Walk Date – 28th November 2016
Distance – 8 miles
Weather – mild and cloudy
Something is attracting attention down there, but whatever it was I didn’t see it as I was concentrating on taking this view back down the lane to the little parking area just below Little Town. This morning’s weather is nothing like what was forecast last night, we should be looking at fields white with frost and the sun shining out of a clear blue sky. Obviously there wasn’t the severe overnight frost, and the cloud cover which prevented it hasn’t quite gone although it does seem to be breaking up a little. Maybe the predicted sunny day will turn up later.
We cut through the roadside banking and picked up the path which runs just above it, heading in the direction of the tiny hamlet of Little Town. The Skiddaw fells have lost a good deal of their snow cover during the sunny days we’ve had over this past week.
Looking back along Newlands from the gently graded path as we start making our way up to Hause Gate. Robinson is on the left and over to the right, with the line of snow down the slope is the Ard Crags – Knott Rigg ridge.
Another look back for a rather different view of Causey Pike on the centre skyline, you don’t get the usual view of its knuckly, knobbly top from this direction. Bits of ice here and there on the path but its easy walking for the most part.
Below us is the path we’ve been following and here I’m standing on the loose, rocky section of it which is sandwiched between Yewthwaite Gill, which we’ve just crossed, and a cairn further up, which we haven’t reached yet. Its not a difficult section to deal with, its more of a nuisance than anything else, the stones and rocks slide around under your feet which slows things down a bit. It doesn’t last long though and its not long before …..
….. we reach the cairn which marks a junction in the path, left for Catbells and straight ahead for Hause Gate. We have another grassy path to look forward to and the cloud looks to be breaking up quite nicely.
Just off to the right of the cairn is an area of spoil heaps with a fenced off old mine shaft. I’m not sure whether this is an old sheepfold or the remains of some old mine buildings. The broken walls, some of which were built several feet deep into the ground, covered quite a large area whatever their original purpose was. Behind the walls is Maiden Moor which is where we are heading first.
Leaving the cairn and the spoil heaps we continued up the grassy path, and here I took a look over to Causey Pike, the high point to the right, and to its left the long ridge over Scar Crags leading over to Sail and Crag Hill. We’re starting to get some sunny patches so things are looking promising.
We reach Hause Gate and climb a little higher up the path to get this lovely view of Derwentwater. There is a very slight breeze up here but there’s not a ripple on the water down there, and the cloud is diffusing the sunlight which gives the landscape a softer colour palette.
From the same spot I took a look across Hause Gate to Catbells with absolutely no-one to be seen on it, that’s a first because there is usually someone over there.
Further along and a little higher and another view of Derwentwater, with a thin film of ice visible in the reflections on the right.
Reaching a flatter section and the chance to look across Catbells towards Bass Lake and the sunlit Skiddaw fells.
One last look at Derwentwater before we lose the view and noticing that the surface has now lost its mirror finish.
We’re much higher now so we begin to see more of the eastern fells beyond the Bleaberry Fell – High Seat ridge in the middle foreground.
Looking south east, the direction the slight breeze was coming from, to see the thick band of grey cloud coming along with it. It looks cold, but it wasn’t, and taking my gloves off to take photos did not result in instantly numb fingers. That made it all the easier to put on the spikes, which we did at this point. We had been able to dodge the icy parts up to now but looking ahead it was obvious that we wouldn’t be able to do that for very much longer.
Over on our right there are still some sunny patches on the Coledale fells, but the lighter cloud is definitely leaving us and things are becoming darker.
How dark things have become is plain to see as we look ahead to High Spy, on the left, and Dale Head, on the right. The conditions underfoot varied all the way across Maiden Moor with solid, rutted ice, drifts of varying depths, soft snow, slushy wet snow and icy puddles. Sometimes the snow held you, other times it didn’t, and no matter what was underfoot we were often thrown off balace, it didn’t make for rapid progress despite the spikes. At least we weren’t in the teeth of a howling wind so it wasn’t at all unpleasant.
Below us, on our left, are the green fields of Borrowdale, and on the snowy skyline is Greenup Edge between Ullscarf, on the left, and High Raise, on the right.
Looking down into valley between us and HIndscarth, with Newlands Beck winding its way along the valley bottom, and the snowy peaks of the Coledale fells still hanging on to some sunshine.
From the same spot, but moving slightly to my left, there another view down into the valley, out of which rise the Newlands ‘twins’, Robinson in the centre with Hindscarth to its left. I’ll bet it was ‘interesting’ up there a week ago.
A few seconds worth of sun managed to reach us and light up the way ahead, it didn’t last long but it cheered things up a little while it was there. Across the valley Hindscarth is on the right of the shot with Dale Head over towards the centre.
Ahead of us is Dale Head but we still have a few more lumps and bumps to get across, with a whole lot more potentially ankle twisting paths to negotiate. Its hard to believe that this is a colour photo, but if you look hard enough over to the right you can just see a smidge of blue sky to prove it.
Looking back along Maiden Moor we notice two walkers and their dog behind us. If you look closely you might just be able to pick them out on the path over to the middle left of the shot, one of them is wearing a red jacket which might help to locate them.
We press on, the sunny spells have gone beyond the Coledale fells and they too are now mostly plunged into the gloom although the remaining snow does make it easier to distinguish them. I stepped into the snow in the foreground wanting not to have quite so much of it in the shot, but abandoned the idea when I sank up to my knees just two steps into it.
The skies darken, as the clouds combine, allowing only the smallest patches of sun to get through from time to time. The Skiddaw fells still manage to look impressive though across the frozen tarn. We weren’t able to test the thickness of its ice as there was nothing handy to throw onto it, we tried making a snowball instead but the icy snow wouldn’t co-operate. I suppose we could have stood on it but that would have been a bit silly, wouldn’t it? While we were occupied with these childlike activities the two walkers, a man and a woman, and their dog, who had been behind us further back, came storming up alongside us, so I had to wait until they had gone by to take this shot. We exchanged hellos but nothing more, and they continued on, heads down and seemingly oblivious to anything on either side of them. We see many walkers doing exactly the same, intent only on getting from A to B to C and looking as though they are on some kind of time trial.
The two walkers had left the summit of HIgh Spy by the time we reached it so we had the place to ourselves. Here I’m looking westwards from the cairn to the Coledale fells.
The view to the north with Skiddaw and Blencathra on the skyline.
Looking southwards to Dale Head from the summit cairn. The poor thing looks more weather beaten and less shapely than it used to. By the way, it is the cairn I’m referring to, just in case you were wondering.
Another poor weather beaten thing beside the cairn, the slight breeze has re-arranged my hair many times along the way but its too mild for the hood to be up or a hat to be worn.
I wandered over to a point above the crags for this view of Dale Head.
The cairn looks more like its old self from this viewpoint, which is looking eastwards towards Clough Head and the Dodds.
Before we leave High Spy I took a look over at the large band of cloud still coming towards us from the south east, which was creating a very atmospheric, and almost other worldly, landscape.
Looking back at High Spy, having crossed the beck with care since there was plenty of water flowing down it and many of the stepping stones were below the surface. As we began climbing up here on our way to Dale Head Tarn we saw the two walkers who had passed us just before High Spy summit only about 100 yards ahead of us. The descent off High Spy is usually very straightforward, but today the path was often hidden below the snow so we wondered if finding a route through it had slowed them down. You certainly needed to watch where you were going to avoid straying into the some of the deep drifts across there.
We took a break at the tarn, settled ourselves on the dry stones of the sheepfold and tucked into hot soup and sandwiches, while we watched the progress of the two walkers who were now heading up the slopes of Dale Head. All went well for about five minutes until the path disappeared beneath a large stretch of snow which brought their progress to a sudden halt. They stood for a few minutes as if trying to decide how, or if, they should proceed and then the woman began walking up through it, the top of the snow coming well above her knees. Their dog had continued on while they were having their discussion and by this time was above the snow patch waiting for them to catch up. The man eventually started making his way up but had a harder time of it than his companion, he kept losing his balance and falling from one side to the other all the way along. They did eventually make it up to the ridge line but it must have been tough going for a while.
We had no plans to go up Dale Head today, and even if we had I think the struggle we had just witnessed would have given us second thoughts about doing so. We finished our lunch, hoisted on the packs and made our way back down to the beck crossing. On the way I took a slight diversion to take this shot of High Spy and its precipitous crags.
Looking down into a dark and gloomy Newlands as we start to descend.
Ten minutes into our descent and the sky begins to lighten, making the whole valley look a lot more welcoming.
Another five minutes go by and as I turn around to take this shot of Dale Head Crags I notice that blue sky is returning.
From the same spot a turn to my left brings the equally dramatic crags of High Spy into view. I’m now wondering why there is no snow down here. The valley is north facing and will get almost no sun at this time of year, yet back up over the top of the path, on the south facing side which does get the sun, the snow is still there. Maybe it didn’t snow quite so much along here.
We carry on down the valley and, as the path mostly follows the course of Newlands Beck, eventually arrive at the point where the high waterfall plunges into the pool below.
We took a short drinks stop at the sheepfold and gave our legs a brief rest from the pounding that they always have to put up with when going downhill.
Well now, would you just take a look at that! A few minutes down from the sheepfold, the dark clouds have moved away and the sun is out, not that we could see it because it was away over to the right behind Dale Head Crags. I’m back to wondering why, if the sun can’t reach into this valley, the snow has managed to melt so much more quickly here than it has on the other side. There’s bound to be a logical explanation, isn’t there?
Down on the valley floor and much easier walking. The sun is only just reaching the upper slopes of Maiden Moor and this morning’s bank of cloud is well beyond Skiddaw now so we had a very pleasant walk back. It is a long walk through the valley though and even at a good pace it took us an hour and a half to get from one end to the other. A little further down we met a couple who were taking advantage of the mild weather just to take an afternoon stroll, so that’s a grand total of four people we’ve met today.
We’re back at the point where we cut down the bank to the tarmac lane right there below us. There are thirty six minutes left before the sun sets, which today is at 3.54 pm, and we are treated to the splendid sight of a late afternoon glow on the Skiddaw fells.
From the same spot I turn around to take a final look up the valley. The sun is well down now with just a hint of it burnishing the tops of Hindscarth, on the left, and Robinson, on the right. All we have to do now is cut down to the lane for the short walk back down to the car park and then drive home. We didn’t get the sunny day which we thought we were going to get, but the cloud added its own intensity to the landscape which was just as enjoyable. It wasn’t cold or windy and it didn’t rain or snow, its been a good day.