A Tour of Skiddaw From Millbeck – Lonscale Fell, Burnt Horse, Skiddaw House, Bakestall, Skiddaw and Dodd (14 miles)

Some routes need no explanation, but this one certainly does. It goes like this;- my mate Alan has done more Wainwrights than me, but he’s never been happy that I’ve done three that he hasn’t. The offending three are Souther Fell, Mungrisdale Common and Bakestall. In other news I’ve never been up Lonscale Fell, whilst Alan has. Meanwhile neither of us have done lowly Dodd on Skiddaw’s west side. Alan doesn’t have a car, so to avoid numerous bus trips a cunning plan was formed over pints of foaming beer. It would put right all the wrongs above and restore balance to the force. (Also Alan could then find something else to worry about).

Plan A;- I’d drop Alan off at Mungrisdale where he’d start walking west over Souther Fell. Meanwhile I’d drive west and park below Skiddaw on the road to Latrigg. I’d then walk up to bag Lonscale. Alan would continue on to Mungrisdale Common, Skiddaw House then Bakestall. I had the easier task of ascending Skiddaw from Lonscale to wait for him on top. Then we would both descend back to the car via Dodd.

Plan B:- Late amendment. My walk was too short and waiting on tops of mountains can be a bit chilly. So from Lonscale I would also descend to Skiddaw House, where we would both meet up before continuing on up Bakestall to Skiddaw, then down over Dodd. It’s like a giant pincer movement, sorry I’m on the wine. Anyhow…..

  • Distance    =  14 miles (22.53 km)
  • Duration      =   8hrs 40mins , (start 11.06am, finish 7.45pm, spent ages on tops)
  • Total Ascent   =   5,540ft (1,689 m), max height Skiddaw 3,054 ft (931 m)
  • Start/Finish      =   Layby between Lizzick Hall & Millbeck
  • Date                      =   Sunday 14 September 2014, weather grey, very hazy & strange
  • Click on my Social Hiking Route Map below to zoom in/out
Tour of Skiddaw Route

Tour of Skiddaw route from Millbeck – Lonscale Fell, Skiddaw House, Bakestall, Skiddaw, Carl Side & Dodd

Starting Point – Layby west of Millbeck at the wooden footpath signpost. I once stayed at Lizzick Hall so knew there weren’t many other parking places along this road.

Route Summary – Walks work best in stages, so here’s the 4 that worked for me.

  1. Millbeck to Lonscale Fell; (1 hour 35 mins)
  2. Lonscale to Skiddaw House; (40 mins)
  3. Skiddaw House to Skiddaw via Bakestall; (2 hours)
  4. Skiddaw down to Millbeck via Dodd; (3hr 30mins inc time on Dodd)

Route Detail & Pics from Sunday 14th September 2014

10.25am – Dropped Alan off at Mungrisdale, forecast was for a grey start generally improving. In reality it had just started drizzling with cloud down. Not ideal but I had reasonable confidence in the Met Office (despite failing to mention drizzle). PS; I’ve had to touch-up the first section of these photos as they were really dull, they flatter the weather.

10.25

10.25am – Alan off at Mungrisdale, grey & drizzle (the weather not just Alan)

Stage 1Millbeck to Lonscale Fell; (1 hr 35 mins) – Bearing in mind Alan’s long walk-in it made sense that I should park as close to the descent route from Dodd as possible. Figured we would both appreciate this later on, let’s face it this is ALWAYS appreciated later on:-) I started at 11.07am so Alan had a 30 minute head start. Figured his walk would be a good gradient and he’s faster than me with his gangly long legs, however I should definitely reach Skiddaw House before him. Otherwise I’m a total failure:-)

11.07

11.07am – Parked at Millbeck, hoping to emerge much later back down to the footpath sign

Tour of Skiddaw_4

11.10 – Alan’s photo on lower top of Souther Fell!

11.40

11.40am – After half an hours walk up the road arrived at Latrigg car park

Nice road to walk along, quiet with pleasant views south over to Newlands and Coledale. Received a text from Alan 3 mins after I left saying he was on the far top of Souther Fell. Meanwhile suddenly in the grey gloom some sun appeared, briefly. After 30 mins walking I reached Latrigg car park, heaving with cars trying to shoehorn into spaces.

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11.43am – turning north east at Latrigg car park

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11.55am – turning north west at the Hawell Monument, the main route up Skiddaw zigzagging ahead

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12.08 – looking down over Latrigg (just see the car park), with Keswick & Derwent Water beyond

Very well managed path in big gravelly zig zags to cope with heavy footfall. First time up this route, my two previous Skiddaw ascents having been from near Bassenthwaite and via Sharp Edge (interesting day that one). After some sustained ascent the main path switched north west, whereas I diverted off north following the Whit Beck over a faint grassy track. Cresting the dip between Jenkin Hill & Lonscale Fell brought first views over the Back o Skiddaw. Then a right/east turn along a fence for Lonscale Fell top.

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12.33 – Walking up to Lonscale Fell looking back to Little Man etc, having come up mid left

Now if I could get to Lonscale top before Alan got to Mungrisdale Common I reckoned I’d get down to Skiddaw House before him. There was no competition here of course, I just wanted to beat the long legged bugger. On my ascent to Lonscale my phone went and the worst news possible, a text from Alan already on Mungrisdale Common. He was having some food & would leave at 12.40. At exactly 12.40am I reached Lonscale Fell cairn.

Alan

Alans photo from Mungrisdale Common – 12.25

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12.40 – I reach Lonscale Fell – looking east to Blencathra covered in cloud

Not having been here before I wasn’t sure if this top was the Wainwright or above the distinctive cliffs. Either way I wanted to stand above them and check the views out. A grey day but still good, also refreshingly I was totally alone, no one to be seen. Menacingly though somewhere down there was a long legged Alan hurtling towards Skiddaw House, he would get there before me, my fate & mountain manliness were doomed.

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12.47 – from Lonscale Fell cliffs north over Burnt Horse with Skiddaw House far left 

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From Lonscale Fell over Little Man, Skiddaw and Bakestall far right

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From Lonscale down and across Glenderaterra Valley to Blencathra

Stage 2 – Lonscale Fell to Skiddaw House; (40 mins). After a few seconds enjoying these views I hurried across the tufty grass, firstly north west then north east for the descent over Burnt Horse. This looked fun – and it was, had a nice mini edge to it.

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12.56 – Burnt Horse ahead, Alan due from the lump top right

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1.07pm – Descending from Burnt Horse, Skiddaw House mid left in the trees, people coming up

It was up there I spotted Alan on the path far below, closing in on Skiddaw House. I was close but my descent route went straight down rather than angling to the House. I thought of lobbing a rock at him or something, anything to slow him down. Alas this wasn’t possible and I had to accept that the long legged bugger had beaten me. Look at the smug expression below, note the feigned tiredness as if he’d waited ages.

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1.20pm Alan awaits – Skiddaw House

We had some food and exchanged route stories. Bizarrely he had seen what appeared to be a childs fluffy toy on top of Souther Fell, which turned out to be a confused grey squirrel. (Reported this later as it’s a protected Red Squirrel area).

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1.40pm – leaving Skiddaw House – Britains’ highest YHA Bunkhouse!!

Stage 3 – Skiddaw House to Skiddaw via Bakestall; (2 hrs). Refreshed and fed, we started along the excellent path north west, dodging occasional mountain bikers. Nice along here, looking up at Skiddaw, Great Calva & back to Blencathra (still full of cloud).

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1.40pm on way to Bakestall – look he’s away again!

Took about 30mins to get to the spot below, just above Dash Falls with probably the worst section of the day ahead, the slog up to Bakestall. 45 degrees, relentless.

Dead Crags

2.15pm Phone battery changing before the ascent to Bakestall, Dead Crags in background

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2.55 pm on Bakestall, the last ever Wainwright I’d done but Alan hadn’t!!

The pace slowed up to Bakestall, glad to reach it as at least the gradient eases for the final stretch up to Skiddaw. Views were very hazy and grey yet Alan seemed at ease, because of course there were no more Wainwrights left anywhere in the universe that I’d done and he hadn’t. This happiness was fleeting, one look at that weather and it was doom & gloom “weathers changed for the worse, cloud’s coming down”. I reminded him of what happened recently approaching Kirk Fell, with some positive willpower the sky cleared. I implored him to think positively, visualise a clear summit. Secretly I could see his point, it looked grim getting rapidly worse from the south east, still I oozed positive vibes.

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3.03pm on the way up grey Skiddaw

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3.18pm – me looking back down over Bakestall and a patch of brightness

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3.27pm – Alan ascending

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3.37pm – At last, Skiddaw summit

We arrived to a gratifyingly clear summit despite the threatening cloud. Alan had taken exactly 5hrs to reach Skiddaw, I’d taken just 30mins less, interesting stats.

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Skiddaw Summit

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Skiddaw to Blencathra

Remember those positive thoughts? Blencathra had cleared for the first time all day and a patch of blue. One unexpected thing, it was bloody windy, there’d been little sign of that so far on our sheltered route. We took photos then very quickly scrambled behind the shelter to escape the gale.

Windy

Windy on top, maybe the curry last night?

Three other walkers were sheltering for a few mins, then we had the mountain top to ourselves. Not that we wanted to move about much as that wind was fierce. Suddenly we experienced that Kirk Fell moment again, I stood half up to see a changed sky. The south eastern gales were battering the cloud into amazing shapes. These photos didn’t need enhancing, the light was wonderful. Another positive vibe coincidence? I think not:-)

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Amazing views – not Alan’s legs, the sky!!

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Skiddaw cloud show

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Last photo 

Stage 4 – Skiddaw to Millbeck via Dodd;– (3hr 30mins). Reluctance to leave a clear mountain top was overtaken by a need to get down and a need to get warmer. We’d been up here 40 mins which reminded me how much of a bad idea my route Plan A would’ve been. Unlike Alan, I refused to put gloves on, so reclaimed some of that lost mountain manliness. Now for the knee breaking descent south to Carl Side, wasn’t looking forward to this one bit.

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4.30pm – there’s knee joy in this descent to Carl Side

Surprised to find it better than last time, looks like a lot of the loose scree has simply been worn away by boot power. Doesn’t look pretty though.

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4.45pm on Carl Side, not a pretty path but one pretty cool dude

Now for a diversion to the day’s only joint new Wainwright, the elusive Dodd. Covered in conifers (I hate conifers) we had nearly attempted this offshoot many times driving past from other trips. Today was the day to finally bag it. Dodd’s lowly height however lulls you into a false sense of security, Alan knew it wasn’t straightforward, conifer plantations rarely are. We managed to locate the path linking up to the ascent ok though.

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4.55pm. Heading for Dodd 

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5.18 – The path to Dodd off Skiddaw below Carl Side

Dodd’s shape changed as we drew near, began to look bigger too, full of forest tracks. We managed to follow my Viewranger phone map paths ok and ended up on top 20mins later.

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5.38 – doddering up Dodd, a helpful sign, or not

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5.45pm – Dodd summit in evening light

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Dodd, Keswick and Derwent Water, nice place to be, everyone else missed the late light

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Bassenthwaite from Dodd

We liked Dodd, spent ages up here, the views and situation lovely, the forest and tracks ugly. Dodd’s also slightly odd. Now to get down. Ah right, well the mistake I made was not preparing or checking any routes. We tried in vain to locate Viewrangers marked path going south east through the trees down to the car. The only footpath sign seemed to be heading too far west and we did not fancy faffing about in dark forests. It’d been a long day so we weren’t going to mess about any longer and decided just to retrace our steps east and rejoin the main Skiddaw descent path to Millbeck. This was thankfully soon accomplished after an irritating reascent.

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7.05pm on the main descent path with autumn light

Straightforward descent now to Millbeck and the car. Then suddenly Alan tweaked his right knee, an old injury causing him to slow and almost hop agonisingly down. I offered my Pacer poles and sweaty knee supports, he graciously declined for some reason.

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Knee knackered Alan descending WAY behind me for a change!

Felt sorry for him of course yet memories flooded back of past descents featuring a distant Alan waiting for me and my aching knees. As he hobbled down I thought back to my failure at Skiddaw House, and in an instant all my mountain manliness returned. The force had indeed been restored to the universe and we were both more than happy to reach the car parked very close at 7.45pm. Plan B had worked, it had been a good day in the fells.

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Final path to Millbeck below in gently fading light.

Really interesting and satisfying day this one. Very lucky with the weather, lovely evening. Will put a map of Alan’s route on soon. Thanks for reading. (Off to the Highlands today:-)

PS Little did I know that once back from the Highlands it would be another 4 months before I visited the Lake District again, this time in snow to walk The Far Northern Wainwrights

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About MART IN THE HILLS

Hillwalker with dodgy knees and dodgier sense of humour. Lover of the outdoors, Lakes, Highlands, Cheviots, nature, good food, real ale and leaf tea.
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