The Harry Griffin 2,000 footers Walk 15 -The 'Back O' Skiddaw'

6th June 2015

Sitting on the end of your bed at 5:00am in the morning contemplating over a weather forecast is never the best start to a day on the fells but that is exactly how my day started. Said forecast had predicted a mixed day of sunny spells with the odd shower thrown in, however, it wasn't the showers or the visibility that was bothering me it was the gale force winds that were forecasted to reach between 60 - 70 mph across the summits, this wasn't confined to certain parts of the the district, the high winds were forecasted all over the park.

Walking another day would have proved difficult as plans had already been set around the walk which left me sitting there thinking, what should I do? I've walked in strong winds before, I've been knocked of my feet and at one point on Skiddaw, I even linked shoulders with another man, but today I would have to walk for upto five hours in winds like I've never experienced when walking in a straight line was almost impossible and summit time became 'keep your head' time.

I really don't want to harp on just how difficult walking conditions were today but it will get mentioned from time to time as a walk that should have taken me the best part of five hours took me close to seven due to just how much the wind fought back at me, this, a walk that borders, perhaps, on the edge of irresponsible, but on the other end of the spectrum besides being tiring, today's walk opened me up to just how exhilarating the full force of nature can get.

Today's walk would see me collect nine two thousanders in an area of Lakeland thoughtfully known as 'The back O' Skiddaw' a remote but charming place which can escape the crowds even on a Bank Holiday. Today's walk would see me start from The Carrock Fell Mine road before taking on the steep ascent of Carrock Fell, from where I would head to Lakelands most northerly fell in High Pike. Once High Pike had been collected this is where the walk would change to take on my next two summits on Great Lingy Hill before the flank of Knott from where I would pick up both Great and Little Sca Fells, from which a double back on Knott followed by a three mile 'out and back' to collect Coomb Height there after my final and most testing summit can be seen in Great Calva, just a short distance away by eye, but by foot making the summit commands a last push of strength or, even a little help from the wind.

Freeman of the Hills
The 'Back O' Skiddaw'
And I too, had an interesting day, with surprisingly easy going, considering the amount of ground covered no-excitements, but many wonderfully rewarding views of country that is a part of Lakeland but so different from the popular areas. It was pleasant to have revisited these lonely summits at the 'back o' Skiddaw'
Harry Griffin

Ascent: 3,114 Feet - 950 Metres
Summits Over 2,000Ft: Carrock Fell - High Pike - Great Lingy Hill (NY 310 339) - Great Lingy Hill (NY 303 338) - Great Sca Fell - Little Sca Fell - Knott - Coomb Height - Great Calva
Weather: Overcast with sunny intervals, light showers. Gale force winds across the summits. Highs of 13°C Lows of 10°C
Parking: Carrock Fell Mine Road, Mosedale
Area: Northern
Miles: 14.5
Walking With: On My Own
Ordnance Survey: OL4
Time Taken: 6 Hours 30 Minutes
Route: Mosedale - Carrock Fell Mine Road - Round Knott - Carrock Fell - Drygill Head - High Pike (Caldbeck) - Great Lingy Hill - Top of Roughton Gill - Great Sca Fell - Little Sca Fell - Great Sca Fell - Knott - Coomb Height - Top of Wiley Gill - Great Calva - River Caldew - Cumbrian Way - Carrock Fel Mine Road - Mosedale

Map and Photo Gallery


Coomb Height from the Carrock Fell mine road 8:05am 10°C

Instead of parking my car further down the lane I decided to leave it some way back at a lay by set within the flanks of Carrock Fell which left enough space for four cars leaving parking up easy as I neatly reversed my car in to the lay by. Just a short time earlier my fears over the strong winds had been confirmed whilst watching trees sway in an almost violent manner as the wind could now be clearly heard over the noise of the engine. After parking up I opened the car door but not fully just in case the wind took it, which is just what happened whilst at the same time the magic tree hung around my rear view mirror did a loop the loop, dear god, not the best start.

After a few seconds I opened the car door again which thankfully didn't get caught by the wind as I realised I must have been caught by gust moments earlier, I then preceded to kit up behind the car lacing my boots over large boulders that had been placed there to stop people reversing back too far, nevertheless, the boulders acted as my wardrobe that morning.

The sky was bright with hints of blue between scurrying cloud that fleeted across the sky, down here at valley level the temperature is chilly as I add a pair of light gloves followed by a baseball cap whose peak would help to keep the wind out of my eyes, and more importantly, from streaming.

With my kit ready and pack shouldered I lock the car and head out past Round House, a large and wealthily looking farm stead set within the Mosedale Valley. Here the lane narrows but is still good underfoot for car or hiker, ahead I can hear the River Caldew well before I can see it as the sun catches its surface leaving glistening spots of sunlight from afar.

Coomb Height from Carrock Mine Road.

I hadn't been walking long when it became more apparant just how strong the gusts were even here at valley level. Ahead Coomb Height dommineers the skyline as I mentally prepare on the task ahead, Coomb Height would be my eighth summit yet here I am looking right at it from less than half a mile away.

I take on the Mine Road as far as a locked metal barrier, ahead Great Lingy Hut can be seen on the skyline under dark and brooding skies as I look right and spot a faint path through new bracken which steadily climbs the steep fell side towards Round Knott, the true summit of Carrock Fell is still way out of sight but I use Round Knott as a target to aim for.

Looking down on Coomb Height and Carrock Fell Mine from the steep climb.
Only twenty or so minutes had passed by the time I reached the long and undulating shoulder of Carrock Fell when the cloud thickened over head and spots of rain helped along by the strong winds started to pelt at my jacket, this would be a regular occurrence throughout the morning. My path had suddenly deteriorated into nothing as I pass over a short stretch of boulder but soon pick up another path up further ahead.

Round Knott can be seen as the highest point on the skyline.
For now the strong winds are behind me and are helping me in my ascent, at some point or another it is inevitable that I am going to have to use my hood to stop my cap from being blown away, but for now, it's holding fine although for how long I dont know.

Passing the ruined sheep pens along the ascent.

Carrock Fell summit cairn.

Instead of gaining the summit ridge I lie below it summiting only at the last point, I don't know why I did this but looking back, subconsciously I think it had to do with keeping out of the strengthening winds.

In doing so I allow time to explore the remains of the Iron Age Hill fort thought to have been built by the Celts and destroyed by the Romans in their conquest for Northern England, all that remains to this day are the foundations of the old walls which can still be clearly seen. Summit time came as a shock as reaching the cairn from the Fort was done in sways and surges not helped by the powerful gust that hindered those last few metres, before reaching the cairn I take 'time out' in the stone shelter if only to accustom myself to the high winds. It is here the dreadful thought occurs to me if this walk is ever going to be completed at all.

Looking back on Carrock Fell.

Summit time was kept to a minimum as I round the highest point before dropping down into the Gale Force winds, again I am taken back by the full strength of the wind that is forcing me sideways. My path is off to my left as I seek shelter behind a large boulder only having to compose myself like a dog bitten behind the comforts of the boulder.


I have an overwhelming sensation of feeling trapped for a fleeting second, as I realise I must drop down in order to get out the wind, by now my hood is up and fastened down over my baseball cap so tight it feels uncomfortable but nonetheless, secure.

With a rat a tat tat - rat a tat tat I head off onto the ridge my hood still flapping like a machine gun burst after burst after burst. I don't look back, I don't look forward I look down and just keep walking until I am low enough to feel the comfort of being on the ridge and off the summit. These were the strongest winds I have ever encountered, but I will encounter more, and stronger.

I soon found myself able to look up without being confronted by the full force of the wind, I tell myself that the full strength of the winds must be confined to the summit areas of which, I have nine to visit during today's walk, that's one down, and eight to go.

Passing Round Knott.

As dramatics looking back on Carrock Fell.

High Pike over Drygill Head.

The lonely summit of Miton Hill which although is included in today's route, isn't classed as a two thousander falling short by a mere 30 ft. Ahead High Pike, but first I cross the top of Drygill Head as the wind eases down to a point where I can start to think straight, here's my Gale Force reckonings...

Drygill Head... a sure point to find myself out of the strongest of the winds.

High Pike...a sure repeat of Carrock Fell.

Great Lingy Hill...surrounded by higher peaks therefore must be less challenging than that of Carrock Fell and High Pike.

Great Sca Fell and Little Sca Fell...nothing to shield these two summits, get ready for a repeat of Carrock Fell.

Knott...will knock me out.

Coomb Height...not sure about this one, will come to a head as two valleys converge here.

Great I have to?

Ok, so now you can see what was going on in my head as I walked over Drygill Head, it clearly states my meteorological findings verses summit times, with this I talk myself out of returning to the car early and preserver with my second two thousander of the day in High Pike.

High Pike summit.
Having crossed Drygill Head without incident I make the summit of High Pike in good stead again, helped along with by a 'side on' wind that saw me reach the summit within no time at all, however, the wind here was phenomenal and the pure concept of standing up straight was difficult no matter how far apart I held my legs as this photo demonstrates I had no option than to kneel down all the while witnessing the stone seat 'wobbling' as the wind took hold of it, even so, I still managed to take a few photos of the memorial plates who's simple statement says it all.


Knott, Great Sca Fell and Yard Street.

I was blessed with brain freeze during my descent from High Pike gaining comfort from the path from where I head towards Lingy Hut and the two summits found on Great Lingy Hill, and thankfully as predicted, out of the worst of the winds.

Over head cloud thickens leaving the hill side grasses and heather in pales of brown and in total lack of contrast. Ahead shaded in dark brown heather Great Lingy awaits as I cross pathless to make my third summit of the morning.

High Pike from Great Lingy Hill (NY 310 339)
Great Lingy Hill is soon reached as I am left at the mercy of the wind again, thankfully not as strong as my previous two summits, but buffered nonetheless. Just west of Great Lingy Hill summit is the Great Lingy Hill subsidiary summit which is where I'm heading next as I trace my way via a narrow path that dips between the two summits.

Yard Street from Great Lingy Hill subsiduary summit (NY 303 338)
The subsiduary summit of Great Lingy Hill is where the walk changes in character as now I have to find my way onto Great Sca Fell by means of Roughton Gill. Back when Harry Griffin did this route Harry went onto to explore the mines and shafts found within Roughton Gill before clambering back onto Great Sca Fell.

Peering into Roughton Gill from Great Lingy Hill subsiduary summit.
As you can see Roughton Gill is steeply flanked on both sides, it wasn't Harry's intention to visit the mines during his visit to 'The Back O' Skiddaw' fells, it was just something he engaged in during his visit here, my own intentions were also to navigate Balliway Rigg seen in the left of the photo before heading up steeply back onto Great Sca Fell, however, seeing as my conditions are less than perfect I choose to navigate Roughton Gill by keeping as high as possible sweeping from left to right, where if the terrain will allow, I should find myself close to Great Sca Fell summit on the other side of Roughton Gill.

With Balliway Rigg on the left, and Great Lingy Hill on the right.
I pick up a faint single path, most possibly a sheep trod after leaving Great Lingy Hill which navigated around the head of Roughton Gill crossing stream beds and a one point, stumbling over a surprise waterfall. This was hard work as the terrain was hummocky making covering ground very slow indeed.

High Pike and Carrock Fell seen from Great Sca Fell summit cairn.
I top out very close to the summit of Yard Street, in fact, I almost mistake its cairn for Great Sca Fell until I spot Little Sca Fell and its shelter close by. Here I am confronted by more strong winds making once again, standing up very difficult, below Great Ska Fell a short drop and a 'out and back' would see me back here which in normal conditions should take no more than ten minutes or so.

Little Ska Fell from Great Ska Fell.
The winds found at the col between both summits were by far the strongest I had encountered during the walk, taking on the easiest of summits with the walk became such a struggle I found it hard to retain momentum as the wind threw me sideways leaving my arms trailing like battered sails on a sinking ship, I wasn't in good shape here at all, much worse, I had to do it twice.

Down time before the next fight, here at Little Sca Fell summit shelter.
The short return leg was as predicted fraught with difficulties the wind so powerful it has now started to take my breath away leaving me gasping for air and, nursing a stitch on the right side of my body. My jacket feels like it's being torn away from me yet as I make the second return summit the gust eases and I am able to get my breath back, and once again, compose myself.

Knott from Great Ska Fell (return leg)

As mentioned earlier my 'out and back' should have only taken around ten minutes, instead the winds slowed my progress down to twenty six minutes which included three minutes downtime at Little Ska Fell summit shelter.

if it seems like I'm not enjoying my walk, far from it, despite the winds over the summits and col's this is actually great walking territory, I press on to Knott.

High Pike and Carrock Fell from Knott summit.

With the summit of Knott complete I take time to have a look around as it seems the wind 'momentarily' has eased, from my post I can spot two walkers on High Pike summit as I wonder are they experiencing the same as I had just a few hours earlier, behind me I also spot movement on the distant summit of Longlands as it seems it isn't just me who isn't put off (all though can moan for England about) a little wind!

Surprisingly enough it wasn't the wind that had slowed my progress on Knott but the pure quagmire found on its north ascent creating longer than long diversions in order to reach the summit, all this in the middle of summer...who'd of thought eh.

Next came the 'out and back' to Coomb Height.
I wasnt quite sure how the wind would deal with my 'out and back' from the Knott to Coomb Height, as it turned out I had the wind on my back helping me with my progress, this however has a knock on effect on the return leg where thankfully, I wont be summiting the Knott once again, but using its flank in order to gain the top of Wiley Gill Col, but all that's miles away yet.

Carrock Fell and Bowscale Pike from Coomb Height.
From the summit of Coomb Height I was less than half a mile away from my car, now there's a morale boost if I ever needed one! At least the sun has come out as I leave Coomb Height not before a solitary tap from my hand before turning around confronted by a face full of wind.

Lonscale Pike and the Skiddaw fell silhouette against my last summit of the day, Great Calva.

The sun is out yet the brooding skies remain, here looking over Great Calva, Mungrisdale Common and Blencathra.

Great Calva as sunlight sweeps across its flanks.
Gaining Coomb Height felt like the one and half miles it was, sometimes when walking towards a summit you don't notice the mileage for what ever reason, sadly this wasn't my experience today as legs started to pull and thighs started to ache, I can only assume this has been brought on through fighting with the invisible, nonetheless, I needed downtime.

Great Calva from Red Gill.

After leaving a faint path bound back towards Knott summit I veered off path once again in order to gain the Col between Knott and Great Calva, as far as I'm aware this col doesn't have a name but I always refer to it as the Top of Wiley Gill.

It was hard work once more tracing over grassy hummocks more so with tired legs, ahead the top of Wiley Gill was just a short distance away as I cross one of two Gills that flank Knott southern fell side, it is here I de-shoulder and eat lunch.

The sun had been out for the best part of mid morning and despite the high winds it looked like it was here to stay making my downtime very pleasant indeed. To the side of me Lambs bleat away as I tuck into my sandwiches washed down by fruit juice, within the comforts of Red Gill as the wind blows a hooley inches above my head this was one of those moments when time stood still for a moment.

It was no use though, Great Calva wasn't going to climb itself as I rear up and re-shoulder under the brightness of an afternoon sun - I press on over making a pathless descent onto the col separating my last two summits.

Great Calva summit cairn.

Having gained the col I start to make my ascent on Great Calva right about the same time the sun disappears behind a wall of grey cloud, the wind is back and back with a vengeance as I guess 'I wouldn't have expected anything less' morale dips but I press on step by step over bog that slows my progress to an almost crawl, up ahead through streaming eyes the summit beckons, I thought I spotted two walkers on the summit but this turns out to be part of the fence as I wipe my eyes with my glove leaving them feeling a little raw.

I keep with the fence during my ascent although a path alters to my left I trudge up whilst once at the summit the gales of all gales awaits me.

The wind is far superior than that of anything I had already experienced as I place my walking poles down standing on them as I take one of two photographs. My camera is placed back in its case leaving my arms empty as the gust strengthens leaving my arms doing figure eights by themselves, a surreal feeling of falling enters my head as I carefully kneel down to pick my walking poles back up.

Just south of the summit lies a large cairn as I make my way towards it, it appears I am on the wrong side of the wire fence which ends at a wooden post, here I climb over while the tremendous howl of a full on gale force wind buffers at my body, the worst of the wind had to wait for the last summit, which is just what it did.

'The Trough' all the way through to Thirlmere.

Having scaled the fence I drop off the summit by the wire fence, behind me a memory of the loudest wind I have ever heard is forging that I'm sure will stay with me for life.

I lose more height quickly as my senses start to come back to me in just a matter of minutes, I glance back at the summit, the sound of the wind has gone and right now I am again feeling quite surreal in how the wind has dealt with me today. Further down the path I spot the lower reaches of Wiley Gill before it merges with the Caldew, sunlight has now illuminated vast sections of Knott leaving the summit looking much more friendly than it did just an hour earlier.

My descent provides me with enough time to start to feel right again, in this I never realised that both my knees had swollen during the days events, and my hips had taken a beating too, it seems I never realised how my body was coping with the winds until It was out of them, now, my body was assessing itself and the verdict was a little rough, the remedy of which can be applied by walking a short section of the Cumbrian Way on route back to the car.

Knott from Wiley Gill.

Here, looking back on Great Galva from one of the circular Sheep Folds found in the area.
The couple seen close to the Sheep Fold were the first walkers I'd seen all day, I expected a little conversation but only received a smile.

Lonscale Fell seen over a section of moorland known as Skiddaw Forest.
Incidently, that's Mungrisdale Common seen in the left of the photo.

Carrock Fell and Bowscale Fell north ridge enjoys a splash of sun, seen as I walk a section of the Cumbrian Way.
The walk back via the Cumbrian Way provided the refection time that was needed after such a walk. On paper this walk looked to be quite pleasant walk yet despite the harsh winds I still found this walk ranking high amongst the most ardous within the campaign, a sure highlight was the traverse over Roughen Gill and the climb onto Great Sca Fell, a route that I would never normally have taken.

Looking back on Skiddaw Lesser and Little Man from the Cumbrian Way.

Carrock Fell and the River Caldew.
With my walk almost coming to an end I pass beneath Coomb Height whilst at the same time mapping out my route onto Carrock Fell hours earlier while below me the River Caldew accompanies my last mile before reaching the car.

Carrock Fell from Carrock Fell Mine Road.
My car is parked just a short distance away as I take in the last half mile with the comfort of good ground underfoot, behind me Great Lingy Hill and Coomb Height start to become distant memories of yet another fantastic day on the fells, as for the wind, well that's a good question, just what exactly didn't you gain after a walk as good as todays.

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