Walking the Birketts, Siddaw, The Greater Traverse

11th August 2020

I became fascinated by Skiddaw during the lock down when each night I'd visit George Fisher's live Skiddaw Cam and sit and dream I was climbing its steep slopes, it was my Lakeland fix and my fascination continues to this day, I'm kind'a hooked I guess. I had plans to walk the Buttermere Horseshoe today to the point where I'd even drafted the walk for the website, all I had to do was get up and go but due to a slight knee injury back on Elidir Fawr two days ago the Buttermere Horseshoe will have to wait for another day, which, after walking in todays heat might have been a blessing in disguise.

Birkett's Skiddaw Greater Traverse is one of his longest, most arduous routes in Birkett's Complete Lakeland fells guide and will test the fittest of walkers, me included. The walk starts from Spooney Green Lane on the outskirts of Keswick and collects Latrigg before going on to summit Lonscale Pike via its steep south facing flank, Lonscale Fell is next found a short distance away from where your legs are given the chance to recuperate over Jenkin Hill before taking on Skiddaw Lesser, Little Man and Skiddaw's south, middle and north tops. The final summit of the day is Carl Side from where a descent back to Millbeck via White Stones completes the walk by which time the heat was searing and all I wanted to do was jump into the nearest beck to cool down.

The Complete Lakeland Fells
By Bill Birkett

White Stones

The rough stony path leads down the shoulder to the remarkable White Stones. The Massive outcrop of pure white quartz gently coloured by grey and geen lichins offers a good view of Little Man to the east and Dodd to the west.


Ascent: 3,640 Feet - 1,110 Metres
Birketts: 10, Latrigg - Lonscale Pike - Lonscale Fell - Jenkin Hill - Skiddaw Lesser Man - Skiddaw Little Man - Skiddaw South Top - Skiddaw Middle Top - Skiddaw High Man - Carl Side
Weather: Hot, Humid & Very Hazy. Slight Breeze Over The Summits. Highs of 28.7°C Lows of 19°C
Parking: Roadside Parking, Spooney Green Lane
Area - Group: Northern - NSKI
Miles: 10
Walking With: On My Own
Ordnance Survey: OL4
Time Taken: 5 Hours 40 Minutes
Route: Spooney Green Lane - Cumbrian Way - Latrigg - Top of Gale Road - Whit Beck - Lonscale Pike - Lonscale Fell - Jenkin Hill - Skiddaw Lesser Man - Skiddaw Little Man - Skiddaw South Top - Skiddaw Middle Top - Skiddaw High Man - Carl Side - White Stones - Doups - Millbeck - Applethwaite - Birkett Wood - Spooney Green Lane

Parking Details and Map
Nearest Post Code: CA12 4PJ
Grid Reference: NY 267 324
Notes: Spooney Green Lane, Keswick is perfectly positioned for a short walk onto Latrigg, a visit to the old Keswick Railway or even Skiddaw. There is room for up to half a dozen cars but please be considerate when parking as this is a residential street. Parking is free.


Map and Photo Gallery


Latrigg from Spooney Green Lane, Keswick 08:30am 19°C

The bin men were doing their rounds on Brundholme Road when I parked up and judging by the clatter they were making it was bottles and plastics day in Keswick. I parked easily and while I was kitting up was passed by a few local dog walkers who also headed up Spooney Green Lane one of which stopped me to say what a beautiful day it was, I had to agree it was the perfect morning.

Due to todays arduous route I'm carrying four litres of water with me, three in my hydration bladder and one in a litre bottle and to save weight I'm only carrying the essentials, the rest gets left in my boot. Although my knee feels fine albeit still a tad swollen to the side I feel confidence has been lost which I'm aiming to reset on todays walk. I gulp down the contents of a second one litre bottle which also gets left in my boot, lock the car and head for Latrigg via Spooney Green Lane.

Cat Bells, Maiden Moor, High Spy and Hindscarth from Spooney Green Lane.

I'd only ever walked down Spooney Green Lane and had forgotten how in places, how steep it was but that didn't stop the half dozen or so fell runners who passed me like I was stood still by which time I'd stopped moaning despite sweating like mad.

Every now and again the trees would give way to open views like this one over Keswick and Derwent Water and for a few seconds I was wishing I was stood on Cat Bell's summit looking down on the morning mist.

Looking towards the North Western fells.
Unbeknown to me these are some of the clearest views I'll get all day before a thick haze develops later in the morning.

Skiddaw Lesser Man, Skiddaw Little Man, Skiddaw and Carl Side from Latrigg.
I climbed out of the woods back into the heat of the morning and rounded Mallen Dodd and onto the main path towards Latrigg which despite it not being 9am yet was looking busy with fell runners, dog walkers and young families. My view also opened out over Skiddaw and Carl Side whose descent I was very much looking forward to as it's been sometime since I last visited White Stones.


The bench with a view.
It wasn't long before I reached the famous bench where I stopped for a moment to take in the view, wipe my forehead of sweat and generally got my breath back, by eck lad it's only Latrigg! One down nine to go...

Skiddaw, Carl Side and Dodd.
Viewed as I walk towards the car park at top of Gale Road after leaving Latrigg summit.

Morning ladies.
That's Blease Fell in the distance but you didn't need me to tell you that.

Approaching Whit Beck.
I crossed the top of the car park and said a few 'mornings' to the people who were just setting off then forked right just below the Hawell Monument and took the path towards Whit Beck and Lonscale Fell. The family up ahead had also just set off and were possibly heading for Lonscale Fell, it might have been a tad selfish of me but the last thing I wanted was to be tailed while taking on the steep ascent of Lonscale Fell so I picked up my pace and overtook the family which in this heat and humidity was hard on the lungs.

Lonscale Fell south flank.
I continued along the footpath my walking poles going like the clappers while sweat poured down my face, the father of the family I'd just overtaken also picked up his pace leaving his family behind who always seemed just a few steps behind me until they broke away for a diagonal path which lead through the Bracken while I continued towards the famiiar gate and fence from where I would start the steep ascent.

Blencathra and Blease fell from Lonscale Pike (East Top)

I'm not too sure what was going on in the guys head but I dont think he liked being over taken by me and once again he left his family behind and was clipping at my heels in silence. This was no place for a race and I certainly wasnt in one but that was how it felt. A breeze had picked up which helped to cool me down and without stopping I broke away from the fence and started to head towards Lonscale Fell East Top not before a quick head turn to see how close the guy was, he was nowhere to be seen.

From the East Top I peered over the Glenderatterra Valley while letting the breeze cool me down, my chest was heaving slightly and my lips had turned all gooey, I was feeling the affects of dehydration so I took long sips from my bite valve only stopping to breathe. The family re-appeared with the Dad up front followed by his children and then the Mum at the rear, they were walking at a good pace with only Mum shouldering a pack, they must be gasping I thought. If I leave the East Top now our paths will cross on Lonscale Fell so I hung around a while longer and let them summit first.

Jenkin Hill, Skiddaw Lesser Man, Skiddaw Little Man, Skiddaw, Bakestall and Sale How from Lonscale Fell.

By the time I reached Lonscale Fell the family were stood at the summit cairn and I passed on my 'morning' which was returned. I wanted to ask the chap why was he tailing me so close while leaving his family behind but I resigned and instead asked them of their route, politely they told me they weren't out all day as storms were forecast for the afternoon which I was surprised about as I hadn't seen this when I checked before leaving this morning nevertheless the conversation steered to last nights thunder storm and how impressive the lightening was, on that we could agree on.

The mum asked me was I a regular walker, why I'm not sure I just replied that I was. The sun had come back out which when accompanied by a breeze made for perfect walking conditions if not a little hot but I couldn't have asked for more as I left the family and started to make my way towards Jenkin Hill.

Looking back on Lonscale Fell.
With Lonscale Pike (East Top) peaking out over on the left.

Skiddaw Lesser Man, Skiddaw Little Man and Skiddaw from Jenkin Hill
I'd done my homework on the whole route having ascended Lesser Man from Jenkin Hill before and I knew it was a bit of a slog, more so in todays heat and humidity and I wasn't wrong. I've hit this path with all guns blazing in the past only to come to a crawl half way up and I knew today wouldn't be any different.

Derwent Water from Skiddaw Lesser Man.
Crikey where did all that haze come from!

Skiddaw from Skiddaw Little Man.
This fellow asked me was he stood on Skiddaw while we were stood on Little Man and after I corrected him he thanked me saying "good job I asked because I was just about to head back"

Skiddaw South Top.

Skiddaw Middle Top.

Skiddaw High Man (summit)
The heat was by now blistering and strangely the breeze that had been keeping me cool had vanished meaning upon reaching the summit I was panting like a dog and, also like a dog I was turning in cricles wondering what to do next so I took this photo, turned heel and headed back towards Middle Top from where my descent onto Carl Side would begin.

Descending West onto the col linking Skiddaw with Carl Side.
With Long Side seen over on the right.

Long Side and Ullock Pike seen over Southerdale.
Before making my descent I stopped to de-shoulder and as a precaution added a compression bandage over my right knee which up to now hadn't given me any trouble at all. I have descended and ascended this route many times before but found todays descent slow mainly due to how eroded the path was which on several occasions caused me to slide - my walking poles coming to the rescue each time.

Doups from White Stones.

I stopped at Carl Side summit to eat lunch where I found the breeze had returned. Unfortunately I was unable to take a photo because a large group had gathered around the summit cairn who upon their arrival collapsed to the ground while I was just feet away camera in hand ready to take my shot.

I found this very frustrating and tried to forget the summit hoggers while enjoying my lunch sat down on the south flank of Carl Side.

Doups from White Stones.

Dodd from below White Stones.

Latrigg, Walla Crag, Bleaberry Fell, High Seat, High Tove, Derwent Water, Keswick, Millbeck and Applethwaite from Benny Crag.
Unfortunately the haze meant I was taking far less photos than I would have liked but if I'm honest taking photos was the last thing on my mind due to the heat and humidity. It was while descending Benny Crag did I take out my anemometer which recorded the afternoon temperature at 28.7C. At Millbeck I pass two groups of walkers heading up towards White Stones which I can confirm is a steep ascent and I could only spare a thought for what they were letting themselves in for, the humidity was just bonkers with no air to breathe I was starting to get a headache but I had a plan...

Somewhere between Millbeck and Applethwaite.

Once the road was reached I kicked my feet into the backs of my boots, took off the compression bandage and tidied myself up ready for the long walk back to Spooney Green Lane, this involved me wiping the sweat of my face using the flannel I brought with me which on hot days like today was a blessing. I couldn't get close enough to Mill Beck but further on I cross a second beck (unnamed on my map) which I could get down to, it was here I filled my water bottle before proceeding to empty it over my head, it was bliss and was just what the doctor ordered. I rinsed my flannel and used it to dry off before returning to the road feeling like a new man.

At the junction for Underscar I turn right and head towards the Crossthwaite roundabout where after half a mile Birkett recommends to cross through a field which leads back to Spooney Green Lane, I was a little hesitant at first because this morning I'd spotted cattle in the same field and if they were still there I'd have to return back to the road but as luck would have it the cattle had been replaced by sheep who were happy for me to walk through their field.

The sound of a petrol lawn mower brought me back into reality and once Spooney Green Lane was reached I walked against the crowds most of whom were heading for Latrigg and who could blame them. I was feeling pleased that my knee had held out although todays steep ascents/descents had taken their toll on both my legs. With my car reached I drop all the windows to let the heat escape then whack the A/C on full ready for my journey home. With my gear packed away I take a look at myself in the rear view mirror and spot this guy I didn't recognise, he looked tired, sunburnt to buggery and the front of his hair had been bleached by the sun. Best warn the misses I thowt.


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