The Harry Griffin 2,000 footers Walk 20 -The Skiddaw Massif

14th July 2015

It's only been two days since my last walk and I can still feel those aching muscles returning to normal, I guess after todays walk which collects six two thousand footers in a rather spectacular fashion on the Skiddaw Fells my muscles again, will return to the only state they know.

It's only been six months since my last visit to Skiddaw and back then all the routes for all twenty seven walks were lying in waiting for Spring to arrive. It's only now that those drafts start to become a reality, more so as I approach the last chapter of my campaign.

Todays walk on the Skiddaw Massif collects six summits over two thousand feet starting from Gale Road, from where Lonscale Fell will be summated via Skiddaw's old tourist route before flanking east to collect Lonscale Fell after which a gentle but steady ascent will see me take on Jenkin Hill before continuing to collect the second summit of the day with Skiddaw Lesser Man, thereafter the walk takes on the traverse of Broad End from where the two summits of Carl Side and Long Side are collected.

Next, is to take on the mass of Skiddaw via the narrow yet steep track starting at the Carl Side Col whereafter the short trek over the summit plateau, Skiddaw will be collected. Next the final summit of the walk will see me descend due east and collect Sale How before further descent on Skiddaw House before returning back to Gale Road via the Glenderaterra Valley.
Freeman of the Hills
'The Skiddaw Massif'
Most people going over Skiddaw avoid Little Man and thereby fail to see one of the most remarkable views in Lakeland-indeed, Alfred Wainwright, the guidebook writer, seems to regard this as the best view of the heart of the district, and he could be right.
Harry Griffin

Ascent: 3,126 Feet - 953 Meters
Summits Over 2,000Ft: 6, Lonscale Fell - Skiddaw Little Man - Carl Side - Long Side - Skiddaw - Sale How
Weather: Overcast with hill fog to start, gust across the summits, turning brighter in the afternoon. Highs of 19°C Lows of 13°C
Parking: Car Park, top of Gale Road
Area: Northern
Miles: 11.2
Walking With: On My Own
Ordnance Survey: OL5
Time Taken: 5 Hours 25 Minutes
Route: Gale Road - Hawell Monument - Lonscale Fell - Jenkin Hill - Skiddaw Lesser Man - Skiddaw Little Man - Broad End - Carl Side - Long Side - Skiddaw - Sale How - Skiddaw House - Cumbrian Way - Glenderaterra Valley - Whit Beck - Gale Road

Map and Photo Gallery


Clough Head and Great Dodd from the Hawell Monument 8:25am 13°C

Wednesday's forecast was much better than Tuesday but I had plans and went with todays forecast which predicted an 80% chance of cloud free summits, this, is the kind of green light all fell walkers like to read but I guess they can't get it right all of the time as the summits in almost every direction were still under cloud come midday.

Todays walk starts, or as Harry quotes, cheats from the top of Gale Road, that's as close to the foot of Skiddaw as your going to get. I didn't expect half as many cars on the car park as I saw the moment I pulled up, having been any later the chances are I would have to park the car in a hedge somewhere back along the road. Beside me a fellow walker is kiting up, we share a morning but that is it, a little awkward but I instantly got the message he didn't want a chat. After passing through Scales I could now see the enormity of the cloud cover, inversion is probably the wrong word to use as the cloud lingered around the lower slopes of just about every fell in site, it was also lifting quite quickly too despite how dreary the light was.

From the car park Skiddaw was starting to look busy as I spotted walkers taking on the steep path, some of which were large groups who I would later pass. A bench came in handy enabling me to kit up 'off ground' which was still wet and muddy, with the car locked I shouldered a heavy pack, this being confirmed by the thud my back received, the reason for this is I'm carrying close to four litres of Hydration and half a dozen Satsuma's along with its everyday contents.

The guy next to me locked his car much the same time as I did and I waited at the gate holding it until he passed through 'thanks' I guess this guy is just the quiet type. I quickly gained some ground arriving at the Hawel Monument from where I could just see the guy heading down towards Whit Beck, mmm...chances are he's heading for Lonscale Fell too I thowt.

After a few photos taking in the dismal light headed off along the track from where the terribly steep ascent on Skiddaw starts, ahead a couple and groups make their ascents, stopping to catch their breaths back, no doubt, I'll soon be joining them.

Views over Keswick, Derwent Water and a selection of North Western Fells from my ascent.

I hit the path hard, probably too hard firstly overtaking a couple who I had seen from the car park who admittedly, had stopped to rest more than once, ahead two large groups which had possibly split into two disappear over the zigzagged path. By now sweat is streaming down my forehead creeping into my eyes, generous swipes from my sleeve relieve this a I stop to take out my baseball cap from my pack which should help - but really doesn't as all it does now is stop the heat escaping from my head!

I peservere with the steep ascent gaining ground quickly on the two large groups ahead, soon I will head off path to take on the heights of Whit Beck but for now, I need to get around the groups. It turns out the groups are Duke of Edinburgh students some of whom are struggling with both the steep path and the humidity, the one thing that I did observe though was how the group waited on the slowest members who were held up at the back which I thought was a good tactic, once I arrived I passed on 'you all ok' followed by a morning, in return I received separate mornings from the group members, including the tired ones, it would seem the adopted leader of the group 'a young man' around 15 yrs old took charge of the group who by now was exciting encouragement into the slower members which I thought showed good leadership skills. All of this was a fleeting observation but I guess you know what I mean.

Ahead, it was time to leave the path where the gradient lessens somewhat as I flank Whit Beck bound for Lonscale Fell.

Heading for the depression in-between Jenkin Hill and Lonscale Fell, with Whit Beck seen centre.
So, I guess you have all heard of the Mask of Turin? well my midlayer now has the Mask of Paul down the front of it complete with forehead, eye sockets, nose and cheekbones...dear god it was muggy!

Looking back as it appears the cloud is about to come in.

After taking on the grassy path besides Whit Beck which provided my lungs with a little respite I continued towards the col from where I hopped over the fence via the carefully placed stones provided, thereafter, it's just a short steady climb to reach Lonscale Fell.

In this photo you can just see the last two members of the group over in the right of the photo.

Skiddaw, Skiddaw Lesser and Little Man from Lonscale Fell summit cairn.
I had arrived at Lonscale Fell within an hour of leaving the car by which time a welcome cool breeze had developed across the summits causing the sweat on my face to feel instantly cold, another wipe from the sleeve again resolves this. Ahead Skiddaw Lesser and Little Man who by now are about to get topped out by cloud, such the sporadic way in which the cloud was behaving this morning it never occurred to me just yet that these maybe my last views for a while.

Skiddaw Lesser, and Little Man over Jenkin Hill.

Worried is probably the wrong word I would use, but concerned that I may have to traverse Skiddaw's Broad End in thick cloud started to creep up on me whilst watching the cloud roll in, the type of which was thick and heavy, my view north over the 'Back O'Skiddaw looked worse as Great Calva and Bakestall were by now under thick white cloud.

Observe and evaluate.

Blencathra from Lonscale Fell.
Whose summit was completely cloud free when I drove past just over an hour ago and is now succumbing to the cloud.

Leaving Lonscale Fell for Jenkin Hill.

My time spent at Lonscale Fell summit was very atmospheric to say the least, but it had started to turn cold which caused me to roll the sleeves down on my midlayer. Ahead Jenkin Hill with Lesser Man and Little Man beyond, this is easy walking territory which creates space to free the mind.

I re-track my route back to the col where I hop over the fence again, further across however I discover the middle section very wet and boggy causing me to divert a little before taking on the steady climb to reach Jenkin Hill.

Here, looking back on Lonscale Fell close from Jenkin Hill.

Close to Jenkin Hill summit.

By the time I had topped out on Jenkin Hill the cloud was lying just feet off the ground, I had watched it stroll in steadily over the course of just a few minutes which didn't give me much confidence on how quickly it might lift again.

By the time I had passed the summit cairn of Jenkin Hill my visibility had gone from thirty metres to just five. I knew I was only half an hour away from Broad End at most as my confidence in the traverse started to fluctuate.

I could here voices confirming I was close to the Skiddaw's summit path, what I didn't expect was how close they were as I met up with the Duke of Edinburgh students once again who had stopped to add layers, for anyone including myself walking in thick hill fog can be an intimidating thing so I casually asked were they ok, only two nodded this time, who didn't, just smiled less encouraging than that of less than half an hour ago, Sure I ask? I look to the leader who looks calm and has things under control, ok guys I say, I might see you at the summit, take care and have a good day.

Skiddaw Little Man is to be my second two thousander of the day, to gain its summit I have two choices, one is to flank Lesser Man or to summit both, which was my preferred choice. The path is steep but after a steady ascent I soon arrive at Lesser Man.

Skiddaw Lesser Man.

Having topped out on Lesser Man it became quickly apparent that the cloud was here to say, not even a snippet of Derwent Water just visibilty which was down to around twenty feet.

It was notably cooler at the summit of Lesser Man, that cool wind had a chill to it which by now was biting at my hands, it was now time to de-shoulder out of the wind and add my jacket. I soon found what appeared to be a make-shift shelter behind the cairn which I had never noticed before, either way it provided enough shelter from the prevailing winds for me to comfortably add my jacket.

With Lesser Man summited (not collected as a two thousander) I head off for Little Man.

Skiddaw Little Man.
Skiddaw Little Man was soon reached and with no change in visibility I had to question my next move in that is it really worth it to first locate Broad End, and safely traverse it in such conditions.

Arrving at the col betwen Little Man and Skiddaw.

If a photo could tell a thousand thoughts then this would be it. Mentally I knew exactly where I was but the cloud was so think I had to put my own safety first, I mean is it really worth it just to stick to a route? my gut answer to this was yes, and for me, should I have had to second think my decision then I probably wouldn't have gone with it.

Locating Broad End was relatively easy, even with my GPS as I followed the ridge blind to a point where I knew it started to rise, by now I was completely off path as the ground underfoot had started to change from grass to sporadic stone, then complete stone and slate which confirmed my location on Broad End. During the week I had prepared for such and had pre-mapped my traverse across which measured no less than half a mile which came to me as a bit of a shock.

Broad End.
After leaving the familiar grassy col behind me scenery, or lack of it, drastically changes underfoot. In this photo I am seen heading across Broad End while at the same time trying my best to maintain the same level of height during the course of the traverse, which was made more difficult while having no object to fix upon.

Looking back towards the col, and what would be Skiddaw Little Man.

When Harry wrote about his own crossing of Broad End he too had to navigate by compass, he also stated that the ground was reliably firm and not what he had expected, my experience however was different, more so on the 'Little Man' side of Broad End who's slate was more scattered which didn't really leave confidence in footings, instead I tracked my way across by using any firm ground that I could find, here the soil was untouched and fell away easily once I had put my foot into it, this causing the smell of soil which isn't just pungent, but a reminder that not many people walk here, but, I was pleased I could 'find a line' and maintain it too.

What happened next was truly uplifting in so many ways.

The cloud clears momenterily.
This was a fantastic moment but more importantantly I was able to see my course, the cloud parting couldn't have come at a better time and relieved any remaining doubts, from here on in I am able to enjoy the crossing, more so as the cloud started to lift all around me.

The views down weren't bad either.

Through the cloud the vale of Keswick and Derwent Water appears.

Carl Side and Carlside Tarn as I near the end of my Broad End Traverse.

This was exactly the point where I wanted to exit Broad End by, and sure enough the 'Carl Side' of Broad Side was made up of fixed slate that didn't move when walking over it although this may differ when wet. I was pleased in that I didn't have to second guess Harry's remarks about how fixed the slate felt, had the traverse been the same as it was from the Little Man side I may well have done, but the Carl Side part of it, Harry had got it spot on.

I use the sheep (stupid I know because they move) as a fixed object on which to aim for, my only hope was that the sheep that I had fixed on were feeling lazy today, turns out he/she was, only scurrying away once I approached it, good job that sheep!

Before heading down onto Carlside Tarn I had spotted two large groups taking a rest, they all re shouldered as I approached the col which left me to have Carl Side summit to myself., not before passing Carlside Tarn that is.

Passing Carlside Tarn.

Carl Side summit cairn.

The wind had died down by the time I reached Carl Side which let me feeling muggy again, with this I walk over to the south side of the summit where I peer over my trodden ground, it's no use though the cloud has regrouped and I can't see a thing. I de shoulder and take out two Satsuma's before peeling them both watching the cloud circulate and cling to Broad End and indeed Skiddaw Little Man.

Behind me the fourth two thousander of the day in Long Side, to gain its summit should only take me ten minutes as I head out through drifting cloud.

Long Side as cloud approaches from Southerndale.

Long Side summit.
I arrive at the summit of Long Side just in time to witness the cloud that had moved in Southerdale meet the cloud that was coming in from Bassenthwaite, within moments my view will be gone, but what a way to see it go.

Looking back across the Ullock Pike ridge.

A spectacular way to lose my view.

Heading up to Skiddaw.

After losing visibility on Long Side I walked my way back to Carlside Tarn where I picked up the steep path bound for Skiddaw summit, through the cloud I spot a group shouldering the summit followed by a fell runner who passed me on Long Side summit, the break in the cloud was welcome but as always, this path is unforgiveably steep.

Soon I am passed by the fell runner on his way down, we momentarily pass on our 'al rights' but I guess the both of us had the ascent/descent in mind. Ahead a large cairn confirms I am close to the top which is right at the point my legs run out of steam. Nevertheless I persevere not slowing down until I am on the summit plateau.

Through the mist another fell runner appears, we pass on our 'hellos' before he disappears off into the mist again, it's just a short trek before the cairn is reached yet all I can think about is my return off the summit as now the cold is starting to bite at my hands again.

Skiddaw summit trig point.

Passing the large shelter before making my way off the summit.

It was close to lunch time and had it been a little more pleasant up here I would have downed pack and eaten lunch at the summit shelter, but Skiddaw just wouldn't have it.

Summit time was spent taking just the two photos before a solitary tap from my left hand on the trig column. It was as if winter had returned as the wind howled leaving my legs feeling raw and red. Before leaving the summit completely I am joined by a mother and daughter who ask how far? we have a brief chat as she points at my camera 'not much use up here she smiles' aye I know, it might brighten up later I reply. Once of the summit I start my descent towards Little Man once more, where my views start to open up.

Skiddaw Little Man as the cloud starts to lift.

Skiddaw Little Man now cloud free.

It wasn't just me who stood here to watch the cloud break, most walkers on their ascents stopped too, my reason differed than theirs as I was mapping my earlier route onto Broad End, I remember clearly walking past the puddle then veering left (my left) to where you see the stone and grass converge.

I follow the fence close to where you see the two walkers, from here I pass through a wooden gate with views of my final two thousander of the day in Sale How.

Still not eaten yet...

Cloud topped Great Calva with distant views of Carrock Fell and Sale How seen in the foreground.

Descent on Sale How.
Having passed two walkers and witnessing a further two more leave Sale How for a rather intrepid descent and reascent on Lonscale Fell I walk with ease down to my final summit which is now blessed in warm sunshine, a great spot to eat lunch.

Cloudless Skiddaw seen from Sale How summit.
In the time it had taken me to descend Skiddaw and arrive at Sale How the cloud had completely lifted revealing Skiddaw's summit looking much more appetizing than that of just half an hour ago, beyond little dots are seen walking across the summit as I think just typical! Never mind I now have the pleasure of eating garage forecourt BLT sandwiches with a Snickers bar for afters.

Cloud free Great Calva, Knott, Coomb Height and Carrock Fell seen from my lunch spot on Sale How.
Which all brought back some very windy memories from last month. My walk is far from over but it is still early so there's no need to rush back, ahead I will skirt around Skiddaw House before taking on the Glenderaterra Valley.

Skiddaw House.
More groups of Duke of Edinburgh students are passed who block the path in front of Skiddaw House, they seem much younger than the group I passed on my ascent on Skiddaw earlier and are deep in conversation as I silently walk by. Ahead of me a guy with a Golden Labrador crosses Sale How Beck, which is where I'm heading for next.

Lonscale Crags/Lonscale Fell.
After crossing Sale How Beck via the narrow foot bridge I enter the Glenderaterra Valley, here you can see where my path flanks below Lonscale Crags on the right, it doesn't look it from here but the path is still at around twelve hundred feet above sea level.

The Dodds and High Rigg seen from the Glenderaterra Valley.

Walla Crag, Derwent Water and Cat Bells seen with a host of North Western fells.
Having passed the walker with the Labrador and a couple the woman of which was just wearing sandals on her feet I arrive at the wooden gate at the base of Lonscale Crags ridge, Whit Beck is just a short stroll away as is Gale Road car park. The cloud has lifted but there is still a low light murk in the air hazing any long distant views.

Tree felling on Latrigg.
The sound of the tree felling equipment could be heard well before it could be seen drowning out the traffic noise from the A66 At this point the hamlet of Lonscale (out of shot lower left) must be quite disgruntled at not just having this noisy machinery on its doorstep but losing its woodland view too.

Approaching Whit Beck.
Still, walkers are heading up and down the fell as it now approaches 2pm. This morning I had followed the path before veering right close to the top in order to reach the col between Lonscale Fell and Jenkin Hill.

Crossing Whit Beck.
Time to give the boots a swill.

Meanwhile back at Gale Road.

The Loggers had piled the felled logs in four large rows just outside the car park. Here the local sheep graze and aren't phased by the noisy machinery. A young family pushes a toddler on the path leading to Latrigg summit, before the toddler decides that she wants to push the pram instead. Families run for cover!

The car park is bustling with doubled parked cars and mini buses leaving hardly any room for manoeuvre which kind of brings my walk to a sudden end. Behind me as I glance back over Lonscale Fell before passing through the final gate I spot the walker who I had passed with his Labrador, he is sitting down taking in the views over Keswick as I am reminded of the world we live in where everyone seems to be in a rush to get somewhere, even as a fell walker I am guilty of it, but maybe once in a while stop for a few moments and pay the walk the reflection time it deserves.

Until next time.


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