The Dodds and Sticks Pass from Wanthwaite

2nd February 2018

After a week away from the fells today I'm back a day later than planned due to Saturdays weak forecast which I had actually planned to walk with long time friend and fell walker Ian Sharples, unfortunately Ian couldn't make it on Sunday and with that we've set a date for the forth coming Saturday where fingers crossed, we'll get a reasonable forecast.

With David having to nip into work on Sunday Rod invited me to join him on a walk traversing the Dodds from Wanthwaite with a return via High Rigg or alternatively, St John's-in-the-Vale which actually suited us both after discussing it over an email.

Today marks a little notch on the walking calender it being the first walk of 2018 which started a good half hour after sunrise, this was noted during my drive north somewhere between Shap and Penrith where through my rear view mirror a deep orange glowed over the horizon, this did heaps to raise spirits, not like they needed raising anyway.

It was around seven years ago when I first spotted this route on Walkthefells when David Hall was joined by Andrew Leaney on a traverse of the Dodds, I can distinctly remember the snow capped ridges which glistened against a low Winter sun and to this day I had always wanted to replicate the exact conditions, today, we got that chance.

Wainwright Guide Book One
The Eastern Fells

-Stybarrow Dodd

Stybarrow Dodd is the first of the group of fells north of the Sticks Pass and it sets the pattern for them all: sweeping grassy slopes, easy walking for the traveller who likes to count his miles.


Ascent: 3,846 Feet - 1,173 Metres
Wainwrights: 4, Clough Head - Great Dodd - Watson's Dodd - Stybarrow Dodd
Visiting: 2, Threlkeld Knotts - Calfhow Pike
Weather: A Bright Start Continuing Through to Midday. Some Summit Cloud. Feeling Mild in the Valleys. Highs of 4°C Lows of 1°C Feels Like -4°C
Parking: Roadside Parking, Wanthwaite
Area: Eastern
Miles: 11.5
Walking With: Rod Hepplewhite
Ordnance Survey: OL5
Time Taken: 5 Hours 15 Minutes
Route: Wanthwaite - Old Coach Road - Threlkeld Knotts - Clough Head - Great Dodd - Watson's Dodd - Stybarrow Dodd - Sticks Pass - Stanah - Low Bridge End Farm - St-John's-in-the-Vale - Sosgill Bridge - Wanthwaite Bridge - Wanthwaite

Parking Details and Map
Nearest Post Code: CA12 4UB
Grid Reference: NY 315 923
Notes: Wanthwaite, found between Threlkeld and Thirlmere is perfectly positioned to access Clough Head, the Dodds and High Rigg, however the roadside parking is limited with space at both sites for up to three well parked cars each. More spaces for up to four cars can be found close to Wanthwaite Bridge. My advice is to arrive early to guarantee a parking place. Parking is free.


Map and Photo Gallery


Blencathra from Wanthwaite 08:20am 1°C

We had arranged to meet at 08:30 at Wanthwaite where roadside parking is limited to around three cars, I was lucky enough to grab the last spot after turning my car around to find Rod chatting to the chap who owned the car in front, as it turned out he was waiting for a lift which would take him to Swirls at Thirlmere from where he and his friends would traverse the Helvellyn to Clough Head ridge, a route that I also have had the pleasure to enjoy. His lift soon turned up and we pass on our 'enjoy your walks' to each other and within minutes both Rod and I also are ready for the off.

After a week of snowfall and thaw full Winter gear is packed but whether we will be needing it is debateable but it's packed anyway as the thud of a heavy pack against my back is starting to feel the norm these weekends. With the cars locked we cross the road while gazing back at the dominance of Blencathra over our shoulders who's buttresses are lit up in a soft afterglow of morning sunlight, it seemed such a shame to be walking away from this amazing view but thankfully it wouldn't be for long.

Blencathra from the Old Coach Road.
After leaving Wanthwaite behind we picked up the Old Coach road first passing Hill Top Farm to our right. The cliffs of Clough Head leave the vale in shadow, the morning sunlight still hasn't breached the Dodds and it'll be a while before it does. The Old Coach Road can be rough underfoot., churned over by the four by fours who test the agility of their Landcruisers and what not, a sight that I still can't get used to even after all these years. Blencathra dominates the view as the track starts to get that bit more steadier, I gaze up ahead while chatting to Rod and remember my last pathless descent of Threlkeld Knotts only last Summer and think, it's still as bloody steep.

Views towards Lonscale Fell, Skiddaw and Dodd.


Threlkeld Knotts.

We left the Old Coach Road at the best vantage point for a direct ascent on Threlkeld Knotts and steered as best we could alongside its northern spur. Our ascent made slower by the awkward tussocks and soft grass underfoot soon reaching the snowline, however at around 1,400ft which appeared at first as a dusting soon becoming more substantial with depths of up to three to five centimeters in places.

The area of low ground (seen here) isn't the actual summit of Threlkeld Knotts but it is the best view point in most peoples opinions which is why this area is often mistaken for the actual summit which lies just a stones throw away south east of the two cairns.

Blencathra seen beyond Threlkeld Knotts.
Moments after leaving Threlkeld Knotts we both stopped if only to pick out the path below the scree which wasn't that easy to spot within the shade of the crags and after agreeing on its location we traced our way towards the base of the path, it wasn't the quickest of crossings made that bit slower by the soft (and sometimes) deep snow underfoot.

Ascent on Clough Head.
It's only when you think back on which moments which made the walk that bit more special, this ascent, although steep, was certainly one of them.

It doesn't get much better than this.
It is here the ascent starts to get steeper and with no steps to follow we blaze a trail through the fresh snow.

Gaining the shoulder of Clough Head.
Our path steepened and I wouldn't have blamed Rod who mentioned about adding a set of spikes to his boots if only to help with traction underfoot, the narrow path fell away steeply right as we picked out as set of fox tracks in the snow which traced a way towards the summit. By now we were still walking in shadow and once the shoulder was gained, as if by magic mother nature turned the brightness right up to ten.

Clough Head.
That's Clough Head summit just up ahead, we're still a distance away just yet but I think the view, and indeed the glorious conditions are more than enough to keep the mind occupied.

Great Dodd, Helvellyn Lower Man and Helvellyn from Clough Head summit.
With the highest of spirits we traced our way over the shoulder of the fell direct into sunlight, we had no choice other than to look down at our boots which by now we're counting the last hundred feet towards the summit cairn which appeared as a black spec in the blinding distance.

Great Dodd from Clough Head summit.
If conditions weren't perfect enough it would appear after recent snowfall, we are the first visitors to Clough Head this morning.

Calfhow Pike and Great Dodd from Clough Head.
Leaving the summit was a difficult choice but a silent gut feeling told us to continue even if we never spoke of it. The reason for this was that the fell forecast for today had advised that that only fifty to eighty percent of summits would be clear, the highest percentage being in the west of the park, no wonder we wanted to continue, who wouldn't.

A snow capped Clough Head from Calfhow Pike.

We left the summit and strode confidently over the semi frozen surface each complaining that the sun was now too bright to which I had already added my sunglasses back at Clough Head. Unfortunately for Rod however he had forgotten his 'sunnies' and had to put up with the dazzling sunlight.

It's a hard life ain't it.

We walked side by side but at times up to ten feet apart which I guess is ones way of walking as a duo all the while absorbing our surroundings. Up ahead we spot the first walker of the morning, a male or female who was descending Great Dodd, it did seem a little odd though when he or she got within a whisper of Calfhow Pike only to turn heel and head back up to Great Dodd...

Anyway, here's a photo of Clough Head from Calfhow Pike, why did we visit Calfhow Pike? Because it was there.

Great Dodd and Little Dodd from Calfhow Pike.
The next time i'll be back here is when I start my Birkett Fells project in early Spring.

Great Dodd is just up ahead.

Both Rod and I agreed we under estimated what should have felt like the skip up to Great Dodd which actually turned out to be a drawn out ascent wholly down to the fresh and sometimes deep snow underfoot. You can see the solo walkers footprints who we had spotted from Clough Head in the right of the photo who didn't seem to mind trudging through the deep snow.

Rod and I however took advantage of the high spots of ground alongside the path which we were familiar with even though we couldn't see them, even so, it still seemed to take much longer to reach the summit than it should have.

I had spotted cloud approaching during our ascent of Great Dodd which I noted to Rod, it was only when we were within metres of the summit did we manage to get a better view of the advancing cloud, but with that aside for a moment, this view took me right back to David's and Andrew's walk all those years ago...The cloud could do what it wanted, I for now can place a tick at the side of one off my bucket list.

Spectacular Great Dodd summit shelter.


Snowtastic views over Watson's Dodd and Stybarrow Dodd.
The low Winter sun stayed fixed in a cloudless blue sky and unfortunately could do nothing about the low cloud which was advancing on the ridges up ahead, so quickly in fact the scenery started to change within minutes.


Watson's Dodd seen during the descent of Great Dodd.
With only limited time before more cloud arrived I took as many pictures as I could before I knew visibility would be reduced.


Watson's Dodd is just up ahead.

The view back to Watson's Dodd and Millgill Head from Stybarrow Dodd summit.
It was quite a hurried descent mainly because we wanted to reach the summit before the cloud did and thankfully we got our wish, all the while the cloud continues to build from the east.

Rod takes in the view over Great Dodd from Stybarrow Dodd summit cairn.

Looking along the ridge towards Stybarrow Dodd, Raise, White Side and Browncove Crags.
It was the incredible shaft of light between Stybarrow Dodd and Raise which suddenly caught my eye.

Snowboard glider approaches after descending Great Dodd with a little help from the wind.
We first spotted the sail on the other side of Great Dodd but with it being such a distance away we really didn't pay it any attention other than noting how cold it must have been to be up in the elements on a day such as today, it was only when the sail became more visible did we realise it was attached to a snow boarder!

Stybarrow Dodd next for this guy.
It was incredible to see just how fast this guy was moving, so fast infact the shutter on my camera couldn't adjust to the speed as the snow boarder passed by, his first attempt on Stybarrow Dodd didn't work out so he went all the way back towards Great Dodd and took a greater run and eased up the slopes and within seconds he had vanished, certainly not the way I would like to take in the fells in Winter but I couldn't knock the guy one bit for his skill and control.

Onward at a more leisurely pace towards Stybarrow Dodd.
By the time we had crossed the ridge between Watson's Dodd and Stybarrow Dodd visibility had dropped to around thirty feet and with it so to had the windchill, it was here we both decided to itch up our hoods if only to avoid the nip to exposed skin.

The Ski Tow, Raise.

We topped out at Stybarrow Dodd summit with only the summit cairn to break the bleakness of our ever whitening conditions helped along by the gusty summit winds. It was above all the least time we'd spent at any summit all morning. We continued and rejoined the path soon passing the secondary cairn where we spoke of the possibility of passing the chap and his friends who we had spoken to back at Wanthwaite this morning, aye, there's no reason why our paths shouldn't cross.

We dropped out of the cloud and pass a couple and their dog in ascent where mornings are shared. To my amazement the Ski Tow on Raise is in action and I can only look on with a gulp in my throat as I remember the words of Lakeland legend Harry Griffin who spent many a happy Winter skiing on the back of Raise before converting his memories into his famous Country Diaries.

This scene is so much more than just a Ski Tow.

Raise seen beyond the top of Sticks Pass.
It's almost time for us to start our descent.


Looking back on Raise as the cloud begins to clear.

Commanding views as far as Bassenthwaite from the rebuilt sheepfold alongside Sticks Pass.

By now lunch time had been and gone and our original plan which seemed like a good idea at the time was to stop and have lunch at the sheepfold before our final descent into Stanah but unfortunately we found the sheepfold layered with snow which put a stop to our lunch plans...

Oh well ney mind, we can always stop further down "try and tell that to my stomach" which by now was growling feed me.

The view over Bleaberry Fell, Dodd Crag, High Rigg, Latrigg, Dodd and Skiddaw from the sheepfold alongside Sticks Pass.

It's turning out to be another one of those Spring like afternoons back in the valley.
The descent of Sticks Pass was done relatively quickly most possibly because we were both getting hungry. With the cottage rooftops of Stanah just below we pass an elderly couple sat down enjoying the view as Rod quips up "see we could have had our dinner here Paul but someones nicked our spot!" thankfully they saw the funny side before light hearterd mentioning "where's this Helvellyn that everyone talks about" we pointed back towards Lower Man who's summit was visible and replied, it's just beyond there, oh is it! I'm guessing they where referring to Britains Greatest Walks which featured on BBC last week. We left them still enjoying the view hopefully understanding why Helvellyn won first place.

Castle Rock from Legburthwaite.

Noses were filled with the smell of wood smoke as we walked along Stanah Lane and back into reality of the A591. The return leg of todays walk will be via St-Johns-in-the-Vale but before we head the last few miles back to the cars it's time to refuel.

We stopped in the narrow lane between Legburthwaite and A591 which is used more commonly by cyclists on the C2C. Today, however with the exception of a dog walker we had the whole lane to ourselves and thought this would be the perfect spot to eat lunch which was done whilst sat on a dry stone wall while dangling ones feet below. Great How dominated our view along with sudden bursts of warm sunshine which illuminated the greenery of the fields.

Bam Crag seen towering alongside Beckthorns Gill from Low Bridge End Farm.

From the narrow lane where we had eaten lunch we re-shouldered this time less our hats and gloves and headed out briefly onto the A591 before passing through the gate (for High Rigg) and took the low level path bound for Low Bridge End Farm passing a few walkers along the way. Our plan was to make it as far as Sosgill Bridge then brave the traffic back to Wanthwaite.

Blencathra from Sosgill Bridge, St-John's-in-the-Vale.

Wanthwaite Crags and Bam Crag (Clough Head) as we near Bridge House, St-John's-in-the-Vale.
After Rod produced a map which I should have recognised after he had printed it off my this here website, we could see that we didn't have to rejoin the road and instead we could follow a footpath through a network of around six fields each with a gate at either end, well that looks much better than facing the traffic, lets go for it.

Bridge House and St John's Beck, St-John's-in-the-Vale.
We stuck by our alternative route back to Wanthwaite even if I might add the fields were a tad muddy which kind'a slowed us down a little. We soon came across St. John's Beck where we had hoped to give the boots a swill but the river bank, here anyway, wouldn't allow this. We continued towards Bridge House which looked as idyllic as any Lakeland Farm could but I couldn't help wonder how lucky its owners where even if the cottage sat just a stones throw away from St John's Beck which of course broke its banks and indeed caused extensive damage to this whole area, infact most of the bridges we crossed here in the vale were replaced after the floods of December 2015.

Clough Head from Wanthwaite.
We finally managed to swill our boots in St John's Beck shortly after passing Bridge House before the final field came to an abrupt stop at a metal gate close to Wanthwaite Bridge, we were once again back into reality passing parked up cars whilst the distant sound of the A66 murmured in the distance. Rod went on ahead whist I stopped to take the last photo of the day while I look down at my feet and muttered "how the hell am I gonna get these boots clean"


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