Walk Date – 30th June 2016
Distance – 5 miles
Weather – heavy cloud, cold and windy
The weather just lately is what the forecasters have been describing as changeable and/or unsettled, but we all know its just another typical British summer. However you describe it, planning any sort of excursion outdoors can be a bit fraught, and today we had the chance of a quick nip out this morning before the next band of rain comes rattling through this afternoon. We opted for a quick out and back from the top of the Kirkstone Pass up to Stony Cove Pike, the summit of Caudale Moor, via St Raven’s Edge. Caudale Moor summit stands at 2503′ and starting from the Kirkstone Inn at 1500′, gives us a good leg up, so to speak, with a little over 1000′ of climbing in front of us. Bit of a cheat I know, but with the current weather situation you need all the help you can get just to get outdoors for a short while.
I’m standing at the top of the Kirkstone Pass, opposite the Kirkstone Pass Inn, at the entrance to the pub car park. I’m 1500′ above sea level and a very chilly wind is blowing straight at me from the centre right of the photo, the temperature is a whopping 11 C or in old money 52F, and this isn’t so much a walk as a bid for freedom for a couple of hours.
The path begins right beside the inn so its through the gate we go and begin the climb up to St Raven’s Edge. The view to our left looks down the Kirkstone Pass towards Brothers Water, with Place Fell, in sunshine, just beyond.
Looking back down at the inn to show the beginning of the path right next to it. The car park is across the road and that’s where we’ve parked although the car is hidden by the walls. We parked opposite the black car and small white van which you can see down there. The larger van was a camper with its curtains still closed so perhaps the occupants had a heavy night in the inn. The three wind powered generators provide electricity for the pub and they were working overtime this morning, although it doesn’t look like it in the shot.
Behind us across the Kirkstone Pass is Red Screes. AW placed that fell in his Eastern Fells category and the one we are going to he placed in the Far Eastern Fells category which indicates that he took the Kirkstone Pass as his dividing line. You might find it hard to believe but there is a footpath going up to the summit from the inn car park, which rises 1000′ through layers of crags, tumbled boulders and swathes of scree.
The view opens up as we get higher and a little section of Windermere appears, alongside which is the small town of Ambleside. The road you can see branches off on the right of the Kirkstone Pass road just a little beyond the inn and leads down into Ambleside. Its called ‘The Struggle’. I haven’t made that up by the way, there is a large road sign with it written on at the Ambleside end of the road.
Here’s another struggle. For the most part the path rises fairly gently and steadily but here and there are some short, but steep, rocky sections which give the opportunity for a bit of light entertainment as we scramble across them. Its not really a struggle, the hardest part is deciding which rock to choose since they are a bit awkwardly placed.
Another scrambly section, oh decisions, decisions, which one shall I choose?
As you can see there’s a shortage of flat bits on which you can put your boots. Notice the wall rising alongside. AW dedicated his Far Eastern Fells book ‘to the memory of ‘THE MEN WHO BUILT THE STONE WALLS’ which have endured the storms of centuries and remain to this day as monuments to enterprise, perseverance and hard work.’
The view in front of us, St Raven’s Edge, with a couple more scrambles ahead of us before we reach the top. The route is squeezed in between the wall and the crags as the path gets closer to the summit.
From the same spot I look behind us down to the Kirkstone Pass. Red Screes is over on the left and the next fell down is Middle Dodd.
One last scramble and then we’re at the top. There are times when I wish I had longer legs and this is one of them.
We reach the top of St Raven’s Edge after 25 minutes and we weren’t exactly rushing, so I suppose if you got a shift on you could do it in about 15 minutes. It would make a good little walk for a family outing on a sunny Sunday afternoon and youngsters would really enjoy the scrambly parts. The fell straight across from us is Wansfell which you would think would be a bit of a walk in the park from this angle, but walking up it from Ambleside is steeper than it looks from here and it definitely gets you puffing and panting.
So here we are on the top of St Raven’s Edge looking across at Red Screes and Middle Dodd on the right, with about 450′ of the climb under our belts The cairn is nothing to write home about is it? Apart from the fact that it is so big you simply cannot miss it, there is nothing else about it that is worthy of comment.
We dropped down from St Raven’s Edge and made our way along the path towards Caudale Moor. That’s the one on the centre skyline with the wall rising up its slopes. The path we are on follows the wall almost to the summit. On the right skyline is Thornthwaite Crag.
The path in many places consists largely of large stepping stones across lots of water filled sections and squelchy peat hags as it rises and falls over the undulations of the fell sides.
We’re descending to the headwaters of Woundale Beck and then we’ll begin climbing the slopes of Caudale Moor. We still have the wall over to our left and you can trace its route all the way to the skyline.
Red Screes still dominates the skyline to our left.
A look back as we leave St Raven’s Edge for the time being. That’s the biggest patch of blue sky we saw all day.
We’re still following the path alongside the wall and starting the climb up. The gradient is easy on the legs and the rock steps keep your feet above the wetter areas. The black bags are full of similar sized stones and its hard to tell whether the Fix the Fells organisation is about to do some more work on the path or whether they’ve finished for the time being. The bags of stones are brought in by helicopter in readiness for any path work which needs doing. To the right of the skyline is Pike How, the highest point of the intermediate ridge to the south.
Over on our right, and looking very dour under all that cloud, are, from left to right, Froswick, Ill Bell and Yoke. These fells form the western side of the Kentmere Horseshoe.
Behind us, to the south, a patch of sunshine briefly lights up Sallows over on the left, although to the right of it its neighbour, Sour Howes, isn’t getting any of it. Gaps in the cloud were few and far between this morning so everything is looking decidedly gloomy, and now that we are much higher we are back in the chilly, brisk wind. It feels more like early March than late June.
We’re approaching the upper slopes of Caudale Moor, the clouds are ganging up on us and the blue patches are getting smaller and fewer.
Over on our left is a view across some of the eastern fells. The ones in the shade over to the right of the shot are, Saint Sunday Crag with the patches of scree on its flanks, and behind that is Helvellyn with Dollywaggon Pike to the left of it. I’m pleased I’m not up on them, its cold enough over here.
Looking back at our route again, its a very long wall isn’t it? The smaller hill down below us is St Raven’s Edge and behind it is Wansfell, which is creating the illusion that there are two separate areas of water down there which there aren’t. Its Windermere with the full extent of it being hidden behind Wansfell.
Beyond Froswick and its neighbours, on the left skyline is part of the eastern section of the Kentmere Horseshoe. The fell to the extreme left is Harter Fell which then drops down to Kentmere Pike. The last fell on that section of the horseshoe is Shipman Knotts which you can’t see because its hiding behind Froswick. Somewhere around this point we diverted from the main path and made our way over to …..
….. Mark Atkinson’s Monument, a large cairn topped with a simple wooden cross, into which are set two stone plaques …..
….. the lettering on this one is very worn and reads, ‘Hic jacet Mark Atkinson of Kirkstone Pass Inn, died 14 June 1930 aged 69 years’ …..
…. next to it is another plaque which is a bit easier to read ‘Also his son William Ion Atkinson, died 2nd April 1987 aged 83 years’ …..
The two men chose to have their ashes placed here within sight of the Kirkstone Pass Inn which the family owned and ran for many years.
From the monument we rejoin the path and continue on to the summit with the clouds getting darker and thicker. Its not supposed to rain until a bit later on so I’m now hoping they hold on to their contents for a little while longer.
Looking back south again and now we have a view into the Troutbeck valley. The top of Troutbeck Tongue is just peeping up alongside Froswick and its neighbours, with Windermere winding its way along in the distance.
We’ve reached the broad, grassy top which tends to detract from the views. Its such a wide, flat expanse that the views of the surrounding fells get chopped off at the knees, so to speak, and all you see are their uppermost sections. Here I’m looking at the summit of Thornthwaite Crag and its tall beacon. You can walk down from here to the little col at Threshthwaite Mouth and then take the path, which is visible over on the left, up to the summit. Its a steep, scree path so progress can be slow, but its an entertaining little jaunt if you don’t mind a lot of huffing and puffing.
Thornthwaite Crag slopes down over to Gray Crag and behind the two of them is the broad plateau of HIgh Street.
Moving the camera slightly to the left and now the skyline view shows, from left to right, The Knott, Rampsgill Head and Kidsty Pike.
The cairn on Stony Cove Pike, which is generally accepted as the highest point of Caudale Moor, although looking round some would argue that there are bits that are higher. I’m not one of them. Suppose I find a bit that is two feet higher than here and stand on it, would the view be any different?
Whether its the highest point or not, here we are at the cairn looking east across High Street and Kidsty Pike …..
…. and again looking northwards with a hazy and unspectacular view. Views to the west were largely greyed out so I didn’t bother taking any, besides which it is now very cold thanks to the keen wind so we didn’t linger.
We make our way back and just below the summit is this tarn, beyond which is Saint Sunday Crag, that’s the one immediately behind the grassy edge. Behind that on the centre skyline is Helvellyn.
Following the long, long wall as we walk the two and a half miles back to the Kirkstone Pass …..
….. threading our way round the bags of stones …..
….. and climbing back up to the top of St Raven’s Edge …..
….. where we get another bird’s eye view of the pass and the inn. There are a few more cars in the car park than when we left and I suspect most of their occupants were in the pub since there was no-one on our path, and nobody on the path going up Red Screes on the opposite side of the road either.
A look down to the Kirkstone Pass which in that direction takes you alongside Brothers Water and on into Patterdale and Glenridding.
I thought you might like to see what the view down one of the scrambly bits looks like as you approach it. Once over it there’s just a straightforward walk down the grassy slopes and back to the inn. So that’s brings our little excursion more or less to an end. Down in the car park people were snuggled into coats and hats, hugging their arms to their chests in an attempt to keep warm as they made the short walk over to the pub either for a cup of hot coffee or some lunch. You could have had your pick of the picnic tables outside, there were absolutely no takers for outdoor refreshment today. It was definitely bowls of hot soup weather.
I also thought you might like to accompany us in the car for the drive down the Kirkstone Pass. Its steep, narrow and bendy and cyclists seem to love it as there are always plenty of them going up and down it. Holidaymakers sometimes seem to be a bit un-nerved by it as they make their way cautiously along. Its fine in summer but can get a bit hairy in winter when the snow is down and if it gets too treacherous the road gets closed to traffic. You wouldn’t want to be in an uncontrollable icy slither all the way down here would you?
Its just turned 1.00 pm and its looking a whole lot darker now so it looks like the next band of rain will be here before too much longer.
We’re almost back into Patterdale so if you don’t mind we’ll drop you off here and continue on our way home. That’s in the direction of the brighter skies ahead but alas, they stayed just ahead all the way, the sky turned darker and darker, and by the time we were home and the kettle was on the heavens had opened and the rain continued on well into the evening. Oh come on weather, buck your ideas up!