The Harry Griffin 2,000 footers Walk 8 -The Kentmere Horseshoe

26th April 2015

Continuing with the theme of the Lakeland 2,000 footers today I find myself in the Kentmere Valley to take on the Kentmere Horseshoe, which today, compromises of eight 2,000 ft summits. This route however is a slightly shorter version than that of the original Kentmere Horseshoe as both High Street and Thornthwaite Crag are intentionally missed out on due to their summits being included in other routes within the 2,000 footer campaign.

The walk starts in Kentmere close to St Cuthberts Church where the route takes on the horseshoe in an anti-clockwise direction by first heading for a direct summit of Kentmere Pike via Withered Howe thus missing out on Shipman Knotts whose summit escapes the 2,000 footer mark by 74ft. From Kentmere Pike the next two thousander is the cairnless summit of Brown Howe before continuing onto Harter Fell, from which a descent on the Nan Bield Pass is needed before reaching Mardale Ill Bell where two - two thousand ft summits are found. From Mardale Ill Bell the route heads south for Froswick and the Ill Bell ridge as both High Street and Thornthwaite Crag are flanked with lengthy views over the Kentmere Valley.

Two weeks ago to the day I attempted this walk but was drawn back by poor weather having already driven up to Kentmere, since then this walk within the series of my campaign has been hanging over my shoulders. Today I had the oppotunity to right that decision a fortnight ago, had I gone ahead that day, my memory from the walk wouldn't have turned out as perfect as todays did.


Freeman of the Hills

'The Kentmere Horseshoe'

The round of the Kentmere two-thousands was one of the earliest in the series, in the middle of May, and, again, I had Ted Stacey as my companion. It was a sunny day, with wonderful views - one of them of Gragareth, the highest summit in 'reorganized' Lancashire, still topped with old snow.

Harry Griifin

Ascent: 3,494 Feet - 1,065 Metres
Summits Over 2,000 Ft: Kentmere Pike - Brown Howe - Harter Fell (Mardale) - Mardale Ill Bell - Mardale Ill Bell North Top - Froswick - Ill Bell - Yoke
Weather: Clear and Sunny, Brisk across the Summits. Highs of 12°C Lows of 0°C Feels Like -1°C
Parking: Roadside Parking, Kentmere Church
Area: Far Eastern
Miles: 11.4
Walking With: On My Own
Ordnance Survey: OL5
Time Taken: 5 Hours 30 Minutes
Route: Kentmere Church - Hollow Bank - Withered Howe - Kentmere Pike - Brown Howe - The Knowe - Harter Fell (Mardale) - Mardale Ill Bell - Mardale Ill Bell North Top - Froswick - Ill Bell - Yoke - Garnburn Pass - Kentmere Church

Map and Photo Gallery


Kentmere Church 07:20am 0°C

Sunburst through the tree lined narrow lanes as I made my way towards the parking spaces situated besides St Cuthberts Church where upon arrival I parked easily while at the same time ignoring that de ja vu feeling that came over me from just a fortnight earlier, the difference between both mornings couldn't have been starker and shows the resilience of springtime in Lakeland.

I park close to the phone box and 'nose in' next to a car that by the looks of things, had been there all night. Once parked up I lace my boots on the tarmac road whilst listening to a farm dog bark, at what, I didn't quite know. In the trees the birds are singing their morning chorus but do little to drown out the sound, ney howl coming from the farm dog, I guess it sounds like my morning kit up was being disturbed but on the contrary, these are merely the sounds of the countryside.

Despite the presence of a strong sun the air has a certain bite to it blown in by a spontaneous gust of wind every now and again which was duly noted, more so as I pull away pack shouldered and hands placed in warm pockets. St Cuthberts is left behind as I round its perimeter walls taking in the steep tarmac road before taking a left turn at Low Bridge Cottage, not before stopping to take this photo towards St Cuthberts Church.

The last time I felt the need to walk whilst burying my hands deep inside my pockets was probably the same time I wore a School Blazer some twenty odd years ago, not even the steep pull of High Lane as I head towards Hallow Bank could tempt them outta there which left shoulders lurching forwards. A perfectly good pair of light gloves lay in my pack not a moments stop away which stubbornly stayed there as I knew in just over half an hours time the sun would have burned the cool morning air away, or so I thought.

Upper Kentmere from High Lane.

From High Lane the clearest of views appear over the Kentmere valley and indeed the Ill Bell ridge open up before me, there wasn't a cloud in the sky which was just what had been forecast. Ahead Kentmere Pike is perched above Hallow Bank deep in shadow and looking rather cold as by now, I had been walking the length of High Lane in wall to wall crisp sunshine, even the hands came out if only so I could billow warm air into them.

The sun had been up for the past two hours and was climbing high above the Kentmere Pike ridge causing my eyes to water every time I looked up, this caused some early navigational issues as by now, I still hadn't spotted the path that rises over Withered Howe. Soon Stye Howe Farm was reached not before passing through a group of Herdwicks who's Lambs sunbathed and suckled in morning sunlight.

Two tracks appear in the shadow flanked by bracken on both sides high above Stye Howe Farm, to the left and much higher up the path a rocky outcrop dominates the fell side which confirmed my direct route on Kentmere Pike.

A Vintage Morris Van found close to Stye Howe Farm.
Back in the good old days when radiator grilles were 'radiator grilles', headlights were 'headlights' and wing mirrors were errm...door mirrors.

Here, looking back over Stye Howe Farm and lower Kentmere from the path above Withered Howe.
After passing through Stye Head Farm the path is easily found just behind the farm buildings, here the path gains height steeply over winding grass and stone with long distant views over upper Kentmere and the Ill Bell ridge.

The unmistakable Ill Bell ridge.

Ascent over Withered Howe under cool shade.

With the more height gained I soon found myself trodding over solid frozen ground and indeed, frozen puddles that had formed after yesterdays rain and then, hard frost. The outcrop of rock I had spoken about earlier can now be seen to my left further up the path.

My path picks its way over frozen fell side before reaching the lower summit shoulder of Kentmere Pike, here the sun's glare is at its strongest as I have to block the gaze by placing my right hand over squinted eye. Further up the path more outcrops of grassy rock are reached in bulk, - it pays to spot the lay of the land as I did and many more before me, no matter how tempting it was to 'go over' I lose a little height before making it back up 'around the back' of the grassy outcrop where views of Kentmere Pike open up.

Kentmere Pike.
By now I was climbing in wall to wall as the sun's glare moved from my direct view over towards my right shoulder. Kentmere Pike is just ahead yet there is still quite a bit of ascent left before reaching its summit. Ahead a stone wall can be seen running parallel below the summit, if you trace your finger right you will see the wall disappear into a null, this is where a wooden sty is found which I use to cross the wall and gain a foothold on the last few hundred metres before reaching the summit.

Looking back on Shipman Knotts.
Shipman Knotts soon comes into view as I glance south of the ridge seen shortly after crossing the wooden sty seen lower centre of the photo.

Frozen pool as the Kentmere Pike summit comes into view.

Evidence of just how brisk it was to be here on Kentmere Pike this morning was this landmark pool of water found close to the summit had completely frozen over as had the boggier sections typicalized across the summit ridge.

No need for bog hopping today.

Kentmere Pike summit Trig Point.

In the short distance it had taken me to walk from the summit shoulder to the summit that cool column of air that had greeted me on the fell side had turned into a chilling wind that nipped at exposed skin, by this point I was still in denial that come the last few weeks of April I should be wearing hat and gloves and I wondered how long my stubborness would last.

Behind the Trig Column I had the benefit of not being buffetted by the wind which although was a slight comfort I knew this summit time had to be kept brief as there was still alot of work ahead of me.

Ahead, Brown Howe, The Knowe and Harter Fell (Mardale)

Whilst standing on my first two thousander summit I was able to observe my second and third which is clearly seen as the huge bulk of Harter Fell, however despite gaining height gradually to get there I would indeed summit my second two thousander of the morning of Brown Howe first.

I have walked this ridge many times yet I don't feel I've ever been observant enough to ever notice Brown Howe's summit cairn, we shall have to wait and see I guess.

After leaving Kentmere Pike summit I succumb to the biting wind face on which I had put up with as the tips of my ears start to sting as does the fingers on my hands, moments after leaving Kentmere Pike summit I down pack and take out my hat and gloves before placing them over tempered skin, I never thowt I'd say that at the end of April.

The Knowe and Harter Fell from Brown Howe cairnless summit.

Brown Howe establishes my second two thousander of the morning yet as already mentioned I see no sign of any recognisable summit cairn with the exceptions of high ground from where I took this photo.

Ahead is three quaters of a mile of some of Lakelands most pleasant ridge walking towards Harter Fell summit which is done by simply following the fence over The Knowe before the main summit of Harter Fell is reached.

Three ladies.
Passing the Ill Bell ridge along the way, I shall be over there soon.

Distant views of Kidsty Pike from Harter Fell (Mardale) summit.

After crossing a grassy plateau Harter Fell summit is soon reached with panoramic views in every direction as far as the eye can see beyond the Howgills and over into east Yorkshire, this view however is of High Street and the Kidsty Pike ridge with a distant High Raise (Martindale) seen in the background.

Summit time is once again kept brief as I descend my way towards the top of Nan Bield Pass.

Descending the ridge towards the top of Nan Bield Pass.
Once the ridge is descended I will make my ascent on Mardale Ill Bell seen in the foreground of the photo.

Airy views over Small Water towards High Street, Kidsty Pike and High Raise (Martindale)

Distant views over The Rigg and Haweswater.
I was almost on top of Nan Bield Pass as I paused to take it all in, during my introduction to the 2,000 ft challenge - keeping focused on what lies ahead can sometimes take over the real reason why your actually there, I guess I wouldn't be human if I said that these thoughts hadn't crossed my mind over the last few weeks especially on the more demanding routes yet, it's scenes like this which can stop a walker in his/her tracks which is exactly what happened to me as I ponder poles in hands over looking this fabulous view of Haweswater.

The Ill Bell ridge seen over Kentmere Reservoir.
I stop and scour from both sides of Nan Bield Pass for movement along the ridges but spot nothing.

The stone shelter found at the top of Nan Bield Pass.
Once the top of Nan Bield Pass was reached I pass the infamous stone shelter which, on any other given day is normally doing what it was built to do, sheltering, but not today, it seems it's just me, the birds and the fells for now.

Small Water seen over Haweswater from the start of my Mardale Ill Bell ascent.

Looking back on Harter Fell from the first two thousand ft summit on Mardale Ill Bell.

Mardale Ill Bell south cairn was duly reached after a steep but exciting haul upon to the summit shoulder from where the north cairn stood just a short distance away, memories came flooding back to last summer when I climbed Mardale Ill Bell north ridge from Blea Water on a sweltering hot afternoon.

As the morning was progressing the temperature had started to rise just slightly enough to take the bite out of the wind but not enough for me to remove my hat and gloves, well, not just yet anyway.

High Street from Mardale Ill Bell north top found just a short distance away.

The Ill Bell ridge from Mardale Ill Bell.
From Mardale Ill Bell I steer myself east as I pick up the distinctive grassy track that navigates around the head of the Kentmere valley.

Views over High Street seen shortly after leaving Mardale Ill Bell.

Traversing the head of Kentmere with views of Thornthwaite Crag ahead.
Navigating the head of the Kentmere valley was a real highlight that I took from the day as it traverses high over upper Kentmere over rough crag and steep scree, all the while views of the Ill Bell ridge are never far away.

Froswick, Ill Bell and Yoke provides the perfect scenery for my traverse.
It was while I picked my way along the narrow path high above the Kentmere Valley did I see the first person of the day, a solo walker much the same age as myself who appeared not to be in the mood for a natter.

The Ill Bell Ridge with Kentmere Reservoir far below.

The further along the head of Kentmere the more the views start to widen as Kentmere Reservoir comes into view, it really isn't clear to see in the photo but the wind that I had been going on about over the last hour or so was really whipping up across the surface of the reservoir as white waves were clearly visible from my lofty height.

However, my attention was now turned to the Ill Bell ridge as I start to spot more and more walkers all heading down from Froswick no doubt on-route to Thornthwaite Crag. It is here I find myself in a gaze once more as I mutter to myself, scenery such as this shouldn't be rushed, swiftly followed by myself de-shouldering pack before sitting down on the dried grass with my knees tucked up so I could rest hands across them.

The wind blew through the wild grasses and the birds were still singing their chorus but not to be seen, a moment surely spent wondering, if only I could freeze time.

Ascent on Yoke.

Although the thought of gazing upon the Ill Bell ridge the thought occurred to me that they aren't going to climb themselves which prompted me to throw pack over shoulder once more before rejoining with the main ridge path as ascent on Froswick lay ahead.

Views into Troutbeck with Troutbeck Tongue, Wansfell and, a distant Windermere.

Here, looking back on Thornthwaite Crag Stony Cove Pike.
I was in good stead and time for once was on my side as I ascended Froswick in what what can only be described in good pace. Froswick and indeed Ill Bell look more daunting from afar than they actually are as I made the summit of Froswick in great time still feeling rather refreshed, this isn't to say though that you shouldn't pull out any reserves you may have hiding away as my ascent on Ill Bell next, wasn't quite so swift.

Ill Bell from Froswick summit cairn.

Leaving Froswick with views over Ill Bell.

Here, looking back on trodden ground over the head of Kentmere with views of Thornthwaite Crag, High Street and Lingmell End.
This photo although not perfectly clear shows my traverse over the head of Kentmere from Mardale Ill Bell seen as the small peak in the right of the photo, despite being on one of the best ridges Lakeland has to offer, that traverse over the head of Kentmere will to this day, still take some beating.

Windermere seen from Ill Bell summit cairns.
Ill Bell distinctive triple cairn summit was reached not before a few 'scheduled camera stops' more commonly referred to as 'breather stops!' While on the ascent on Ill Bell I pass four walkers all coming down, and, all dressed in complete winter clothing which I thought, was a little over doing it, but, who was I to judge as I still clung onto hat and gloves, but not for long though.

'That view' over the famous three cairn summit of Ill Bell.
Ok, that's it, I'm having another un-scheduled stop, and I shall call it early lunch.

Yoke from my lunch spot.

After summiting Ill Bell I had no intentions of stopping again until I was back in Kentmere, that was until I dropped off the summit where I was met by a wind less view over my final summit of the day in Yoke. With near perfect conditions I call an early lunch before sitting down once again over dry grass as I munch on my Tuna Mayo sandwiches.

My position was such that I was off path and out of view, which still offered fantastic views and maybe little spying ones of the walkers who where making their own ascents on Ill Bell that morning.

By the time the third pair of walkers crested the summit I'd had enough of people watching and decided that I should get up and stop enjoying all these fabulous views, it wasn't the easiest decision I had to make as I was getting quite comfortable sitting there, but Yoke was calling.

Ill Bell from Yoke summit cairn.

Yoke marked my final and eighth two thousander of the day as I did a little exploring over Rainsborrow Cove first before reaching the summit while at he same time eying up possible routes that all looked exciting if not a little daring. Two fellows had just left the summit leaving me with Yoke all to myself as I cast eye over on the full horseshoe.

Summit time was spent looking back on what a fantastic walk I'd had and in what I considered good time too, shortly after leaving Yoke I stumble across a middle age fellow who was finding things a little difficult as we stopped to chat 'I hope all this is worth it' which left me a little stumbled because he said it as if he was asking a question, I tried not to react and as I went onto say of course it will be worth it, but thinking like that I thought, won't help matters, do as I do, stop, and just take a look around you, you dont need a summit to appreciate all of this.

We left each other as I spoke words of motivation hoping this might change the guys mind set, hopefully it did.

Descending the Garburn Pass into Kentmere.

After descending Yoke the cloud began to obscure the sun and I wondered was that the last I would see of it which then prompted me to think well I'd still be lucky after all despite the chill across the summit tops.

I have always held a love/hate relationship with the Garrburn Pass especially in descent as more times than not the rough ground underfoot usually causes one of my knees to twist and in today's descent, was no exception, my pace had started to slow down as I picked my way over stone and boulder making sure not to twist my knee or ankle which, never really worked.

By the time I reached the bottom of the pass I could feel swelling on the outside of my right knee starting to form as I poked it with my finger and got that 'numb' feeling in return, no other path no matter how rough does this to me other than the Garburn Pass as I start to ponder is this a mind matter, rather than a physical one.

I start to turn negatives back into positives as I reach the bottom of the path as I ponder on years gone by when the Garburn Pass would have been used by school children and parishioners of both Troutbeck and Kentmere on a daily basis which I guess, really put me and my sore knee in place.

Lower Kentmere.

Here, looking back up along the Garburn Pass with Badger Rock seen over the stone wall.

St Cuthberts Church had remained in view for much of my descent as I pass more and more walkers all heading up Garburn Pass most of whom, are dressed in shorts and T-Shirts.

My walk is almost over as all that is needed is the short half mile trot back to Kentmere where fields full of Lambs are starting to gain in weight yet never far away from mums watchful eye.

In the distance as I approach the car parking spaces I hear the rumble of a quad and trailer, but it's too far away to see which direction the sound is coming from as I bend down to un-tie my boot laces which I do so a plume of dust escapes my laces which are then folded inside my boots before I retreat to my north face trainers which kinda act like my slippers, as easing my feet in to them always marks the end of a good day on the fells.

The quad and trailer gets louder and louder when suddenly it rounds a corner as both farmer and walker lock eyes, I smile he smiles and that I guess is where the my day on the Kentmere Horseshoe ended.

Spring time in Kentmere.

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