Hard Knott and Scar Lathing from Brotherilkeld

24th March 2017

The unpredictably of the transition into Spring continues as the valleys blossom with wild flower and new born lambs as the Lakeland fells this week received perhaps their last covering of snow which I might add wasn't just a dusting contained to the highest summits, here snow fell down to valley level all over the District which also affected the North Pennines closing major artery roads during the process.

With a long weekend coming up I had planned to walk through Upper Eskdale with my son Owen via Hard Knott, a simple summit from the top of the pass then we would take in the Yew Bank ridge to Lingcove Bridge before heading back to Jubilee Bridge via Brotherilkeld. However, plans had to be scrapped due to Owen's college assignments and with Owen knowing his Dad the way he does he gave me the green light to go it alone with plans to rearrange our walk sometime in the forth coming weeks.

With this I was able to chop and change the route slightly where instead of starting the walk from the top of Hardknott Pass I would now start from Jubilee Bridge, then summit Hard Knott via the Eskdale Needle before soaking up the Yew Bank ridge with the grandest of views towards Bow Fell, Crinkle Crags and The Scafells also including the lonely summit of Scar Lathing which had been on my to do list for quite some time. Today, despite the snow underfoot for the first time this year I walked without a jacket under a hot sun which can only mean one thing, Spring has officially arrived.

Wainwright Guide Book Four
The Southern Fells

-Hardknott Roman Fort

Did they admire the massive architecture of the Scafell group as they looked north, the curve of the valley source to sea as their eyes turned west? Or did they feel themselves to be unwanted strangers in a harsh and hostile land?


Ascent: 2,154 Feet - 657 Metres
Wainwrights: Hard Knott
Weather: Cool to Start Turning Warm, Bright and Sunny. Highs of 15°C Lows of 3°C
Parking: Jubilee Bridge, Brotherilkeld
Area: Southern
Miles: 7
Walking With: On My Own
Ordnance Survey: OL6
Time Taken: 4 Hours 50 Minutes
Route: Jubilee Bridge - Hardknott Pass - Hardknott Roman Fort - Border End - Eskdale Needle - Hard Knott - Yew Bank - Lingcove Beck - Scar Lathing - Lingcove Bridge - Brotherilkeld - Jubilee Bridge

Map and Photo Gallery


Bow Fell, Crinkle Crags and Hard Knott from Brotherilkeld 08.20am 3°C

It was a long drive north caused by the decision to arrive in Upper Eskdale via the Birker Fell road rather than Wrynose and Hardknott passes, parts of which I was uncertain about how much snow and ice I might encounter and with night temperatures just hovering above freezing, I wasn't prepared to take the risk, my decision was confirmed after speaking to David who had e-mailed me a photo of the top of Hardknott Pass from his Muncaster Fell walk the same day, in the photo it appeared that the pass was partially free from snow, but ice I was uncertain of.

I was treated to a wonderful sunrise then clear bright blue skies during my drive north and by the time I reached Eskdale I was struggling to see through my windscreen even with the visor tipped down and wearing sun glasses, my heart raced in preparation. I had slight reservations too about how I would find Birker Fell Road which is as exposed to the elements as your going to get, this too was mentioned in the previous nights conversation but I needn't have been too worried only passing the odd ice patch along the verge, any other standing water would usually be found trickling over the tarmac. I followed a tractor from Dalescarth Station right through to Brotherilkeld, my speed was slow but I wasn't too bothered because this gave me time to soak up the valley while squinting through the windscreen which reminds me, I must clean the inside of the glass.

The tractor veered a sharp left up a dirt bank from where I was treated to my first view of the Border End side of Hard Knott, most striking too was Bow Fell and the way its snow covered slopes contrasted against a deep blue sky.

Looking back into Eskdale from the climb to the top of Hardknott Pass.

I had parked easily after passing over the familiar cattle grid close to Jubilee Bridge and started to kit up at the front of my car. A boulder next to the parking spaces acted as a stool where laces are taut before adding gaiters which should help to keep my boots dry as I have plans to climb Great Gable tomorrow with Tim. A coppice of trees blocks any direct sunlight at Jubilee Bridge and my fingers start to feel the chill almost instantly but I put up with it safe in knowledge that once I start the climb to the Roman Fort feeling chilled is going to be the last thing on my mind.

With my car locked I head out into the sunlight and instantly feel the benefit of the warm morning sunlight, the pass twist sharply in a series of elongated zig zags and I ignore the grass verge opting to keep firm traction by the tarmac underfoot, I approach a particular tight sharp left which when ascending by car if you get it right you can power through in second gear before a equally sharp right, but if you get it wrong you have to drop down to first, my legs feel like they're about to stall.

Border End from Hardknott Roman Fort.
I persevered up the pass and arrived at the Roman Fort where I stopped to read plaques that had been placed by the ruined walls and buildings before taking place inside the southern most lookout tower with extended views back into Eskdale while still trying to catch my breath back, Roman Solider I am not.

The view back into Eskdale with Muncaster Fell and the Cumbrian coast in the far distance.
From the Fort I squint towards Border End who's crags appear as a black mass of rock still waiting for the sunlight to breach their surface, an ascent looks uninviting but as I edged further towards the buttress of rock I soon found myself in shade, I swipe my now streaming eyes and survey a route up through the crags before peering north west to the far left of the Parade Ground, I spot two grassy rakes and start to make my way towards them keeping to the edge of a grass like terrace which over looks the River Esk below, the ground soon appears saturated underfoot, evidence that the fell side is well in thaw.

Views back over Hardknott Roman Fort with Harter Fell (Eskdale) on the other side of the valley.
The Parade Ground lies centre left, a flat area of ground below Border End north of the Fort where once Roman Soldiers would parade and exercise now only sheep keep the turf in check but I often wonder what lies below the top soil, a coin, a belt buckle, the remains of a sword who knows, it's great to feel imaginative even after any Roman artefacts have long gone.

From the ridge Slight Side, Cam Spout Crag, Sca Fell, Scafell Pike, III Crag, Esk Pike and Bow Fell appear.
The two grassy rakes were easily negotiated albeit with saturated ground underfoot. By now I had been ascending in the shadow of Border End which helped to keep things cool, further into the ascent I reached the snow line at around 1,100 feet which had frozen and if trodden carefully, held my weight. I had full intentions of visiting Infinity Tarn found in between Border End and Raven Crag and would have been much easier to access had I ascended from the summit pass but I now found myself looking at the Eskdale Needle which for now was in shade but easily recognisable, its pull too much for me as I put the visit to Infinity Tarn behind me and started to trace a pathless route over hard crunchy snow all the while gaining height while doing so. My view over to the Scafells, Esk Pike and Bow Fell was just epic and stopped me in my tracks more times than I care to mention.


The Eskdale Needle With Esk Hause, Great End and III Crag in the distance.
After passing a perched boulder I soon found myself at the base of the Eskdale Needle in conditions nearing perfect. I have time on my hands and I decide to record a short clip (which turned out to be a rather long one) with a little narrative firstly for prosperity reasons which I later decided to upload on to my Facebook Page. It just wouldn't seem right to not share my view, my route and my thoughts right now.

The Eskdale Needle.

Time spent at the Needle was approaching half an hour, so much so the suns shadow has completely disappeared from the base of the needle.

Oh well, I guess it's time to leave and start my ascent towards the summit, as for those superior views, hopefully I'll get more later.

Hard Knott summit is just ahead.

From Eskdale Needle I started the steep ascent towards Infinity Tarn instantly feeling the steep pull through sometimes a foot of snow which by now had become weakened and no longer held my footings, it was in thaw and sapped energy but I persevered towards the large grassy col with Infinity Tarn just a short distance away. This area is well known for how boggy it is and today was no different, I could see the Tarn just yonder which was frozen and had a light layer of snow on top of the ice and to top things off, it was partially in shadow. Taking photos was difficult as my boots would submerge through the snow and into the bog if I stood still long enough so with this in mind, I retreated and started to make the short ascent back towards the summit all the while experiencing more snow under thaw, I remembered thinking how energy sapping this was but rewarding at the same time.

Once I had ascended a grassy tier the summit cairn sat on the horizon just up ahead, here the snow was soft and slushy but thankfully not as deep and I was able to trace a relatively easy route sometimes keeping to the grass where I could while reserving energy.

Scafell Pike, Broad Crag, III Crag, Great End, Esk Pike, Bow Fell and Crinkle Crags from Hard Knott summit.
I approached the summit from the east and not the usual west where the path was buried below snow, the east flank was not only snow free but dry underfoot too which made for an all together pleasurable summit experience if my amazing view wasn't enough. I spend time to reflect on how Owen might have handled todays ascent and deep down I feel today might have been a little too much given conditions underfoot where despite being a fit young man, he isn't fell fit quite yet so a definite return will be on the cards.

From the summit I get a view along the Yew Bank ridge.
The Yew Bank ridge is quite craggy with lots of outcrops here there and everywhere which can appear confusing at first glance but there is a prominent path which starts from the summit and descends the lenght of the ridge to the right, or if like today and the path is hidden below snow just make a heading north-north west towards Bow Fell, you won't be far from the path that way.

Esk Pike and Bow Fell both domminering my descent towards Lingcove Beck.

Frozen pool, Yew Bank.

Cam Spout Crag, Sca Fell, Broad Stand, Mickledore, Scafell Pike, Broad Crag, Scar Lathing, Throstlehow Crag, and Green Crag from Yew Bank.

Scar Lathing can be seen in the lower right of the photograph which I will ascend via the far right of the valley, but before that I would need to cross the River Esk which by now is just coming into ear shot and sounds wild even from up here on the ridge.

But before I get my boots wet.
Here's Esk Pike, Bow Fell and Crinkle Crags from the base of the Yew Bank ridge.

A close up of Bow Fell and Ore Gap seen with Adam-a-Crag to the right.

Crossing the River Esk.

Bow Fell had dominated my descent via the Yew Bank ridge but now it was time to turn my back on my amazing view from where I would hopefully attempt a dry crossing of the River Esk. The ground leading towards the Esk was naturally saturated and at times a high bank would prevent me from lowering myself down to a place I considered a safeplace to cross, but I've crossed plenty of Rivers to know that if you tramp up or down stream long enough I should find a safe place which soon came minutes later. The Esk flowed quite fast and on my side of the bank there was just enough stones poking out from the surface to act as stepping stones to around three much larger boulders from the centre of the river towards the opposite bank.

It always looks easier and todays crossing was no different,, once on the smaller stones the water would rush over my boot, the worst thing to do here is watch and panic so it pays to pay attention to where you are putting your next step without trying to think about it too much, within twenty seconds I was over and still retained dry feet, a small and insignificant hurdle completed and all the while I managed to keep dry feet.

More grand views of the Slight Side and the Scafells as I head towards Scar Lathing.

Scar Lathing is just up ahead.
You might be able to spot the River Esk in the left of the photograph which I will follow as I descend back to Lingcove Bridge later but first I have to negotiate the boggy bit below Long Crag to my right, it's a notoriously boggy area and today in order to try and keep my feet as dry as possible I'm going to flank hard right and trace a pathless route towards the eastern flank of Scar Lathing.

Scar Lathing.
With success I managed to steer clear of the really boggy bits below Long Crag and managed to keep my feet dry once again, this an area that I knew would be extremely wet and was one of main concerns throughout the walk and now that I had it behind me I could start my ascent on Scar Lathing with ease. Well, I say with ease, the east flank of the fell is very steep but thankfully only a short ascent before the last pull towards the summit.

Crinkle Crags seen above Long Crag from Scar Lathing.

This time with Bow Fell and the area around Three Tarns to the right.

Esk Gorge seen, Throstlehow Crag, Green Crag and the River Esk with views of Harter Fell (Eskdale) with Green Crag in the distance.
i'lll be descending above Esk Gorge shortly via a the path seen on the left but first it's time to break out lunch.

Without so much as a breath of wind here's my view over Great Moss from my lunch spot.
This exact time tomorrow I'll be sat on the other side of the Scafell Group enjoying lunch from the Westmoorland Cairn on Great Gable looking at the exact same summits from a completely different perspective, but for now it's just me, a warm sun and the mountains, there are no words to describe how heart filled moments like this are.

Here we have Pen, Scafell Pike, Broad Crag and III Crag with Esk Hause to the right.

Scar Lathing from the familier bend in the River Esk.
I couldh have spent the whole afternoon soaking up Great Moss and its incredible views but sadly all good things must come to an end so I packed up lunch and began my descent down to the River Esk this time choosing to descend via the Great Moss flank of Scar Lathing which I found much less steeper, the final part of my descent came via to the left of col over in the left of the photo before my final descent back to the River Esk where I negotiated more bog before arriving on the singular path above Esk Gorge.

Scafell Pike, III Crag and Scar Lathing from Esk Gorge.

Lingcove Bridge.
The afternoon was turning out to be really warm and pleasant and for the first time this year I enjoyed the descent with my sleeves rolled up with a trickle of sweat running down my forehead, just bliss.

Looking back on Bow Fell, Throstle Garth and Long Crag as I make my way back towards Brotherilkeld via the River Esk.


Bow Fell, Crinkle Crags and the Yew Bank ridge as I approach Brotherilkeld Farm.
Note the reflection of Bow Fell in the puddle.

Brotherilkeld Farm with Border End seen towering above.

Bow Fell and Crinkle Crags from Brotherilkeld.
With the valley now behind me it was around here that I had started to see the first people of the day much of whom are dressed in shorts and T-shirts, and who could blame them. A farm dog barks and disturbs the silence as I walk along side the River Esk and soon I am brought back into reality as a 4x4 pulling a horse box hurries down the farm track leaving a plum of dust in its wake, I get a wave from above from a driver and passenger as I glance back over the out buildings towards Bow Fell before crossing the cattle grid by Jubilee Bridge from where this walk is about to end, but before I start to pack my gear away I roll down the front windows if only to let the warm air escape, its been a while...

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