Skiddaw via Skiddaw Little Man

27th December 2021

I wasn't supposed to be walking today and when I looked at the future forecast it looked like my St Sunday Crag walk last weekend might have been my last walk of the year and queue the sulk.

Even though I wasn't meant to be walking, yesterday I was still checking the forecast which predicted between 30% to 60% cloud free summits, it wasn't the worst forecast but it was the best over the next coming days.

With having family around this evening even if I did walk I'd be pushed for time so I set my hopes on a single ascent of Skiddaw from the top of Gale Road returning the same way. I got my green light and after checking the Met Office's forecast for keswick it still hadn't changed, however, the forecast for Skiddaw summit was for bright sunshine, it just didn't add up mainly because the mountain forecast had predicted zero chance of sunshine above, or below any summits. With a pinch of salt and with fingers, toes and everything else crossed I set off north.

Wainwright Guide Book Five
The Northern Fells
Their span of life is short. Skiddaw has stood there in supreme majesty, the sole witness to the creation of Lakeland, for millions of years and will be there to the end of time.

Ascent: 2,213 Feet - 675 Metres
Wainwrights: 2, Skiddaw Little Man - Skiddaw
Visiting: Skiddaw Lesser Man
Weather: Widespread Low Cloud & Fog Clearing Above 2,000ft With Intermitant Sunshine. Highs of 5°C Lows of 3°C Freezing Level Above The Summits
Parking: Car Park, Top of Gale Road
Area: Northern
Miles: 6.7
Walking With: On My Own
Ordnance Survey: OL4
Time Taken: 3 Hours 30 Minutes
Route: Top of Gale Road - Hawell Monument - Tourist Track - Skiddaw Lesser Man - Skiddaw Little Man - Skiddaw - Tourist Track - Hawell Monument - Top of Gale Road

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


Fog capping the lower slopes of Skiddaw seen beyond the Hawell Monument 08:30am 3°C

The roads were predictably empty and drowsed in fog for the entire journey north. It was still dark when I passed Underscar and joined Gale Road taking my time I eased my car towards the car park ahead. The car park was half full and soon more cars started to arrive one of which hadn't realised the car park was full of pot holes and hit one at speed grounding the vehicle with an eye watering thud, the driver then reversed his car up alongside mine, got out and preceeded to kit up in the dark at the rear of his car.

I could see that the car was full of passengers which was probably why it grounded so easily. Time ticked away slowly and with so much fog and cloud cover even when dawn broke the light was still poor at best. The car park was a quagmire made up of mud and clay and even tying my boot laces without getting them caked in mud was difficult so I grabbed all my gear and walked it towards the point where mud met tarmac by which time my trouser bottoms were already scuffed with the stuff, despite being a seasoned fell walker I am no fan of mud.

With my pack thrown over one shoulder I returned to the car and performed a final sweep of the boot making sure I'd packed everything, the weight of my pack confirmed this. I locked the car and strode out towards the gate where a large stone stopped the gate from opening too far, I de-shoulder and packed my keys away safely then opened the gate latch with a good tug before making my way towards the Hawell Monument. The mother from a young family held the next gate probably longer than she had too but in the spirit of Christmas she waited until I arrived and was thanked with a thank you and a smile by which time her husband, children and two gleaming white Jack Russels were twenty yards ahead. The family broke right towards Whit Beck while I headed left passing the Hawell Monument not bothering to look back on the view due to the thirty meter visibility.

Fog bound.

Even though it was just 5°C there was little to no wind and the initial steep climb saw me losing layers and wrapping my buff around my right wrist to help wipe the sweat away instead of around my neck to keep the draft out.

I'm not sure how but I managed to over take a trio of walkers at the top of the steep zigzags who I passed with a 'morning' and 'pheww, it's warm!' One of the trio had already delayered to a short sleeved T-Shirt while the others smiled and agreed.

Arriving at the Skiddaw Lesser Man/Jenkin Hill junction.

From the top of the zigzags I concentrated on the ascent and let my walking poles work their magic as the gradient levelled off where I was passed by a chap in descent "be worth it, the summit is poking out of the cloud" "fantastic" I replied although his voice did imply that this was my first ascent which was quite annoying. If my old boss had taught me one thing that stuck it was to 'never assume'

Anyway, the chap had just confirmed everything I wanted to hear. The summit was in fact cloud free and the Met Office had nailed the forecast.

Good grief!

Looking upwards towards a thick grey sky as I started my ascent on Skiddaw Lesser Man which made me query the summit was cloud free. if anything I was ascending into more cloud and an overwhelming feeling of doubt crept in. Normally if your about to pierce through the cloud the signs should be there to see, a crack of faint blue, the murk turning a lighter shade but nothing.

I stepped down a gear fearing the summit was back in cloud and by taking my time by the time I do summit the cloud might have lifted. To my left the grass appeared a shade brighter, nothing significant but sure enough it was a sign. The path twisted a slight left and I continued towards the summit by which time I could see the twisted remains of the summit cairn whose shiny wet rock was reflecting sunlight - it's happening, just yards away from the summit cairn the cloud was lifting in a continuous swirl - this can't be real I smiled, but it was, it was as real as the hand in front of my face. I was right on top of the cloud layer.

Looking East...
....towards Blencathra.

Looking West...
...towards the north western fells.

Considering that this is my last Lakeland walk of 2021
It doesn't get much better.

I look East again.
Where every now and again Atkinson Pike appeared but as for Blencathra herself the summit was mostly cloaked in cloud.

Tearing myself away from Skiddaw Lesser Man.
I was joined for around three minutes of descent by my own Broken Spectre as I made my way towards Skiddaw Little Man.

Here looking directly over what would be the Lord's Seat Fells.
The silence was only broken by the sound of a light aircraft flying overhead. The pilots view obviously wider than mine must have looked biblical.

Looking South towards the direction of Keswick and Borrowdale.
Thou shall never doubt the Met Office again (obviously a porky but for now they've won forecast of the year)

Sun rising above cloud inversion.
From Skiddaw Little Man summit.

Will Blencathra ever reveal herself?
It's not looking promising it but would be great to get even a glimpse of the summit.

Switching West again.
Time to descend Little Man while watching the magnificent cloud drama unfolding before my eyes.

A wave of static cloud gently lapping at Skiddaw's shoreline.
Here looking towards what's referred to on the map as Skiddaw Forrest with Sale How, Little Calva, Great Calva and Mungrisdale Common all below cloud with the exception of Bakestall which can be seen towards the left.

Skiddaw and Bakestall.
Gone were the mild temperatures, by now the wind had whipped up causing the windchill to nip at exposed skin and with so much moisture in the air my camera lens started to fog up at every opportunity.


Skiddaw is just up ahead.
By now Lesser and Little Man had succumbed to cloud and although it was clear ahead more cloud was gathering from the west (Carl Side) which was creeping up towards the summit of Skiddaw.

It was surprising how quick the cloud gathered momentum.
Which took less than five minutes from taking the previous photo.

Looking back on Skiddaw Little Man.
It's clear that the cloud base is beginning to drop.

Then within a few more minutes.

Skiddaw summit plateau.
The cloud base had dropped over the summit with only the odd crack of blue sky appearing through gaps in the cloud.

Looking West from Skiddaw summit.

Although the summit was mostly void of snow parts of the summit rock was covered with a layer of rime ice and care had to be taken so as not to take a tumble. Two walkers had just left the summit trig point and we passed with a 'morning'. I now had the summit to myself while the cloud layer swirled around above my head. It was biting cold and I could no longer keep on top of my camera lens fogging up so I wandered over to the shelter, de-shouldered my pack and took out my camera bag which had a couple of spare lens clothes. In a biting windchill I carefully wiped the lens of my camera with one cloth then again with a second before placing it into its bag which I looped over my head before shouldering again.

By now a fell runner and his Patterdale Terrier appeared followed by a solo walker who continued towards Broad End only stopping for a brief comment on the cloud drama. I'd been at the summit for just under ten minutes waiting for the cloud to lift and even though I was layered in full winter Kit I started to shiver and taking photos took a back shelf for the want to descend.

Returning towards the South summit.
The sun poked through the cloud revealing blue sky and the thoughts of descending into the inversion caused my stomach to perform catapults.

Staggeringly beautiful.
I walked into the windchill which burned exposed skin but it wasn't enough to stop me taking the next few photos.

Blencathra is revealed again.

About to descend into the inversion.

A large crowd had gathered at the south cairn mostly to take photos and hi's were shared over the wind as I passed by which time the cloud was gathering momentum again. By the time I had descended the south cairn towards the junction for Little Man I was in a world of grey and biting windchill. The odd walker appeared through the swirling cloud as I glanced over towards Lesser and Little Man wondering should I chance a second summit if only to find myself poking out of the cloud but the peaks were masked by a wall of grey cloud which the sun had also succumbed too.

I continued my descent where I was passed by mountain bikers and more walkers and a quarter of a mile later I arrived at the Lesser Man/Jenkin Hill junction where someone's lost hat occupied the fence post covered in dew, must be recent and hopefully they'll get it on their way back. I took one last look at where Lesser Man stood but she was lost in cloud and with that I passed through the gate and began a hurried descent.

Approaching the top of the zigzags the cloud broke and I was able to see the faint details of Lesser and Little Man as the cloud began to peel from their summits, no takers though. More walkers making their ascent worried me given the time of day, how much light was left and their appearance. I was stopped by one lady who asked me how long it would take her to reach the top of the zigzags - not wanting to discourage her too much I pointed back towards two walkers who were little more than pin pricks on the horizon "I'm afraid that's the top of the zigzags" adding to be mindful of the time as the sun sets around 3:50pm.The lady thanked me leaving me with the impression she'll try her best, those passing me at the bottom of the zigzags at nearly midday wearing Hard Rock Cafe hoodies also caused me to worry.

I hadn't timed my descent which just over the half hour mark letting gravity and my walking poles take in the steep inclines and do the hard work, my left knee creaked because I was pushing it but nothing more came of it. I'm passed by a fell runner who I'd seen last on the flanks of Lesser Man, his knees must have hurt more. I was practically steaming inside but as my car was just minutes away I'd need to cook a little more before the pressure relief valve was released. I thought about the mountains of steam which would escape my body once my jacket was removed which of course didn't happen but it felt that way.

It's fair to say that personally I've had quite a turbulent year which in some ways has affected my fell walking but what I can say is when I wasn't feeling up to it and at my lowest Lakeland waited for me, and when I needed her she welcomed me back with open arms.

I'd like to wish all my visitors both old and new a Happy New Year for 2022 and thank you for being part of this website.



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