itself directly above. I do a quick time check & find that without realising, I have made the summit in around thirty five minutes, I for one do not realise my own pace at times, I guess I just couldn’t wait to get boot onto fell this morning, with this I now head for Bull Crag & Maiden Moor bound.


Bull Crag & Maiden Moor from my descent down Cat Bells.

It looks that from here on in my ascent is going to be undercover of the dark cloud, that is now precariously perching itself just over Maiden Moor, I take of my pack & opt for my gloves, as I feel a slight nip in the air.


Maiden Moor summit cairn.

Its been a lonely o’l walk from Cat Bells to Maiden Moor’s summit, this being present by a low mist, as I earlier photographed, clung to the fell side. One can always collect ones thoughts when walking in low mist, there are feelings of at one with the fells now the years collect, and that feeling while walking in mist with not a breath of panic nor a glance at the GPS is priceless.

The paths here, if you stick to them are as prominent as the pavement outside your house, its only when you leave the comfort of the paths to take in Maiden Moor’s summit will you leave the rocky path for a faint grassy one for no less that 200 yards, stay with the path after you leave the cairn & this will bring you back up with the main rocky path & sights, on a good day are that of High Spy’s huge summit beacon, today I had to wait a little bit longer…


Taken just before I re-join the main path is this shot of rolling cloud rolling in over the head of the Newlands valley, the fell to the right of the shot is Hindscarth.


It seems I am in for something spectacular as I now head for High Spy’s main summit beacon, but first & out of shot I head for a small peak eastwards named Minum Crag, I have passed this small out crop of rock many, many times without giving it or the views much thought, but today, I had good reason for the small trek east…


The High Tove Ridge, now breached in cloud inversion.


I take shot after shot of the cloud inversion as I now head for High Spy’s summit beacon, I cannot believe my luck that I have now seen two cloud inversions in as many weeks.


This one dominating the whole of southern Lakeland.


High Spy’s summit beacon with a north western fells backdrop.


The north westerly fells equally under siege from the inversion, the two peaks to the right are that of Robinson & the High Stile Ridge.


A High Stile silhouette.


With the cloud inversion well & truly domineering views in every direction I now descend to Dale Head Tarn seen (C)

The path here can be tricky to say the least, & no more so than after an evening of rain, it was while descending to the Tarn I not only slip once, but twice, on both occasions pulling both my right & left inner groin muscles, the second incident only being second to a two footed challenge which left my arms wailing about until I go left hand down saving myself with a fist like clench.

As a kid, or even an adult, have you ever ran at a football & miss kicked it? the energy that emerges from such incident is enough to wipe a man clean of his feet.

Every muscle ached as I pulled myself up & dusted myself down (cue the eye roll)


Dale Head & Dale Head Crags seen from my ascent.

Today I had all intentions of including Dale Head, it was not before I remembered the four mile trek & the two hours it would take me, do I reconsider Dale Head for another day…


Newlands, Miners Crag & my shadow seen from the col separating High Spy & Dale Head.


Crossing Newlands Beck as I now plan a short rest at…


Dale Head Tarn, its just me & the breeze.


I finish my coffee at the Tarn & re shoulder pack, as I am leaving three walkers appear behind a set of crags that hide Newlands Beck, I smile & wish them a ‘good morning’ & make my way for the narrow footpath that will eventually lead me to the Newlands valley floor.

This footpath, no matter how many times I have descended from it (I’m counting well over six times in total) does not get any easier with however I am familiar with it. The footpath starts right here & small scrambles are needed over precariously placed stones & loosely pitched boulders, take up the mind of a mountain goat & you will be fine, if not like I did, take your time & enjoy this four mile epic journey through Newlands.


Looking back at the sun breached col from the footpath.


All the while on my descent I hear the tune of whistles & yeps, it was only when I turn around & catch a silhouette of a farmer & sheep dogs starting a descent via Dale Head Crags, I get an under arm wave from the Farmers staff, I over arm-one wave back & think, thoughtful…very thoughtful.


More sheep on trial as I zoom in on Fat Tongue.


Newlands Beck waterfall.


One last look at the valley head before it disappears around the lower flanks of Castle Nook.


Passing Climbers Cottage (now a holiday retreat) with a Hindscarth backdrop.


A close up of the seventeenth century Newlands Church.


After passing through Little Town you get this great view of Newlands, Scope End, Robinson, Ard Crags & Knott Rigg.


With the sun on my back I now make my way back to Gutherscale with views towards Swinside & a cloud topped Skiddaw & Skiddaw Little Man.

I have enjoyed today immensely, not only have I been treated to cloud inversions and in seeing all this I have also been on a particular set of Lakeland fells that I hold dear to myself in so many personal & physical ways.

I keep hearing to try new things, I keep telling myself I should.

This walk, & others like it are my reasons.


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