Saturday, 4 October 2014

Clough Head & The Dodds

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Route: Bramcrag Quarry, Fisher's Wife's Rake, Jim's Fold, Clough Head, Calfhow Pike, Little Dodd, Great Dodd, Watson's Dodd, Stybarrow Dodd, Green Side, Hart Side, Glencoyne Head, Nick Head, Sheffield Pike, Heron Pike, Glenridding Dodd, The Rake, Glenridding

Date: 04/10/2014
From: St. John's in the Vale

Parking: Layby near Lowthwaite Farm
Start Point: Bramcrag Quarry
Region: Eastern Fells

Route length: 10.9 miles (17.54 km)
Time taken: 04:32
Average speed: 1.4 mph
Ascent: 1,173m
Descent: 1,181m

Wainwrights on this walk:
Clough Head (726m), Great Dodd (857m), Watson's Dodd (789m), Stybarrow Dodd (843m), Hart Side (756m), Sheffield Pike (675m), Glenridding Dodd (442m)

Additional summits: Calfhow Pike (660m), Little Dodd (785m),White Stones on Green Side (795m), Heron Pike (612m)

Other points of interest: Fisher's Wife's Rake, Jim's Fold, Greenside Mine

Stood opposite to the mighty Blencathra, Clough Head may well be one of the most ignored peaks in the Lake District; all eyes turned to its soaring, craggy neighbour. It does, however, mark the beginning of one of the highest continuous ridges in the country, that of the Helvellyn range.

Our route for the day would start near the abandoned quarries of St. John's in the Vale, namely Bramcrag Quarry at the foot of Clough Head's western face. We had chosen this starting point as we had our eyes set on one of Clough Head's more interesting routes; that of the interestingly named Fisher's Wife's Rake.

The rake carves a steep path diagonally up the craggy face of Clough Head, between the aforementioned Bramcrag and Wanthwaite Crags. It's one of the only routes up the western flanks for the average walker and when I say it's steep, I really mean it this time. Viewed from afar, the route does seem impassable but, as we surveyed it from its foot, it doesn't seem so formidable up close.
The old quarry road leading to Bramcrag Quarry
The view up to the rake - it heads off to the right of where the grass comes together at the crag face
High Rigg
We'd made a late start, mainly on account of the weather and it was well after 1pm as we started climbing. We attacked it from a slightly different direction to most, opting to head east straight up the fellside from Bramcrag Quarry rather than finding the path at the foot of the rake by the lonely Rowan tree.
The steep way up
Lonscale and Blencathra
Reaching the halfway point
Halfway up the steep climb, we turned south into the rake proper, at least the part as-marked on a map, just in time for the weather to turn briefly from bright sunshine to hail and back again in the time it took us to don some waterproofs. Once on the rake, we found the path (which I'm told is actually fairly easy to follow up to this point) and continued on and out the top.
Fisher's Wife's Rake
Weather approaching
Hail shrouds the fells...
....but leaves and impressive rainbow
High Rigg once again, backed by the north western fells
Fisher's Wife's Rake is thought to be an old sled-run, a route Mrs. Fisher used to haul down peat cut from Mr. Fisher at the top. Other ideas I've come across suggest that Mr. Fisher's wife may actually have been the sled used to haul the peat down but no one seems to know.

The path peeters out after crossing the impressive gash of Sandbed Gill and your left to make your own way up the wet hillside. The only marker to suggest you're on the right course is the ruined sheep fold marked on the map as Jim's Fold. Beyond, a pathless grind up the grassy slope awaits until, eventually, you reach the summit.
Sandbed Gill
Jim's Fold
Endless grass leads to the summit
A sunny Thirlmere
A trig pillar and shelter marks the summit and provide fine views across the valley to Blencathra. A stiff breeze added a distinctly autumnal feel to the air so we set our sights on the middle part of the route, the undulating fells of Great Dodd, Watson's Dodd and Stybarrow Dodd; collectively known as the Dodds.
Clough Head's summit
View of Skiddaw and Blencathra
Great Dodd
First up is Great Dodd, the highest of them all, reached by following a wide track from Clough Head, reminiscent of the Roman road that crosses the High Street ridge. The track leads over the optional summit of Calfhow Pike, before it climbed into the clouds towards the summit.
Track leading to the col between Clough Head and Great Dodd
Great Mell Fell
Raven Crag
More weather approaching over the north western fells
Clough Head
View across from Great Dodd
It's quite a long climb, some 200m from the outcrop of Calfhow Pike. Fortunately, the time we took to wander up allowed the clouds to begin to break again, clearing the majority of the summit by the time we arrived. Great Dodd, like all of the fells around this area, is a huge domed hill rather than a rugged mountain - much like the Skiddaw range or the Howgills on steroids. There is little of interest on the summit other than the cairn so we pressed on - keen to get some miles under our boots, before we reached the late afternoon.
The clouds catch up with us
No views for now
Great Dodd's summit as the clouds break
The almost insignificant peak of Watson's Dodd sits a short distance to the south west - seen from Great Dodd it appears little more than a spur with a cairn perched on the end. As spurs go though, it's a considerably high one(for English standards) topping out at nearly 800m. The full spectacle of the fell can only be observed from the opposite valley - from Raven Crag for instance, where it does achieve a character of its own.
View north from Great Dodd
Large shelter cairn on the southern end of Great Dodd's summit
Stybarrow Dodd
Looking towards Watson's Dodd
Jutting out into the valley, the summit does have a very good view, most notably along St. John's in the Vale and cross to the central ridge containing High Seat and Bleaberry fell. The lower slopes are also home to Castle Rock, a favourite haunt of climbers and an impressive feature in it's own right.
The undulating fells of Stybarrow Dodd, Raise and White Side lead to Helvellyn
Watson's Dodd's summit
Great Dodd from Watson's Dodd
St. John's in the Vale
Into the sun over Thirlmere
The trio of Dodds is completed by reaching Stybarrow Dodd, which sits a short distance from Watson's Dodd. Stybarrow Dodd is a much more sprawling fell, sending out a long ridge to the east which contains a series of individual summits, including a few on Wainwright's list of fells. It's name is probably derived from 'hill of the steep-path,’ named after the path over Sticks Pass on its flanks.
Watson's Dodd from Stybarrow Dodd
Summit of Stybarrow Dodd
The High Street fells
From Stybarrow Dodd, we left the main ridge along the aforementioned eastern ridge which crosses White Stones and Hartside where it split and goes its separate ways. Our plan was to visit Hart Side, before following the head of Glencoyne to finish over Sheffield Pike and Glenridding Dodd. Something else also arrested our attention, the ski lift on the slopes of Raise. This is the first time I've seen it, having known about it from a previous walk.

The Lake District Ski Club, operate a poma style ski lift from pylons on Raise when weather conditions are suitable for skiing or snowboarding. The lift is over 300 metres long and the runs are in a natural snow bowl called Savages Gulley where snow drifts form. The Lake District Ski Club has operated for 75 years.

We crossed the top of White Stones for the sake of completeness and reached the broad, shallow col that separates it from Hart Side. An easy climb up the flanks reaches the summit.
The track leading to Hart Side
A look back to Green Side and Stybarrow Dodd
Summit of Hart Side
Great Dodd
Hart Side, meaning "the hill side frequented by harts", is a fairly indistinct fell, with a broad summit covered in grass, much like it's parent fell. Strolling around up there you can find good views of the valley of Deepdale and the eastern side of Great Dodd. The summit also contains a curious trench, generally of unknown origin, however, it is thought to be the remains of mine prospectors, keen to try extend the life of the successfull Greenside Mine. In short, they failed and the mine closed in the 1960s after over 200 years of production.
The trench on Hart Side
We left Hart Side the way we arrived though taking a slightly different bearing to take us to Glencoyne Head, a craggy bowl at the head of the short Glencoyne valley. It offers precipitous views eastwards as the ground falls steeply away into the perfect u-shaped valley.
Glencoyne and Ullswater
Hart Side
Sheffield Pike in the shadows
Below Glencoyne Head is the Miner's Balcony Path, an important route to and from the Greenside Mine. One for another time though as we were descending down to Nick Head, curiously observing the mine spoil in the adjacent valley.
Green Side, the route off Stybarrow Dodd
Sheffield Pike
Thoughts turned back to climbing as we made our way up Sheffield Pike, the penultimate mountain of the day. It's surprisingly high despite having seemingly spent a long descending from Glencoyne Head. Its steep southern face peers a long way down into Glenridding. The path leading up from the west is easy to follow if not a bit boggy in places and, thankfully, it's not too steep either. It wasn't long before we were stood at the summit, discussing the boundary stone that is stood so prominently on top.
Sunshine over Helvellyn
Sheffield Pike's summit
The boundary stone, marked with an 'H' was a marker between the between the Howard estate of Greystoke and the Marshall estate of Patterdale. Other examples of the boundary can be found at Nick Head and Heron Pike, Sheffield Pike's intermediate top. The origin of its name is unknown, possibly a reference to the Howard family's estates in Sheffield but there is no evidence to support this.

At the eastern end of the summit plateau stands Heron Pike, an abrupt termination high above Glenridding Dodd which was seemingly impassable until we had a mooch round to find the path that outflanks it down a series of rocky terraces. All good fun and a quick way off the top.
Glenridding Dodd from Heron Pike
Birkhouse Moor
Across the col separating Sheffield Pike is Glenridding Dodd, a small but impressive looking mound of rock and heather. A short climb leads you to the summit and an impressive view of Ullswater to the north and Patterdale to the south. We didn't hang around for long, we were keen to get off the mountainside before darkness truly fell upon us.
Glenridding and Patterdale
Cauldale Moor
Another boundary post
Glenridding Dodd
Glenridding Dodd's summit
Striking a pose
St. Sunday Crag
A steep, loose path winds its way down to Glenridding, though we found no evidence of it beyond The Rake, the supposed route between the rocks of Blae Crag. Instead, we followed an obvious route that eventually met a row of cottages perched alongside the Greenside Road, the route to the mine and a popular track for pedestrians making their way down from adventures on Helvellyn.
With the light fading rapidly, we found the strategically placed second car, tucked in a large layby to the north of the village, and made our way back to St. John's in the Vale to retrieve the first motor. I'm a big fan of using two cars for a walk as it allows you to cover much more ground without having to double back to a particular starting point.
The moon out in force
Darkness over Ullswater
This was an entertaining walk, crammed into an afternoon to make the most of the break in the weather. While not the most scenic of fells, the Dodds certainly rank among higher in the Lake District, sharing many similarities with the broad ridge of the Pennines to the east. As with many of these walks, I'll certainly be back to investigate things in a little more detail but I'm content at the minute to keep working through the Wainwright fells.

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