Skiddaw from Briar Rigg

6th Januray 2024

After what seemed like months of rain, cooler air has now gripped the county, bringing sunshine and what can only be described as near-perfect walking conditions. David couldn't make today's walk, but it was great to have Rod and his daughter Louise join me on a walk that I initially planned to walk on Boxing Day, but the weather wasn't playing ball back in December and I climbed Fairfield instead.

We last walked Skidda on New Year's Day last year, and if I remember correctly, we had snow on the ground from Bakestall upwards. Sadly, we didn't encounter any snow today, but to make up for it, we had valley mist for much of the morning and we were balanced beneath the cloud layer as we summited Lonscale Pike's East Ridge. Couple that with a hard frost underfoot, light winds, and strong sunshine, and I think today's walk has made walk of the year just two walks in!

Not only were we sandwiched between the summit and the cloud, but we also got to witness those special few moments when the cloud lifted from the fellside, not before revealing broken spectres. I mean, what more could you want from a fell walk?

Wainwright Guide Book Five
The Northern Fells
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, continuing to give service and pleasure to insignificant and unimportant mortals. Let us at least be grateful.

Ascent: 3,189 Feet - 972 Metres
Wainwrights: 3, Lonscale Fell - Little Man - Skiddaw
Visiting: 4, Lonscale Pike East Top - Jenkin Hill - Lesser Man - Skiddaw South Top
Weather: Valley Mist To Start Sunshine Soon Breaking Through. Highs of 5°C Lows of 3°C Feels Like -2°C
Parking: Spooney Green Lane, Keswick (Briar Rigg)
Area: Northern
Miles: 10.2
Walking With: Rod Hepplewhite & Louise Hepplewhite
Ordnance Survey: OL4
Time Taken: 5 Hours 20 Minutes
Route: Briar Rigg - Spooney Green Lane - Gale Road Car Park - Hawell Monument - Whit Beck - Lonscale Pike East Top - Lonscale Fell - Jenkin Hill - Lesser Man - Little Man - Skiddaw South Top - Skiddaw - Tourist Path - Gale Road Car Park - Hawell Monument - Spooney Green Lane - Briag Rigg

Parking Details and Map Spooney Green Lane, Keswick (Briar Rigg)
Nearest Post Code: CA12 4PJ
Grid Reference: NY 267 324
Notes: Spooney Green Lane, Keswick is perfectly positioned for a short walk onto Latrigg, a visit to the old Keswick Railway or even Skiddaw. There is room for up to half a dozen cars but please be considerate when parking as this is a residential street. Parking is free.


Map and Photo Gallery


Valley mist across the Vale of Keswick here looking towards the North, and North Western fells 9:00am 3°C

The car was completely frozen when I left home under clear skies, encountering fog from Tebay northwards. I was sceptical of what I'd find when I left the M6 at Penrith and headed west towards Keswick. Blencathra's summit was completely clear, which couldn't be said for the parking spaces at Scales, which were already full at 8:10am when I drove past, I even managed to spot a few walkers ascending Mousthwaite Comb. Early indications were that we were in for a great day on the hill. We had arranged to meet at Briar Rigg Keswick in favour of the car park at the top of Gale Road, where not only is it pot-holed to buggery, but the steep incline from Under Skiddaw towards the car park is known to freeze in Winter and can be a nightmare for drivers attempting to risk it.

Rod and Louise were already there when I arrived about 8:20am and had been for sometime owing to setting off too early, but I'd call that eager to get onto the fell. Despite the temperature hovering just above freezing, it felt much colder due to the stillness of the air. More cars were beginning to arrive as I finalised my kit, making sure I had plenty of spare layers including my Napapijri hat which works wonders on those extra-cold summits. We left the cars and turned right onto Spoony Green Lane, crossed the footbridge over the A66 before joining the Cumbrian Way below the western flanks of Latrigg and Mallen Dodd. Rod had already mentioned that he and Louise would be tagging Latrigg on at the end of the walk on account that it's one of his mum's fondest summits, who is in hospital at the moment.

Great Mell Fell, Little Mell Fell and Clough Head seen beyond Threlkeld.

With Latrigg to our right we continued along the Cumbrian Way passing around half a dozen fell runners all heading back towards Keswick. Despite the freezing temperatures the ground underfoot was muddy and unavoidable.

The car park at the top of Gale Road was soon reached which was as expected, full to bursting with more cars arriving we passed through onto firm ground taking the right fork as we headed towards Whit Beck. Dawn had broke but the sun had risen into a bank of cloud behind the Dodd ridge causing the low light to continue which also added some nice cloud dramatics.

Looking back on Clough Head and The Dodds, Tewit Tarn, High Rigg, Bleaberry Fell, Thirlmere and Steel Fell.
We continued on the Cumbrian Way as far as the familiar gate below Lonscale Fell steep southern flank. The hill side was busy with one couple in ascent and with two young girls and their dog who were also about to join the ascent on our tails. It's been a couple of years since I last ascended Lonscale Fell and the one thing you don't forget is how steep and continuous it is, the views however, more than made up for it.

Blease Fell and Blencathra from Lonscale Pike East Top.
More walkers were joining the flanks and at one point we were looking down on three separate couples the OF WHICH last hit the turbo button and managed to overtake the lot of us.

Looking towards Lonscale Fell having descended Lonscale Pike East Top.
Incredible cloud dramatics as we head towards Lonscale Fell just below the cloud layer.

Looking back on Lonscale Pike East Top.
The two girls who had been behind us also made their way towards the east top first from where the views of the cloud parting were incredible. It was around this spot Rod dropped the lens cap from his camera so me and Louise tracked back towards the fence only for Rod to find it in the grass a few feet from where he was stood!

The two girls head back down after reaching Lonscale Fell summit.
We soon arrived at the summit which was only thinly layered with cloud and with the sun on our backs we each had our own broken spectres albeit a tad weak.

Jenkin Hill, Lesser Man, Little Man and Skiddaw are revealed.
We left Lonscale Fell and on the shoulder, passed a group of lads coming from the direction of Jenkin Hill where 'mornings' were shared. Continuing with our descent the cloud began to peel away revealing Skiddaw with blue skies beyond.

Jenkin Hill, Lesser Man, Little Man and Skiddaw.
With what felt like seconds the cloud had lifted and we had breath taking views all the way to Skiddaw.

Looking back on Lonscale Fell.
With Blease Fell and Blencathra in the distance.

At one point the Helvellyn ridge was below cloud which had lifted BY now with the exception of the valley mist still clinging to Derwent Water below.

Lesser Man, Little Man and Skiddaw from Jenkin Hill summit.
We seemed to reach Jenkin Hill in no time from where we spotted groups of walkers ascending Lesser man and Little Man beyond. The sun certainly brings the numbers out.

Vale of Keswick and Derwent Water gripped by valley mist.
With equally stunning views into a cloud cloaked Borrowdale beyond.

Looking back on Jenkin Hill, Lonscale Fell, Blencathra and Mungrisdale Common seen far left.
With Jenkin Hill behind us we crossed the tourist track without pause and began the steep ascent on Lesser Man managing to pass some of the walkers who we'd seen from Jenkin Hill earlier.

Valleys and mist from Lesser Man summit.
The view from Lesser Man summit was stunning as we left the cairn to view the mist which extended all the way over Bassenthwaite too.

Rod and Louise taking in the view from Lesser Man towards Little Man.
What little wind there was brought with it a windchill and Rod and I up-graded hats before heading for Little Man.

Lesser Man from Little Man.
Notably the higher we climbed we encountered verglas (black ice) underfoot causing footings on the path to be quite treacherous in places.

Looking south towards Derwent Water and Borrowdale from Little Man summit.
Little Man summit was reached and just like we had from Lesser Man we dropped to the shoulder to explore the views.

Mist extending from Derwent Water, across the Vale of Keswick towards Bassenthwaite.
The little fell at at the southern tip of Derwent Water is Castle Crag from where I would imagine the views are just as spectacular.

Views over White Stones and Dodd.
With the north western fells in the distance.

Longside Edge, Ulock Pike and Skiddaw from the descent of Lesser Man.
The verglas coating the north flank of Little Man was treacherous underfoot causing Rod to slip a couple of times, in the end we all decided it was much safer to descend via the grass.

Brilliant sunlight.
Here as I look back on Little Man with Lonscale Fell, Lonscale Pike and Blease Fell in the distance.

Rod and Louise enjoying the views.
With Little Man behind us we crossed the col and joined the tourist path bound for the summit, on reaching the south top we had another wander over to the edge of the summit to take in the views.

Views beyond Sale How towards High Pike, Bannerdale Crags, Great Calva, Mungrisdale Common, Burnt Horse and Lonscale Pike.
On my return the Weatherline fell top assessor reported that a cloud inversion had stretched from the Pennines and was creeping in on Ullswater, you can make out the inversion just beyond Blencathra's summit.

Rod and Louise.
Skiddaw south top.

Looking back on Skiddaw South Top.
We re-grouped and began the short walk north towards the summit encountering more rim ice and verglass underfoot. It was along here did I bump into two lads who had a 9 month old Westie with them named Hamish and I had a good chat with them about Brad and Holly back home who were probably still snoring there heads off while young Hamish was conquering Skiddaw!

Skiddaw summit toposcope and shelter.
At this time of year the metal from the toposcope lines perfectly with the sun overhead, its a rare sight trust me!

Time to head back.
More and more people where arriving and with the added windchill that was our queue to leave. In this photo you can acutally see the verglas reflecting back in the sunshine.

Back on the tourist path.
With views of Lonscale Fell and Blencathra.

Looking East.
Beyond Sale How towards Great Calva, Knott, Great Sca Fell, High Pike and Carrock Fell.

High Rigg, Clough Head and The Dodds with the Helvellyn ridge below cloud.


Cloud Head, the Dodds and the Helvellyn ridge from the Hawell Monument.

Under brilliant winter sunshine, we continued our descent, leaving the windchill behind for what felt like spring sunshine on the lower slopes. I could have sworn the temperature had risen into double figures, but descending as quickly as we were, the extra heat was probably caused by the exertion. By now, the mist was starting to break up over Derwent Water, which left its surface looking like a polished mirror. Beyond, the Borrowdale fells were still gripped by cloud cloaking the summits like giant duvets with the exception of Great Gable whose peak had protruded the cloud all day. Milder now, but too close to the car to stop and delayer despite making the last mile uncomfortable. With the car park at Gale Road reached the ice had thawed and had been replaced by a watery clay. Latrigg just beyond now, where I say my goodbyes to Rod and Louise and thanked them for a truly great day.

After crossing the car park I began my descent while Skiddaw nodded back at me through gaps in the trees. Cloud was forming across its lower slope, but it would probably lift rather than settle. From the Cumbrian Way, I spotted the path on the western flank of Latrigg where walkers were heading to and from its summit, but I didn't spot Rod and Louise who had to be minutes away. Into the steep woodland, where I passed three couples all heading back and one chap heading in the opposite direction, it had dawned on me that Latrigg at this time of year would make the perfect summit to watch the sunset from. Sunlight breaking through the canopy above and the noise of traffic travelling along the A66 brought me back to reality and I was soon back at Briar Rigg de-layering while wondering if it was Rod and Louise I could see on top of Latrigg's summit.


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