Parking: Kentmere Church
Start Point: Kentmere Church
Region: Far Eastern Fells
Route length: 13.3 miles (21.4km)
Time taken: 5:40
Average speed: 2.3mph
Wainwrights on this walk:
Sallows (516m), Yoke (706m), Ill Bell (757m), Froswick (720m), Thornthwaite Crag (784m), High Street (828m), Mardale Ill Bell (760m), Harter Fell (778m), Kentmere Pike (730m), Shipman Knotts (587m)
Additional summits: None
Other points of interest: High Street (Roman Road), Thornthwaite Beacon, Nan Bield Pass
Route: Kentmere Church, Crabtree Brow, Garburn Pass, Sallows, Buck Crag, Yoke, Ill Bell, Froswick, Thornthwaite Crag, High Street, Racecourse Hill, Mardale Ill Bell, Nan Bield Pass, Harter Fell, The Knowe, Brown Howe, Kentmere Pike, Shipman Knotts, Withered Howe, Hallow Bank, Low Lane, Kentmere
The Kentmere Round, a hillwalkers dream come true and a route that is very profitable for the Wainwright list. Nine peaks adorn the skyline in the traditional clockwise circuit with the addition of Sallows as number 10 via a brief detour. A real rollercoaster of a walk with plenty of ascent and descent, made all the more challenging thanks to some blisteringly hot summer weather.
Taking advantage of some generous working arrangements, I met up with Dad on a Thursday and we travelled up to the Lakes from Wakefield early in the morning to beat any rush hour traffic. Arriving at Kentmere at 9.30am, the very small parking area next to Kentmere church already had a few cars in. Luckily for us, a shady space remained on the end so I backed the car in, we kitted up and set off. The forecast for the day was for it to be very hot in the valleys so we quickly made our way up the Garburn Pass in order to reach the ridge and it's welcome breeze.
|Garburn Pass rises up towards Sallows|
|Sallows summit (516m) topped by the smallest of cairns|
|Yoke as seen from Sallows|
|The bright path made for a hot climb up Yoke|
|The summit of Yoke (706m), the second Wainwright of the day|
|Me at the summit! Ill Bell in the background presents the next objective|
From Yoke, the fun really begins (if it can be called fun). A series of descents and climbs over Ill Bell, Froswick and Thornthwaite Crag. In turn, each requires a 60m or so climb to the summit before descending back down and starting it all over again; naturally the next being higher than the previous one. Setting our sights on the three cairns on Ill Bell, we set off. This would be a real test for the legs.
|Kentmere valley with Ill Bell to the left|
|The path as it climbs Ill Bell|
|Two of the summit cairns on Ill Bell (757m)|
|A view across to Froswick, Thornthwaite Crag and High Street|
|Froswick, Thornthwaite Crag and High Street from Ill Bell|
Ill Bell, the third Wainwright on the walk, looks like a perfectly symmetrical bell shape when viewed from most angles and it's thought it's name may be derived from 'Hill Bell' thanks to this. Ill Bell has a fine view north towards Froswick and Thornthwaite Crag but it does reveal the amount of climbing still required to get there. With midday approaching, we continued on after a quick snack and a sit in the shade of the larger cairns.
|The descent and ascent required to get from Ill Bell to Froswick|
|The summit of Froswick|
Another descent and climb is required to walk between Froswick and Thornthwaite Crag, an outlier of High Street. Sighting the impressive cairn on Thornthwaite Crag, we climbed up with the objective of having lunch when we reached it. Motivation enough to get up there sharpish. Climbing Thornthwaite Crag we spotted something rather out of place; a vehicle sat at the very top. Which is cheating.
|Climbing the path up onto Thornthwaite Crag|
|The easy way to the summit|
Approaching the summit of Thornthwaite Crag, we got our first real sight of one of the features I was looking forward to seeing, Thornthwaite Beacon. A 14ft columnar cairn that makes you wonder how they built it in the first place. A perfect spot to stop for lunch and air some hot feet.
|The massive cairn on the summit of Thornthwaite Crag; Thornthwaite Beacon|
|The undulating path the crosses Yoke, Ill Bell and Froswick on its way to Thornthwaite Crag|
Rejuvenated by a lunch stop, High Street was to be the next port of call and the high point of the day at 828m. The climb up to High Street is nice and steady which was thankful considering the requirements to get up and down the previous three mountains. High Street is very aptly named, Roman engineers built a road across the flat summit plateau to link the forts of Brougham and Ambleside. The very summit of High Street is still known as Racecourse Hill thanks to a history of annual fairs in the 18th and 19th centuries where locals would gather and race horses. There are some fantastic views of the Helvellyn range as you can see in the picture below. Retracing our steps slightly, we headed back to the head of Kentmere to cross the plateau to Mardale Ill Bell, the seventh peak of the day.
|The trig pillar on the summit of High Street|
|Panorama of the Eastern Fells from High Street|
|Like father, like son on High Street|
|The route can be seen as it crosses Mardale Ill Bell and on to Harter Fell|
Heading to Mardale Ill Bell, the scenery changes quite dramatically from the wide, flat summit of High Street to the deep crags that fall into Riggindale and Blea Water. Blea Water, a natural tarn in a glacially excavated hollow, is the deepest in the Lake District at over 61m deep. Mardale Ill Bell marked my 50th Wainwright (which was unknown at the time) which is a nice achievement. And what a great view to accompany it. It gives you the first proper view of the trio of mountains on the western ridge that formed the mornings workout.
Following Mardale Ill Bell, you are required to drop a significant distance to the top of the Nan Bield Pass. The pass was used as a connecting route between Mardale and Kentmere until the formation of Haweswater Reservoir in the 1940s submerged the village of Mardale. The pass, however, is still extensively used by fell walkers. Back in the shelter off the ridge, the temperature quickly rose and the steep ascent of Harter Fell looked somewhat uninviting. There was a suggestion that we could drop into Kentmere along the pass to finish in the valley at Kentmere reservoir but that would miss out the eastern ridge walk so, after taking some much needed fluids on board, we ploughed on. Climbing Harter Fell probably gives some of the best views of High Street and Riggindale and the water certainly looked inviting.
Mercifully, the steepness of the path up Harter Fell flattened as we reached the summit and breeze picked up once again. Harter Fell is another fell with a wide, flat summit which forms the head of three valleys; Mardale, Longsleddale and Kentmere. The cairn in the summit contains many pieces of ironwork salvaged from nearby fences. Wainwright described these as resembling pitchforks and that approaching on a misty day has a faintly nightmarish effect. Fortunately, there would be no such trouble today.
Only two more Wainwrights remained after Harter Fell, the first being Kentmere Pike seen in the distance. Unlike the western ridge, the eastern ridge falls away steadily with little in the way of significant ascents. I was glad now that we had decided to do the round clockwise as facing the steep climbs up and down Froswick and Ill Bell would have been quite a challenge.
Crossing Kentmere Pike, the path is obvious as it descends to Shipman Knotts. Despite being a outlier of Kentmere Pike, Wainwright devoted a chapter to Shipman Knotts thanks to its 'characteristic roughness'. Much of the view from Shipman Knotts is obscured by higher fells nearby. Climbing Shipman Knotts signified the tenth and final Wainwright of the day and we were starting to feel the strain.
|The summit of Mardale Ill Bell|
|Blea Tarn and Riggindale form the scenery from Mardale Ill Bell|
|Yoke, Ill Bell and Froswick form the rollercoaster-esque western ridge of Kentmere|
|The shelter at the top of the Nan Bield Pass|
|The superb view of High Street, Kidsty Pike, Piot Crag and Small Water from Harter Fell|
|Harter Fell's scary looking summit cairn|
|A close up of the fence pieces that are intertwined in the cairn|
|Approaching Kentmere Pike|
|The summit of Kentmere Pike shielded by Yoke, Ill Bell and Froswick in the distance|
|Shipman Knotts from Kentmere Pike|
|The summit of Shipman Knotts|
|Obligatory summit pose; the tenth Wainwright of the day|
|An abandoned building frames Kentmere|
|The River Kent|