Friday, 18 April 2014

To Skiddaw And Beyond!

It has been a couple of years now since myself and crag rat Rainer tackled Skiddaw, and on that occasion the summit was shrouded in cloud on a bright Summer's day, so I have been looking forward to enjoying the views from there for a while.

A walk up Skiddaw seemed like a great way to start the walks for 2014, so with the rains easing off, Claire and I set off from Keswick town centre - no sneaky drive to the car park at back of Latrigg for us!

I don't know if it is my imagination, but there seems to have been a fair amount of work done on the footpath up Skiddaw since my last ascent. We stopped briefly at the Hawell shepherds memorial for a glance back at the Helvellyn range with its dusting of snow, and looking ahead at the steep climb ahead of us.

The further you head upwards the views behind just get better and better so that is a good enough excuse for frequent stops. The higher up we got, the windier it also got, which was bearable for now but got pretty hairy later on.

From the main path we took the route up the short steep climb to the twin summits of Skiddaw Little Man, and its fantastic views back over Keswick to the south and Bassenthwaite Lake to the west.

From here it was a simple enough hike over to Skiddaw, but at this point the freezing wind was so strong, at times we had to simply stop still and wait for the gusts to pass. This meant the camera stayed firmly wedged in a pocket on the summit, and we so once again I missed out on the views from the top of the Northern Fells.

We carried on quickly across the high ground of the Skiddaw summit ridge, dropping sharply down to reach the top of Bakestall. It's funny how some of these fells look very insignificant when approaching from higher ground - for example Birks from St Sunday Crag, or Base Brown from Green Gable, yet when you reach the base of the fell they start to look like mighty crags, and Bakestall was no exception. Approaching from Skiddaw you ask yourself why this was included as a fell, but from the bottom the majestic rocks that build Bakestall tell a different story.

Here I was well and truly experiencing the Back o' Skidda for the very first time, on the Cumbria Way meandering alongside some of the rounded grassy fell-tops. A lovely place for a picnic stop and it was a real relief to be out of the howling winds. The walking here felt quite different to other parts of Lakeland, almost reminiscent of walking on the North York Moors - it felt tranquil and remote compared to the busy slopes of Skiddaw.

We followed the path as it swept past Skiddaw House, and through the mighty gorge between Lonscale Fell and Blencathra. I really enjoyed the views of Great Calva and Little Calva and this is a quiet part of the world I look forward to exploring.

Somehow the walk around Lonscale fell seemed really long and dusk was fast approaching, so it was time to get back to civilisation.

We had head torches with us and had we been out for another 15 minutes or so they would have been more than useful, but as it was we hit the outskirts of Keswick just as the last rays of daylight were disappearing.

Once again a highly enjoyable exploration of the Northern Fells and one of contrasts, with the crowded paths of Skiddaw giving way to the peace and tranquility of the Cumbria Way.