All the Fells: Little Hart Crag


Little Hart Crag

Little Hart Crag – The Eastern Fells

Date: 10 May 1989 2,091′ (113)

From: High Hartsop Dodd

I say that I remember something about every fell I ever climbed, but that isn’t entirely true. Here and there are a couple of fells where I reached the summit but nothing remains of the experience. Little Hart Crag is one of these. I climbed it in the course of a circular walk around the narrow valley of Caiston Beck, Caiston being the alternative name for Scandale Head Pass. I ascended the western ridge, over High Hartsop Dodd, to Little Hart Crags, which I know from Wainwright has two substantial outcrops on its otherwise level summit, and from there descended to Scandale Head in order to tackle Red Screes from the back and descend over Middle Dodd. Four fells in a none too strenuous day, after getting up High Hartsop Dodd of course, but where three of them impressed themselves in different ways upon my memory, all I remember of Little Hart Crag was that I climbed it.

All the Fells: Lingmoor Fell


Lingmoor Fell – The Southern Fells 1,530′ (173)

Date: 15 August 1993

From: Little Langdale

Some fells, through time and circumstance, place and position, turn out to be less than important. Lingmoor Fell occupies the southern side of Great Langdale, dividing it from its lesser and more secluded sister valley, Little Langdale. It’s more or less the only fell on that side of Langdale and, whilst it’s not without its merits, anything facing the Langdale Pikes is on a hiding to nothing. Nor does it aid Lingmoor Fell’s case that, as well as being the least visually appealing fell surrounding the head of Great Langdale, it is well-separated from its nearest neighbour, Pike O’Blisco, by the deep gap holding Blea Tarn, with a more prominent subsidiary point in Side Pike in between. As a family, we once climbed the latter, from the Blea Tarn road, following the ridge and carefully negotiating our way to its small top: big enough for four of us but not many more. I remember the sense of exposure all round, and a long, lazy stay under an August sun, with no intention of going any further. To ascend Lingmoor Fell itself, I had to make a separate expedition of my own, twenty years later, there and back from home on a Sunday. And a Sunday that was a special day to me, the Anniversary of my Dad’s death, meaning a visit to the Crematorium before I even set off. Lingmoor Fell was ideal for such things: long motorway journeys there and back, music from the cassette player blasting, and a single fell to collect and be done. If I were going to do this, I decided to do it from Little Langdale, partly from the rarety – novelty, almost – of a walk from a valley I normally ignored, but also because it would be a more compact walk, to gain the ridge from Little Langdale by a path across the ridge, then to follow a bit of a switchback trail to a summit biased to this end of the fell. It was a day of low clouds above Langdale, mostly not low enough to bother Lingmoor Fell, but a couple of patches on my course. The views were restricted and the chance of an alternate route of return non-existent, but though the walking wasn’t all that exciting, I recall the fell as being an excellent option for a half day when time is not an issue and higher fells all about smile down unpatronisingly.

All the Fells: Lingmell


Lingmell – The Southern Fells 2,649′ (2)

Date: 21 May 1969/6 August 1994

From: Wasdale Head/The Corridor Route

Lingmell is an important place to me. My father and his elder brother led us onto the fells and, even if it were only that my father had his family, and Uncle Arthur was a lifelong bachelor, I have always seen him as the greater driving force in our walking. Before the cancer that was to kill him struck, we only climbed three fells. Middle Fell was the first, Haystacks the last, but Lingmell was the highest. It was where he came closest to the highest of them all, Scafell Pike. By rights, he should have had a fair crack at the walking life I had, a fair crack at the days when he and I would have gone off to take advantage of clear skies and bright air. There was no sense at all of this when we climbed Lingmell. Not that I was in the habit of being consulted or anything like that, but I don’t recall any suggestion, when we parked at Wasdale Head and set off towards the familiar path to Sty Head, of any fell-climbing at all. As far as I remember, we were going to explore the walk to the Valley Approach, revealed in Wainwright’s Southern Fells, the Great End chapter. It was one of those occasional weeks when we were on our own, no Uncle Arthur. We got to the bottom of Piers Ghyll, that fearsome dogleg ravine that, from the north, appears like a vicious razor slash across Lingmell’s face. Dad proposed exploring up that flank instead, and Mam agreed. Actually, we were a five strong party, because an Alsatian dog had attached itself to us by the Wasdale Head Hotel and stayed with us a very long way. So we started uphill to see what it was like, and Dad kept suggesting we went on a bit further, until this little spur-of-the-moment ascent turned into a committed climb to reach the top without any formal agreement. Looking back, I love the whole thing, but at the time I was nervous about proceeding in case we ran into something sterner than our abilities could handle: I mean, my little sister was not yet seven and Mam was very protective of her. But the steep, narrow section at the elbow of the Ghyll wasn’t too narrow or steep for us to get past unscathed. The worst part came when Dad wanted to take a photo of us. There wasn’t enough room for him to get the perspective he wanted as a camera buff so, in order to create this, he stepped over the edge, standing on a ledge out of sight. If I could once again find that photo I would examine the fixed smile on my face for how convincing it was, because I was terrified through every second that his footing might not be secure, that whatever he was stood on might break, and him suddenly disappear out of sight. It never happened, thank the God I still believed in at that tender age, but I wasn’t satisfied until he’d climbed back onto the same level ground we were sat on, and we moved on. Not until we reached the upper stage, when the rocks spread away to either side, and the slope was nothing but grass and everything was totally safe, did I relax, and my sister and I virtually ran uphill until we found level ground at the end of the Corridor Route. Of course there was no question of returning by that route, so it was over Lingmell Col and down that side, but whilst it was there, we’d climb Lingmell. In passing, or was that Dad’s intention all along? It was the most serious of our family walks: my sister especially, but also me restricted the limits of what we could do, so climbing alongside Piers Ghyll was Dad’s biggest adventure out walking, and knowing all the things he could have done, when my sister and I were older, I am so glad he got that in at least. As for Lingmell’s summit, this was long after the spire-like cairn Wainwright had illustrated was first demolished by clowns and fuckwits, but it had been rebuilt. Not quite as expert, broader in the beam, especially at mid-height, but done with honour to the original. When I came back, a quarter of a century later, I don’t know how many columns had been demolished and rebuilt, but the struggle had been abandoned: a massive pyramid stood there, loose and unconstructed, impressive in its own way but no substitute. The day was meant to climb Scafell Pike via Sty Head and the Corridor Route, returning by Great End – the only new summit – Esk Hause and Grains Gill, but for both me and Dad, I couldn’t come to Lingmell Col and not return to Dad’s highest point. Lingmell is an important, and a special place for me.

All the Fells: Ling Fell


Ling Fell – The North Western Fells 1,224′ (69)

Date: 1 May 1988

From: Wythop

What can you say about a fell that Wainwright describes as being the shape of an upturned Xmas Pudding? How about: you have to climb it one day? The description is not all that appropriate any more, not through any improvement in Long Fell’s appearance or appeal, but rather because Twenty-First Century Xmas Puddings are not made that fully-rounded shape any more. Anyway, I hate Xmas Puddings: give me jam sponge, with custard, any time. But Ling Fell had to be climbed at some point, and it and its fellow ‘Sentinel of Wythop’, Sale Fell, were perfectly positioned and the perfect height for a Sunday afternoon ‘training walk’, a get-the-legs-in-gear stroll in time for more taxing and exciting expeditions throughout the week. The biggest difficulty looked as it it was going to be the complete absence of anything resembling a ‘ridge’ route between the fells, but in practice, as far as Ling Fell was concerned, it was the total absence of any parking in the village. I had to carry on, up the hill, in the eventual direction of Cockermouth before striking the upper farm road towards the Wythop Valley’s unique head, with off road parking at hand, not much more than a couple of car lengths along. I changed into my boots, followed the farm road onwards and gained access to the fellside, doubling back on an easy path that spirals around the fell until disappearing, presumably out of sheer apathy. From there, there was really no point in doing anything but go straight up until I reached the top. The slope wasn’t even worth zig-zagging across to make it easier and, apart from the curiosity of the limited views inwards, including the dreary Wythop Moss, there was nothing except counting off the summit to provide a reason for doing this at all. If it were to be done, then best it be done fast: I just headed straight downhill until I struck the path, regained the road and began working out how best to get over the valley to tackle Sale Fell next.

All the Fells: Latrigg


Latrigg – The Northern Fells 1,203′ (47)

Date: 9 September 1986/31 October 1989/14 June 1992/24 August 2003

From: The Latrigg Road End

Latrigg is easy. It’s so easy that the view from its grave little summit can make you feel guilty that you haven’t had to try harder, sweat some more, or even at all, to get here and be rewarded by it. Of course, you can, if you choose, make it a much longer and harder expedition by starting the ascent from Keswick itself, but I’ve never been inclined to make it that hard, though a former friend to whom I’d described the superb view, went up once with her then-husband and two children, and showed me some videotape of their heading uphill amongst trees, doing just that. Actually, I have a bit of an excuse for not ascending the fell that way for all but the first of my four visits. The first was just a knock-off, a quiet day, not wanting anything too strenuous, so I navigated my way up by the Underskiddaw road, and then straight up the back of Latrigg, doing as I had done on Binsey, to save the spectacular view until the very last minute. This was a scene of great embarrassment: I had brought my Dad’s binoculars with me, for once intent on using them to examine the vista in more detail, except that to bring them to my eyes, to home in on some distant sector of the view, brought on instant and unmanageable vertigo. I tried again, this time stood behind the crest: same result. I even tried lying full-length on my stomach, my body uphill, my elbows on the crest and it made no difference. The moment I took away the foreground, I felt as if I was falling – not just falling but dream-falling, which is worse – through the binoculars, into that far below scene. It was ghastly, and made more ghastly by happening on Latrigg, which is almost as low as you can get. The second was during an impromptu, late-October holiday, with the skies dark and drained, too cold and late for higher fells, and I nipped up and down Latrigg again, because I could do so easily, before driving off to Matterdale and doing both Mell Fells, in lieu of anything better. It was a happier and more pleasant occasion on my next visit. I had no thought of Latrigg, I was there to climb Skiddaw by the Tourist Route, and return over Little Man and Lonscale Fell, but it was not much more than four o’clock when I got back to the car, and I wasn’t exhausted by any means and the sun would go on for a long time yet. I’d happened to park at the bottom of the Road End, from where I could see a gate, and a broad, well-made path descending to curve around the flank of Latrigg. Intrigued, notwithstanding the fact I still had to drive back to Manchester that evening, I followed it, round and out of sight, before doubling back on a zig-zag grassy ride, to a path across the flank, rising eventually to a park bench, beautifully positioned to overlook Derwent Water. Unfortunately, it was occupied, so I turned left to follow the escarpment up onto Latrigg’s top, before taking the straight line descent back to the Road End. That one, late-in-the-day visit convinced me that the direct ascent is only good as a speedy descent. It has no walking appeal, being no more than an uphill trudge, and you feel very shut in, between Latrigg before and Skiddaw behind, whereas the flank route is delightful underfoot and very easy. Years later, married with stepchildren, I brought my wife and her two sons by that way, easy, trainer-walking stuff. They loved every minute of it, and so did I, especially as the park bench was free, so we got to sit down, arm around shoulders, and drink in the delights of a perfect stroll.

All the Fells: Lank Rigg


Lank Rigg – The Western Fells 1,775′ (138)

Date: 19 September 1991

From: Crag Fell via Whoap

Everyone who knows Wainwright knows the story about Lank Rigg. Surveying the same, the most furtherly west fell in his guide books, the great man came to the conclusion that this was a fell that would never attract anyone, a rounded, undistinguished tract of land with no appeal and no visitors. In a fit of generosity, he concealed 2/6d under a stone he described in general terms by its distance from the cairn. The day The Western Fells was published, a walker who’d already read the chapter ascended Lank Rigg to claim the money – perhaps for the purpose of buying fish and chips – only to find that, by about 5.00pm on publication day, it had already been found and removed! I love that story. Of course, in the fifty and more years since The Western Fells appeared, Lank Rigg has attracted both an irony and a tradition, both associated with Wainwright. The irony is that, whereas it will never achieve the popularity of fells nearer civilization, Lank Rigg now has a steady stream of visitors, drawn almost exclusively by Wainwright’s description of it as remote and solitary. And the tradition is a lovely one, which is to look around the stones near the summit for a cache of money left by a previous visitor, to take it, but to leave coins of your own, to be found by the next visitor. Not that I knew of that tradition on the day I visited. Though I was there, only because I was on the long trail, and no fell could be omitted, I had fun visiting, and Lank Rigg was by no means as barren of interest as the master suggested. In my usual manner, I made Lank Rigg the end of a slightly contrived walk, parking on the Cold Fell road near to the track into the forest, using that to do the Grike/Crag Fell route, and descending from the latter to pick up the Caw Fell path, before leaving that a half mile further on to wade into the grasslands, curving round on pretty much trackless but difficulty free rounded slopes, to first cross Whoap – and to wonder, given its elevation from the ground around it and distinct separateness, why Wainwright didn’t accord it the status of a fell in its own right – and then across a grassy col and up to Lank Rigg itself. As advertised, there was no-one to see in all the time I was on this fell. It’s distance west, its relative lack of height, and the presence of higher fells at close range deprives the summit of views inland, but the seascape is impressively wide, though I was too far north for the Isle of Man to put in an appearance.. When I departed, I dropped back to the col, then descended further to my left to find myself a route of escape along the Calder Valley, a long, narrow valley, once again silent and empty, and in its own minor way almost magical for it. I walked cheerful and invulnerable, until I departed over a low ridge to the right, to find the Cold Fell road no more than a dozen feet below me, and the car perhaps a half mile walk northward. It was still only three o’clock or just after, and for some reason, though I’m in no way a follower of that Channel, then or now, I switched on Radio 4, found myself listening to a fascinating programme about the history of the Duchy of Muscovy, and sat there until it was finished before turning the ignition key and descending towards Ennerdale Bridge.

All the Fells: Knott Rigg


KnottRigg

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.

All the Fells: Knott


Knott

Knott – The Northern Fells 2,329′ (159)

Date: 9 September 1992

From: Orthwaite

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.

All the Fells: Kirk Fell


Kirk Fell – The Western Fells 2,630′ (192)

Date: 5 June 1994

From: Wasdale Head

For all that it’s a prominent, spacious, great grassy lumpish wodge of fell, thrusting itself out in front of Great Gable yet still managing to be overshadowed by it, Kirk Fell is a difficult fell to climb. At first glance, it seems as if it should be easy from Wasdale Head (from Ennerdale Head it might well be another fell entirely), but the only path on this side of the fell is one that goes straight up, literally, that Wainwright describes as unremittingly steep, and in other terms that permanently inoculated me from the urge to take that route. It’s there, it’s big, it’s green all over, but there’s something about Kirk Fell that makes the eye slide off it to more photogenic fells, namely, everything else you can see. Denied that route, any ascent I attempted of Kirk Fell, would have to be from either Black Sail Pass or Beck Head, and again Wainwright’s descriptions of the stringent routes involved, steep, rocky, requiring skill, experience and caution, did not seem conducive to attempting the fell from either side as part of a longer expedition. Funnily, I remember Kirk Fell appearing in an ITV TV Play titled ‘The Mosedale Horseshoe Club’, about a party of middle-aged walkers, two men, two sisters, who met each year to walk the titular Horseshoe, only to fail for varying reasons every time: that was either very-late Sixties or very-early Seventies, and I wouldn’t mind seeing it again, if it still exists. So when it came time, with the number of Wainwrights winding down, to account for Kirk Fell, I took it as a separate walk, driving up from Manchester one Sunday morning, to a Wasdale Head darkened by loose clouds that drifted around the higher tops. It was going to be up one way and down the other. My usual instincts kicked in and I headed anti-clockwise, towards Sty Head on a path I’d not taken in twenty-five years, before cutting off to head for Gavel Neese, which is every bit as arduous route as it looks from Down-in-the-Dale. Despite some glorious ravine scenery on the Kirk Fell side of the gill, I was glad to bear left on an easier gradient to Beck Head itself, for a breather. Then I tackled the spiny, rocky scramble onto Kirk Fell’s top, traversing the littered ground from one top to another as the cloud line danced only a short distance ahead. No point hanging round, or searching out the view down to Wastwater: another stony, loose, careful scramble, this one a little more severe to get me down to Black Sail and a descent back to the Wasdale Head Hotel that was much more familiar than anything my family would ever have imagined, to be followed by a Sunday evening drive home and work on Monday morning.

All the Fells: Kentmere Pike


Kentmere Pike – The Far Eastern Fells 2,397′ (27)

Date: 1 May 1985/16 August 1997

From: Shipman Knotts/Shipman Knotts

When first I started going walking on my own, unhindered by my family’s preferences and idiosyncrasies, I was eager to take in all the places I’d never been before. The quarter of the Lake District that I knew the least was the south-east, Kentmere and Longsleddale in particular, and once I was under my own guidance, I was eager to visit these unknown valleys as soon as possible. Longsleddale became a particular pleasure, the long slim valley opening up to only one viewpoint on the Shap Road, coming out of Kendal, the narrow, pastoral sides. Kentmere was less attractive, but I made it my base for the ascent of its eastern fells. I headed up out of the valley, rising up the un-named pass into Longsleddale that’s a continuation of Garburn Pass in the west. Once on the ridge, I followed the wall, over first Shipman Knotts, then towards the grassy heft of Kentmere Pike, with its long, flat top and its summit cairn on the opposite side of an unscalable drystone wall from me and the path. Further up the ridge, its back to me, was the Mardale Harter Fell, some distance but at no great gradient or difficulty. I was eager to carry on, but I was also young and unpracticed, and I hadn’t set off all that early, and between uncertainties about time and stamina, I reversed my course. Before reaching Shipman Knotts again, I tentatively slipped over the fence and walked gingerly out to the top of Goat Scar, for its superb view of Longsleddale below. I was not to return for over a decade, the Wainwright Round completed. I wanted to see that ridge again, I wanted to go back. I intended the complete Kentmere Horseshoe. I was at my peak, in my early forties, experienced, confident and only just past my absolute peak of stamina, but in an ironic demonstration that I had been right to be cautious so long ago, the trudge uphill to Harter was longer and more draining that I anticipated, and my Horseshoe would only have the one arm.