Ard to Knott Carry

The colours of Causey Pike by Andy Wallace Andy FellwalkerIt had to rain sooner or later and today was the day. It rained heavily as I was travelling up the motorway but that was left behind as I drove on to Keswick and through Portinscale to the small parking area near to the hamlet of Skelgill. At least the rain had the decency to start immediately so that I was able to put on full waterproofs before starting to walk.

It was raining heavily by the time I set off, I walked through Skelgill and picked up the path to Ghyll Bank and onwards to Rowling End farm. At the Newlands Pass road I turned left and followed the road for half a mile or so until the sharp bend in the road at the bridge over Rigg Beck, just before the purple house also bearing the name of Rigg Beck. Just across the bridge is an inviting looking path that promises to take you to the ridge leading up to Ard Crags.

View Of Newlands valley from Ard Crags ridge by Andy Wallace Andy Fellwalker The path quickly drops back down to the beck so it was fortunate that I was wearing my long legs, having to stride over a couple of fences whose top wires were barbed. After the second fence I came across the farm track that comes up from the road, the track soon fizzled out and I was walking across a sheep field. It was still raining heavily as I plodded along over the fields until I reached the intake wall. Having passed through a rickety gate I got the first signs of a footpath but no signs of the rain easing off. The way ahead was clear, the ground becomes steeper and an obvious green path goes straight up the nose of the fell through the dead bracken.

Looking back down over Aikin Knott on Ard Crags by Andy Wallace Andy Fellwalker The ground becomes steeper and the climb more interesting as the rocks of Aikin Knott are reached, the path upwards is marked by footsteps kicked into the green path. After 90 minutes walking I was beginning to feel a bit demoralised by the heavy rain, wondering how far I should get to before terminating the walk. As I glanced backwards the view demanded to be photographed and as I got my camera out from the depths of my rucksack the rain stopped. A sudden change of tactics by the weather, now a cool breeze was blowing mist up from the valleys along the mountain ridges, cool enough to have to put some gloves on.

View of Ard Crags from Knott Rigg by Andy Wallace Andy Fellwalker On reaching the top of Aikin Knott I would have been pleased to find the summit of Ard Crags but all I found was a flat green tongue of land, a brief respite before a further climb. The climb now is a muddy path through heather, occasionally needing to grab a handful of heather as water running over the mud made it quite slippery. After another false summit I reached the neat cairn at the highest point, the start of a marvellous airy ridge. Easy walking with fine views far below to the valleys on either side. The occasional sleety showers did not spoil the walk, the wind blowing in the same direction as I was walking meant that I was sheltered from the worst of the weather.

Without too much effort the ridge leads to the summit of Knott Rigg, a wide flat plateau disguises the fact that another fine little ridge still has to be crossed before descending to Newlands Hause. The weather across the valley on Robinson looks terrible. It is raining heavily as I pause for breath at the Hause before tackling the steep climb up the side of High Snockrigg. The climb up the steep path is sheltered from the worst of the rain and as I reach the plateau of Buttermere Moss the rain stops in favour of thick mist.

View from the ascent of Robinson by Andy Wallace Andy FellwalkerButtermere Moss is a bad place to be in mist, flat and featureless, I felt completely lost for a short time as I struggled to work out where I was. When you stop believing your compass you should know that you are lost. I didn't believe the compass until a brief break in the mist revealed the actual position of Robinson. Logic said that it was where it should be, but logic doesn't get much of a look in when you get disoriented. I still had some navigating to do as the mist closed in again, now I put my trust in the compass and keep going. I eventually reached a faint path that I believed I would find, I was happy to start climbing the steep slope, I must be going the right way. Then suddenly at about three quarters of the way to the top the mist suddenly cleared and the views were stunning. Across the valley to Whiteless Pike and Wandope, down below to Newlands Hause and the long distance view of Buttermere, Crummock Water and Loweswater. At the flat top of Robinson parallel outcrops of rock create a curious and unique mountain avenue.

Robinson summit by Andy Wallace Andy Fellwalker From Robinson I walked alongside the fence on Littledale edge and climbed the obvious path up to Hindscarth. The mist now has rolled back in and it looks as though it is here to stay, the walk along the ridge of Hindscarth is without visibility and accompanied by occasional hail showers. From the summit of Hindscarth I doubled back and took the smaller path off to the left, leading to Dale Head over Hindscarth Edge. The Edge is far less exhilarating when you can't see how close to the edge you are.

From the impressive and substantial cairn of Dale Head, continue along the ridge. The path downwards seems to have become much more eroded recently but this changes as you reach the reconstructed section of the path. Reconstructed pitched paths are great for stopping erosion but in wet weather they can become very slippery, the path down to Dale Head Tarn is one of the longer pitched paths in the district. Still without visibility I am glad to reach Dale Head Tarn, at least I know where I am now.

High Spy summit by Andy Wallace Andy Fellwalker Walking is now beginning to be less easy as my legs complain about yet another climb, this time to High Spy. Things do get easier as you reach the high plateau on the way to High Spy's impressive and substantial summit cairn. Easier walking again as the upland moor of Maiden Moor is crossed, this fell doesn't have much to offer so you need to take the path along the edge that would overlook Newlands Beck if you could see it. On this path is the scant cairn that might be the summit and the one exciting spot where the ground falls suddenly down to the valley of Newlands.

After rejoining the main path you descend easily and quickly until an exciting exposed spot where the path clings on to the side of the fell where Derwentwater seems to be the first thing you would meet if you fell off the path. After seven hours and after making your legs think you are on your way down you come across Catbells, not a massive hill but an effort on tired legs. The final direct scramble over bare rock can not be denied, tired legs or not.

Finally, Skelgill Bank, a miniature Catbells with its own little scramble, the sound of nearby thunder ensures that this final descent gets done rather quickly.

For once the route plan works and the descent ends precisely at the car park.

Andy Wallace 21st April 2003

© 2003 - 2018 By Andy Wallace. Reproduction of this work in whole or in part, including images, and reproduction in electronic media, without documented permission from the author is prohibited.

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