My daughter Steph is building up to some of the bigger fells in Lakeland and really wants to do the beautiful Skiddaw soon. My favourite way up Skiddaw is from the west via Ullock Pike and that's a pretty tough route (Open that blog in a new window) so I thought it was time I really challenged Steph with a route that has a direct and hard start. This particular route is one I have been putting off myself because it looks so hard at the start... I dont really like tough ascents from the off. Today my lucks out, as we are doing a clockwise Dovedale round.
This is a horseshoe route that takes in 5 Wainwright summits:
Viewed on Google Earth, the route looks like this: (starting point bottom corner)
Viewed in Opentopo maps, it looks like this: (Starting point top corner)
My only worry for the route was that if the snowline is under 1200ft, the very steep ascent path will be deadly and we will have to call it off, so I also plotted a route up and around Angle Tarn Pikes just in case. So, with everything planned to perfection on Friday, Steph meets me at my house at 7:30am Saturday morning and we go directly to a local cafe to fuel up for the day. Bacon, egg, beans, fried bread and a hash brown with a pot of tea soon sees us raring to go and we are up the M55 and M6 in no time, parked up at Cow Bridge Car Park by Brothers Water in the Lake District for about 9:30am.
Brothers water, situated at the foot of Kirkstone Pass for those who haven't been there, looks incredible in the right light. Here is my favourite image from there, shot about this time last year. Take note of the main mountain in the middle of the shot, as that is our ascent path. Straight up the very front of it. We will then follow it round to the right taking in 4 more summits on our journey until we end up travelling a ridge that will take us past where I am standing in this image, and onto the car park.
The path from Cow bridge car park is well laid so its a lovely walk in to the mountain range to warm up your muscles. The perfect start to pretty much any hiking, and especially one as steep as this.
The view to our left, across Brothers Water to Hartsopp Dodd.
The day's first challenge comes into view. All 1700ft of High Hartsop Dodd
And like any good mountain, it gets harder looking the closer you get! Oddly, Steph isn't at all phased. The only one moaning about the prospect of hacking right up the front of this... Is me!
Looking right and across to Dove Crag which we will be on top of later.
This building is marked on the OS map as "Settlement".
Whatever its used for, its got great views all around it.
Looking up to Stoney Cove Pike. I had a brief chat with this sheep but he just looked at me like I was an idiot!
I love this old wall. What a leading line it makes for a great shot!
There was another sheep on the other side of this wall so I resumed working on my human-sheep relations with him.
Having had no joy with that woolly fella either, I turned round to speak to Steph, only to find she was seemingly so embarrassed by my sheep sounds that she had ran up the side of a mountain to escape being associated with me! I had best catch up!
I had only just caught Steph up when I noticed the amazing scenery behind us is opening up even more and the little tree in the image above is now starting to look like a feature! Glad of the excuse to get some breath back, I grab a few images from here of the whole valley opening up before our eyes as we gain height.
Moving on, slowly but surely. As you can see, its steep!
Very steep indeed!
But what a view to make every recovery stop a pleasure. This is the view from a mere 1100ft!
And up at 1500ft we finally reach the rocky Bull Crag section. On the OS map this signifies the end of the harshest ascent and an apparent levelling off of the angle.
We savour one last look over Brothers Water...
Before we move on and leave that view behind for the rest of the day.
Steph goes on ahead... The view of Dove Crag over to her right is starting to look exciting as we know we are going over there and much further beyond during the course of our day.
Finally, the most pitiful of summit cairns for one of the harshest of ascents. It seems odd to me also that this is classed as the summit. My GPS confirms that we are on the summit and it also confirms, as this image shows, the next section is plainly higher than this.
Not to worry though, look at all this snow ahead of us!
Little Hart Crag is up ahead now, a nice easy walk.
We spot a couple of guys descending from Little Hart Crag and heading our way.
A brief hello and I turn to watch them go along the ridge, suddenly remembering I haven't looked behind us for some time. What a view!
As I start the final ascent up Little Hart Crag, I turn to help Steph and notice two other hikers are catching us up. We dont half take our time. We are often being overtaken on the fells. I bet we take more pictures though! Ha Ha.
There are some beautiful frozen little puddles on top of Little Hart Crag.
Steph atop the 2090ft Summit of Little Hart Crag.
It's exactly 12pm, so that can only mean one thing...
It's time to settle down for a 30min break and cook up some Bacon butties and drink nice hot coffee.
We sit and watch the world go by above Scandale Tarn as we rest. There are a few people down there if you look carefully. Interestingly, I have just noticed while writing this blog that Scandale Tarn is heart shaped, so would make a fitting image for Valentines day. Which was yesterday. Just my luck!
At 12:30 we move on and head towards Dove Crag. The terrain is pretty easy, just crossing the saddle between Dove and Little Hart which is called Bakestones Moss. This is the view back to Little Hart Crag where we had lunch. There is someone stood on there right now enjoying the view.
At 2100ft we hit the freeze Line. From here onwards it's all snow, and plenty of it is deep. We need to head up to the top of Scandale Head now. You can see a group of people right on the top.
At least a few of the folk in that group had a great time coming down. We know that as they slid past us, all laughing and joking. That's what the fells are about, people having fun. It's great to see and Steph and I make a pact to do the same later.
But first we have to get up there. We have gone off track on purpose in order to avoid the hard slippery main path which has been compacted by traffic and turned into an ice rink. Our new route takes us right through the deep, fresh snow!
Because what can be better than being the first person to place footprints in the fresh snow? Even now at 45years old, I still love it!
We reach the top and make our way over to the old wall indicated clearly on the map. We know from the map that we can follow it right up to the top of Dove Crag and onwards to Hart Crag even if the visibility is down to zero as that wall goes directly to our next two destinations.
Visibility up here is poor right now, we can only just make out Coniston water, which is a shame as I have seen images of incredible views from up here.
I take my usual weather readings while we are here. Wind average speed is 20mph, wind peak is 28mph, Temp is -2degc and wind chill, -10degc.
We hung about here for 5 mins exploring, but this is about as good as the view got. The cloud line is just too low today.
Moving on, we can see the Hart Crag ascent now.
But we decided to go off route and take a look for the famous "Priests Hole Cave" which is somewhere on the face of Dove Crag. We are now stood on the "I" which I programmed in with info that I could find the priests hole from here. We follow the path on the map which is quite clear...
But since its snow-covered we begin having to pick our way through dangerous, rocky terrain as nobody has used the path today so we simply can't see any sign of a path of past traffic at all.
And whilst it remained fun, as we went further out to the front of the Crag it became more and more steep and thus more dangerous. A lot of this area has gone way beyond soft snow and is now just frozen nieve which with slopes like this, littered with rocks to hit on your way down if you slip, is just tempting fate too much.
There is also a lot of ominous looking cloud rolling in and I really don't want to be on this front edge if we lose visibility. We decide to admit defeat and come back again when the path is actually visible. It's time to head back up to the wall. As luck would have it, this little section gave me my favourite image of the day, Steph heading back up to the wall that runs right up the edge of Hart Crag.
As we reach the foot of the main ascent, there is some nice light during a break in the clouds. This is the view along the ridge from just below Great Rigg on the right, running left, down to the hump at Heron Pike just before the ridge drops back down to meet Rydal at Nab Scar.
To our right... the 2700ft Hart Crag. The highest summit of the day.
However, it's almost 3pm and we haven't eaten since lunchtime so we stop and cook up some more grub. I dug out a nice little wind break in the snow to assist in frying the Bacon. I have a nice new wind break coming this week, so I dont have to set fire to my seating mat any more!
We carry assorted bags of nuts, trekking bars and sandwiches as well to snack on while we are out, but you can't beat a nice hot sandwich in conditions like this so I think its worth carrying the stove. Steph always seems to approve anyway.
At 15:30 we move on having had a nice 30min break. The last section is very slippery as its frozen solid so we opt to get into our crampons for the last section just to be safe. There doesn't seem to be much soft powdery snow from here onwards and a few folk have kindly warned us on their way past that its pretty grim up there. Its certainly steep enough to warrant them now anyway!
Not far to go now...
Steph at her highest summit of not only the day, but her hiking history. Hart Crag, 2697ft. There are only 26 peaks higher than this in England and they all live in the next 500 feet. 9 of those 26 I haven't done either so I am sure we will visit most of them together this year.
Steph took an image of me here too, I like this as I don't get many images of myself out and about and I will enjoy looking at them when my body won't allow my brain to bring me up here anymore.
Visibility up here was terrible. Its at times like this that I am glad we both have GPS to clarify precise location. I know the old school navigators will be screaming at their screens reading this, but I am sure if I had to resort to only my map and compass that we could very easily get lost here as I can't get a solid visual bearing on anything at all. We wander around a little to explore as Steph really wanted to see Fairfield from here, and indeed we had planned on adding that to the route but sadly it was in hiding and we were running low on daylight. We admit defeat and head over to the ridge we need to exit along, the ridge that takes us down to Hartsop Above How summit.
Its not exactly clear, but there is the ridge in question...
The cloud lifted briefly and gave us confirmation that we were heading the right way... well, confirmation that we weren't heading off a cliff anyway!
But it was just a teaser and the comforting view was gone again just as quickly as it appeared.
Some of the descent was pretty steep off here too. Not ideal in rubbish visibility but Steph, as you can see is totally unphased and loving it.
Here is an odd image. Thick cloud one side of the ridge and clear the other. I grabbed this as the cloud blew off the ridge!
Steph enjoying the clear view to the right, across to Dove Crag and that pesky Priests Cave we never found! Incidentally, its in the dark snow free lump you can see right on the left of the rock face. In image mileage, we made it to about 1" to the right of it. So close... Ha Ha.
The cloud is coming and going. It's a good experience for Steph as she hasn't personally experienced the way cloud can totally destroy your confidence in direction if you let it panic you. It's also very disorientating of course, and can make you think your moving when your not. Imagine one of those funfair rooms where you sit on a bench and the room itself all spins and your brain cant comprehend it... well cloud can be like that as its moving around you and not always in a uniform direction. It can be a very scary place to be.
The next 3 images are taken from virtually the same place. One minute its just cloud with no visual clues to where we are...
The next minute it's lovely, just light cloud which is brilliant to be in.
And then it's as clear as can be. This is all great experience for Steph. She is really enjoying it, as am I as its great practice and makes a nice change from the usual navigation challenges. Only time spent in these conditions can prepare your mind for them really.
As we approach sunset, we still count ourselves very lucky to have some amazing views given the level of cloud cover we seem to keep dipping in and out of!
I must admit, we did actually get a bit lost and wander off track during some of the low vis moments and after taking stock of the situation, this short section of danger looked worth the risk as it would get us back to a safer descent path very quickly without having to ascend back up the way we had come down. Steph seemed to enjoy it and it dropped us right back down nicely onto the main ridge above Houndshope Cove.
Great view of Steph walking away from Hart Crag
Its late now and the last light of day is working hard to get to us through the clouds. There wasn't much of a sunset show, but we enjoyed what we had.
I love these icicles and always try to make an image of them when I see some.
I am never happy with them though. Maybe one day.
A Dove Crag, Hart Crag and Fairfield Panorama from my Iphone 6.
And Steph starting the long walk back along this ridge. It's a long way, and we have another summit yet to achieve about halfway along the ridge!
Hartsop Above How. The only Wainwright summit on this ridge, and not one we can easily ignore having come all this way!
We reach the final Summit at just gone 17:30 as the last light of day fades away.
The rest of our journey will be by light of head torch.
Some 1200ft of descent and an hour or so later... The car park is finally just below us! What a day!!
Here is some data downloaded from my Suunto Ambit 3 Peak watch.
(Health data courtesy of the Suunto smart heart monitor)
Finally, a little 60-second video of the route, also courtesy of Suunto.
Thanks for reading folks. I hope you enjoyed taking a little trip with us and that it inspired you to try the route. Remember, take your time, don't ever rush. The fells are there to be enjoyed, not endured. If you want a navigation GPX file for the route, just drop me an E-mail, I am happy to supply it. (For free)
While you are out there enjoying the beautiful fells, remember the golden rules...
"Take only pictures, leave only footprints and keep only memories".
All images in this blog were taken with my little pocket sized Canon G7X point and shoot. Its not a patch on my Canon 5D MK3 of course but I no longer lug all that around with me hiking as its just too cumbersome. When I find a scene worth of the 5D3's talents, I usually return one day to make the best of it.
Route Completed on February 13th 2016 with Stephanie Sanderson
New Wainwrights: 3. New Total: 122 of 214.
New Birketts: 3. New total 173 of 541.