Skiddaw, Lonscale Fell and Latrigg from Underscar

7th January 2018

With a ridge of high pressure over much of the country todays conditions are almost identical to that of my last walk where I was lucky enough to experience fresh snow underfoot, bright blue skies and a low Winter sun, I don't think I could ask for anymore, well maybe a flask of hot soup when on such walks but I guess there's only me to blame for that one.

Both David and I got together for this walk but we couldn't confirm the route over the telephone the evening before mainly because of how affected Gale Road gets after a hard frost, it's the kind of narrow lane that is regularly affected by sheet ice due to how exposed parts of the road is whilst not forgetting how steep the lane is towards the top which leaves the perfect combination for getting unstuck, a risk we weren't willing to take.

We had arranged to meet at the bottom of Gale Road instead at the parking spaces next to Underscar Manor and after arriving early I thought I'd save a bit of time by carrying out a reckie of the road and if it was affected by ice at all...I only had to drive the first two hundred yards to find one chap carefully doing a 'U Turn' and I wound my window down half knowing why "there's a little red car stuck up ahead, two sheets of ice" he shouted through the window which meant before we hit the steep slopes of Skiddaw, we had to ascent a rather slippery and steep Gale Road first.

Wainwright Guide Book Five
TheNorthern Fells


The mountain makes a great contribution to the scenic beauty of this most attractively – situated town, shelters it from northerly gales, supplies it with pure water, feeds its sheep, and provides a recreation ground for its visitors.


Ascent: 3,339 Feet - 1,018 Metres
Wainwrights: 4, Skiddaw Little Man - Skiddaw - Lonscale Fell - Latrigg
Weather: A Frosty Start, Feeling Cold, Bright and Sunny. Highs of 4°C Lows of -2°C Feels Like -14°C
Parking: Roadside Parking, Underscar Manor Hotel, Applethwaite
Area: Northern
Miles: 10.4
Walking With: David Hall
Ordnance Survey: OL4
Time Taken: 5 Hours 15 Minutes
Route: Underscar - Gale Road - Hawell Monument - Skiddaw Little Man - Skiddaw - Jenkin Hill - Lonscale Fell - Lonscale Fell East Top - Whit Beck - Gale Road Car Park - Latrigg - Mallon Dodd - Birkett Wood - Underscar

Parking Details and Map
Nearest Post Code: CA12 4PH
Grid Reference: NY 280 825

A popular car park found at the top of Gale Road north of Keswick this car park is great for easy access onto Skiddaw or Latrigg but tends to be busy no matter the season and has recently been resurfaced from the Hotel at Underscar to the car park itself. Arrive early and you are guaranteed a parking place but the car park can fill up quickly especially during peak seasons. Parking is free.

During the Winter months Gale Road can be affected by ice and the alterative to parking at the car park at the top is to park at the parking spaces opposite Underscar Manor Hotel, here you will find parking for up to six cars, parking is free.


Map and Photo Gallery


The Dodd to Helvellyn ridge pre sunrise 08:45am -2°C

With the starting point to our walk confirmed I joined David back at Underscar and informed him about the car that had got stuck on ice at the top of Gale Road. This, however didn't stop the half dozen cars who also gave the icy road a try all of whom had the sense to return within minutes or find alterative parking, it just made sense. Despite the low morning temperature it actually felt mild but I kit up knowing how low the windchill would feel with the more height ascended. The stars were still visible through a clear and cloudless sky but there was still no sign of the sun although we wouldn't have to wait long until its light breached the Dodd ridge which was silhouetted against a pale blue sky.

With the cars locked we started our ascent on Gale Road passing the point where I turned around which felt more slippery underfoot than I gave it credit for. Up ahead, around the bend we neared the little red car which had managed to get over one large patch of ice only to be stopped by the second just yards further, it was clear that the car lost complete traction and came to a stop and grounded in a ditch on the right hand side "I'm waiting for recovery" the driver smiled, yep I thow't, that recovery driver is gonna love you. Harsh I know but a fair comment.

Having ascended the tarmac by any means (one step forward and three back) we somehow managed to reach the top of the car park which was as expected deserted with the exception of a large motor home that appeared to have been there for some nights. The light is low and a cool wind blows in from across the Vale. We had been walking for a matter of minutes and said cold wind was the topic of the next few minutes conversation.

The view over Keswick, Derwent Water and the North Western fells.
We passed the Hawell Monument where we stopped to take in the view south, the light was still low but we knew within minutes all of that was about to change...The sun doesn't rise in Lakeland until it has breached The Dodds.


Light first broke much further up the fell side illuminating the deep browns of the dead bracken and a faint white snow line then as if someone had walked into the room and turned the light on we were surrounded in the brilliant afterglow of a Lakeland sunrise. It was exactly 08:58am

It was exactly warm and the light did nothing to eradicate the windchill but boy does watching the sunrise put a spring in your step.

Skiddaw Lesser, and Little Man are up ahead.
Further up the path a young family and their children are about to ascend Little Man and we remarked despite one of the children being no more than five years of age there was no way we could have caught them up, well not until later anyway. We had just ascended into a skittering of snow at around 2,250ft yet the ground underfoot felt like permafrost, it was frozen solid and a joy to ascend by.

Skiddaw Lesser and Skiddaw Little Man as we near Jenkin Hill.

The view over Jenkin Hill towards Lonscale Fell and Lonscale Fell East Top.
We observed the young families pace slow down once into the ascent of Lesser Man finding fresh semi-powdered snow lying on top of older much firmer snow, there was no great depth to the new snow, perhaps just 6-8cm which seemed to slow us down a little too, it was here we found the wind was picking up to which of course meant a leaner windchill too, it was during this ascent how we both smirked at how the right side of our faces had now gone numb.

Skiddaw Lesser Man summit cairn.
The sun was now high enough to be causing a beautiful havoc in the sky casting an amazing glow over Northern Lakeland, not so good for the camera but great for the soul.

Blencathra and Lonscale Fell from Skiddaw Lesser Man.

Skiddaw Lesser Man and Lonscale Fell from Skiddaw Little Man.

The wind continued to howl and I guess this must have had an impact on conversation between Lesser and Little Man because I don't remember much between both summits. The snow had thickened but reassuringly held footings across the more worn route, that's if one could find it beneath the snow.

It only took five or so minutes to pass between both summits but whilst looking back over a shimmering Derwent Water it was enough to make just one of the many highlights from the whole walk.

Skiddaw and Broad End from Little Man.

In this photo Carl Side, Long Side and Ullock Pike can be seen over towards the left.
Well, as far as busy goes Skiddaw was relatively quiet this morning which is why we choose to summit first before heading over to Lonscale Fell later which made sense if to avoid the crowds.

Ice rimmed fence.
During Winter in Lakeland wire fencing regularly ices up forming this artistic appearance of what can only be described as the waffle affect, due to the exposed areas over the Mountain at this height such stunning ice formations are not uncommon.

A low Winter sun breaches Skiddaw Little Man providing a stunning backdrop against the iced fence.


Looking back on Skiddaw Little Man.

Skiddaw summit.
Despite wanting to take in the stunning scenery for longer we gained the shoulder of the summit soon ascending into a windchill which assaulted at exposed skin, brain freeze soon followed in my case but it was David who kept spirits up by not feeling the pinch at all by not even bothering to wear a hat "I don't know how you do it I laughed"

Skiddaw's snow covered plateau.
It may look peaceful and idyllic but it's howling a hooley right now.

Looking back towards the South cairn.

Skiddaw Little Man from Skiddaw Summit Shelter.
The young family who we had seen earlier were seeking shelter behind the shelter wall who we had observed since passing the south cairn, we just couldn't fathom how they managed to sit still for so long under such windchill but that they did. They stood as we arrived and began to take a few pictures of one another before dusting themselves down and heading back into the wind. We held a high regard for those kids for not moaning about the cold!

Skiddaw Trig Point.
Our aim wasn't to spend too much time at the summit which was such a pity but given the chill we simply didn't have the choice, so while David took out his weather gadget I took out my mobile phone to record a short clip if only to capture the fantastic conditions.

Skiddaw summit.

David's gadget recorded a whopping -14°C windchill.
Helped along by 30mph winds.

Skiddaw summit shelter.
In order to record a clip from my mobile phone I needed to remove my right glove, I think If I'm right the clip only lasted thirty three seconds but I did get a great panorama from the summit along with the summit gust which I'm pleased to say drowned out my use of the f-word which was my hands way of saying get that bloody glove back on.


Skiddaw Little Man and Jenkin Hill from Skiddaw summit.
It was time to head back now to the peace and quiet of Jenkin Hill seen in the far left of the photo.

Snow and light.

Skiddaw Little Man, Jenkin Hill and Lonscale Fell.

Within minutes of leaving the wilds of the summit the winds dropped and it started to feel positively tropical again which was great because it meant conversation could return whilst we flanked Little Man while on route to Jenkin Hill. We had just held the gate open below the summit for the solo woman walker seen up ahead who appeared to be walking with a fellow who went on to descend towards Sale How, it appeared that they were together judging by how friendly they were but by them going in opposite directions we must have been wrong.

Lonscale Fell and Lonscale Fell East top seen just beyond Jenkin Hill.
That's where we are heading next.

Views out towards Sale How, Great Calva, Knott, Great Sca Fell, High Pike, Carrock Fell and Mungrisdale Common.

The familiar gatepost, Jenkin Hill.

Looking back on Skiddaw Lesser Man, Little Man and Skiddaw from Jenkin Hill.
We passed through the frozen gate commenting on how the latch still worked perfectly despite the gate being completely frozen before heading left and followed the fence line passing Jenkin Hill summit before starting the slight descent towards the 'top of' Whit Beck. Here the ground was frozen and a pleasure to walk over, that wasn't the case for everyone travelling along here today though...

Blencathra and Lonscale Fell as we descend Jenkin Hill.

The young family who we had been tailing for much of the morning were also heading for Lonscale Fell when the mother stopped to put her little girl on her shoulders, it was here David and I passed as she commented that the snow was getting in her daughters boots and she asked would mum carry her, being around five years of age it was quite a cute thing to see, after all we were still impressed she'd summatted Skiddaw in these conditions only for a the snow filling her boots to bring her to a stop.

Very cute indeed despite at the time never mentioning it.

Jenkin Hill, Lesser Man, Little Man and Skiddaw from Lonscale Fell summit.
The little girl is back on her feet now as they make their way towards Lonscale Fell summit, meanwhile David has wandered off towards the East Top.

The view over Burnt Horse towards Skiddaw House, Bakestall, Little Calva, Great Calva, Knott, Great Sca Fell and High Pike.

Looking east over Roughten Gill towards the mass of Blencathra.
Note that cloud is starting to build further east towards the Pennines.

Jenkin Hill, Lesser Man, Little Man, Skiddaw, Bakestall, and Sale How from Lonscale Fell East Top.
If any summit deserved summit time it had to be Lonscale Fell east top, it was here we studied the land silently at times while absorbing the views, those few minutes were for me a real highlight from the whole day.


The descent of Lonscale Fell.
We certainly could have hung around the Lonscale Fell east top for much longer but after agreeing that we would stop to eat lunch on our final fell of the day we blazed a pathless trail leaving the snow line behind while being dazzled by a Winter sun taking care not to slip on the steep ground. With only the odd slip we descended relatively successfully and collected ourselves at the familiar wooden gate on the Cumbrian Way. All that was left was to walk the mile or so back to the top of Gale Road before a straight forward walk to Latrigg's summit from where we'll break out some much needed lunch.

The Cumbrian way with Whit Beck over on the right.
Incidently that's the same path you can see which we ascended Skiddaw earlier, it's much busier now.

Skiddaw and Dodd from the ascent of Latrigg.

With the top of Gale Road reached all that was left was to make a pathless ascent towards Latrigg summit which we did after passing a deserted car park with the exception that is, of a large recovery truck whose driver was waiting to head back but couldn't because you've guessed it, more drivers were still getting stuck on the ice.

It was best not to look.

Blease Fell and the Hall's Fell Ridge from Latrigg.
We walked straight into a glaring sun soon feeling the burn in the chest and in the calfs but the thought of lunch spurred us on as our walking poles stabbed at the frozen ground so much so the ground felt so hard, it sounded hollow.


Lunch with a view.
For a small fell Latrigg sure has some big views.

Skiddaw seen over Underscar.

It was optimistic of us to think that we would grab two seats on the summit bench which was surrounded, as was the summit with around forty to fifty visitors all out enjoying the Spring like mid afternoon sun. We de-shouldered a little way from the summit and perched our behinds down whilst overlooking the vale of Keswick and of course Derwent Water. The sound of the A66 below brought back into reality as did too the sound of childrens laughter and darks barking on the summit behind us. Re-shouldered we begrudgingly left the summit and set about making our descent via the flank of Mallen Dodd before passing through Birkett Wood via a short footpath which left just a short walk back to Underscar.

By now and no doubt due to the icy conditions the parking spaces at the bottom of Gale Road are full and so too is the lane alongside Underscar Manor, as busy as we had ever seen it. Recovery trucks still come and go and if you listened you could still hear the sound of a distant car engine screaming for mercy at the top of Gale Road.


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