Shipman Knotts, Kentmere Pike, Harter Fell and the Kentmere Valley

Walk date – 6th March 2020

Weather – slow build up of cloud after a sunny start, brisk breeze at height

Distance – 8.2 miles

A good weather day came along at last so we headed over to Kentmere again, this time to walk the fells making up the eastern section of the Kentmere Horseshoe and returning to our start point using a different path down the valley to the one we used when we walked the valley a couple of weeks ago. The day started out with brilliant sunshine lighting up the valley but as we progressed bands of thin milky cloud drifted over, followed by an ever increasing variety of fabulous cloud formations, some of which looked likely to drop their contents on us but never did, and the constantly changing skies definitely added plenty of drama to our walk. By the time we were back at our start point it was a much duller day, although once we were back on the road and heading northwards we left it all behind and drove home in brilliant sunshine.


 Stile End (Kentmere) – Wray Crag – Shipman Knotts – Kentmere Pike – Harter Fell – Nan Bield Pass – Kentmere Valley – Stile End (Kentmere)

The  reason for the red line at the start of the route will become clear later.

Looking along the Kentmere Valley as we begin our walk using the Stile End path. We could see patches of snow on the fells we were planning to walk over so our spikes were added to our packs plus hats and gloves. All would be needed later on but at the moment all was warm and still.

Looking across to Cowsty Knotts and Yoke while we waited …..

….. for a farmer to bring his sheep their breakfast. He must have been a little late this morning because when we arrived they were all gathered, ready and waiting, by the troughs. They were practically eating it out of the bag as he prepared to pour it into the feeders. They were so busy that they hardly noticed us.

Shipman Knotts behind a couple of barns as we make our way up the path.

The view behind us as we pass the barns with Yoke, Ill Bell, Froswick and Thornthwaite Crag from left to right on the skyline. Its been such a long, long time since we had dry and sunny weather that it almost feels unreal.

The path is nicely graded as it climbs but even so the warm sunshine and the lack of any wind soon has us unzipping our jackets, I think we could have walked along here in t-shirts and shorts.

We decided to cut the corner off so we left the path to make our way over  to the wall using a faint grassy path. The heavy lifting started across here as the ground begins to rise much more steeply up towards Wray Crag. As we took a breather J decided to check the gps and discovered that it was telling him that we had walked eight miles to this point. Obviously not a true reading, particularly as that’s the length of the entire walk and we’d barely walked a mile at this point, so a reset was needed. The route we took was then tracked from the point of reset, hence the arrowed red lines being needed to fill in the gap. While all this was going on I decided to take a shot looking back across to Green Quarter Fell, where a layer of milky cloud is just beginning to move across.

The faint path we had been using brought us out right at the foot of the climb up the rocky gully on Wray Crag so it was camera away and time for hands and feet to get to work. Its not a difficult scramble and its quite short but for anyone not blessed with long limbs, i.e. me, it can be a bit awkward in places. Once at the top of the gully I took this shot looking over the wall to the summit of Shipman Knotts …..

….. and then this one looking straight down the gully, which the walkers down below will now be contemplating.

From Wray Crag we simply follow one of the well trodden paths leading up to the summit.

At the marshy depression there’s a choice of paths, the one on the left skirts around it, the one on the right hugs close to the wall. Both were just as wet as each other today so we opted for the most direct route and went across beside the wall, walking beside it all the way to the summit. There was quite a lot of snow in the deep gully towards the top of the wall, some of it quite deep and unavoidable which made for a very warm climb up.

On the summit of Shipman Knotts and although there’s some haze around we have a much better view of the western half of the Kentmere Horseshoe than we had when we were up here in 2017. By some strange coincidence the gps did exactly the same thing then as it did today and gave us the wrong mileage reading. We came up from Sadgill on that occasion and just like today we had walked hardly any distance but the gps was showing us that we had done twelve miles. I had to fill in the gap on the route map for that walk too.

J making sure that the gps is now behaving itself while I take a look ahead to Kentmere Pike, on the left, and Goat Scar, on the right. Some snow is still hanging around but only in the wall gullies and pathways at this low level.

On the way to Kentmere Pike although we aren’t going over to Goat Scar today. The past two or three days of dry weather has resulted in the ground drying out a little so although it was still squelchy in places we weren’t sinking in up to our ankles today.

Crossing the wall by the stile gets walkers over on to the correct side for the paths to Goat Scar and Kentmere Pike. The blue skies up here are also being gradually obliterated as the thin cloud joins forces but for now we still have some sunshine to enjoy.

Things are quite different as I take a look back to Goat Scar, on the left, and Shipman Knotts, to the right, where everything all looks a whole lot duller and the haze makes it all but impossible to make out anything in the distance. The walk up to Kentmere Pike involves an ascent of roughly 525′ over uncomplicated paths and normally its a fairly straightforward walk up. Today was a little different since the paths were mostly snow filled which left you with a choice between them or the rough tussocky stuff alongside them. Neither was particularly easy to deal with today, especially on legs which haven’t had to deal with snow or much in the way of height for the last few weeks, so it all took that much more effort today. I think I was running on empty by the time we were anywhere near the top.

We got there eventually though and were treated to another cracking view of Yoke, Ill Bell and Froswick across the valley.

Looking ahead to Harter Fell from the summit of Kentmere Pike …..

….. and a view of the summit cairn. A step stile in the wall leads to the trig column on the other side but we didn’t go across today as a pair of walkers were already in residence.  By now we were in the breeze and although it was nowhere near ‘blow you over’ strength it was a bit nippy so the hats and gloves came out. We dropped down to find somewhere a little more sheltered and treated ourselves to some hot soup, a bite to eat and a much needed chance to let our legs have a rest for ten minutes or so.

The walk over to Harter Fell covers one and a quarter miles with 290′ of ascent so although the distance is the same as that between Kentmere Pike and Shipman Knotts the amount of ascent is less. Along the way we noticed a burst of sunlight landing on Branstree, on the far side of Longsleddale, which together with the patchwork of cloud above it created quite a captivating sight.

Heading across Harter Fell and sinking knee deep in snow filled hollows from time to time. Bright skies still ahead of us …..

….. but less than bright behind us as I take a look back at Kentmere Pike from a large drift alongside the wall.

Another look back at Kentmere Pike from a little further along.

We didn’t continue right up to the summit of Harter Fell, instead when we reached The Knowe we diverted along this terrace path and headed towards the path from the summit which descends to the shelter at Nan Bield Pass. We’ve never walked the full length of this path before as we’ve always diverted across to the right and headed for the summit. As we’ve been on Harter Fell several times now we thought today was as good as day as any to finally get around to walking the length of it, the view the whole way along was pretty spectacular too, especially as the sun shone on it the whole time. Definitely a good day for lifting the spirits after all the dire weather we’ve had. It was simply wonderful to be out.

Still some darker cloud to the south west but despite it there was enough of a glimmer to give something of a view across to Yoke and Ill Bell towering above Kentmere Reservoir …..

….. but its the view ahead which holds our attention so I zoomed in for a closer look at Mardale Ill Bell, slightly in shadow over to the left, with the Long Stile ridge leading up to High Street in full sun behind it. Behind Long Stile is Twopenny Crag and the ridge leading over to Kidsty Pike.

In the right foreground on our left is Lingmell End, across the middle foreground is Froswick leading over to Thornthwaite Crag, with Red Screes peeping up between them. Somehow there are enough breaks in the cloud to let the sunlight through and light it all up for us to enjoy.

Well now we know where the path from The Knowe ends up as it joins the path coming down Harter Fell at a point just before the last section of the climb to Harter Fell’s summit. We have a short pause here to put on our spikes, we’ve managed without them so far, but there’s a steep descent coming up and no doubt it will be full of snow so its best to be prepared. Naturally we’ll be keeping well to the left of those cornices down there, there’s a very steep drop down to Small Water on that side of the ridge.

Descending carefully and Haweswater comes into view. In some very gloomy weather six days ago we were on Four Stones Hill back there, looking up at these fells and wondering if we would ever get a good enough day to get a snow walk in before it all melts away. I didn’t really think that we would get the chance this winter so this is a wonderful surprise.

On the skyline from left to right are High Street, Kidsty Pike and High Raise each with a covering of snow, although its a bit sparse in Kidsty Pike’s case.

Before we descended too far I took a look back up to the point at which we joined this path. Towards the centre of the shot it begins to branch off to the right over to The Knowe, on the right. A zoom in on The Knowe might reveal the line of the path we followed.

A closer look down to Small Water from the descent with a shadowy Rough Crag behind it and Haweswater snaking along Mardale in the valley bottom.

A longer view of the previous scene where the skies to the north east remain as bright as ever.

Safely down to Nan Bield Pass where we take a short drinks break and gaze at the silvery waters of Kentmere Reservoir.

While I was busy with the camera J was chatting with the walker in red who was reduced to sitting on one of the shelter’s walls as the whole of the inside of it was chock full of snow. He asked J if there was any running water to be found back up on Harter Fell but there isn’t so we had to disappoint him. A beck runs down the valley and drains into the reservoir so he wasn’t too far away from a source. It would have involved descending a fair way down though and having to climb back up again, maybe he didn’t want to have to do that though.

We leave the shelter and set off for the long walk back down the valley …..

….. with a look back at the hause before we get too far along and lose the view.

The scenery doesn’t change much along the valley so I didn’t take many photos other than this one as we passed above the reservoir with Ill Bell standing guard over it. The clouds began to look quite ominous but we were spared a soaking.

Leaden skies and a subdued landscape ahead pretty much all the way down the valley …..

….. and although the sun refused to come out again things did seem to get a little brighter as we neared the flatter lands in the valley bottom.

We eventually reached Overend Farm which was just as quiet as it was when we passed by it on 12th February with not a soul to be seen anywhere on either occasion.

When we passed by the farm on 12th February we went through the metal gate on the right of the shot and followed the path back to where we had parked the car by the church in Kentmere. Today we keep to the lane on the left of the shot which will lead us straight back to the car parked near to Stile End. Brighter skies arrive as we walk back to the car.

The flock of sheep ahead can mean only one thing …..

….. a very colourful bunch of mothers to be, gathered by the feeders and ready and waiting once again for their afternoon food supply. I wonder if he’s late again?

We leave the sheep waiting for their afternoon tea and from there we just have a short walk back to the car. Before we lost the valley view I took a look back and noticed a patch of muted sunlight on The Tongue which helped to brighten up my last shot of the walk. Legs are a little weary by now, the last time we had a walk of a similar length and height was back at the beginning of December last year, thanks to the weather keeping us indoors for such lengthy periods. Hopefully things will start improving as we slowly edge towards the spring and today was a very good start.