Thursday, 31 October 2013

Ullock Pike, Long Side, Carl Side, Skiddaw, Little Man, Lonscale Fell & Latrigg

GPS Track
Date: 31/10/2013
From: Ravenstone

Parking: Layby opposite Ravenstone hotel / Gale Lane Car Park
Start Point: Ravenstone Hotel
Region: Northern Fells

Route length: 9.4 miles (15.1km)
Time taken: 04:07
Average speed: 2.3mph
Ascent: 1,205m
Descent: 1,046m

Wainwrights on this walk:
Ullock Pike (690m), Long Side (734m), Carl Side (746m), Skiddaw (931m), Skiddaw Little Man (865m), Lonscale Fell (715m), Latrigg (368m)

Additional summits: Skiddaw North Top (922m), Skiddaw Middle Top (928m), Skiddaw South Top (925m), Skiddaw Lesser Man (815m), Jenkin Hill (735m), Lonscale Pike (703m)

Other points of interest: Buzzard Knott, Longside Edge, Hawell Memorial

Route: Ravenstone Hotel, Ling How, The Edge, Ullock Pike, Longside Edge, Long Side, Carl Side, Skiddaw, Little Man, Jenkin Hill, Lonscale Fell, Whit Beck, Gale Lane, Latrigg, Mallen Dodd, Gale Lane

Despite not having the towering crags of it's 3,000ft brothers, this mountain makes up for this deficiency by being fantastically and consistently steep, rising from the valley floor to a height of over 900m in 3 short kilometres. That makes for an approximate gradient of 30% which is very steep indeed. On our walk to the summit from Ravenstone, there were very few respites from the climb, despite us choosing the slightly longer, more gradual route up. Having driven beneath it's gracefully sloping sides and many times and gazing upon it from afar, it was finally time to tackle the mountain that dominates the Northern Fells. It was time to have a look at Skiddaw.

The route in question is one that might be difficult to replicate if you only have one car, as we utilised two to make this a linear walk between Ravenstone and Gale Road, a route that would take us not only up to the summit of Skiddaw, one of only six mountains in England over 3,000ft, but would also see us summit six other Wainwright fells and a handful of Birketts to boot. The trip had been in doubt right up until the last minute as the October Lakeland weather had been somewhat hostile in the days preceding our chosen day. So much so, instead of camping overnight and fearing for the structural integrity of our tents, we instead decided to book in to the newly refurbished YHA in Ambleside, enabling us to get an early start to arrive in Keswick for 8am.

After being distracted by a combination of a nice cup of tea at YHA Keswick, fresh bacon butties from Booths and getting the cars in position, we were thrust straight into what would sum of the majority of the walk, a steep climb up behind the Ravenstone Hotel to meet the start of the ridge that would lead us over Ullock Pike, Long Side and Carl Side. There would be no gradual warm up for this one.
The path climbs steeply from the road behind the Ravenstone Hotel
It continues on its way up to the rocky knoll on the horizon
After the initial climb up onto the ridge, we followed the obvious path that leads along The Edge to Ullock Pike, a towering triangle of rock that presents an intimidatingly steep climb to the summit. By now, the weather was still playing fair and we were treated to some wonderful views of Bassenthwaite and towards the north west. The isolated fell of Binsey was also plainly in view, an objective for another day.
Bassenthwaite and Sale Fell
Ullock Pike is the first peak on the list
A view down The Edge towards Binsey
After finally getting the legs and mind up to walking speed, we made it to the top of Ullock Pike and gazed upon the slice of ridge that lay ahead of us; Longside Edge. Nowhere near as knife-edged as Striding or Sharp Edges but impressive none the less. It's obvious why this is probably the finest route up to the summit of Skiddaw. Wainwright was a particular fan.
The sun peeks from behind the summit of Ullock Pike
The path leads on to the summit
Ullock Pike, the first peak of the day, marks the beginning of Longside Edge and is the first in a trio of fells that are committed to the chapters of Wainwright's legendary book series. In fact, the peak of Ullock Pike lacks any real prominence from Long Side and it is therefore Wainwright's (and later Birkett's) writings that give it the status of an entirely separate fell. Its name is an Old Norse phrase which means "The peak where the wolves play"; Ășlfr meaning wolf and leikr meaning play. I can only assume that wolves were commonly found on the mountainsides when the very first names were coined. Not so today; not a wolf in sight. Or a person for that matter.
The summit of Ullock Pike with Dodd and the North Western Fells visible
Longside Edge and Ullock Pike
After crossing Ullock Pike and gazing down into the isolated valley of Southerndale, we continued on our way across Longside Edge to the fell Long Side, a fell named for obvious reasons. Once again, the views of Bassenthwaite and the appearing Derwent Water are very good, with a new dimension added in our case by the atmospheric crepuscular rays breaking through the clouds. From Long Side, the path up the scree to the summit of Skiddaw was looking unpleasantly steep and the increasing windspeed made the climb all the more daunting. There was, however, a third summit to visit before we tackled the final climb, that of Carl Side.
The summit of Long Side, the fell named after Longside Edge
A small cairn marks the summit of Long Side 
The grassy dome of Carl Side sits beyond
Crepuscular rays over Derwent Water
Standing prominent over Keswick and reached by crossing a small col after Longside Edge, Carl Side is the final peak of the tro along Longside Edge. A cairn on top of the large grassy mound marks the summit and is reached by a short climb up a noticeable grassy path. In addition to the Longside ridge, Carl Side offers an alternate, interesting route to the summit of Skiddaw via a pair of ridges the lead down to White Stones and the crags of Doups or down to Carlsleddam, an apparently steep-sided spur, both accessible from the village of Millbeck.
A detour takes you to the summit of Carl Side
Carl Side summit with Skiddaw ever present
After visiting Carl Side and passing Carlside Tarn, the single most elevated tarn in the Skiddaw range, it was time to make the climb up on to Skiddaw proper via a very steep, slippery path. The actual climb didn't take as long as anticipated but, it was tremendously steep. We were aided by the fact that the now gale force winds were blowing in from behind us, shooing us up the hill rather trying to beat us back. A steady rhythm of one foot in front of the other and some gentle encouragement from some folks on their way down eventually saw us up to the summit ridge, just in time to do battle with some fairly strong gusts.
The foot of the steep path up Skiddaw
Longside Edge
Skip battles the gradient
We popped up at Skiddaw Middle Top, one of a trio of Birkett summits in addition to the marked high point. With the objective of the summit a few short metres away, we began our steady approach, having to lean into the wind to prevent it from pushing us over into the depth of Skiddaw Forest. The shelter at the summit, despite having s few people in it, has never looked so appealing and we dived in to catch our breath (albeit after visiting Skiddaw North Top).
The cloud base descends briefly as we reach Skiddaw Middle Top
The the cloudbase rising and falling and the wind howling above our heads, we used the advantage of Skiddaw's panorama to spot the first genuine bad weather approaching from the west and we threw the waterproofs on accordingly. Once the summit formalities were complete (the obligatory snack-stop and photo) we were on our way again, bound for Skiddaw South Top and ultimately Skiddaw Little Man. With the impending shower came the wind gusting strongly enough to steal the snot right out of my nose. Not that I wanted it anyway. It wasn't until we had passed Skiddaw North Top and were approaching the col between it and Little Man that the rain and the wind subsided a bit and the sun started to poke through again, making the dull slate on Skiddaw Little Man shimmer in the distance.
Skip fights his way past the OS pillar to the shelter on the summit
A quick snap before the rain set in
Looking across to Skiddaw Middle and South tops
Crepuscular rays illuminate Derwent Water
Skiddaw Little Man shines in the sunlight
Climbing the clear path reminded us that there was still a fair bit of walking to be done before we'd reach the car again and the legs were feeling a bit stiff after the punishment the suffered on their way up Skiddaw. Still, any climb seems a breeze after the slog up Skiddaw and before long, we were at the summit gazing down into Keswick and beyond towards Lonscale Fell.

Little Man summit with Lesser Man in the distance
Lesser Man and Blencathra
Crossing the Birkett summits of Lesser Man and Jenkin Hill, we descended to Howgill Tongue at the top of Applethwaite Gill, crossing the col and starting the steady climb up Lonscale Fell, following the fence line to the summit. From most directions, Lonscale Fell presents itself as a grassy dome, however, a steep wall of crag mark the eastern face and make it instantly recognisable when viewed from the Cumbria Way. The Birkett summit of Lonscale Pike adds a dramatic place to view both the valley of Glenderaterra Beck and the back of Blencathra as well as the large area of undulating moorland behind Skiddaw.
The path follows the fence to the summit of Lonscale Fell
A small cairn marks the highest point
Helvellyn and Thirlmere in the distance
Lesser Man, Little Man and Skiddaw
Blencathra
After wandering around Lonscale Fell for a few moments, we retraced our steps back to Howgill Tongue and began our descent down the small alongside Whit Beck until it meets the tourist path coming up from Gale Lane. By now it was approaching the mid afternoon and there were still plenty of people starting up towards Skiddaw. Passing the memorial to the Hawell family of shepherds, we were quickly reunited with the car and finally had a proper stop for some dinner. We had made surprisingly good time, returning to the car by 2pm and having a nice leisurely food stop before setting off for Latrigg.
Latrigg and the path leading down to the car park
The Hawell family memorial
Lonscale Fell and the Hawell family memorial
After a short stretch up the grassy bank, we were rewarded with the stunning vista that this small fell has to offer. The summit itself lacks any real interest but the views of Keswick, Derwent Water and Bassenthwaite really are second to none. Add to that a 'right place, right time' moment and you have a very special scene indeed.
The summit of Latrigg is broadly flat
What better place to pause and savour the scenery?
Carl Side, Skiddaw & Little Man are illuminated by the afternoon sunshine
The sun break over Causey Pike....
...shining into the valley below
All in all, a fantastic walk, made all the more impressive by the combination of clouds and sunshine. We were very lucky that the forecast had been marginally wrong and the clouds were much higher than predicted, leaving us with a day to enjoy the northern fells in all of their bleak, windy glory. It's days like these that make me glad we threw caution to the wind (so to speak) and actually made it to the Lakes in the first place. It could have ended up being a walk like Esk Pike, constant low cloud and rain but ended up being something special. It's days like these that live long in the memory.