Hindscarth, Dale Head and Robinson
29th January 2010.
Map: Landranger 90
Weather: Cool, early sunshine giving way later to a blizzard, then clear again.
A circular walk from just past Little Town, up Hindscarth, over to Dale Head. Back to Robinson, and then down to Newlands Hause. Up to Knott Rigg and on to Ard Crags returning down to the car park: 11.6 miles – as measured on SatMap
This walk was arranged a few weeks ago at the time of Ice Age Britain. I finalised the route after I’d bought an ice axe and crampons, thus ensuring a rapid thaw ensued. A week ago I had walked the adjacent crags and looking across I fancied walking up here next to bag a few more wainwrights, and get a good look back to the adjacent fells – there’s always an adjacent crag in the Lake District – well almost everywhere. The Derwent Fells are a distinct group of ridges all with a strong west-east trend, shaped by periods of glaciations in the last ice ages. The weather forecast was good, cold but good so we were all hopeful of a good day out in the hills. Paul lured me up to Grasmere the night before the walk to an offer of a cheap B&B at the Red Lion and much refreshment. Six pints of Dent Aviator Ale and a chicken pizza later I was really ready for a walk – not an ideal preparation for a stomp up the hills. I thought staying up in the lakes the night before would be an added advantage & reduce my driving times. It is certainly more relaxing, but I have to remember that there are no motorways around here and breakfast starts at 8am. Despite this I had a steady drive over from Grasmere, taking the long way around to the meet point, I made it in time just, and so did everyone else.
We agreed to start at 8:30am and that took some dedication from the guys today as they had to travel from afar – Nottinghamshire and Hull in East Yorkshire - they were up and away at 4:30 and 5:15 to get here on time. Today’s walk was well attended by Catherine, Dave, Tony, Micky, Mark and Ian. It was a delight to meet new and old faces and we all had a good chat at some stage during the day. Thankfully they got the weather they deserved and between us all we have some cracking pictures. It was a good parking spot beyond Little Town and the day started out with a guffaw. Some of you may remember when coal was delivered to your door – well Dave got out his daysack and it was much the same weight as a sack of coal, only not so grubby. We all attempted to lift it and didn’t envy him the task of humping that uphill and down dale. Next up was Mark who stood there a little puzzled at how his boots could have jumped out of the car and ran back inside his house, because that’s where they were. He must have had cold feet sometime in the day because he ended up walking in trainers – but he never complained and they sped him to the top of Hindscarth. Off we set into a really pleasant morning, turning into a field full of contractor’s machinery, Lorries and cars. They were there for repairing some snow and ice damage I think, and I’m glad we got parked before they got going – there seemed to be a communal reluctance to leave the warmth of their cabs, reading the papers, drinking some tea and having a tab. I preferred what we were doing though – the early signs were good – blue sky, fluffy clouds, a bit breezy, but all conditions conducive to a cracking walk.
So there we were, 7 of the magnificent variety with a range of walking fitness from the sublime to the knackered – some mountain goats, some not so much (I include myself in the latter category), but we all managed the walk ok. Today’s route was a good one as it had a couple of ‘get out of jail’ cards thrown in where we could cut the walk short if required. I got reminded in the bar last night that we wouldn’t need crampons, but I didn’t remember if that was before or after the six pints. I quaffed a tin of Red Bull and a few oat cakes and we were off crossing the fields to the base of the fell. The Derwent Fells are characteristically steep on the way up and down and the path up to Hindscarth isn’t any different – so if you only walk on the flat it can be a bit of a shock to the system, especially the legs and lungs. We passed by a small farm and cut up the side of the fell to the ridge line, passing a Highland cow and a horse – the horse wasn’t too keen on sharing his hay either and he let the cow know it.
We had plenty of stops along the way as we turned to admire a sunlit Skiddaw behind us and the dusted peaks ahead of us. Mark is in training for the national 3-peaks challenge, so he decided that the early pace was a bit sluggish, and with a quick ‘meep meep’ off he set like the roadrunner. It was the last we saw of him for a little while as he attained the heights of Hindscarth in a mighty impressive 1hr 6mins – mind you he had to hunker down in the summit shelter for a little while to wait for the less fleet of foot. This was the biggest walk for some of us for a while and as we walked steeply up the ridge the group splintered somewhat, but we all made our own way, stopping and admiring the adjacent fells, the summit ahead and a cloud free Skiddaw and Blencathra – a rare event if ever I saw one. The wind was chill, but on the sunny side of the hill it was really pleasant.
About ¾ of the way up to Hindscarth a few of us pressed on to walk over to Dale Head, whilst the others recuperated on the summit of Hindscarth. Once we were up above the snowline the Helvellyn range hove into view over to the south east complete with a fresh dusting of snow to walk on. The conditions were ok with the occasional patches of ice/snow to negotiate. Tony had driven over from Hull this morning and as an ex-marine showed his pedigree by steaming up the last pull to Hindscarth without a bead of sweat appearing. We had a good chat about his upcoming adventure with some cadets, the only downside I could see is the responsibility for a bunch of lads – boys will be boys. I’m looking forward to his stories when he gets back. He was first up the slope and zoomed past the summit shelter and Mark, who was well camouflaged against the dark stones – good job it wasn’t snowing – we’d never have spotted him. He had all his gear on and he must have been a bit chill waiting for us.
Once we were up on the top of Hindscarth we had a fantastic 360deg panorama, with great clarity of light we could see for miles, as well as a couple of fighter jets flying past us. We did a gentle pirouette and could see much of the Lake District and all the big boys, over to the Isle of Man, and up to Scotland – magnificent and worth the toil. The snow here was only 1 or 2 inches and it was a nice carpet to walk along, but there was the odd patch of Neve here and there which concentrates the mind a bit. It was a pleasant stroll over to Dale Head, stopping to take in the vista now and again and we bagged the second wainwright of the day, albeit at different times. It has a tremendously neat cairn, just right for leaning on to admire the views – from here we could pick out the Langdales and the back of Pike of Stickles head. The Scafells, Bow Fell and the Crinkles were recognisable as was Pillar across Ennerdale. The pointy outline of Catstye Cam could also be seen close to Helvellyn itself – it’s no wonder wainwright spent so much time on his drawings as the hills look so different from this aspect – what a great pastime he had.
We didn’t hang about too long on the summit of Dale Head as the others would be waiting around at Hindscarth and would be getting a bit chill – but Dave being the consummate gentlemen leant Dibs his jumper. Looking back over Hindscarth the sky was ominously grey, but on the plus side it made for a great picture of Micky coming down the snowy slope. We all met up again at the col below Hindscarth and Lexi looked a bit peckish, and waited patiently for some tasty morsels coming her way – what a lovely dog, my Cornish pasty didn’t last too long. I must remember some doggie biscuits next time so she can pull me uphill when needed. I was a bit surprised today as I thought that after last night’s juice I would struggle up the slopes, but I was generally not too bad. A short stop for some refreshments and a look over to the dark lump of Pillar rock, we were ready to move off again. The drop down off Hindscarth was straightforward but all the while the storm clouds were moving in from the north – that’s why the wind was a bit chill, and the cloud base got lower and lower. So we knew we were in for some sort of rain/sleet/snow and snow it did. We were a little on the way up Robinson, self and Dave were busy having a natter at the back of the field when the blizzard came down. It wasn’t too stingy but it pretty well obliterated everything and didn’t look like it was going to go away fast anywhere soon. It was followed by the quiet - with big gobs of snow falling, but still we plodded on and up. Dave wearing his big woolly jumper and with his hat he looked like a Russian storm trooper - snow clad but happy to be out.
In all the meet ups I’ve had over the last year or so I’ve never met anyone yet whose been an arse – maybe they’ll all turn up one day at the same time? Everyone I’ve met has been great and we’re all united by a love of walking and the surrounds – it’s just the occasional steep climb that is the bar steward. The main group went straight up the side of Robinson close to the wall in increasingly white out conditions, while self and Dave chatted away at the back. The others disappeared into the murk and we started to cut across the slope towards the summit – handy these Satmap GPS sets. The others thought that we’d got lost but eventually we all merged together at the summit in conditions that were best described as a little wintery. Up on the summit poor Lexi was wearing a windblown veil of snow and looked none too impressed with the way it was. Here we had a quick talk about continuing the route or cutting it short by walking down off Robinson back to the valley. We all thought that it was best to call it a day in those conditions and started off down the slope, but we didn’t get far before Mark decided he’d like to go and carry on, so we about turned and what a good decision that was. Within a few minutes a patch of blue sky appeared above and with the prospect of 2 more wainwrights we set off to the North West to descend to Buttermere Moss and High Snockrigg.
The ground down from Robinson was the dodgiest we walked on all day and one or two patches of shiny Neve awaited the unwary. Ian and Micky both had a tumble having step in softer snow – and both laughed equally hard at each other. I had a moment of sitting down as well, but Radder with his no grip trainers was fine. There was a very inviting patch to set off and slide down and Ian and Micky were thinking about it, but it would have been a bit too quick down there and it was a bit full of boulders lower down, and nothing to put the brakes on. Out came a touch of sunlight and all was well with the world once more. We had a chat about bagging the last 2 wainwrights, but that involved a long drop down to Newlands Hause and an equally steep climb up to Knott Rigg, and decided that those who could would and those that didn’t wouldn’t. Across the moss the path was a little squelchy, which is why it’s called a moss, but it was ok for a spot of bog hopping. We didn’t go up to High Snockrigg, turning right to the edge of the world. The slope down from the moss is really steep, so we all stopped and had a good feed and drink before continuing. The views down the valley towards Skiddaw were superb, brilliant U-shaped sides carved by glaciations.
We carefully zigzagged down the slopes to Newlands Hause and thankfully everyone made it without mishap, and here we parted company with Dibs, Lexi and Dave, agreeing to meet up at the end of the ridge. I gave them our planned route and they tooded off to meet us later –only we didn’t follow our route when we got down as we thought that they would be already back at the car – oops sorry guys and gals. Knott Rigg and Ard Crags rise steeply up from the hause and form a sharp ridge between two big valleys – a great big fin shape - and although it looked impossibly steep last week from Eel Crags and Sail it is wide enough on the top to ease any vertigo sufferer’s worries and the gradient eases once up top. We spotted the double D’s down in the valley ambling along the road with Lexi, and the other way was a huge impressive view of Sail, Eel Crag, Scar Crags and Causey Pike. Further behind us Grasmoor peeked out now and again, I’ll have to do that one day soon. The walk from Knott Rigg to Ard Crags was a delight – gently undulating and it was great to stretch the legs, with no ice and the nice crunch of fresh snow to walk on. The cairn on top of Ard Crags wasn’t – just a small pile of rubble really, but from here we could see down into the valley below and the small church and car park at the start of the walk, no contractors at this end of the day.
At the end of the ridge it dropped sharply down on a narrow path, which was about the width of two boots. It went down in a pretty straight line as well, and it was hard not to build up too much momentum – and Mark still stayed on his feet. At the base of the slope the descent eased through some sheep pasture and we nipped down through a field to get to the road and our route to the car park. We’d been keeping an eye out for Dave, Dibbs and Lexi but we couldn’t spot them on the road. So we made the only mistake of the day really – the road beckoned and we took it, as it looked a bit of a trot through unknown fields. We passed by a couple of newly renovated B&B’s and a new build – not something you see very often. A gentle trot down the lanes saw us back at the car park expecting to see the others – but they weren’t there. They waited for us and we waited for them – so I nipped up the road in the car to have a quick look, while they decided to walk back – so we missed each other by minutes. But not to worry because Ian had promised us a fantastic pint in the Farmers Arms in Portinscale – oh yes I thought brilliant – it was shut….so was the next one…and the next one…so we ended up in Keswick for a well deserved pint. What great company, what a great pint and what a great walk. January’s turning out to be brilliant – it’s good this walking malarkey.
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