Saturday, 11 November 2017

Sale How, Skiddaw & Little Man

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Route: Gale Lane, Cumbria Way, Whit Beck. Lonscale Crags, Guide Stone, Skiddaw House, Sale How, Skiddaw, Little Man, Whit Beck, Hawell Memorial, Gale Lane

Date: 11/11/2017
From: Gale Lane

Parking: Gale Lane
Start Point: Gale Lane
Region: Northern Fells

Route length: 9.1 miles (14.6 km)
Time taken: 04:06
Average speed: 2.2 mph
Ascent: 782m
Descent: 785m

Wainwrights on this walk:
Skiddaw (931m), Little Man (865m)

Other Summits: Sale How (666m), Skiddaw South Top (925m), Skiddaw Middle Top (928m), Skiddaw North Top (922m), Lesser Man (815m)

Other Points of Interest: Skiddaw House, Hawell Memorial

The northern Lake District fells are a world apart from their rockier central and southern cousins - bogs are generally more of a hindrance here than crags. Venturing into the northern fells has its own rewards though, especially for those seeking solitude. We'd be heading into the heart of the area to the famous Skiddaw House to find a quiet route to Skiddaw's summit.

It was a pleasant day, sunny but with a cold breeze - almost ideal walking conditions and partly the reason why the car park at the end of Gale Lane filled up so quickly during the morning hours. The car park, located behind Latrigg, is a popular starting point for walkers attempting Skiddaw as it gives you a modest head start in elevation gain and, crucially, it's free.
The Greta valley
Hazy Helvellyn
As most of the day's walkers made their way to the steep path up Little Man, we opted for a more leisurely route by taking the Cumbria Way all the way around the east side of Lonscale Fell, beneath Lonscale Crags and as far as Skiddaw House. The Way provides a relatively low-level crossing of the Lake District running from Ulverston to Carlisle, following tracks and paths along valleys and over passes rather than aiming for the mountain summits.
Whit Beck, separating Londscale Fell from Little Man
Bright sun over St. John's in the Vale
The shapely north western fells
The Jaws of Borrowdale
Latrigg
The valley of the Glenderaterra, running between Blencathra and Lonscale Fell, is part of a great geological fault that runs the length of the Lake District, from the north, along Thirlmere and over the pass of Dunmail Raise. Therefore, the Cumbria Way path gives an unexpected view towards the south of the national park. This view is best seen from Great Calva, the pyramidal peak which dominates the scenery ahead.
Thr Glenderaterra
The Cumbria Way below Lonscale Crags
Looking back along the Cumbria Way
Blease Fell - aka Blencathra
At the Guide Stone (a large boulder adjacent to the Cumbria Way), a path joins from the other side of the valley having made its way from Thelkeld a few miles distant. Here the route continues around the ridge of Burnt Horse to Skiddaw House, the highest hostel in Britain which is independently owned and operates as an Enterprise Hostel under the YHA brand. Along with Black Sail, it's one of the most remote hostels in the country.
St. John's in the Vale
Great Calva at the head of the valley
Mungrisdale Common
Great Calva and Knott
Skiddaw House
Sale How
Skiddaw House
Great Calva
The Cumbria Way passes the hostel and continues into the valley of the River Caldew. We, however, would be turning our back on the Way, quite literally, to make an ascent of Sale How, a small hill that adjoins Skiddaw.
The Cumbria Way continues north east along the Caldew
Little Calva and Great Calva
A moment of sun lights up the northern fells
The climb was up a track, often boggy but never very difficult and the summit is reached without too much effort. Ahead is the mass of Skiddaw, shrouded in its very own cloud. A chilly wind was blowing across the tops so we didn't hang around, making our way up the remaining climb to reach the motorway path from Gale Lane - the one we had avoided earlier in the day.
Panorama from Sale How
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Blencathra
Lonscale Pike
Little Man from our lunch stop
After a bite to eat in the shelter of the hillside between Skiddaw and Little Man, a final climb of around 100m is required to reach Skiddaw's long summit ridge.
The climb up Skiddaw
The summit ridge has four named tops - the South, Middle and Far North Tops flanking the main summit (High Man). It is the sixth highest mountain in England (if you include the tops of Broad Crag and Ill Crag in the Scafells) and has a great panoramic view - at least on a clear day. A toposcope helps to identify what you are looking at.
Skiddaw's summit ridge
The toposcope on Skiddaw
Skiddaw's summit
The trig pillar and toposcope
 Retracing our steps, we returned downhill to the col between Skiddaw and its subsidiary, Little Man. A climb up Little Man doesn't take too long and it has a subsidiary top of its very own, that of Lesser Man, both have fine views though are much the same.
Little Man appears beneath the cloud
The col separating Little Man from Skiddaw
Little Man's summit
Lesser Man
Lesser Man's summit
Returning to the main path
Once back on the main path it descends easily for a while until it reaches Whit Beck where it becomes much steeper and zig-zags all the way down to the Gale Lane car park. At the bottom of the hill is a stone monument, dedicated to the Hawell family.
Jenkin Hill and Lonscale Fell
The Newlands Valley
Keswick and Derwentwater
Borrowdale backed by the high fells of Bowfell, Esk Pike and Great End
Keswick
The Coledale fells
The path down to Gale Lane
Latrigg and Keswick
Catbells
Late afternoon skies
The Hawell Memorial
 The cross was erected by Canon Rawnsley as a memorial to two shepherds; Edward Hawell 1815-1889, and his son John 1854-1891 who bred Herdwick sheep on the fellside. The memorial verses come from Rawnsley's poem 'the Great Shepherd'. From the memorial, it's a short stroll back to the car. If you have time then a climb of Latrigg is well worth the extra effort as it has a magical view over Keswick.
The Hawell Memorial
Clough Head
Alas, we did not as I had a drive down to Stonethwaite to contend with, in order to get my tent ready for the night - we'd be up early the following day for a climb of Great Gable - you can read more on that here.