Knott Rigg – The North Western Fells 1,790′ (107)
Date: 8 May 1989/1 July 1995
From: Keskadale Farm/Scar Crags via Sail Pass
The low-lying ridge that sits between Keskadale Beck and the main body of the Eel Crag/Grasmoor groups of fells is ideal for a sunny Summer afternoon’s self-contained little walk. The ridge has two fells, one at each end, Knott Rigg and Ard Crags, offering an easy, airy narrow crest that’s so characteristic of the North Western Fells. Indeed, it’s only drawback is plotting a way back from whichever fells you have chosen to end upon to where you have left your car. This is a walk that cannot in any way be made circular. What I did was to leave my car just off the road, at the bottom of Sail Beck, under the shade of Ard Crags. This was to be the finish of the walk, allowing me to descend with the best views of Newlands in front of me, so I had to get to Knott Rigg from there. The approach was simple, if unwelcome. I had to take the Newlands Pass road, tarmac underfoot and cars passing me in both directions, as far as Keskadale Farm. It was sunny, which meant I quickly got hot, and heavy-legged, walking up a road for more than a mile just to get grass under my feet, with little variation of views to distract me. Reaching that excessive double-bend just below the Farm, was both a blessing and a trial, given the steep gradient it involved. There was a choice of paths on this flank of Knott Rigg. I could have committed myself to the confines of Ill Gill, though Wainwright described it as rough. Further on, I could have struck a nondescript path across the flank, with nothing of interest to it. But I had determined on the most adventurous of routes, up the subsidiary ridge, the oddity in Knott Rigg’s geographical structure that gave the fell such a strange appearance on the long approach to the Farm, that Wainwright called Keskadale Edge. Access to the fellside was to be had along a short grass shelf on the immediate side of the Farm, but the way was clogged by farm apparatus and rubbish. Call me naïve, but long years of reading the Wainwrights, and the Lake District’s reputation for open fellwandering, left me believing that all the paths the master depicted were rights of way. There was only one, later, instance, on Great Borne, where I came across any attempt to restrict a Wainwright ascent. But I was determined, and besides there was no other access to my route of choice so I picked my way round the obstruction, gingerly aware of the steep drop to my right, and made it to the open fell. After that, despite its almost strenuous gradient, the subsidiary route was no difficulty. The sun still beat down, but the overall walk was so short that there was no reason to hurry, so I just took things steadily, until the slope eased off, I avoided a couple of spots where severe bogs had been marked off by circular fences, and strolled round to the main ridge and the summit, completely at ease. Post-completion, I constructed a more ambitious, if rather artificial walk from two old days out. Parking in that little off-road spot, I did Causey Pike and Scar Crags again, avoiding road-walking to the start of that climb by following a delightful path running parallel on grass, but when I came down to Sail Pass, I turned left, not right, down to the low col between that and the Knott Rigg/Ard Crags ridge. I say col, but this was something strange, more of a flat, narrow plateau, from which becks flowed in opposite directions. Like Blackbeck Tarn, something about the place sparked a temporary wish to camp here, and wake in the morning to silence and solitude. Then I took an easy diagonal line across the fellside reaching the skyline in my own time, more than half the way to Knott Rigg. This meant having to backtrack once I’d counted the summit again, but at least I’d reduced that necessity to a bare and acceptable minimum, and besides, such ridges are fun to walk, no matter how familiar you are with them.