All the Fells: Rest Dodd

Rest Dodd – The Far Eastern Fells 2,278′ (103)

Date: 12 September 1988/ 1997

From: The Knott/Hayeswater

Rest Dodd is not a favourite fell to walk for me. Though it doesn’t look particularly different from its surrounding tops from any distance, underfoot it is one of those fells that is tedious and tiring to ascend. Something about it is draining of the legs and the energy. I found this out from two separate approaches. The first of these was towards the end of my Hayeswater Round, coming down off The Knott, with Rest Dodd as the eighth and penultimate summit. I came down to the Patterdale path but, rather than follow it round, went straight across and down a track accompanying a wall. It was steep but easy walking for the miles I’d already covered. The dell at the bottom was narrow, at most two strides across and I was heading upwards again, still dead straight, same gradient, but I found this part of the walking very tiring. Of course, any such ascent after all I’d done that day would have been the same but there was something peculiarly draining about this slope. I got to the top, where two walls didn’t quite meet, slipped between them and made it up much easier slopes to the summit, with my legs still dragging. I didn’t stay long, enough to look out over Martindale, my personal valley, and the long peaty back of The Nab, then it was back to the non-junction and following the other wall down to the Patterdale path and onwards until the point at which I’d turn off for Brock Crags. Personally, I’d have never bothered to come back but if I were to climb The Nab – which was still trespass then – the only way to do so, to cause minimum disruption and maximum avoidance of being caught where I shouldn’t be, it had to be from Rest Dodd. So I parked at Hartsop and took the rough road to Hayeswater, relishing the sparkling freshness of the water on a sunny day that had been dusty in the confines of the gill. Then I set off up Rest Dodd’s green slopes. There was no track, nor need of one, and no especial strain in the lower part, but once the gradient began to steepen, I started contouring to and fro across. Yet even that was tedious and draining, no matter how easy I made the angle. Eventually I reached the non-junction and carried on to the summit, determined never to put myself through climbing Rest Dodd again, no matter what the reason.

All the Fells: High Hartsop Dodd

High Hartsop Dodd – The Eastern Fells 1,702′ (112)

Date: 10 May 1989

From: Hartsop Hall

Like its paradoxically higher equivalent on the other side of Patterdale, High Hartsop Dodd is a steep-sided grassy fell with no individual attributes that is doomed to be visited primarily by those for whom it is merely a gateway to or exit from the higher fells at whose feet it sits. This was what was in my mind when I set off to make a circuit of Caiston Beck. High Harstop Dodd was merely a stepping stone to Little Hart Crag, above and beyond. I parked the car in Patterdale, made my way across Kirkstone Beck and the narrow field beyond and through the farm buildings of Hartsop Hall to get to the foot of a very steep slope that I didn’t like one bit but which was the prize to pay to gain height. It was unpleasantly reminiscent of getting up Gray Crag, but without the opportunity to cut out the lower slopes, or the better views on the far side of Patterdale. I was glad to get this one out of the way.

All the Fells: Hartsop Dodd

High Hartsop Dodd

Hartsop Dodd – The Far Eastern Fells 2,018′ (185)

Date: 3 October 1993

From: Caudale Moor

Hartsop Dodd is another of those insignificant fells with no great individual appeal, a top to be ticked off along the way in another expedition of greater moment. I visited it on the descent from Caudale Moor, following the ridge downhill in company of the wall, barely pausing at its top – this was a Sunday afternoon and if I left the Lakes too late on those visits I ran the risk of getting stuck in ten-mile tailbacks on the M6 to pass the end of the Blackpool Motorway – and continued on down the ridge back towards Hartsop village. As Wainwright had advised, the ridge grew increasingly steep as it I neared its foot, and I would definitely have wanted to avoid any ascent this way. Once it got too steep, I made my way down on the right, to join the valley path via Threshthwaite Glen that I’d used to start the walk in the late morning, and regained the car, without any sign of the fell race I’d gotten inadvertently tangled in earlier on.

All the Fells: Hartsop above How

Hartsop above How

Hartsop above How – The Eastern Fells 1,870′ (177)

Date: 12 September 1993

From: Bridgend, Patterdale

Even though Wainwright indicates a ridge route from its narrow summit to the parent fell of Hart Crag, Hartsop above How always came over to me as a summit with no other options but to visit and then return. Geographically speaking, it’s another of those where it’s arguable that it’s a separate fell at all, its highest point, sometimes called Gill Crag, being little higher than the continuation of the ridge into the east flank of Hart Crag. To me it was made for a Sunday afternoon leg-stretcher on the first day of a holiday starting in Keswick, ticking off another on the list and demanding nothing that went any further. Structurally, the fell is a narrow, steep-sided, sickle-curve of a ridge and whilst that description could also apply to the Long Stile ridge leading to High Street, the comparison is very flattering to Hartsop above How. It was a decent walk, good exercise, but not much else, and the shape of the fell meant that the only possible variation by way of descent was to cross to the other side of the wall, and follow a line that was parallel but not much more than five yards away from the ascent.

All the Fells: Dollywaggon Pike

Dollywaggon Pike – The Eastern Fells 2,810′ (201)

Date: 23 July 1994

From: Nethermost Pike

I remember hearing about Dollywaggon Pike, and St. Sunday Crag for that matter, a long time before the time came to get it underfoot. My mother mentioned them enough to make the names stick in my mind long before there was a prospect of my visiting Patterdale. Which, given her extreme objection to visiting any part of the Lake District that isn’t between Ambleside and Wasdale is a mystery with neither solution or any reasonable guess. I first planned to climb Dollywaggon Pike as part of my self-titled ‘Outer Circle’ Walk, basically the centre of the Helvellyn Range, from Sticks Pass to Grisedale Pass. That never came off due to low cloud on the day, though not low enough to hinder several dozen visitors to Helvellyn’s summit, so I had to compromise on the parallel ‘Inner Circle’ walk which, in its pure form, should have been up by Birkhouse Moor and Striding Edge, down by Swirral Edge and Catstycam. Instead, I went direct from Birkhouse Moor to Catstycam, over Helvellyn and south to Grisedale Pass via Nethermost Pike and Dollywaggon Pike. It was a stunningly sunny Summer Saturday and by the time I came down off Nethermost Pike, the path directly across the back of Dollywaggon was very tempting. But the diversion via the summit, footsore or not, was neither difficult nor steep though I didn’t stop long. There isn’t much to see of the fell on this route, but the way down was via the infamous Zig-Zags. By taking the full zig-zags, easy and well-graded underfoot, relaid until almost at Grisedale Tarn, I made a pain-free descent from where I turned down into Grisedale. It was mid-afternoon by then, a long, slow retreat once the path levelled out in the valley. I chose to stay on the same side, the St Sunday Crag flank because, given the valley’s curvature, that was marginally shorter and the other side was dreadfully exposed. Not by much more, it couldn’t have been: the tree-shaded sections of the walk were always far too short and the dazzle so great I ended up carrying my glasses in my hand to minimise the glare of the sun. At least I could cool off on the car-free road out of Grisedale, under the trees all the way to the road-mouth where I’d parked at 9.00am that day.

All the Fells: Birks


Birks – The Eastern Fells 2,040′ (129)

Date: 30 April 1991/16 June 1996

From: Arnison Crag/St Sunday Crag

Birks was the second part of the approach to St Sunday Crag on that walk beginning with Arnison Crag. I joined it at Trough Head, walking straight uphill to gain the ridge and find the cairn. Though it was higher, and its views consequently wider – and Ullswater once again being a highlight of the view – it offered little more in walking terms than its lower neighbour, being the end of a spur protruding from the main fell, albeit in more of a straight ridge. My second, years later, was a reverse: I’d climbed Fairfield via Grisedale and Grisedale Pass, returned over St Sunday Crag and, at the bottom of the ridge, decided to vary the route of return over Birks. All I remember of that part of the walk was the knee-crackingly steep descent down into Glemara Park (renamed Glenamara Park by Chris Jesty’s revision), which I don’t think will have done my now-arthritic right knee any good. Back at the car I set off home, a cassette shoved into the player, along Ullswater, round to the Lowther Valley, heading for the A6 at Shap. The tape ran out at 3.50pm and rather than replace it, I left the radio on to hear the news at 4.00pm. That is how I learned that the IRA Bomb had gone off in Manchester that morning, whilst I was miles away in both senses in the fells.

All the Fells: Angletarn Pikes

Angletarn Pikes

Angletarn Pikes – The Far Eastern Fells 1,857′ (85)

Date: 18 June 1988/21 March 1993

From: Patterdale Village/Beda Fell

I can’t tell you the full story of my first ascent of Angletarn Pikes, my first summit with a companion since the last family holiday, for reasons that may well be all too apparent. We’d been together for ten months and I wanted to introduce her to the Lakes, and the fells, and she wanted to see what I loved so much. It had to be something sufficiently gentle for her, a total novice, and it had to be a Wainwright I hadn’t climbed before because, well, I was just selfish. Angletarn Pikes was a perfect selection, not too high nor too far, with no difficult gradients, though there was a point, on the long, angled path from Patterdale Village to Boardale Hause, where she was in trouble, feeling tight across the chest. I was concerned, but she had an unusual solution in mind. Telling me to stand guard on the path below, in case of encroaching walkers, she slipped out of her shirt, removed her bra and re-dressed, handing me the unwanted article to rapidly shove in my rucksack. I made sure we kept a slow pace up to the Hause, where we stopped for tea and sandwiches, but there were no more issues. She confided that she’d started to think she couldn’t do it but was now completely confident of carrying on. And it was much more gentle from there, via the strange upland gulch on the way, to the oddly shaped Angle Tarn, and no difficulties scaling the higher of the two Pikes. As should always be done with a person’s first top, I stood back to let her go first. It was a clear, golden day, the fells sharp all round us. I steadied my camera on a rock, set the timer and leapt across to land beside her, giving her a fit of the giggles as I arrived in shot. It was a lovely, peaceful afternoon. The same thought came into our heads. We stood at the edge of the Pike, gazing down on the path from High Street, silently watching a party of four walkers who might have intended to turn off the path and climb up beside us. When they walked on by, we retreated to a little grassy dell, out of sight. We left the summit late by my standards, lingering on the shores of the Tarn till about 6.00pm, watching a party of Scouts set up camp, before we made a lazy way back down to the car to return to Manchester. Years later, I returned alone, a Sunday afternoon, traversing from Beda Fell when I realised how easily I could extend that walk, having used only a minimal amount of energy. The approach from the back was far less interesting, the country being flattish and somewhat dull and the interesting fells further on, but it was simple walking and no stress. I went looking for our little dell but couldn’t recognise it. Descending to the Tarn and the Patterdale path, I dropped down to Boardale Hause but crossed that to the steep, zigzag descent into the valley itself, which provided me with a straight and sheltered return to the car.

Sunday Watch: Life of a Mountain – Helvellyn

At the time, it seemed propitious. I was in the Lake District yesterday, for the first time in almost two years. I’ve been waiting for the third part of Terry Abrahams’ ‘Life of a Mountain’ series, this time on Lakeland’s third highest and most popular fell, Helvellyn for ages. I knew it was done, I knew it had been put off premiering due to the COVID situation. I didn’t know that BBC4 had broadcast its traditional precised to one hour version as far back as January. I just saw it in a shop window and the lady behind the heavily protected till said it had not long since come out. Perfect for a Sunday morning.

But it was so utterly disappointing.

The full version is a sprawling two hours twenty-nine minutes long, an open invitation to call it bloated and an unavoidable one. Helvellyn sprawls, and yet insofar as its portrait of a year in the life of the mountain is concerned, it’s paradoxically extrememely limited. This is an entirely Patterdale-Ullswater biased portrait, without even the shadow of a pretence that the mountain has a western flank, that it towers about Thirlmere and can be ascended from that side.

Instead, every facet of the film, every view of Helvellyn we see, whether this be from the constantly low-motion aerial shots to those from the lake steamer, are of the mountain between Striding Edge and Swirral Edge, or they’te of Red Tarn between these two arms. Over and over again.

But then again such a small part of the film is about Helvellyn itself. This is a primarily polemic film, proclaiming the importance of conservation at every turn. It’s about things like the hill-farmers, the men on the steamers, poets, singers, one self-consciously eccentric writer is ridiculous clothing over-developing his every sentence. With very few exceptions, everyone talks modern day jargon, or bullshit. Environmentalists aren’t improving the landscape in any of the myriad ways they do, they’re upgrading it, the way I upgrade my customer’s ‘experience’ by selling them another package. Conservation, preservation, adaptation in a way in keeping with the natural life of the Lake District fells is very important but linguistically the battle is over and we lost.

Everybody’s out to push a viewpoint, but nobody had anything interesting to say about it. Those that are interested in their own personal fascinations cannot describe it as anything but a personal challenge that has emhanced their lives, which I’m sure it is and has. My own life, my walks in the hills, could be expressed in exactly the same fashion, but I hope that I have never sounded so pretentious when talking about them.

And endlessly we get another shot of Helvellyn’s face, between Striding Edge and Swirral Edge. Or a rolling vista of ridges. The film plods on. It’s about living and working around a particular mountain but it spends most of its time in the valleys. It’s generically about life in the Lakes without any sense that any part of it is specific to Helvellyn, is especially shaped by it. People love Helvellyn, love Patterdale, but they say why. It’s ‘special’ or ‘pretty’ or ‘brilliant’. The crap they spout has robbed them of the ability to actually express themselves.

And whereas Abrahams’ first venture, Scafell Pike, was comprehensive, and briliant, and focussed and properly obsessive, Helvellyn is far m,ore professional and has lost all ability to focus or to engage itself realistically with what Helvellyn is as a mountain, as a destination. The nadir comes in a section on the Ski Club, and their base on Raise, when we get the utterly sterile cliche of the skier sliding to a halt in front of the camera and sending a spray of snow over it.

Which is not to say the film doesn’t have its merit. Some, but not enough, people talk with quiet authority and eloquent simplicity about their specialised subject, feeling no need to over sell it, and there was one poignant sequence with a woman who described her spine as having collapsed five years ago, an active fellwalker who thought all of that lost, for good but who, in a top of the range electric wheelchair, with her husband alongside her, with her walking boots on despite the fact they were never going to touch the ground, had gotten as high on Helvellyn as she physically could. Her eyes said it all, the wonderment, the recognition of things she thought gone for good, the wonderful acceptance of being still able to be who she had been.

And her husband, talking into the camera, explaining that this was five years to the day since the operation, that very serious operation that his wife might well never have survived. The little brush away of something near the corner of his eye, the laconic ‘the longest day of my life’ in the tones that only one who has been through such a day and seen it come out can speak. The camera dropping behind as the pair stood overlooking a view, their arms around each other, her shoulders shaking and him gripping her like he still can’t entirely believe that he still gets to.

Too little, not enough. In the end, the intrusive music, the high-speed photopgraphy of coils boiling across the sky or sweeping up and down valleys, the early hours of indistinguishability from tides rolling in and out, became tedious, were padding. There wasn’t even enough of the fells for me to simply gape at in silent admiration, nothing onto which I could project my own memories of climbing Helvellyn.

Terry Abrahams is a very talented man and I envy him his skills. He’s gone from a life in the throws of despair and destruction to intetnationl recognition doimg something I would love to have been capable of myself. But he’s over-reached himself here, tried to make a statement a big statement and he’s blown it, big-time.

Re-Planning a Lakeland Expedition

Maybe (again)

Yesterday, a temperature of 20 degrees Celsius was recorded in Britain, in winter, for the first time ever.

Today, that record has been broken.

The skies are an unbroken blue, albeit with a tinge of white haze around the horizons. I was hot coming in to work and since my shift started I have been sitting here in a short-sleeved polo shirt, and about five minutes ago I was feeling unconfortably stuffy.

This is Britain in 2019: everything is broken.

Of course, I’m not complaining in the short term. This is nice weather and I’m happy to revel in it. On Sunday, one of my neighbours was out in shorts, sunbathing outside his front door. People continue to deny there’s something wrong with the Earth’s climate.

And the weather, if it can be relied upon and there isn’t a backlash in the immediate future, is tempting me to a day out. And when I say day out, I usually mean a Lake District Expedition: is Patterdale possible yet on current steamer schedules?

The answer is yes: depart Pooley Bridge 12.50, return 15.35, with thirty five minutes stopover at Glenridding. Not great, but feasible. But I can get a bus from Penrith at 11.20 outside the Rail Station, arriving Pooley Bridge 11.50. There’s a much bigger delay on the return, with the only bus leaving Pooley at 17.25 and returning to Penrith Rail Station for 18.09.

And I can do the train journey as two singles (08.47 from Manchester Piccadilly, 18.50 from Penrith), total £27.80 this Saturday coming. I can save £1 by going on Saturday week, but if I book for four weeks in advance, I can reduce the train fares to £21.00, by taking a slightly later train from Penrith.

Hmm. This is doable.

The problem is daylight: it’s starting to be light after 5.00pm now, but it still makes any outing at this time of year a bit too like a Birthday week trip. And if the skies are going to be this clear, and bright, I want all the access to daylight I can get. Nevertheless, with a, say 5.30pm cut-off point for daylight, I’d just about be on the bus at Pooley Bridge when the views vanish.

I wonder if the weather’s going to last…

Re-Planning Another Lake District Expedition

Maybe not…

Perhaps I should apologise to Northern Rail, not that I have any intention of doing so, not after the farce they made of my Patterdale Expedition last month. However, I did comment that I couldn’t see any timetable for the 508 bus from Windermere to Patterdale once I finally arrived at the former, and the reason for this is that the 508 doesn’t run after the end of October.

So even if everything had worked like the proverbial clockwork, I wasn’t going to get to the Ullswater Steamer anyway.

I’m going to bear things like that in mind for my annual November visit but now I have to remake my plans for the Patterdale Expedition, 2019 version.

The first change is that I am not going to try and do that via Windermere again. Not unless there is a drastic improvement in Northern Rail’s services of a kind that no-one in their right mind currently anticipates. So that automatically means an increase in travelling costs, because the other way to Ullswater by train from Manchester means Penrith, and Penrith means at least half as much again in fares.

But from Patterdale there appears to be a year-round bus service to Pooley Bridge, and the steamer itself is a year-round thing. And I must admit, I like the idea of a Pooley Bridge to Glenridding first leg, getting the head of Ullswater in my sights for the full daylight leg of the journey.

As it happens, I have arranged my holidays for the back half of the work year to give me a four day break every month, in the wake of my Working Sundays, so if we get, say, a cool, crisp February, I might target the Thursday as a putative Patterdale Expedition date.

How does that work? The short answer is, it doesn’t. It’s physically impossible. Assuming the February timetable to be the same as January, it not having been published online yet, and bearing in mind that the Ullswater steamer is based at Glenridding, not Pooley Bridge, there are only three sailings all day, one of them only to Howtown. Therefore the only sailing from Pooley Bridge that returns there, all day, is the 10.35am.

But the bus from Penrith leaves the railway station at 10.20am and takes thirty minutes to the Crown Hotel, not the steamer landings. And the only reasonably priced train from Manchester, everything else being three and a half times dearer, arrives at Penrith at 10.58.

So, unless I travel Wednesday evening and stay overnight in Penrith, Patterdale in February is in practical terms impossible. Let’s revisit that one after Easter, shall we?

So, can I spend any time in Buttermere on a day’s public transport expedition from Manchester?