Saturday, 3 May 2014

Fairfield via Stony Cove Pike, Kilnshaw Chimney & Red Screes

GPS Track
Date: 03/05/2014
From: Brothers Water

Parking: Car park at Brothers Water
Start Point: Brothers Water
Region: Far Easter Fells & Eastern Fells

Route length: 16.6 miles (26.7 km)
Time taken: 07:00
Average speed: 2.4 mph
Ascent: 1,955m
Descent: 1,942m

Wainwrights on this walk:
Hartsop Dodd (618m), Stony Cove Pike (763m), Red Screes (776m), Little Hart Crag (637m), Dove Crag (792m), Hart Crag (822m), Fairfield (873m), St. Sunday Crag (841m), Birks (622m), Arnison Crag (433m)

Additional summits: John Bell's Banner (755m), St. Raven's Edge (593m), Cofa Pike (823m), Gavel Pike (784m)

Other points of interest: Mark Atkinson's Memorial, Kilnshaw Chimney

Route: Brothers Water, Hartsop, Hartsop Dodd, Stony Cove Pike, Caudale Moor, John Bell's Banner, Pike How, St. Raven's Edge, Kirkstone Pass, Kilnshaw Chimney, Red Screes, Scandale Pass, Little Hart Crag, Bakestones Moss, Dove Crag, Hart Crag, Link Hause, Fairfield, Cofa Pike, Deepdale Hause, St. Sunday Crag, Gavel Pike, Birks, Trough Head, Arnison Crag, Oxford Crag, Patterdale, Bridgend, Low Wood, Brothers Water

Broadly speaking, this walk constitutes the ridge of Fairfield's north eastern and south eastern arms, including the fells of St. Sunday Crag and Birks to the north and descending towards Dove Crag and Red Screes to the south. What it really was, however, was an attempt to make the walk up Hartsop Dodd and Stony Cove Pike (fells I'd yet to climb) a little longer and more interesting - enough for a good day out since I was promised some fine weather. That's when a 7 mile day out became more of 17 mile day out.

In terms of bagging Wainwright summits, the Far Eastern Fells will be the first book I'll complete, there's no doubt about that. Mainly due to their proximity to my direction of attack from the Yorkshire Dales; they're the most accessible for a day trip. Having visited the area twice already this year, a handful of fells have thus far eluded me; namely Hartsop Dodd (the final of the three Dodds in the area) and Stony Cove Pike (Caudale Moor to some). Feeling pretty energetic, I also decided to include an ascent of Kilnshaw Chimney on Red Screes, a route we mulled over in the winter before deciding it was too icy. There'd be no problem with that today. Beyond that, my loose plan was to head towards Fairfield and then St. Sunday Crag before dropping down via Arnison Crag into Patterdale.

There are plenty of escape routes down adjoining ridges, so the walk could easily have been shortened if required, especially if I was starting to feel fatigued before reaching Fairfield. After leaving a sunny Yorkshire, I arrived in a surprisingly cloudy Cumbria early in the morning, prepared firstly for a punishing climb up Hartsop Dodd and, secondly, a lonely morning on the Far Eastern fells.
The steep prow of Hartsop Dodd
Leaving the car at the much-used car park at Brother's Water, I headed towards the village of Hartsop, the small hamlet that's dominated by Hartsop Dodd. I passed a chap at the foot of the climb, exchanging remarks that there were no two ways about the climb, it was going to be steep. Severely so. With legs burning as I plodded up, the climb seemed never ending though the views of the valley behind are impressive as a backdrop - some suitable motivation for the ascent. As a result of the steepness, the climb gains a lot of height in a very short space of time, right up the summit at 618m which is marked by a wooden post in the drystone wall, not to be confused with the nearby cairn. As you may be aware, Hartsop Dodd is the most eastern of three Dodd fells, the others being High Hartsop Dodd (to the west) and Middle Dodd (in the centre). They are so named according to their position in the valley rather than their stature.
The hamlet of Hartsop
Brock Crags across the valley
Arnison Crag
The steep, steep path
Brothers Water and the fine sweeping ridge of Hartsop above How
The stick that marks the summit
For now, the first challenging section (aerobically rather than mentally) was complete, a fairly level ridge links Hartsop Dodd to Stony Cove Pike, only working up the energy to make the climb towards the end. Even that is fairly tame compared to Hartsop Dodd. Following a farmers quad bike track, I reached the summit in short time, allowing for a couple of excursions towards the Kentmere side for some pictures and then across to the summit marked as Caudale Moor (the fell's alternative name). It seems there is some confusion over what the fell's name actually should be; Stony Cove Pike or Caudale Moor (or even John Bell's Banner!). I prefer the former, a thought that is shared by a number of guide books. It is the highest marked point after all.
Thornthwaite Crag
The craggy face of Stony Cove Pike
A view across to the distant Fairfield
The highest marked point of Stony Cove Pike
Froswick and Ill Bell - the sun still shines over Yorkshire
The summit of  Ill Bell with Ingleborough in the horizon
Thornthwaite Beacon
The high Scafell range
Caudale Moor's large cairn
Adjacent to the summit of Caudale Moor is a further cairn, erected on a subsidiary top called John Bell's Banner. The cairn is marked as a memorial to Mark Atkinson, former owners of the nearby Kirkstone Pass Inn. A stone plaque set into the cairn, its lettering now very worn, is inscribed "Hic jacet Mark Atkinson of Kirkstone Pass Inn, died 14 June 1930 aged 69 years". Next to it is another plaque inscribed "Also his son William Ion Atkinson, died 2nd April 1987 aged 83 years".
Mark Atkinson's Memorial and Red Screes
The memorials commanding view
St. Raven's Edge and Red Screes
Red Screes appears a meer stones throw away from Mark Atkinson's Memorial and in a straight line it really is, but I knew better than this and was quickly approaching the part of the walk I was not looking forward to; losing much of the elevation I'd achieved by dropping down to the Kirkstone Pass before before having to climb back up again via Red Screes (Kilnshaw Chimney to be precise). Stood on the prominent outcrop of Pike How; this looked a tremendously long way both down and back up again.
Caudale Moor from St. Raven's Edge
Red Screes
Kilnshaw Chimney
St. Raven's Edge, a marked summit en-route, stretches down from Pike How to the top of the Kirkstone Pass, bridging the gap between high fell and some semblance of civilisation. Beyond stands Red Screes, the aptly named termination of a long descending ridge from Fairfield and a fine fell in its own right. I had intended to climb Red Screes by scrambling up the scree to Kilnshaw Chimney. Upon inspection though this looked an un-appetising prospect so I followed the main path approximately two thirds of the way up before contouring along a small (but noticeable) traverse to the foot of the gully.
Red Screes from the foot of the path
The path continues up Red Screes
A small traverse leads across the the base of Kilnshaw Chimney
A view down the scree to the valley below
The foot of Kilnshaw Chimney
For the most part, climbing Kilnshaw Chimney is a straight forward scramble in a nice, enclosed environment. There are plenty of hand and footholds to aid you along the way, though a couple of slippery rocks are there to try and catch you out. I did however, become unstuck towards the top. Upon scrambling up a rock shelf I was presented with (as I saw it) an impassible rock wall that I hadn't seen mentioned anywhere else in my research. Seeing no way up it I was forced to back down the rock shelf (which is easier than it sounds) to find a way around. I ended up out of the gully, scrambling up the side of the fell. Fortunatly (and to my knowledge), the slopes either side of the Chimney are grassy and not too steep, allowing a quick bypass of the obstacle and on to the summit.
A view down the chimney - so far so good
The first of a few slippery sections
A bit further up still
The point I bailed out - the rock section at the top seemed a bit too slippery and steep for my liking
Heading up the side of the chimney
The top of the chimney
The summit of Red Screes was deserted when I arrived and, having stood in this very spot recently and with many miles more to cover, I didn't hang around for very long. Some customery snaps of the trig, summit and views and I was on my way, down towards another pass, Scandale this time.
The summit of Red Screes
Middle Dodd and a very distant Brothers Water
The path leading down to Scandale Pass
Scandale Pass and Little Hart Crag
The pass at Scandale offers and alternative route to Kirkstone for those travelling between Patterdale and Ambleside. It remains quiet and undeveloped, accessible only to walkers. It's also quite a high pass, located around 500m above sea level, only just over 100m below Little Hart Crag, the location I chose for a well earned sit down and bite to eat.
Little Hart Crag looking towards Dove Crag
Dovedale from Black Brow
The path up to Dove Crag
My morning out had been a fairly challenging one though the worst of the climbing was now out of the way, despite still having to reach the summit of Fairfield. From here on would be territory I was familiar with, though not an area I've seen when the weather is clear. A broad ridge with a wide path reaches up from Little Hart Crag to the southern slopes of Dove Crag before following the well established route of the Fairfield Horseshoe to Fairfield. The wind had picked up a bit by the time I set off across Bakestones Moss and, enough to warrant the wearing of another layer.
Dove Crag summit
Fairfield and Hart Crag
A trio of fells follow in quick succession, Dove Crag (named after its craggy face) followed by Hart Crag and then Fairfield itself. The route is a mixture of wide, obvious footpaths (teeming with people by now) and some shorter, more hands on sections; particularly the climb up Hart Crag. What I was most interested in were the views to the north from all of the summits and vantage points, views I had been teased with in previous walks but never seen thanks to some lingering cloud. They are certainly worth it this time.

The northern sides of Fairfield and its satellite fells are littered with deep, grey crags that fall a considerable distance down into the valleys of Dovedale and Deepdale. They culminate in a huge outcrop on Fairfield call The Step, linked to the ridge with crags of a variety of names; Scrubby Crag, Hutaple Crag, Greenhow End, Black Tippet to name a few (those few that are featured on the map). One of the best scenes I came across was stood just north of the summit of Hart Crag gazing across Scrubby Crag and down into Deepdale; St. Sunday Crag marking a notable feature in the distance. It really is a feast for the eyes and one I hope the camera does justive to.
Hart Crag's rocky summit
Scrubby Crag
Link Hause
Deepdale from Link Hause
The broad, flat summit of Fairfield was very busy when I arrived and there was a large group of people loitering in the summit shelter. For this reason, without stopping, I continued onwards heading north to Fairfield's impressive subsidiary peak - Cofa Pike.
St. Sunday Crag over The Step
One of Fairfield's deep gullys
Deepdale Hause looking towards Helvellyn
The screes of Flinty Grave
Fairfield's summit
Cofa Pike
Cofa Pike is an impressive little beast, a great pinnacle of crags that block the route from Fairfield to Deepdale Hause. There is an obvious path that crosses the summit, this time looking a little bit less perilous than when Sara and I crossed it in the cloud a number of years ago. It is still an airy little climb with fine views of Fairfield's rocky face. Upon continuing the descent, the imposing mountains of Dollywaggon Pike, Nethermost Pike and Helvellyn were coming into view, another vast expanse of scenery. Closer to home was Deepdale Hause, the high pass between the quiet Dovedale and its polar opposite, the busy motor pass of Dunmail Raise.
St. Sunday Crag behind Cofa Pike
The path crosses the prominent peak of Cofa Pike
Cofa Pike looking back to Fairfield
Dollywaggon Pike, Nethermost Pike, Helvellyn, Grisesdale and St. Sunday Crag
St. Sunday Crag looms up ahead, like the atypical picture of a whale breaking the surface of the sea. Once again, as with Fairfield, a wide path leads in an almost straight line to the summit, along the slow rise of its south western ridge. St. Sunday Crag, oddly named after St. Dominic, the patron saint of astronomers, is an impressive mountain to look at; less so one to look out from. The broad summit blocks much of the immediate view in all directions, the exclusions being the fells of Helvellyn and Birkhouse Moor. It does, however, have an ace up it's sleeve; Gavel Pike.
St. Sunday Crag, Deepdale and Fairfield
Dollywaggon Pike
Fairfield and Cofa Pike
Seat Sandal stands over Grisedale Tarn
The easy path up St. Sunday Crag
The summit of St. Sunday Crag
Gavel Pike on the eastern side of St. Sunday Crag
Gavel Pike stands a short distance to the east of the summit, across a slight depression called The Cape. It's here that I decided to take a well-earned break while gazing down into Deepdale. It's from this location, I believe, that you really get the full impact of Fairfield's crags as they are all laid out in front of you, reaching down into the valley below. It's quite a view from an impressive little spot, one that I'd recommend you make the effort to visit if you're ever passing by.
The full spectacle of Fairfield
Hart Crag and The Step
Gavel Pike's summit looking towards Patterdale
I had intended to try and find the top of the infamous Pinnacle Ridge but after some aimless wandering around I thought better of it, it had been a long day after all and there were still a couple of fells to visit before finally reaching Patterdale. The path drops into Gavel Mass before you can either choose to follow that main path to the north west, aiming for Glenridding, or branch off and make the short climb up Birks, the penultimate summit for the day.
A familiar sight to those who frequent the Lake District
Sea King over Helvellyn
Mountain cloud wave over Stony Cove Pike
Birks, meaning a place where Birch trees are prominent, looks of little interest when viewed from it's parent fell, St. Sunday Crag. The undulating summit hides the craggy northern face to anyone viewing it from the south. It has enough prominence to class the fells as Nuttall (over 2,000ft elevation and 15m prominence) and Wainwright suggested that "it is sufficiently well defined to deserve a separate name". The summit was passed by rather rapidly, I had places to be and still a number of miles to cover before I'd make it back to the car. In order to reach Arnison Crag I aimed for a broken wall, clearly evident on the map, before following it steeply down to Trough Head, the source of the intimidatingly named (though rather benign) Hag Beck. Once again, you are presented with a choice of routes, both achieving the same result at Arnison Crag.
Small cairn on the summit of Birks
A look back to St. Sunday Crag from Birks 
Gray Crag and Hartsop Dodd
Arnison Crag
The wall leading down to Trough Head
On the face of it, the summit of Arnison Crag is only just distinct from a number of other humps along its ridge, it's one of those Wainwright curiosities that follows no conventional classification. He did suggest that it was worthy of inclusion thanks to being "a low hill with a summit worthy of a mountain". In fact, one of these humps - about halfway along - is the true summit though many guidebook writers have chosen to ignore this top because it is grassy and too far back to give an adequate view. Annoyingly, there's a steep little climb (bearing in mind the route I'd taken to get here) to achieve the knoll bearing the cairn but it's worth it, a fine view of Ullswater is revealed upon completion.
Approaching Arnison Crag
The final climb to the summit
The cairn on the summit and its view of Ullswater
Ullswater, Patterdale and Hartsop
Place Fell and Boredale Hause
Hartsop Dodd, Stony Cove Pike, Hartsop above How and Red Screes
Another steep paths falls away from the 'summit', following a proud drystone wall past Oxford Crag and down to one of a number of hotels that serve Patterdale. As with the Deepdale Horseshoe I did a few years ago, a long walk along the A592 is required to reach the car, though even longer this time round. The small saving grace was a pleasant stroll through Low Wood just to finish off the day.
Oxford Crag
The proud drystone wall leading to Patterdale
Hartsop Dodd, the location of the mornings endeavours
The subtle rise of Hartsop above How
Arnison Crag
This was a tough walk, simply because I wanted to include Hartsop Dodd and Stony Cove Pike which added some serious climbing to the overall day. While not out of reach to most walkers, a slightly more sensible route might be to ascend Red Screes by Middle Dodd or head straight up Caiston Glen to the Scandale Pass. That said, I believe that this is what long summer days are made for, a proper day out in the mountains. Seeing as most people travel a considerable distance to visit the Lakes I really don't see the point in a 5 or 6 mile walk when you have hours of daylight and miles of mountain to investigate. It's not often the weather plays fair in Lakeland so I'm determined to make the most of those rare days when it does.