Skiddaw via Lonscale Fell East Ridge

29th July 2017

Having missed last weekend on the fells due to work and an unfavorable forecast I was eager to set boot onto fell yet the forecast still wasn't playing ball with an unseasonable dip in temperatures bringing with it some very unsettled weather across Cumbria.

I had been hankering for a walk including Skiddaw for the best part of the week and not even a invite to join Rod and his friend Michael on the Newlands fells could persuade me otherwise, as it turns out however, todays walk turned out not quite the way I thought it would but more on that later.

It was only after Rod had asked would I also be including the Ullock Pike ridge did I remember Lonscale's east ridge and my ambition to climb it which for whatever reason always seemed to be put off, well today I had no reason to put it off so I included the east ridge with my ascent on Skiddaw, perfect.

Well, I say perfect the only issue was the forecast which remained unsettled until around midday meaning I would have to time my arrival hopefully after the rain had passed, well, the forecast was timed perfectly although had I known what was ahead of me I might have thought twice about leaving the house at all today.

Wainwright Guide Book Five
The Northern Fells

Direct to the "EAST PEAK"

The final tower is very steep, but within the capacity of valiant pedestrians. If however, it looks to intimidating it can be avoided easily by grass ledges to the right - but this is cheating!


Ascent: 3,065 Feet - 935 Metres
Wainwrights: 3, Lonscale Fell - Skiddaw Little Man - Skiddaw
Weather: Overcast For The Duration, Turning Brighter Later In The Afternoon. Strong Winds Above 2,350 Feet. Highs of 19°C Lows of 13°C
Parking: Top of Gale Road, Underscar
Area: Northern
Miles: 8.4
Walking With: On My Own
Ordnance Survey: OL4
Time Taken: 4 Hours 10 Minutes
Route: Top of Gale Road - Whit Beck - Glenderaterra Valley - Lonscale Fell East Ridge - Lonscale Fell - Jenkin Hill - Skiddaw Lesser Man - Skiddaw Little Man - Skiddaw - Jenkin Hill - Top of Gale Road

Map and Photo Gallery


Skiddaw from the top of Gale Road 12:10pm 13°C

Having decided to leave the walk until midday allowing time for the rain to pass you could only imagine the lack of enthuiasm as I drove along the A66 through heavy rain with my headlights on and wipers going like the clappers. The Mell Fells are the first fells that greet me and today their summits are below cloud as too was Souther Fell. Cloud lingered below Blencathra's buttresses too although a hint of brightness some eight miles west showed promise over Braithwaite and the Coledale Fells as I wondered had Rod and Michael escaped the worse of it. The further west I drove the brighter it seemed leaving a scattering of brooding dark grey and white cloud in the wake. There was still plenty of rain left in those clouds but thankfully they were drifting further eastwards and by the time I left the A66 for Underscar it had just stopped raining. Blimey that was well timed.

Having driven past Underscar Hotel I continued along Gale Road towards the carpark at the top and I can report that for anyone who hasn't driven this way in a few months Gale Road has been completely resurfaced from the Hotel to the carpark, this has been a long time coming and I could drive quite happily safe in the knowledge that I wasn't going to ground my car out.

The carpark is busy which I had expected leaving no spaces at all for me to park but thankfully I had just passed possibly the last spot on the carpark along the road side so I stuck the car in reverse and did that thing you do when reversing by swinging my left arm over the passengers headrest and started to reverse slowly back...meanwhile on the carpark I spot reverse lights appear and I wait, yes they are leaving so I make space for them to manoeuver and grab their space after a polite heads-up through the windscreen.

It would seem that the forecast hasn't put most people of judging by how busy the carpark is but for the life of me I can't see anyone around with the exception of a young family heading towards the Hawell Monument. There's still spits of rain in the air and the wind has a gust to it but I lay trust in the forecast by opting to wear shorts and my soft shell jacket but I pack my waterproof trousers just in case.

Crossing Whit Beck.
There was still rain in the air as I traced my way towards Whit Beck and the ground underfoot reflected just how much rain had fallen over the last week. Over the sound of the wind I can hear Whit Beck winding its way through the valley while a colourful sea of bracken fills my eyes, more so after the rain.

Whit Beck.

Views over the Glenderaterra Valley towards Mungrisdale Common and a distant Great Calva.
Highlights of sunshine illuminate the western flank of Mungrisdale Common and Blease Fell and I'm hoping that this was a sign of things to come but I would have to wait until the end of the walk before any sunshine would appear again.

Lonscale Fell East ridge soon appears.
Here the east ridge is well defined which appears as the heathery ridge behind the grassy ridge seen in the foreground.

Lonscale Fell East Ridge.

I pick up the ridge straight from the path below and plot my ascent alongside the the old slate spoil which I naturally headed for, it was only after I placed my boot over the slate did I realise just how slippery it was, in fact I think the word I'm looking for is treacherous.

With this I aim to pick my pathless ascent through heather and when possible, alongside the slate.

Looking down on the East ridge from the roof of a ruined hut.
Following the course of the slate scree my ascent saw me pass the ruins of an old hut which I only realised what it was after staring at the perfectly formed grass patch below. The ridge as you can see in the next image is getting much steeper now.

Clough Head and The Dodds from Lonscale Fell East Ridge.
This picture shows how steep the ridge actually is and it's only getting steeper.

But the view is more than worth the steep climb.
Here a clear view of Great Calva, and Knott seen over the head of the Glenderaterra Valley, it certainly seems the fells further north are getting their fair share of sunshine all the while I continue to ascend under thick cloud.

Lonscale Fell East ridge summit looms.

Looking back down Lonscale Fell East ridge.
Those with a keen eye might just be able to spot the path I had left earlier (best seen from the left) I split the ascent up into two tiers the first and second can be seen further down the ridge, non of which could be seen when viewing from below such the steepness of the incline. From the second tier all that remains is 650ft of very steep accent most of which can be gained by a narrow footpath through the heather although there is a little hands on scrambling just below the summit by a series of craggy outcrops which can be avoided by using the grassy ledges towards the right. I gain the summit via the ledges due to how slippery the rock is and the fact that for the last ten minutes or so I've started to feel quite queasy.

Views from the cairn at the top of Lonscale Fell East ridge towards Skiddaw Lesser and Little Man, Skiddaw, Sale How and Bakestall.

I soon gained the summit cairn and was pleased to see that it was only the very summit of Skiddaw which was below cloud which with any luck should clear before I arrived. My main worry at this exact moment was just how queasy and clammy I was feeling, it feels like the wind has literally been knocked out of my sails and I feel like I'm about to vomit.

A cold sweat descends and I can feel that feeling when your about to throw up, it's almost at my adam's apple but somehow I seem to contain it and as if by magic the feeling passes and I'm left feeling strangely ok again.

Alarm bells start to ring as I make my way towards Lonscale Fell summit cairn.

Skiddaw Lesser and Little Man from Lonscale Fell summit cairn.

Well, at least the Skiddaw's summit is appearing to clear but it's only momentarily, as for feeling sick I come up with a plan to make it to the summit of Jenkin Hill seen in the foreground and I'll assess the situation again from there. My thoughts are if this feeling of sickness continues I'll head straight back down, via the tourist path, however, if I'm feeling ok and somewhat back to strength I'll head for the summit.

After all it might just be a blip because I'm never usually sick.

Views towards Jenkin Hill with Skiddaw Lesser Man and Little Man beyond while Skiddaw summit is back under cloud again.

Looking back on Lonscale Fell and Lonscale Fell East ridge peak summit.

The area between Lonscale Fell and Jenkin Hill is notoriously wet underfoot and today was no different but I'd like to add not boggy. Directly below the summit - at the head of Whit Beck a large pool of water alongside the fence meant to avoid getting a dunking I had to cross the fence from right to left then after the pool is passed I hop back over making sure I keep the fence to my right.

There is a path on both sides of the wire fence but I have always preferred the prominent path keeping the fence to my right. Up head just before Jenkin Hill summit is reached I pass the two large coils of of barbed wire fencing which have been here for as long as I can remember and to me are as familiar to Jenkin Hill as the summit cairn is.

Views over Keswick towards Derwent Water.
I think this image pretty much sums up todays conditions which by now and getting more broodier and gusty by the minute, you can actually see the wind blowing over the surface of the lake, be a good day for sail boats I'd imagine but I can't see one in sight, perhaps it's too windy!

Blease Fell, Blencathra and Mungrisdale Common from Skiddaw Lesser Man summit cairn.

Thankfully the feeling of nausea hadn't returned and I deemed myself ok to continue, feeling pretty much back to strength I took in the short, yet steep ascent of Skiddaw Lesser Man after passing the familiar gatepost close to Skiddaw's main approach path. Up ahead three walkers are also about to make the summit and I can see by the way they are standing that the wind up there must be be pretty strong.

I was right, as I crested the shoulder I caught the full strength of the gust which (sorry to appear rude) spread the contents of my nose across my face! Sorry but I did apologise in advance!

Such the strength of the wind as you can imagine I didn't hang around and neither did the three before me who by now are on the col between Lesser and Little Man.

Views towards Derwent Water seen with the Borrowdale and North Western Fells from Skiddaw Little Man summit.
I was surprised to find the wind was nowhere near the strength it was on Lesser Man and found time to take in my surroundings as I peered over the north western fells while thinking was Rod and Michael having the same hard time with the wind I was, Rod had certainly chosen well with his fell choice which appeared to have had the best of sunshine up to now.


Views over Broad End towards Ullock Pike, Longside Edge, Carl Side and Skiddaw.

This is where I had to change todays route from a traverse across the scree of Broad End before summiting Carl Side, then to gain Skiddaw via the steep west slope due to the strong wind which was funneling straight up Broad End. I guess for the experienced it wasn't so much a safety issue although that would always remain key on such a traverse, more so on just how unpleasant the crossing would have been.

The way my walking poles were almost being blown from the grip of my hands told me to stick to the path today and instead I join the steady line of walkers and tourists alike in gaining Skiddaw today.

Broad End.

Skiddaw summit plateau from the South cairn.

My walking poles continued to dance in the wind but I managed to maintain a steady pace and gained the shoulder of the summit passing many a walker on their way down. The wind was at its strongest causing loose straps to flail and batter my pack meanwhile my hood blows so violently I fear it's going to get torn away.

Just another day on Skiddaw eh.

Skiddaw Little Man from Skiddaw summit shelter.

I managed to have the summit to myself for a few moments but struggled for composure in the wind, it was at this point I was feeling peckish so I decided to take shelter from the wind and maybe have a few spoonfuls of rice if only to keep my energy levels up.

I find a great spot in the shelter and under relative comfort I tuck into my lunch making sure I eat slowly and contain my intake to around ten spoonfuls. This it would seem was a bad idea.


views over Bowscale Pike, Bannerdale Crags, Mungrisdale Common, Blencathra, Lonscale Fell and Sale How from Skiddaw summit.

I instantly knew by the time the rice had touched my stomach it was a bad idea, within seconds a cold sweat descends and the feeling of wanting to vomit is upon me, flipin eck not here, please not here.

I disguise this well, after all I've held it back (somehow) earlier and I'll be dammed if I'm going to vomit in full view of everyone so I cautiously pack my sandwich box back into my pack and start to make my way towards the north shoulder of the fell just in case...Two young lads are by now standing at the Trig Point and one asked would I mind I take their photo's, now you'd have thought this was incredibly bad timing but in hindsight it probably helped me take my mind of matters, they thank me and I make my way over to the northern shoulder where I sit far from the way of prying eyes and try best to compose myself.

There was no way I was going to be sick and thankfully once more I contained it. The stupid thing was instead of feeling nauseas like you would expect within minutes just as before I was feeling as right as rain again.

Views over Sale How towards Great Calva, Knott, Great Ska Fell, Brae Fell, Coomb Height and Carrock Fell.

A close up of Keswick and Derwent Water as I start my descent.
It looks like it's starting to brighten up now just as forecasted.

Now with Latrigg in view.

Distant views over High Rigg, Clough Head, and the Helvellyn range.

It had occured to me back on the summit to descend to Mill Beck via Carl Side but then I realised that I would miss out on views like this. For the duration of my walk the best part of which was spent under atmospheric low light and brooding cloud from above all of which only add to a fell walk. As the owner of a fell walking website I am always looking out for the best conditions from what the fells can provide, but it's also important to realise that it's not always those glorious sunny days which make a day on the fells one to remember, it's also those dramatic days of sweeping summit cloud, low light while watching the wind howl through the wild grasses.

Today was such a day.


Looking back up the steep path along side Whit Beck.

Threlkeld Knotts, Clough Head and Great Dodd from the Hawell Monument with Great Mell Fell in the far distance.

I arrived back at the carpark after a slower than usual descent all the while trying to contain the feeling of nausea which would appear then disappear for much of my descent but thankfully not as much as it hit me while back on Skiddaw's summit. A snack van is parked up at the head of the carpark next to the gate and I can hear through conversation that the owners son was making an ascent while offering coffee to takeaway, I think I'll decline.

The sun by now is beaming down and it's starting to feel warm and humid, a great time I reckon to hit the fells before dusk. I ring my wife during my drive home to let her know how unwell I had felt to which my wife replied that Brad, our three year old Westie had also been sick.

(rolls eyes) I knew I shouldn't have eaten those dog biscuits.

Lonscale Fell and Lonscale Fell East ridge from a layby along the A66 while on route home.

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