Sunday, 12 January 2014

Red Screes, Middle Dodd, Little Hart Crag & High Hartsop Dodd

GPS Track
Date: 12/01/2014
From: Kirkstone Pass

Parking: Free parking at Kirkstone Pass summit
Start Point: Kirkstone Pass Inn
Region: Eastern Fells

Route length: 5 miles (8 km)
Time taken: 02:42
Average speed: 1.8 mph
Ascent: 506m
Descent: 817m

Wainwrights on this walk:
Red Screes (776m), Middle Dodd (654m), Little Hart Crag (637m), High Hartsop Dodd (519m)

Other Summits: None

Other points of interest: Scandale Pass, Dove Crag

Route: Kirkstone Pass, Red Screes, Smallthwaite Band, Middle Dodd, Broad Crag, Scandale Pass, Black Brow, Little Hart Crag, High Hartsop Dodd, Hartsop Hall, Brothers Water, Cow Bridge

As you can see from the title, I'm struggling to come up with a snappy name for this walk, it's not a typical round and there's no real focal point either. No reservoir or tarn to walk around. No sweeping ridge walk. We even cheated a bit and started at the Kirkstone car park, getting the car to do half the climbing for us. The aim was to complete a short walk of the fells to the west of the Kirkstone Pass, thus filling and unwalked void between the fells of the Fairfield Horseshoe and the numerous mountains that can be climbed close to the hamlet of Hartsop.

The day started nicely enough, a swirling early morning mist on Windermere making for some fantastic photos before it quickly disappeared. Using the cunning 'one car at the start and one car at the finish' technique, we sussed out the route that would avoid the arduous climb back up along the Kirkstone Pass therefore making everyone's life a bit easier. There was a reason for this though, the best of the weather was forecast for the morning and we didn't plan on being around once the rain arrived.
The jetty opposite the YHA in Ambleside
The early morning mist didn't hang around for long
Luckily the camera was close at hand
The Struggle, the small road that links Ambleside to the Kirkstone Pass. Very aptly named, especially for my little car
As I mentioned before, we started the walk from a reasonably large car park sited at the summit of the Kirkstone Pass (454m). The name of the pass is derived from a nearby stone, the Kirkstone, which stands a few yards from the roadside of the A592 leading to Patterdale, several yards from the inn. The stone is so named as its silhouette resembles a church steeple, 'kirk' meaning church in old Norse. After arriving at the top of the pass, we were faced with a climb of around 300m to reach the summit of Red Screes, a fell thats name stems simply from its appearance, much like Great Gable or Red Pike in Buttermere.
Red Screes showing off its red scree
The initial plan was to aim for Kinshaw Chimney, a cleft in the rock that leads directly to the summit from the top of the scree you can see in the picture. There was a question mark hanging over it though, as a cold night prior had given it the potential to be full of ice making an ascent out of the question without the right kit. Despite a relatively short climb, there's no warm up to this one, it's all or nothing as the paths starts a steep climb straight from the car park.
The Struggle as it winds down towards Ambleside
A stepped stone path leads straight up the side of Red Screes
The car park is already a fair distance below us after a short climb
Raven Crag
There's always one, usually it's me
As we climbed and the wind picked up, it became obvious that Kilnshaw Chimney would have to wait for another day, most of the rocks on the ascent were covered in ice, even the ones basking in the morning sunshine. Instead, we stuck to the main path and in around 40 minutes we popped out on to the wind blown, icy summit. We'd been blessed with a glorious, bright winter morning and a wonderful clarity of view, all the way across to the mighty Helvellyn.
A steeper part of the icy climb
The final push to the summit
The summit cairn overlooking Hartsop
The trig pillar on Red Screes
Middle Dodd and the Hartsop valley
Skip & Ed enjoy their moment at the top
Helvellyn and Striding Edge
After padding around on the summit for a bit, it was time to head into the shade of the northern flanks and make for Middle Dodd, an outlying summit on the end of the a ridge leading down into Hartsop. Fortunately, the summit lies at a higher elevation than the Scandale Pass, a mid-walk low point and the only climbing that remained was a short stretch from the pass to Little Hart Crag. By the time we had marched along the path across Smallthwaite Band to Middle Dodd, the wind had picked up and was whipping across the ridge with a noticeable winter bite.
Smallthwaite Band leading to Middle Dodd
Red Screes
Dove Crags
Like many fells included in Wainwright's Pictorial Guides, Middle Dodd was chosen for its striking appearance rather and topographic significance. Indeed, many of the lower hills around Hartsop rise from the valley floor with an incredible drama that belie their stature. Middle Dodd (the middle of the three Dodd fells; the others being Hartsop Dodd and High Hartsop Dodd), presents a striking pyramidal profile when viewed from the valley floor, a characteristic shared by its two partners. The high point of Middle Dodd presents a fabulous view of the Hartsop Valley.
The summit cairn on Middle Dodd
We didn't hang around, the biting wind was enough to put off the hardiest of souls. Instead, we followed the contour round towards the Scandale Pass and back into the shelter of the shadow of Red Screes. There were some fairly dicey sections on the way down, a series of exposed rocky terraces may not have been a challenge at any other time of the year but cover them in ice and they become an all the more difficult proposition. After edging our way across or around them we ended up at the high point of the Scandale Pass. The pass at the head of Scandale remains a quiet place, much like the valley that bears its name, spared the fate that befell the Kirkstone Pass in the adjacent valley. The pass offers great views down Scandale and Caiston Glen, the adjoining valley to the north east. It is from here that Little Hart Crag, the next summit on our walk, takes on a bit of character. When viewed from the much higher Red Screes it seems little more than a inconvenience on the way to Dove Crag however, when seen from the foot of its slopes it takes on a more craggy, mountain-like appearance but on a much smaller scale.
Hartsop looking towards Place Fell and Angletarn Pikes
Little Hart Crag from the slopes of Red Screes
Little Hart Crag from the Scandale Pass
The quick climb to the summit of Little Hart Crag is easy enough and other than the views to Red Screes and down Hartsop Dodd, there is little else to mention though it does provide a good platform for viewing the crags of Dove Crag.
Of the two rocky outcrops on Little Hart Crag, a cairn marks the highest
The small tarn adjacent to the summit
Dove Crag
Beyond Little Hart Crag, our route of descent was down the sweeping ridge that terminates at High Hartsop Dodd before plunging abruptly to the valley floor. A quick stroll along the path brought us to the summit which I uncharacteristically forgot to take a picture of so you'll have to take my word for it. Interestingly, High Hartsop Dodd is lower that plain old Hartsop Dodd, however, its name is a reference to its position in the valley rather than its height.
High Hartsop Dodd is the point at the very end of the ridge 
The imposing Dove Crag
True to form, the weather had started its slow turn towards damp and drizzly, the steep descent of High Hartsop Dodd became a bit perilous, for me at least. With the use of some cunning four wheel drive, Ed motored on leaving me and Skip to tiptoe down the slope before we reconvened at the bottom. Its from this vantage point that you get a real feel for the shape of the hill and the steepness of its flanks.
Brothers Water
High Hartsop Dodd
A large, wide bridleway leads you along the western side of Brothers Water back to the car park, a perfect way to shake off the stiffness from the climb down. Once called Broad Water, the name was changed in the 19th century after two brothers drowned there. Depending on your outlook in life (a glass half full or half empty type of person) Brothers Water may be classified in either of two ways: as one of the Lake District's smallest lakes or one of its largest tarns.
The shores of Brothers Water
Cow Bridge over Goldrill Beck
As planned, we certainly made the most of the weather, especially by getting a head start from the Kirkstone Pass. It was a shame to miss out on Kilnshaw Chimney but it will be there the next time, hopefully on a wonderful sunny day in the height of summer. Though not among the highest of fells, the Hartsop Dodds (and Middle Dodd) still present a phenomenally steep route up onto the Eastern Fells, one that I'm glad we descended this time. All in all, it was a cracking morning out, the winter sun lighting up all around us until it was snuffed out by the rolling clouds. To top it off, we even had time to stop off for a slap up lunch at a cafe in Ambleside. Excellent.