A Riggindale Round from Mardale Head

27th December 2016

December is a busy month for everyone what with office parties, Christmas shopping and of course the big day itself which has seen me off the fells for the best part of three weeks, which is possibly the longest time I've been away during the last twelve months and because of this I've developed an eager appetite to get boot back onto fell.

Then came Barbara and Connor which brought storm force winds across Scotland and Northern England which saw gusts reach up to 90 mph across the summits despite at times it being dry and sunny this was enough to keep the keenest of fell walkers at home especially when one knows what it feels like to be 'airborne' in 50mph winds, aye, best not to chance it.

Only as early as yesterday afternoon I seemed to have developed a head cold which caused my chest to tighten up along with wheezing when I breathed, this of course would have had an affect on todays walk which would initially see me collect seven Wainwrights summits and not the five that I had no choice to settle for, nevertheless todays walk was worth the extra effort even as I type this my symptoms have developed into the dreaded man flu.

Man down.

Wainwright Guide Book Two
The Far Eastern Fells

-High Street

The ridge of Rough Crag and the rocky stairway of Long Stile together form the connoisseurs route up High Street, the only route that discloses the finer characteristics of the fell.


Ascent: 2,843 Feet - 867 Metres
Wainwrights: 5, High Street - The Knott - Rampsgill Head - High Raise - Kidsty Pike
Weather: Overcast With Some Sunny Spells. Gust Over Exposed Summits With Significant Windchill. Highs of 5°C Lows of 2°C
Parking: Car Park, Mardale Head, Haweswater
Area: Far Eastern
Miles: 8.1
Walking With: On My Own
Ordnance Survey: OL5
Time Taken: 4 Hours 40 Minutes
Route: Mardale Head - Rough Crag - Caspel Gate Tarn - Long Stile - High Street - Straights of Riggindale - The Knott - Rampsgill Head - High Raise - Kidsty Pike - Kidsty Howes - Riggindale Beck - The Rigg - Mardale Head

Map and Photo Gallery


Dawn over The Rigg, Rough Crag, Mardale III Bell, High Street and Kidsty Pike. 2°C 08:45am

There was no way I was going to let a cold get in the way of todays walk, especially having not walked for the best part of three weeks so with a heavy head I packed a small medikit which comprised of cough syrup and throat lozenges together with paracetamol, ok I might be dramatising my symptoms but that's what us blokes do isn't it? The previous evening I had downloaded 'Audible' which is an App by Amazon which, after forking out £7.99 lets you download your favourite books and lets you listen to them via a mobile device, in my case my phone which I played through my cars Bluetooth, it's something that I've always wanted but just never got round to doing and well, seeing as it's Christmas. Plus it beats the drivel on the radio.

This morning I downloaded myself to 'Scott' written and narrated by Sir Ranulph Fiennes, a book that I have read many times but sadly, there just doesn't seem to be enough hours in the day to read books at length anymore, what I do have however is plenty of time sat in traffic or indeed travelling to and from work or indeed Lakeland which is why the audible books suited me perfectly, the travel time this morning just flew by and before I knew it dawn had broken and I was driving past Haweswater Dam.

I had stopped (as I always do) to take a few pictures from Mardale Road and I was able to leave the engine running as I paced up and down the tarmac undisturbed just as the morning light took hold, the forecasters had predicted a bright morning and during my drive up I was hoping for that pink afterglow which would glaze the fell side during those 'few special moments' that only a clear Winter's morning would bring, ok, I didn't quite get my wish, what really put a smile on my face though was that the summits were clear, and there was promise in the skies above.

Views towards Mardale Head, Harter Fell (Mardale) and Mardale III Bell.

Dawn was still breaking leaving a rather low light but as previously mentioned I could see chinks of blue behind the high white cloud. I had only been away from the car, perhaps ten minutes or so and the worrying thing which couldn't escape me was just how tight my chest had started to feel as I walked up and down the road, my lungs breathed the cold morning air and I was instantly reminded of how restrained I was already feeling, this wasn't a good sign especially as I still hadn't laced up my walking boots.

Feeling strong willed (often mistaken for stubbornness in my case) I put my ailment to the back of mind, after all, it's been two weeks and here I'm facing my favourite Lakeland Fell.


Looking back on Mardale Head and Harter Fell (Mardale) as I head towards The Rigg.

By the time I actually parked my car another car had already passed while I was taking photographs, I get a wave from both driver and passenger and another 'morning' from across the car park. Besides the two cars one other car had already parked up but I wasn't sure if its owner had spent a night on the fells or had simply arrived well before me. It feels mild but I add hat and gloves anyway in preparation of how quickly the temperature will drop once height is gained. By now the owners of the other car are doing stretching exercises by holding their arms aloft and kicking their hands with their toes, it looked slightly amusing but there's now't funny about doing warm ups pre walk, I only wish I had before I injured my foot during the Summer when I distinctly remember my Doctor asking me did I warm up before I walk?...yep we all know the answer to that, just ask my right foot.

Despite feeling keen to get boot onto fell I made sure that everything was packed and at hand, before I locked my car I took a swig from my cough syrup then counted half a dozen throat lozenges into my right pocket, one an hour I reckoned and one for spare, leaving the rest of the packet in the lid of my pack. With Gaiters added I picked up my Montane Sabretooth jacket which suited todays forecast rather than a full on waterproof jacket but I had to put it back after realising that the last time I wore it I told myself that it needed a good wash, and several times before that if I recall.

With my Rab waterproof added I locked the car and headed towards the wooden gate whose spring creaked when I opened it. With the gate behind me I stride out by following the stone wall along the southern tip of Haweswater, its surface rippled which reflected a light wind. As I think back this was the time I used to mentally prepare as my chest once more, felt vice like.

I had to start thinking positive so I blamed the tight chest and sore throat on the mince pies.

Views over Speaking Crag, Castle Crag Fort, Measand End, Four Stone Hill and Wallow Crag from the ascent of Swine Crag.

I'm not quite sure why I detoured and took the path just prior to reaching The Rigg but I did, a path that is steep and direct and lacks in views with the exception that once the top of the path is reached you mustn't forget to track back a little from where you get this one great view over Haweswater.

Well, at least that 'freed up' the lungs.

Distant views over Small Water towards the top of Nan Bield Pass.

With a little more height gained views stretch out towards a hazy Pennines.

Morale was most certainly boosted once my chest started to feel less tight the more work I gave it and with the best part of the hard ascent behind me I was able to enjoy the semi frozen ground underfoot as I took in the delights of Heron and Eagle Crag(s) from where pockets of hail had gathered alongside any standing frozen water all the while sunlight started to streak through large gaps in the clouds which left 'angels torches' over the top of Gatescarth Pass and Mardale Head.

A truly fantastic site which was difficult to capture due to the direct sunlight, even so, it was enough to stop me in my tracks.

The sudden burst of light really are incredible.

The summit of Rough Crag is just up ahead now, while beyond the final pull via Long Stile and eastern headwall of High Street forming the Straights of Riggindale over on the right.

Pausing to capture Kidsty Pike, High Raise and Low Raise over the Riggindale Valley.

By now the thought of would I be able to complete a full round which as mentioned also included Mardall III Bell and Thornthwaite Crag was starting to creep into my mind but for the moment I tried not to pay it to much attention.

I hate it when that happens because usually there's only one outcome but I suppose my lungs and my chest will remind me soon enough.

Long Stile and High Street from Rough Crag summit.

The wind was blowing from west to east and I was able to almost predict when the sun would break through the cloud which would then illuminate the ridge ahead, the wind was so strong up there I didn't have to wait long until the light broke which at times might only of lasted a few seconds or if I was lucky, a few minutes.

I felt really lucky to be on Rough Crag this morning.

Bursts of light over Rough Crag.

High Street, Long Stile and Short Stile as I head towards Caspel Gate Tarn.

...I think thats the sun breaking through again.

Long Stile from Caspel Gate Tarn.

With the summit of Rough Crag behind me and still quite a lot of cloud dramatics going on I ventured down to Caspel Gate Tarn where I was treated to frozen ground underfoot and once again I was able to walk around the Tarn without fear of being swallowed up by what is normally considered to be boggy ground. Up ahead the skies grew clearer and clearer revealing large patches of blue sky although behind me to the south that pesky cloud was still drifting in and out which at least made for some great cloud dramatics.

Ok, it's time to see how my lungs get on with the ascent of Long Stile at a time when I really hadn't made up my mind about visiting Mardale III Bell and Thornthwaite Crag, I guess I'll soon know.

Looking north along High Street summit plateau.

I started the ascent eager and raring to go with good legs but my chest soon started to tighten which saw my pace slow down, by now I didn't need to think about extending todays walk my lungs had already made the decision which I felt comfortable with as there was no point in making my aliment worse than it already was.

From around half the way through the ascent I spot a fell runner who has just descended Rough Crag, then passes Caspel Gate Tarn and is soon below me, a friendly fellow as it turns out from Kendal who tells me he started his run in Longsleddale, over Gatescarth Pass, Mardale Head and High Street then back through Kentmere, phew a great route dare I say, aye, beats eating turkey, it's only been two weeks since I was last here but you miss it don't you.

A feeling I know only too well.

We chatted there for a while, long enough for the pair of us to start feeling the chill again before moving on each at our own paces.

High Street summit Trig Point.

By the time I had reached High Street summit the fell runner had long gone, most probably descending Mardale III Bell by now which left just myself at the summit along with a prevailing wind which did nothing in stopping my nose from leaking. From the summit I took in the views towards Thornthwaite Crag and thought I spotted movement at the outpost but it might just well have been the wind as I wipe the corner of my eyes with a gloved fore finger.

Earlier I had spotted more cars arriving at Mardale Head during my ascent and lots of traffic along the Kirkstone Pass but the fell tops feel quite lonely today and I for one wasn't going to be one to complain.

Views towards Birks, St Sunday Crag, Nethermost Pike, Helvellyn, Striding Edge, Birkhouse Moor, Catstye Cam, White Side and Raise.

The Knott, Rampsgill Head, High Raise and Kidsty Pike as I head over the Straights of Riggindale.
From the summit of High Street I steered north towards The Knott via the Straights of Riggindale where any lying water had frozen solid underfoot. From here I am able to spot my remaining summits with The Knott over on the left, Rampsgill Head to its immediate right, High Raise centre right and finally the ever distinctive summit of Kidsty Pike furthest right, all of which are knitted closely together which should mean by the time I reach High Raise I might even have an early lunch.

Commanding views over Hayeswater, Gray Crag, Brock Crags and a host of Eastern giants.

The Knott and Two Penny Crag from the Straights of Riggindale.

High Street and Short Stile as I head towards The Knott.
Not the best shot but I couldn't leave without taking it.

Fairfield, St Sunday Crag, Birks, Arnison Crag Dollywagon Pike, Nethermost Pike, Helvellyn, Catstye Cam, White Side and finally Raise from The Knott summit cairn.

It was only on route towards The Knott did I pass the second person I had met all morning, a cheery woman who smiled 'morning' as she passed. With a strong sun still behind me I negotiated the frozen path with care and soon reach the stone wall from where, all that was left was a short pull towards the summit of The Knott, it may have been short and lacking in steepness but it was enough to stop me half way where I caught my breath at a point when I realised that I'd made the right decision not to include Mardale III Bell and Thornthwaite Crag into todays walk.

After catching my breath I reached the summit soon taking in the fantastic views westwards before turning heel from where I'd start to make my ascent on Rampsgill Head.

High Raise seen over Rampsgill Head.
You might be able to spot the path over in the right of the photograph, it's a nice steady plod all the way towards the summit.

Pausing to look back on The Knott from the ascent of Rampsgill Head.
The cloud appeared much higher and the views clearer further west than it did to the south but more on that later.

Here's a view over Rampsgill Head (valley) towards Rest Dodd, The Nabb, Brock Crags, Angletarn Pikes and Place Fell.
With not a soul in sight.

More Eastern giants this time including Hart Crag and Fairfield from Rampsgill Head summit.
It's too chilly to linger so its onwards over frozen ground towards High Raise.


High Raise and Low Raise (right) seen shortly after leaving Rampsgill Head summit.

High Raise summit shelter and cairn.

I always take great pleasure in reaching High Raise from either Rampsgill Head or Kidsty Pike purely because I really favour the ground underfoot and todays frozen ground made it that bit more special. After taking in the views along the length of the Roman Road towards Loadpot Hill, then north east towards Low Raise I settled in the stone shelter and broke out lunch soon realising how difficult I found it to swallow as I was only able to scoop small amounts of cold rice (made even colder by the conditions all morning) soon followed by breakable amounts of dairy milk chocolate which had also frozen!

Ok, I realise that I may have made my condition slightly worse but I'm enjoying the day too much to care and I do apolagise in advance it seems I'm going on about not feeling on top today, but nothing could be further from the truth after almost three weeks away its literally a fresh of breath air to be back on the fells again.

Views towards Harter Fell (Mardale) the top of Nan Beild Pass, Mardale III Bell, High Street and Kidsty Pike in the foreground.
With quite a short lunch break I re-shouldered my pack and started to retrace my route towards Kidsty Pike which by now was directly below a Winter sun, the light had faded through a mix of cloud but mostly haze which had descended during my down time, the camera makes it look much darker than it actually was when in fact it was quite dramatic walking towards my last summit with the silhouette of High Street and Harter Fell in the distance.

Kidsty Pike summit cairn.
Between leaving the summit of High Raise and reaching Kidsty Pike the cloud had started to thicken leaving a familiar dull light over the fells, it was still midday but already it was starting to feel much later.

Selside Pike, Branstree and Mardale Head seen beyond the valley of Riggindale.
Today I will be descending via Kidsty Pike east ridge more commonly know as Kidsty Howes ridge seen over on the left

Haweswater, The Rigg, Selside Pike and Branstree seen after descending Kidsty Howes.
It appears the sun might be trying to come out again but its only short lived.

The Valley of Riggindale with Kidsty Pike seen over on the right.

Harter Fell (Mardale) as I head back to Mardale Head.

It meant so much getting back onto the fells today even despite as I type this I'm still quite poorly no doubt made slightly worse by a fantastic day on much favoured fells, people who know me know not to ask why I do it, they know what a day on the fells can bring to a person, what it means to feel the cold air, to swallow it, to feel it digesting into your lungs, to feel wide eyed and to think that every single second on the hill was worth spending the next three days feeling under the weather.

Thank you from the bottom of my heart for being part of this website.

Happy New Year!!


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