Knott – The Northern Fells 2,329′ (159)
Date: 9 September 1992
During the long pursuit of the Wainwrights, I made almost a fetish of not repeating myself. Walks were designed to be circular, to get me back to my car with a minimum of trodden ground, i.e., going over ground I’d already covered during the walk. The same went for new ascents. Due to my unplanned and largely erratic approach in the beginning, I found myself left with odd fells here and there whose collection involved returning to tops I’d already visited. Sometimes, such as Great End and Sail, this became the opportunity to repeat a superb walk. Elsewhere, I still tried to make each individual walk as fresh as possible, covering newer ground, exposing myself to even more of the Lake District every time. This was the case in respect of Knott, the great, grassy, sprawling fell that’s the highest point ‘Back O’Skiddaw’. It’s distance from approach points, and its sheer size made it something of a difficult prospect, especially as I anticipated a dull foreground. However, the obvious decision to incorporate Great Calva into the walk dictated the best starting point as being Orthwaite, or in actual fact a convenient roadside parking space short of the village, giving me a briefer roadwalk to access the start of the walk, on the north-west side of the Dash Valley. Wainwright indicated two possible paths, one of which, in 1960, had been fading into the grass. I can’t remember if any trace of it existed in 1992 but in any event I wanted to take the lower path, to see Brockle Crag, which turned out to be decidedly unimpressive. From there, I diverted alongside Hause Gill, crossing a low lip and dropping into a fascinating gap in the fells. It appeared to be wide and spacious, hemmed in on every side by steep and bare slopes, some kind of secret valley not quite of the Lakes. It made a massive impression on me. The plan was to cross this valley and go straight on, following the line of Hause Gill and swinging round to the summit from the south-south-west. But my eye was attracted by an unidentified track, bearing left, in the direction of a narrow ravine. There were two paths, in parallel, one aiming for the defile itself. Consumed by curiosity, I followed this. It led into the narrow confines of a rushing, surging, twisting gill, the path precariously following the north bank. It wasn’t quite a scramble, the gradient wasn’t enough for that, but it did often involve hands as well as feet, and it was enclosed, with no escape except forward or back. I followed it gleefully. I had no idea where this was going but I didn’t care. It could go on for hours as far as I was concerned. Another of those times when it just didn’t last long enough, though I’d lost all track of time before the torrent began to ease, the bordering slopes to expand, and there I was at the lawns just below Trusmadoor, for I had been following Burntod Gill. I took a breather, not because I needed to rest but because I’d enjoyed my diversion so much I wanted to bask in it a while. Nor had I compromised my ascent: across the beck was a zigzag path up the flanks of Burn Tod, that eased the angle of ascent until it faded into the grass. By then, the way to the top was easy to see, though wading through tussocky grass wasn’t fun. The final stretch took much longer than it looked from below but eventually I subsided by Knott’s cairn, tucking into my sandwiches and contemplating Wainwright’s suggestion that the top was ideal for an impromptu cricket sensation, though I suspected he wasn’t the cricket fanatic I was, because unless you carried a dozen balls or more and played ‘six-and-out’, it would have been a very short match when the first boundary would have seen the ball roll hundreds of feet down the surrounding slopes.