Mardale Ill Bell via the east ridge

Walk Date – 28th February 2016

Distance – 5 miles

Weather – dry with sunny spells, cold under cloud cover


We hadn’t really planned any walk today as the forecast last night seemed a bit neither one thing or the other, apart from the fact that it wouldn’t be hot. Thanks to that we didn’t have a very early start or we could have done a longer walk. Seeing that the morning was a bright, clear and crisp one we decided to drive over to Mardale and see if the Storm Desmond landslip had been cleared, and based on that make a decision on what we’d do next.


The view from the drive along the side of Haweswater was impossible to ignore so we pulled up at the road side from where I took the above photo and the following two. This one is looking over at Kidsty Pike, the pointy one, across Haweswater on an absolutely beautiful morning.    

The wooded promontory, named The Rigg, in front of the ridge path leading up to Rough Crag, with High Street, to the right, beyond it. Mardale Ill Bell is over on the left.

Looking along the road towards Mardale Head with Harter Fell on the left, and a snow capped Mardale Ill Bell to the right of it. Slivers of surface ice showing on Haweswater.

All you need to know about Haweswater on the information board in the car park at Mardale Head. The fact that we are in the car park means that the landslip has been cleared so now another part of the Lakes is available to walkers.

Today’s objective, Mardale Ill Bell.

Harter Fell casting a shadow across our route as we make our way up to Small Water. This is a grand little section of the walk, it leads up to Small Water tarn and starts quite gently as can be seen in the photo. It continues to rise very steadily so there are no very steep sections, and for a good part of the way the path runs alongside Smallwater Beck with its attractive waterfalls. The views back towards Haweswater get better and better as you climb and if all you can manage is a couple of miles or just have an hour or so to spare then this is the walk for you.

Looking back at Haweswater with thin films of surface ice here and there.

Looking over to the Rough Crag – Long Stile approach to High Street.

Very icy paths today but it wasn’t worth putting the spikes on as the ice was easily side-stepped by using the solid grassy ground on either side.

One of the waterfalls in Smallwater Beck.

Icicles clinging to the rock in Small Water Beck.

Mardale Ill Bell across a frozen Small Water. The path across the tarn continues around it and on up to the Nan Bield Pass, but when we are over that little grassy rise we will turn right off the main path and continue on to the summit via the east ridge, which is indicated by those two knobbly lumps on the right skyline. We won’t be walking over the top of them though as the route passes below them.

Nan Bield Pass, the low point on the skyline, across the outflow at Small Water.

We’ve turned off the main path now and we’re climbing more steeply. Time for a breather and a look at the ice patterns on Small Water.

Selside Pike in the sun and Branstree in the shade across Haweswater.

A glimpse of Haweswater and an un-named tarn.

The summit plateau of Harter Fell, with a sliver of Small Water below it

A better view of Small Water from higher up and further along the route.

A look back to Haweswater as we climb higher.

Kidsty Pike, on the centre skyline, across Caspel Gate, which is the brownish patch just below it. We put the spikes on around this point as we were about to climb across a large area of thick and frozen snow.

Safely up the snow patch at the top of which is this old quarry building. Those old quarry men chose a good site for their hut, it would be a great place to sit and get the ‘snap tin’ out after working hard in the quarry all morning.

Another view of the old quarry building, this time looking south to the Nan Bield Pass.

The low point on the skyline is the top of Nan Bield pass, the ridge to the left of it leads up to Harter Fell.

Harter Fell and Small Water from the quarry building.

Looking towards High Street. We don’t need to cross that patch of snow as our route now goes off over a level section to the left of the shot.

The view across to our right of the north ridge of Mardale Ill Bell.

We’re just below the summit at this point and its a good spot to see the size and shape of Haweswater.

We’re almost at the summit now and the ground has lost much of its steepness. The summit plateau of Harter Fell is opposite.

A couple of minutes later and we’re at the summit of Mardale Ill Bell, complete with ice block installation.

Harter Fell from Mardale Ill Bell summit.

The view eastwards from Mardale Ill Bell summit.

Yoke, Ill Bell and Froswick from Mardale Ill Bell summit.

A close up of Thornthwaite Beacon from Mardale Ill Bell summit.

Looking across to High Street from Mardale Ill Bell.

Looking between Yoke and Ill Bell for a close up of the sunlight glistening on Morecambe Bay, a long way down to the south.  We could have done with some of that, its all gone a bit grey over here.

The view to the south west from Mardale Ill Bell.

We walked to the west for a short distance to get some shots of Blea Water. This glimpse of Blea Water was the best I could manage as I wasn’t too keen on walking into that snow so close to the edge to get a better one.

Looking across Long Stile to Kidsty Pike, that’s the little rocky bump on the skyline just above the cloud shadow.

Returning to Mardale Ill Bell summit cairn, still sporting its block of ice.

Descending Mardale Ill Bell with a view of Kentmere reservoir below Yoke and Ill Bell.

The view down to Small Water and Haweswater as we leave Mardale Ill Bell.

On the way down to Nan Bield Pass.

The shelter at Nan Bield Pass, busy at the crossroads today. The path to the right leads up to Harter Fell summit, the walker in yellow has just walked up from Small Water, and the path going down to the right leads down to Kentmere.

The path from the shelter leading up to Harter Fell summit.

Kentmere reservoir from the Nan Bield shelter.

The Nan Bield shelter from the eastern side.

More icy sections on the Nan Bield Pass as we make our way down.

Small Water and Haweswater as we descend the Nan Bield Pass.

Safely down at Small Water.

The stone shelters alongside Small Water.

Not far to go now to the car park at the end of the road. I haven’t worked out why but there’s always seems to be a bit of an optical illusion going on when taking a photo of Haweswater from this area. It looks as though the water is sloping to the right, which it obviously isn’t since it would be spilling over onto the road and the car park. I always check the horizontal level on the camera to get things perfectly level and take several shots, just in case, but they still come out looking weird.