Walking the Wainwrights in 30 Walks Walk 21 - The Skiddaw Massif

6th July 2016

Today will see me take on the Skiddaw Fells or 'the Skiddaw Massif' as they are sometimes known. Despite this being July where a steady forecast would be expected the week that I had chosen to spend time on the fells has been pretty unsettled resulting in not being able to plan ahead until the night before, it's not the best practice but it's something as fell walkers we all get used too.

During my week's holiday I had intentionally reserved a couple of days away from the fells if only to let any aches and pains recover and I can report I'm feeling back to normal although it was noted, my pace had slowed slightly something of which can only be expected.

Todays walk on the Skiddaw fells collects nine Wainwright summits starting with Latrigg from where I'll take in the beautiful scenery over the Derwent fells as I make my way through Applethwaite before ascending steeply to gain Dodd. From Dodd summit I had a great, although somewhat murky/dull view of the my next five summits in Carl Side, Long Side, Ullock Pike, Skiddaw and Lesser Man.

Bakestall will be collected after summiting Skiddaw and so too will Lesser Man ending the day with Lonscale Fell which effectively meant I'd actually be summiting Skiddaw twice right about the time the forecasted low cloud and rain arrived, I've only ever associated Skiddaw with summit crosswinds strong enough to blow you off your feet and horizontal rain, and todays visit, was no different.

Wainwright Guide Book Five
The Northern Fells


The summit is buttressed magnificently by a circle of lesser heights, all of them members of the proud Skiddaw family, the whole forming a splendid and complete example of the structure of mountains, especially when seen from all directions because of its isolation.


Ascent: 5,312 Feet - 1,620 Meters
Wainwrights: 9, Latrigg - Dodd - Carl Side - Long Side - Ullock Pike - Skiddaw - Bakestall - Skiddaw Little Man - Lonscale Fell
Weather: Bright Spells to Start Turning Overcast, Low Cloud And Showers During The Afternoon. Highs of 18°C Lows of 9°C
Parking: Car Park, Top of Gale Road
Area: Northern
Miles: 14.2
Walking With: On My Own
Ordnance Survey: OL5
Time Taken: 8 Hours 07:20am - 15:20pm
Route: Gale Road - Latrigg - Gale Road - Applewaite - Millbeck - Lyzzick Wood - Dodd - Long Doors - White Stones - Carl Side - Long Side - Ullock Pike - Long Side - Skiddaw - Bakestall - Skiddaw - Skiddaw Little Man - Skiddaw Lesser Man - Jenkin Hill - Lonscale Fell - Whit Beck - Gale Road

Map and Photo Gallery


Skiddaw, Skiddaw Lesser Man and Dodd seen above Underscar 07:20am 9°C

I struggled to lift myself out of bed when my alarm clock woke me at 04:50am and after ten minutes snooze time I was up and left the house at 05:30am with intentions of reaching Gale Road around 07:30am. The midweek traffic didn't cause any issues which saw me arrive at the car park at 07:15am which I was quite pleased with. Gale Road, however, is still in state of disrepair and I want to fore warn anyone who's thinking of parking up there to drive extremely carefully as the pot holes are now up to a foot in depth, this along with the tarmac that had been washed away during last Decembers floods has left ruts up to twenty foot in length, if you value your car try to get someone up front to spot you because the pot holes are deep enough to ground, and can cause expensive damage to a car.

I arrived at the car park at the top of Gale Road to find just the one other car, its occupants having just left it as I passed them further back with a nod through the windscreen. Unlike just a few days ago it's very mild with temperatures predicted to rise from mid to late teens although showers and low cloud are also due for the afternoon, with this I pack my waterproof trousers and pack my Montane windproof jacket under the lid of my pack.

With Latrigg being my first summit of the day I could have left all my gear in the car and collect it later but I chose to kit up completely even though it meant passing the car again on my way back from Latrigg summit. With the car locked and walking poles extended I strike out passing through a wooden gate taking care not to get nettled during the process, it's only a short walk to reach Latrigg summit from the car park and I choose to make it less direct opting to walk around the side of the fell towards the familiar wooden bench found close to the summit.

The North Western Fells.
Despite it being very mild and warm the cloud was high and dense leaving very little sunlight over the fells.

Views over Derwent Water towards Cat Bells, the North Western Fells and the Borrowdale Valley.

Views over Keswick, Derwent Water and the North Western Fells.

I'm soon joined by a fell runner who stops at the wooden bench before passing myself at the summit, we share a morning as he heads off towards the Brundholme area of the hill before returning back to Gale Road much the same time as I did.

There's a lovely grassy path that leaves the summit area along the back of the fell back with views over Skiddaw, Blease Fell and Dodd, all of which are cloud free as the sun tries to break though the dull morning light bringing with it, more warmth. Sleeves are rolled up as I pass my car, I can still hear the traffic travelling along the A66 which soon starts to fade as I head towards Underscar Manor.


Millbeck Towers.
Formally a Woollen Carding Mill but now converted to a private hotel.

Millbeck Bridge de-tour.

Applethwaite and Millbeck are areas of Lakeland that I would only usually drive through but today I had the pleasure of walking the two miles from Latrigg which took me past the quaint cottages with views that extended over the Derwent Valley and beyond into Borrowdale. A young schoolgirl waits for a lift on a grass verge setting the scene for village life here in this quiet corner of Lakeland.

I had previously passed a couple of Road Closed signs which did make me wonder about access ahead, it was only when I arrived at Millbeck Bridge did I see the barriers which straddled the road preventing any car from going any further. A de-tour for cyclists and people on foot only head up stream before crossing a second bridge further up then returning on the other side of Mill Beck via a tree lined loning, the detour was easy to follow and well sign posted even for the likes of me.

Picking up the path towards Lyzzick Woods.
It's a good job I was looking out for this path, otherwise I could have walked straight passed it!

The view over Little Dodd Garden Centre towards Keswick, Derwent Water, Borrowdale and the North Western Fells.

A narrow path now navigates through thick Bracken which then steepens as it flanks along side Lyzzick Wood, here a stone wall separates the dense woodland known as Lyzzick Wood which I follow steeply shortly before the stone wall is replaced by a wire fence, by which time I'm steaming in sweat through fighting through thick Bracken on a path that would give Kentmere's Lingmell End a run for its money!

Not only did I ascend too far but it would seem I have missed the path which would see me through Lyzzick Wood, it's understandable due to being focused on the steep ascent I guess but frustrating all the same as now I have to track back after consulting my map, not long after I find the path and compare it with my position on my GPS sure enough I'm at the right place but where it would seem access into the wood is gained via a wooden sty through broken wall, not much taller than two feet in height, I curse myself for missing it and not to mention for the extra time it took in locating it.

Not a ray of light gets through to the undergrowth and I am ascending once again steeply overshadowed by a dense canopy of pines, my path is narrow and due to the amount of pine needles on the ground could be easily lost...count to ten Paul

I'm sweating intensely, steaming even and the air is so humid I can't seem to draw it in, but I adopt a good mind maintaining a steady pace passing over logging tracks until I emerge close to Long Doors below Dodd summit where an elderly chap sits on a familiar bench.

'Morning, fine day for it!' he says.

I smile, not fully recovered from my epic ascent through the woods, what I actually feel like saying is "would you know how to resuscitate me because I'm about to collapse" what I actually say is a simple aye before picking up the wide track that leads all the way towards Dodd summit.

Skiddaw Little Man from Dodd summit.
The path that I will use to gain Carl Side via White Stones can just be seen to the right of the memorial stone, it looks much steeper than it is and I'm actually looking forward to ascending it.

A rather murky view of Grisdale Pike, Hopegill Head, Eel Crag (Crag Hill) and Sail from Dodd summit.

Back at the bench now on the path below Dodd summit.
It's such a shame the light is still low but on the plus side it's not raining (yet) although the cloud spilling over the top of the southern fells is noted yet with little to no wind it should be some time before it reaches further north.

Ascending towards White Stones shortly after leaving Long Doors.


Skiddaw Little Man from Carl Side summit.

It was a steady but enjoyable climb to reach Carl Side summit with the thoughts of my ascent through Lyzzick Wood long behind me. Despite being here at Carl Side summit more times than I care to mention an ascent via White Stones is rare for me which I regarded as a highlight of the walk, all the while below me I could see three woman who were now sat on the familiar bench below Dodd whose voices carried so loudly I could almost here the topic of conversation, it was quite comical the amount of times I felt like shouting 'speak up' from high above.

Bassenthwaite was pleasing on the eye despite the dulling light it's rarely you get a view from of the full length of the Lake but you do from White Stones.

Tracking towards Long Side.
It's only a short walk from Carl Side summit to reach Long Side before a short pull towards the summit by which time the sleeves had been well and truly rolled down and thoughts of adding my windproof were never far from my mind from here on in.

Carl Side and Skiddaw Little Man from Long Side summit.
That's the path on the left that I'll be using to gain Skiddaw by, it's a mighty steep route and judging by the amount of people on the Ullock ridge behind me, I wont be the only one on it today.

Skiddaw Little Man next to mighty man.
I had the pleasure of meeting this old gent shortly after leaving Long Side summit, we struck up conversation immediately and he was warming and friendly, I couldn't believe my ears when he told me he was eighty years old and that he had been fell walking since the age of twenty, his route would see him summit Skiddaw and Bakestall and if I could tolerate his slow pace he joked, I could have joined him, well I can well and truly say I will see you more than once today as I'm also gaining both Skiddaw and Bakestall too, what an amazing guy I only hope I'm still fell walking at the age of eighty.

Longside from Ullock Pike summit.
I arrived at Ullock Pike summit at the same time as an elderly couple (who had just left) and this mother and son who asked was I heading up Skiddaw 'might see you up there' she replied, I only hoped they were carrying better kit and had read the weather report.

Fantastic views back over Long Side towards Carl Side and Skiddaw Little Man.
Despite both Long Side and Ullock Pike being 'out and back' summits today gaining both summits was done quite easily as the ridge path is great underfoot while at the same time offering great views, it's time to head back now, and time to dig deep and pull my socks up, I've had it to easy up to now...

Ascent on Skiddaw via Carl Side.

With Ullock Pike and Long Side now behind me I pick up the path which flanks Carl Side and start making my way across the Col to the base of the path which flanks the western bulk of Skiddaw. The gent who I had been speaking to on Long Side spoke of how vertical this path actually looks, even after all these years, it doesn't get any easier.

From my position he's now around half way up and a couple who I also had seen on Long Side are just leaving Carl Side summit and we meet at the base of the path for a chat before taking on one of Lakelands steepest climbs.

Long Side and Ullock Pike from the start of the ascent.

I met the other couple at the base of the path and said hello again, by now a cloud had started to gather over the summit of Skiddaw which I had observed from the Col below "bloody Skiddaw, the guy says, always drags in the weather dun'it" I was thinking much the same, but it was forecasted, at least it wasn't raining.

The couple add layers which I had already added on Ullock Pike summit, something that I didn't want to do whilst on the steep path and as I didn't want to break momentum during the tough ascent, I set off leaving the couple behind instantly feeling the burn but I persevered and soon I was closing in on the old gent.

Views over Carl Side and the couple who I had just been speaking to.
I held back from the old chap, sometimes intentionally and others just to catch my own breath back, the gent used small steps and winds his ascent up in a series of effective zig zags, I don't catch him up, he actually waits for me at the familiar stone cairn found just shy of the summit shoulder...an almost vertical looking part of the path we summit Skiddaw together as he tells me that he was on Lonscale Fell just two days ago and he reported seeing an unusually high amount of dead sheep, four in total, fox kills no doubt as I reply only on Sunday while on the back of Rest Dodd, I also witnessed two dead sheep but was so engrossed in the climb, the thought of the poor buggers was forgotten about until now.

Skiddaw summit is just ahead.

Skiddaw Little Man from Skiddaw summit.

After a brief chat about football we gained the summit by which time the wind had built up considerably and the summit cross winds were biting cold leaving exposed skin feeling red raw. I had said goodbye to the old chap ones more although I knew I'd see him on my return to Skiddaw after summiting Bakestall.

There is a gathering of people next to the view point who had just left the Trig Point, it certainly wasn't a place to hang around as the vast majority (including myself) are wearing shorts, with this I tap the Trig with my walking pole tip and say, see you on the way back.

Descending Skiddaw with views over Broad End and Bakestall to the right.

Views over the Northern Fells as I descend steeply towards Bakestall summit.
Highlights of rain were appearing all over my jacket carried along by the summit winds which had thankfully eased a little during my Skiddaw descent, below me two women de-shoulder to add waterproofs but I remain hopeful that this was something confined to the summit as there was no dark or low cloud overhead, I can only sum up this time of descent as squally with wind that didn't leave you cold, and rain that didn't leave you wet.

Skiddaw and Skiddaw Little Man from Bakestall summit.

During descent I had looked at my watch which told me it was time for something to eat and with this I de-shouler and pick out a dry boulder which over looks Birkett Edge and Dash Falls.

Far below I track a fell runner on the Cumbrian Way he's heading away from Skiddaw House and soon runs below me passing two walkers who have a dog with them, it starts to rain harder which causes me to take out my camera bag as I place the camera inside.

I fear the long awaited rain is here, and here to stay.

Little and Great Calva with High Pike, Carrock Fell and Blencathra in the murky distance.
I receive a text from Tim who had known about todays walk asking "How is it?" to which I reply "Im eating lunch in light rain whilst sat on Bakestall summit, need to track back O'Skiddaw, starting to feel the miles now!"

Meanwhile, back at Skiddaw summit.

I did get chance to meet the old gent one last time who surprisingly gave me the tennis score from Wimbledon, by which time the rain had set in and I was looking back up towards Skiddaw's summit which by now, was completely engulfed in cloud "reckon it's in for the day" aye I say, ahh never mind we've had a good day haven't we, oh by the way he says, when your over on Lonscale Fell pay a visit to the East top, from there you'll be able to look down on the East ridge, it's no bother getting there and the view is fantastic.

I will, that's if the cloud isn't too low, we part while bidding each other a good day, what an outstanding guy, I could only look back with total admiration.

The two women who I had passed close to Bakestall summit were sitting in waterproofs next to the wire fence where it turns south towards Skiddaw's summit, I hopelessly miss a step or catch my boot over something which causes a slight trip, I hadn't stopped during the ascent and I guess fatigue was starting to show, we pass our hi's again before I continue over Broad End ascending the ridge towards Skiddaw's most Northerly cairn.

I pass another couple along the way who are fully waterproofed from head to toe, I however, despite having my waterproof trousers in my pack am still in shorts although my hood is now wrapped tightly over the top of my baseball cap in an effort to keep the wind and rain out.

Winter has returned to the summit of Skiddaw.

I pass the summit Trig without a word and find a woman and a small Jack Russell about to leave the summit shelter, she gets up quickly and heads out along the summit leaving the dog trailing behind, it's pretty gusty and the rain is coming from all directions which reminded me of a time some years ago when myself and Tim had to reunite a dog with its owner in identical conditions, the chap had just walked off and left the poor thing directionless.

Thankfully this wasn't the case today as the little terrier clung to the boots of its owner as I overtake them and start my descent towards Skiddaw Little Man.

On route to Skiddaw Little Man.
I was now off the summit and heading towards Skiddaw Little Man yet despite the winds easing, the rain continued and so to did my lack of visibility due to the low cloud.

Skiddaw Little Man summit cairn.

Skiddaw Lesser Man summit cairn.
It's only a short distance with not much effort needed to gain Lesser Man which is where I passed a rather depressed looking couple on the way to Little Man summit.

Following the wire fence over Jenkin Hill towards Lonscale Pike.

Lonscale Pike is just ahead.

I had observed a couple as they ascended towards the summit as the cloud started to clear revealing large gaps where I could see Derwent Water and the Keswick rooftops, the cloud came and went yet by the time I reached this familiar gate the cloud had cleared the summit of Lonscale Fell but oddly not Jenkin Hill nor Skiddaw behind me, there was plenty of promise though as views over the northern fells towards High Pike were as clear as I had seen all day.

With one last push I head towards the summit not stopping until I reached the summit cairn.

Skiddaw from Lonscale Fell.

The couple who I had seen ascending Lonscale Fell were resting at the summit cairn as we stuck up conversation about the weather and our routes for the day, they went on to explain that they had only made it as far as Little Man before heading back as I had over Jenkin Hill, we had quite a lengthy conversation from gear to where we lived and how much time we spent on the fells, they went on to tell me that they were from Derbyshire which is on the Peak District doorstep, I asked them did they prefer the Peak District to the Lake District to which they replied, no comparison, or something along those lines.

I bid them a good day before heading out, as instructed! to Lonscale Fell East top passing as mentioned, two dead sheep next to the fence, two more are found during descent.

From the East top I get a murky view over the Glenderaterra Valley and down the East ridge too as I place it in a mental 'to do list' but the views are so dull the pictures that I did take didn't seem worthy enough to add into the report.

I track back pathless from the East ridge giving the two dead sheep a wide berth before picking up the bulk of Lonscale Fell South ridge during which time I even had a little sun on my back.

Views back up the Lonscale Fell south ridge.

Close to the fence while still on the shoulder of the fell the third dead sheep came into view as scatterings of loose wool lay blowing in the wind the sight of which always saddens me, in this photo those of you with a keen eye maybe able to spot the fourth as a white dot also next to the fence.

Without getting into politics if a fox needs to eat or to feed its young I guess nothing will stop them from killing sheep, in this case all four sheep are found next to the fence, and, the two dead sheep I had seen on Rest Dodd were also found next to a stone wall, years ago while below Black Comb I counted three dead sheep trapped by a stone wall, I guess it doesn't take a genius to see how the wild fox traps the sheep, which doesn't make it any less horrific.

Anyway, moving on.

Almost back at the car as views open out over Latrigg and beyond.

The path directs you in/and out of Whit Beck.

Views over Skiddaw and Dodd seen shortly before arriving back at the car.
I had completely dried out by the time I reached Whit Beck as the car roof tops came into view, a young family are descending the same path that I had used eight hours earlier and it turns out they are French Holiday makers, we share a hi and a nod before I start to de shoulder before remembering that just like after my last walk, I had saved myself a Yorkie bar for the journey home, I'm quite partial to chocolate while out on the fells, but I'd rather have a good steak.

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