Walking the Wainwrights in 30 Walks - Walk 6 A Newlands Round

5th March 2016

Had we pre-spoke about walking the Newlands Round when the fells are still under Winter conditions we would have called each other barmy and who could blame us, to undertake such a walk whilst still in the cusp of winter on paper, well you just wouldn't think of it, a walk such as this simply is reserved for the summer months or at least when the ground is much firmer underfoot, well that's my thoughts anyway.

The reason for todays walk on the Newlands Fells stems from a rather inaccurate forecast the evening before when I spoke to David about completing a pre arranged walk from the Mell Fells to Glenridding Dodd collecting six summits along the way, however we hadn't compensated for the heavy snowfall which fell during Thursday evening and Friday which saw the snow line in some parts of the District as low as 100 Meters.

David had confirmed this and with this we set about changing our planned route throwing ideas about over the phone the Friday evening whilst checking the forecast at the same time, which was kinda all over the place with one forecast predicting one thing and another something totally different, I guess during that phone call we had covered much of the District and in the end we opted to take on the Newlands Round mainly because of its bail out options should the weather turn on us or the conditions get too much.

Todays walk is an extended version of the popular Newlands Round which collects eight Wainwright summits including Knott Rigg and Ard Crags starting and ending at Gutherscale and, was a great way to introduce myself and my body into more arduous walks that I have set myself within this project.

Wainwright Guide Book Six
The North Western Fells


Hindscarth is a twin to Robinson. Both were created by the same upheaval and sculptured in the same mould. They turn broad backs to the Buttermere valley and go hand in hand together down to Newlands, their ridges reaching the valley at the beautiful watersmeet near the little church.


Ascent: 5,200 Feet - 1,586 Meters
Wainwrights: 8, Cat Bells - Maiden Moor - High Spy - Dale Head - Hindscarth - Robinson - Knott Rigg - Ard Crags
Weather: Overcast With Some Sunny Spells, Snow Flurries & Light Showers Highs of 5°C Lows of 2°C Feels Like -9.4°C
Parking: Roadside Parking, Gutherscale
Area: North Western
Miles: 13.6
Walking With: David Hall
Ordnance Survey: OL4
Time Taken: 8 Hours 30 Minutes
Route: Gutherscale - Skellgill Bank - Cat Bells - Hause Gate - Maiden Moor - Narrow Moor - High Spy - Dalehead Tarn - Dale Head - Hindscarth Edge - Hindscarth - LIttledale Edge - Robinson - Buttermere Moss - High Smockrigg - Moss Force - Newlands Pass - Knott Rigg - Ard Crags - Birk Rigg - Newlands Pass - Stair - Skelgill - Gutherscale

Map and Photo Gallery


Views over Derwent Water from the start of our acsent on Cat Bells 08:03am 2°C

We had arranged to meet at 07:45am at the parking spaces at Gutherscale, I was the first to arrive around 07:30am shortly followed minutes later by David, I guess even if its just a few minutes early it's always best to get a head start. I was in the process of lacing my boots and fitting Gaiters as David pulled his car alongside mine, we greet as usual with a handshake quickly asking each other what we thought of present conditions and we both agreed they were better than expected although we would need to get higher and no doubt further into the walk before we could finalise the go ahead for the full round.

David was umming and ahhing about whether or not to add his waterproofs purely based on last nights forecast which had predicted rain and snow showers then came the question do we pack Crampons which despite adding extra weight are always best packed just in case. With laden packs we shoulder up and with both cars locked headed straight from car park to fell side steadily ascending our way onto Skelgill Bank taking in early morning views over Derwent Water which had a brightness across its surface on an otherwise overcast morning. Almost in every direction most summits seen with the exception of Barrow and Causey Pike are cloud topped including the Central Ridge all the way into Borrowdale leaving the ridge looking as identical as I had left just two days earlier.

Cat Bells from Skelgill Bank.
We soon found ourselves on Skelgill Bank not before opting to go around the two familiar outcrops of rock which were wet and greasy leaving no grip whatsoever. We opt to take a wide left using a path that I couldn't ever recall using before as two young walkers who had been close on our heels take over as David and I stop to chat 'mornings' are exchanged as they disappear off into the distance but we would soon catch them up again close to the summit some time later.

A distant Bassenthwaite Lake from the summit of Cat Bells.

Notably the craggy ascent on Cat Bells was also greasy which no doubt had slowed the young walkers down much the same as we had experienced, despite Cat Bells being a 'family fell' during wet weather the rock below the summit can be hazardous even to the experienced as we both noted we were glad we were in ascent rather than descent. We had caught the walkers up who greeted us again briefly before they headed off from the summit towards Hause Gate while we stopped to take a few photos, the camera really doesn't do the light any justice which was sporadic to say the least.

Slowly we could see that the cloud was starting to lift revealing Maiden Moor ahead although still to the west the summits of Hindscarth and Robinson are still cloud topped as are the Coledale Fells, further east over Derwent Water the cloud had started to peal away from the Central Ridge and for long periods the village of Grange was lit up far below in Spring sunshine which looked and felt much more appetising than present conditions.

Preparing to desend over Hause Gate with views of Maiden Moor ahead.

There had been a light dusting of snow over the summit of Cat bells and we could see that conditions over Maiden Moor had a more substantial covering perhaps new snow was lying on older snow. The ground underfoot had frozen and so too had any standing water which was great news for our route ahead although we still couldn't confirm the whole round as yet conditions were looking good, all we had to do however, was keep a look out on what the clouds were doing despite confirming there direction of travel they certainly bore the colour of unpredictably.

Eyes on ground and in the air it is then.

Here pausing to look back over Hause Gate towards Cat Bells summit during a sunny spell.
We had by now just passed the young walkers who seemed to be stopping every few moments to tie laces or one thing or another which saw us pass them for the final time, they seemed fine and asked no questions as we started our ascent on Maiden Moor during a brief sunny spell which lasted for much of the steady ascent.

Looking back over the top of Bull Crag shortly before arriving at Maiden Moor summit.
Check out how dark those clouds are.

High Spy and Dale Head seen from Maiden Moor summit cairn.

It had started to feel quite wintery, bitter even by the time we arrived at Maiden Moor summit the cloud was moving in on us and was starting to feel like a concern as my plans of completing the whole round today started to take a dive, I had been feeling quite hopeful that the route would go ahead up until now when the realisation started to sink in we may have to ditch the walk in favour of a Plan B

With fingers crossed, high hopes and maybe even a little desperation we press on towards High Spy.

Whiteless Pike and Wandope seen through a window of light.

Views back along Narrow Moor towards Maiden Moor summit over on the left.
We had been waking over scatterings of snow yet since leaving Maiden Moor the snow depth got considerably deeper sometimes having to avoid the path altogether due to drifts that were up to two feet in depth, when unavoidable this meant wading through the snow which was still soft in texture and not wet which meant it was easy to wade through.

There's that sun again over Grange and Derwent Water.
We could just make out the summit of Bleaberry Fell by now.

Looking back on Maiden Moor from our ascent on Blea Crag.
Conditions changed rather rapidly as the new snow over higher ground became less firm as we took advantage of any high spots along the path mainly by using the banks besides the path which meant quite a lot of concentration from here on in was spent on where your next step was going to be, despite this we were still making great time and in the back of my mind it was nice to think that the young couple behind us were more than likely to follow the trail we were blazing.

High Spy is just ahead.

"We're soon approaching the point of no return Paul"

Timings, conditions and the foreseeable forecast are all taken on board, but not spoke about just yet, not until High Spy summit is reached.

High Spy summit.

We soon reached the summit of High Spy where we both agreed that the tall stone cairn looked like it had lost some height possibly due to lightening strikes or more commonly due to people standing on top of it. That was soon forgotten and conversation quickly turned to the route ahead, well do we or don't we? lets weigh up the pro's and cons, we summarise the conditions first both approving on how long it 'should' take us to reach Robinson from High Spy to which we agree 'two hours'

By now the cloud has ever so slightly started to lift from Dale Head summit and we can easily see Hindscarth Edge which if anything was positively inviting, our only concern was the heavy dark cloud and what it held should it decide to unleash directly above us yet despite this we both agree that the cloud was moving from north to south quite quickly and should we find ourselves in a snow shower or indeed a white-out we at least knew it would be brief, this was definitely a pro.

We had estimated that this walk should take around eight hours to complete and having found ourselves on High Spy ahead of schedule we decide to descend towards Dale Head Tarn in great spirits not forgetting that our bail out options over Scope End or High Snab Bank are still an option should the weather turn against us.

Causey Pike seen shortly after leaving High Spy summit.

A very wintery looking Dale Head as we start our descent towards Dale Head Tarn.
The Old Miners Path defined by a dusting of snow below Dale Head Crags.

Dale Head Tarn.
We used the depth of the snow to our advantage making the descent to Dale Head Tarn in what felt like no time at all, before the Tarn was reached three Fell Runners are passed making their ascent on High Spy and 'mornings' are exchanged, after a quick look back we spot the two young walkers we had passed back at Hause Gate who are now slowly making their own descent towards Dale Head Tarn.

Dale Head Tarn.

After crossing a youthful Newlands Beck we take in the slight ascent over sodden ground before reaching Dale Head Tarn, by now it's around mid morning and we are still making great time.

Dale Head Tarn.
David re-shoulders and adds Gaiters due to the increasing snow depth, we are both reminded of sunnier times spent at Dale Head Tarn and what seems a world away to how the place feels this morning. David re-shoulders as we prepare for the tough ascent on Dale Head.

High Spy from the ascent on Dale Head.

Even in good conditions the ascent from Dale Head Tarn to Dale Head can be quite an arduous task, and in snow, much more difficult but we knew what we had let ourselves in for and started the ascent again, in great stead. David traced the way following the path which at times was difficult to spot due to the snow depth, soon following the path via the familiar stone steps was all but impassable, only the edges of stones are sometimes exposed which causes for a pathless ascent.

By now I am starting to feel the affects of my last two walks which after twenty six miles and seven thousand feet is starting to have a slight affect on me. David continues never stopping and I am at his heel never far behind but it's no use, after a miss step David pulls away while I pause to recapture my breath during the time I took to take this photo. Head strong I get back into the ascent soon catching David up who had waited for me before setting off again.

Phew that was ermm...I struggle to find the words between panting breath.

I look up at the remainder of the ascent, which consists of around five hundred feet except this time we have the advantage of being able to use the grass verges besides the path which hadn't been swallowed up by snow drift, conversation is back on and so too are the high spirits with the summit cairn now in sight.

Murky views over Newlands towards a distant Causey Pike and the High Spy ridge over on the right.
We're just about to lose our views during a snow shower.

Dale Head summit.
Despite the bad timing of the snow shower we were in great spirits by the time we had reached the summit both with smirks etched across our faces, with spirits lifted we track our way towards the summit cairn having just spotted a group of walkers descending away from the summit.

Views over Newlands towards Maiden Moor and High Spy.
The snow shower had now passed predictably only lasting a few moments before visibility would clear shortly followed by more brief showers which would become the norm over the rest of the day.

Hindscarth is seen descending towards Scope End from the summit of Dale Head.

Descending Dale Head for Hindscarth Edge.

We had previously spotted a group of walkers descending from the summit who turned out to be part a much larger group who by now are making an ascent on Hindscarth oddly by following the path to the left and not the path which forks away towards the right found just over half way across the ridge.

The descent from Dale Head was without incident but it was noted that the snow depth had increased varying between one and three feet, this again didn't cause much a problem due to how easy the snow was to move through and by our reckonings we hadn't lost much time at all up to now.

We press on.

Looking back on Dale Head from Hindscarth Edge.
The topic of conversation...old video games!

Looking down on the north summit cairn from Hindscarth summit.

We break away from Hindscarth Edge and follow the path along the eastern flank of the summit shoulder which steadily progresses towards the summit plateau thereafter reaching the summit shelter which is filled with snow and not offering much in the way of sheltering. Towards the northern tip of the summit the group of walkers we had seen from Dale Head are standing close to the subsidiary summit and by the looks of it they're heading down via the Scope End ridge.

Summit time was brief with the exception of a summit photo due to chill and exposure before making quick turn around, this time in the direction of Littledale Edge.

Descending towards Littledale Edge with views of Robinson ahead.
For the first time we would feel the affects of the deep snow throughout our Hindscarth descent, here the snow varied between just a few inches to knee height which I found out myself a few times. Nevertheless we perservere whilst watching the progress of a different group of walkers who were making an ascent on Robinson, their ascent was quite slow and although we never spoke of it I'm sure the depth of the snow they were experiencing lurked in the corners of our minds.

Pausing to look back over Littledale Edge and our Hindscarth descent before making ascent on Robinson.
The ascent on Robinson from Littledale Edge as part of the Newlands round will always test ones calves and this had laid on my mind during the descent from Hindscarth, more so because of how slow the group ahead of us were making their own ascent. With the words here goes we plow our way into the ascent only stopping briefly to take this photo before continuing all the way towards the summit shoulder by which time the group ahead were by now out of sight due to low cloud.

Robinson summit cairn.
We traced our way over frozen ground heading for the summit shelter which only became visible during the last sixty yards. The wind chill was the coldest we had experienced recorded on Davids Anemometer at -9.4°C helped along by varied 25mph winds, we both agreed it certainly felt as cold and once again summit time was kept brief before moving on firstly in the direction of the fence from where we would be able to track our way over High Snockrigg.

Descending Robinson through deep snow.
High Snockrigg is just about coming into view through the cloud over on the right.

High Snockrigg.

We had both agreed on a pathless descent again using the deep snow to our advantage, in fact I even tried to slide down on my backside at one point which didn't really work! We negotiate our descent plotting a trackless route over High Snockrigg opting to descend onto Newlands Hause via a rough path which didn't really work out as planned due to the steepness of descent, oh well it was a good idea at the time and by trying this we hadn't lost any time.

Surely it's lunch time by now.

Knott Rigg seen above the top of the Newlands Pass.

We agreed that once we had found a decent enough place to sit down it would be a great time to refuel while over looking our final two summits of the walk by which time it had started to rain. We gazed down on the cars that came and went sometimes hearing their engines long before they came into view, soon a car pulls into the lay by and two people get out before making an ascent on Knott Rigg, it might be interesting to time them although from the looks of things it would appear they have come straight off the high street as the young chap joyfully picks his girlfriend up and proceeds to carry her a short while, ok, maybe not time these two.

With lunches eaten and duly packed away we continue our descent onto Newlands Hause briefly stopping to look back on Moss Force Waterfalls.

Moss Force Waterfalls.

The Newlands Pass.

Knott Rigg summit comes into view.
No one could blame us for giving the ascent on Knott Rigg from Newlands Hause the same intrepidness as todays previous ascents, but we had no choice other than to notch down a gear and make the ascent at our own pace, soon the young couple we had seen from the top of Moss Force are passed as they stop to rest, we had the briefest of sunny spells during the ascent mixed in with snow flurries and light showers, I think it was safe to say we were both happy to see the summit of Knott Rigg loom ahead.

Ard Crags, Eel Crag (Crag Hill) Sail, Scar Crags and Causey Pike seen as we approach Knott Rigg summit.

Sail, Scar Crags, Knott Rigg and Causey Pike seen from Knott Rigg summit.

By now we were back in the snow line which was wet and slushy causing a few slips and slides on otherwise tired feet. The short pull onto Knott Rigg summit was felt once more with aching limbs, although it was never mentioned it's always the last two summits that are the ones you can run up with your grandma which seeps away every bit of last strength you have left, if we couldn't laugh at ourselves right now we never could, which was great for spirits.

We press on towards Ard Crags.

Ard Crags is just ahead met with splendid views over Newlands.

Wandope, Addacomb Hole, Eel Crag (Crag Hill) and Sail as we approach Ard Crags.

After another short and steady pull (which would have otherwise never have been felt!) we soon landed ourselves at Ard Crags where a small cairn marks the highest spot. The views from here were dramatic to say the least peering over towards the flanks of Sail and Scar Crags where the snow had highlighted every gully in streaks of white set against the blackness of the scree.

From the summit of Ard Crags we could see Cat Bells and the hamlet of Skelgill from which we plotted our route back to Gutherscale, it was agreed that instead of heading through Little Town and the Yewthwaite Mines route back to Gutherscale we would take a more lenient route which would first see us head along the Newlands Pass towards Stair before heading towards Gutherscale via Skelgill, this route had sore feet pads in mind and I was looking forward to touching down on tarmac once again, but before all that we still needed to descend Ard Crags.

Having left the summit behind we tramp through more snow along the ridge top which by now had a healthy mix of mud mixed into it before arriving at the top of Aikin Knott, which is steep in descent and care was needed especially when negotiating the twisting turns and wet rock soon finding ourselves heading over the grassy delights of Birk Rigg and thereafter Birkrigg Farm landing us directly onto Newlands Pass.

Robinson, High Snab Bank, Hindscarth and Scope End seen from Birk Rigg.

Pausing to look back on Aikin Knott, Ard Crags, Rigg Beck, Scar Crags and Sail from Birk Rigg.

Passing the Holiday Cottages along the Newlands Pass.

We still had quite a distance to go before arriving back at Gutherscale and time was spent replenishing energy by eating mixed nuts that David kindly handed out.

That'll keep me quiet for a while (for anyone who doesn't know me I'm the slowest eater in the world) or so I've been told.

Crossing Newlands Beck at Stair.
It's only about half a mile back to Skelgill now but it's all up hill.

Rowling End, Causey Pike, Outerside and Barrow from Skelgill Farm.

Snow capped skiddaw under afternoon sun.

After the pull through Skelgill we soon arrived back at Gutherscale finding the car park busy with walkers kitting down and arriving back after their days on the fells, smiles and nods are exchanged as we proceed to kit down David letting out an ahhh as he takes his sock off exposing his feet to the cool air. We had set off from the same spot walking into this walk half blind wondering if this walk would ever have been completed and on paper, it shouldn't have been but it just goes to show what can happen when two minds come together.

We part as always with a handshake followed by a date marked in the diary for our next walk, where hopefully we'll be a little further into Spring and we won't have to put as much thought and effort into a walk as we had today. After a final wave I start my car engine predicting it's going to a late one by the time I arrive home but during that time I can reflect on what a great full day was spent on the fells, that's if I can forget about the tingling sensation you feel when you've just come in from the cold.



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