Saturday, 7 April 2018

Skiddaw via Ullock Pike & Longside

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Route: Ravenstone Hotel, Ling How, The Edge, Ullock Pike, Longside Edge, Long Side, Skiddaw, Little Man, Jenkin Hill, Lonscale Fell, Burnt Horse, Whit Beck, Gale Lane

Date: 07/04/2018
From: Ravenstone

Parking: Layby opposite Ravenstone hotel / Gale Lane Car Park
Start Point: Ravenstone Hotel
Region: Northern Fells

Route length: 9.4 miles (15.1km)
Time taken: 04:31
Average speed: 2.1mph
Ascent: 1,065m
Descent: 886m

Wainwrights on this walk:
Ullock Pike (690m), Long Side (734m), Skiddaw (931m), Skiddaw Little Man (865m), Lonscale Fell (715m)

Additional summits: Skiddaw North Top (922m), Skiddaw Middle Top (928m), Skiddaw South Top (925m), Skiddaw Lesser Man (815m), Jenkin Hill (735m)

Other points of interest: Longside Edge

Despite not having the towering crags of its 3,000ft brothers, Skiddaw makes up for this deficiency by being fantastically and consistently steep, rising from the valley floor to a height of over 900m in 3 short kilometres. That makes for an approximate gradient of 30% which is very steep indeed.

The route in question is one I've done before and one that might be difficult to replicate if you only have one car, as we utilised two to make this a linear walk between Ravenstone and Gale Road.

After arranging a few cars around the northern Lake District, we were thrust straight into what would sum up the first half of the walk, steepness. The path rises up behind the Ravenstone Hotel to meet the start of the ridge that would lead us over Ullock Pike and Long Side. There would be no gradual warm-up for this one. The weather would be startng off a bit drab but, as the day progressed, we were expecting a spell of rain to arrive. Better get cracking.
The steep climb up through the woods from the hotel
Emerging below the ridge
After the initial climb up onto the ridge, we followed the obvious path that leads along The Edge to Ullock Pike, a towering triangle of rock that presents an intimidatingly steep climb to the summit. By now, the weather was still fairly clear and we were treated to some wonderful views of Bassenthwaite and towards the north-west. The isolated fell of Binsey was also plainly in view.
Bassenthwaite and the Whinlatter Fells
Bassenthwaite village and Binsey
Broad End and Skiddaw
Skiddaw
The ridge below Ullock Pike
Skiddaw and the Ullock Pike ridge surrounding Southerndale
After finally getting the legs and mind up to walking speed, we made it to the top of Ullock Pike and gazed upon the slice of ridge that lay ahead of us; Longside Edge. Nowhere near as knife-edged as Striding or Sharp Edge but impressive none the less. It's obvious why this is probably the finest route up to the summit of Skiddaw. Wainwright was a particular fan.
Looking down the ridge towards Watches
Ullock Pike
The head of Southerndale between Skiddaw and Carl Side
The Coledale Fells
Rain-shrouded Scafell Pike
Panorama from Ullock Pike looking along Longside Edge
Dodd and the north western fells, disappearing into the rain
Bassenthwaite Lake panorama
Ullock Pike, the first peak of the day, marks the beginning of Longside Edge and is the first in a trio of fells that are committed to the chapters of Wainwright's legendary book series. In fact, the peak of Ullock Pike lacks any real prominence from Longside and it is, therefore, Wainwright's (and later Birkett's) writings that give it the status of an entirely separate fell.
Ullock Pike's summit
After crossing Ullock Pike and gazing down into the isolated valley of Southerndale, we continued on our way across Longside Edge to the fell Longside, a fell named for obvious reasons. Once again, the views of Bassenthwaite and the appearing Derwent Water are very good, with a new dimension added in our case by the hazy cloud that was starting to drift in, bringing with it the forecast rain. The path up the scree to the summit of Skiddaw was looking unpleasantly steep.
A view back along the ridge from Longside
Longside
Longside and Ullock Pike
As I mentioned, the climb up on to Skiddaw is via a very steep, slippery path. A steady rhythm of one foot in front of the other and some gentle encouragement from some folks on their way down eventually saw us up to the summit ridge.
Approaching the scree path
Longside and Ullock Pike
Looking down the scree to Carl Side
Climbing the steepest part of the path
We popped up at Skiddaw Middle Top, one of a trio of Birkett summits in addition to the marked high point. With the objective of the summit a few short metres away, we began our steady approach, just as the rain arrived.
This view down the scree path gives a sense of how steep it is
Clouds spill over Little Man
Heading for Skiddaw's summit
Skiddaw's toposcope and trig pillar
The summit
Little Man and Lonscale Fell
Once the summit formalities were complete (the obligatory snack-stop and photo) we were on our way again, bound for Skiddaw South Top and ultimately Skiddaw Little Man. Climbing the clear path reminded us that there was still a fair bit of walking to be done before we'd reach the car again and the legs were feeling a bit stiff after the punishment they suffered on their way up Skiddaw. Still, any climb seems a breeze after the slog up Skiddaw and before long, we were at the summit gazing down through the murk into Keswick and beyond towards Lonscale Fell.
Heading for Little Man
Little Man's summit
Keswick and Derwentwater
Lower Man's summit
Keswick from Lower Man
We descended to Howgill Tongue at the top of Applethwaite Gill, crossing the col and starting the easy climb up Lonscale Fell, following the fence line to the summit. From most directions, Lonscale Fell presents itself as a grassy dome, however, a steep wall of crag mark the eastern face and make it instantly recognisable when viewed from the Cumbria Way.
Looking down to Lonscale Fell
The path at Jenkin Hill
A look back to Skiddaw
Lonscale Fell's summit
Beginning our descent
It was still fairly early so, instead of descending back to the cars at Gale Lane, we decided to take a longer route down Burnt Horse to meet the Cumbria Way at Skiddaw House, the lonely hostel located in the wild moors of the northern fells.
Burnt Horse
Mungrisdale Common and Blencathra
Lonscale Pike
Roughten Gill
By the time we reached the Cumbria Way, it had started to rain quite heavily so there are only a few photos of the last couple of miles. From Skiddaw House, it's a flat, easy walk along the Glenderaterra valley to Lonscale Crags and then west across Whit Beck back the cars where we could finally dispense of wet clothes and boots and make our way back to the Youth Hostel for a well-earned shower.
Glenderaterra Beck
Whit Beck
The Long Side ridge is without a doubt the best way to reach Skiddaw, the sixth highest mountain in England, and has some mountain character in an area where it is hard to find, despite the lofty elevation of Skiddaw. It is perhaps the most accessible mountain in the Lake District thanks to the paths rising directly from Keswick but I would urge you to consider this route over any approaching from the south.