Caudale to Ill Bell
It was a frosty, bright morning when I parked at Church Bridge near Troutbeck; I walked up the main road to the footpath with a signpost pointing to Ing Lane. The rough path led to a vehicular track that I walked along until I reached the farm at Troutbeck Park; I walked through the farmyard and over a bridge across Trout Beck. I walked uphill to a wall, and then through woods to reach a big path; as it turned up towards the road, I carried on ahead. I had to unfasten some wire on a pallet, being used a gate, so I could get past it and avoid risking my dignity on the barbed wire fence.
I walked through trees, by the side of the wall above Hird Wood to a wall junction; there was a big stream immediately on other side, so I didn't want to climb wall even if it had looked safe. I followed the wall uphill, wondering if I would reach the road before I could cross over it; suddenly there was a gate and an easy stream crossing. After walking across wet, rough ground I had to descend to Trout Beck again, it was too wide and swollen to cross so I walked upstream to a place where I decided I had to give it a go. I jumped on to a small island of stones before making a desperate leap across deep, fast-flowing water; my trailing foot splashed in the water but I was across.
I started to walk uphill and eventually reached the wall running along the crest of the ridge over Low Great Knott and High Great Knott; there was then an easy, rising ridge ascent towards Hart Crag. I left the wall for more a rugged ascent to the summit cairn; there were good views back to Windermere and across to the attractive, distinctive shapes of Ill Bell and Froswick. I was walking in snow by that stage, I made an ascent in ankle deep stuff, directly to the wall running along the crest of the ridge leading to Caudale Moor.
There was deeper snow, there had been a fresh 6 inches since I was there five days ago; once I got to the wall, I found footsteps to step into that made walking a bit less strenuous, but after passing a group of walkers I was the one making footsteps. It was a very misty, snowy summit plateau, I followed a wall across to a cairn near a wall junction; I made out the summit cairn, difficult to see under snow, and walked across virgin snow towards it. At least I knew where to find the wall that I needed to follow downhill.
It was an easy slope at first in soft deep snow, then a steep descent; the descent is usually a scramble over boulders by the right hand side of the wall, but it had become a snow slope, slippery at times because of patches of hard and deep soft snow. It was quite an interesting descent to Threshthwaite Mouth, with the ever-present intimidating ascent to Thornthwaite Crag in full view.
As I started to climb, there were footsteps following the course of a fallen wall, then the steps disappeared in softer, deeper snow; I had to climb up the deep snow, kicking-in after planting the ice-axe. That kind of climbing is very strenuous; there was a very awkward section, with deeper snow that disintegrated as I kicked into it, above a steep exposed drop.
Above the awkward section, I was kicking steps again into deep snow, having to support myself with the ice axe; I had been following remnants of a wall but it seemed to be dropping away. I had to climb more directly up harder snow heading to a ridge; there were others walkers below using my hard-earned footprints.
At the ridge, it was an even steeper ascent; the other walkers passed me, but their footsteps were quickly filled in by spin drift in the strengthening cold breeze. I eventually got close to the ridge wall, it was obviously nowhere near the normal route. There was again a variety of soft snow and harder icy sections, there was no visibility and a very cold wind. I eventually reached the summit cairn on Thornthwaite Crag that is never likely to get buried by snow.
I navigated into the whiteness, using my compass and experience; I reached a fencepost on rock outcrop that I recognised, it reassured me that I was walking in the right direction. I saw a group of walkers in the mist and walked over to their footprints, it was not necessarily a path but there were comforting signs that I was going in the right direction. Suddenly, through the mist, I saw Kentmere Reservoir below, the path onwards becomes obvious.
I walked across the broad snowy ridge of Thornthwaite Crag's unnamed subsidiary, with a stunning view of the impressive Froswick; it was however a strenuous ascent to its unspectacular summit, by then it was too misty for any more views. I descended to a col, there was deeper snow on the ascent to Ill Bell, the usual zigzag path was forsaken as the footsteps in the snow make a more direct route the summit. There too it was still too misty for views; one of three distinctive cairns has fallen.
I descended the steep ridge, close to a cornice, down to a col; the climb was less steep but it was a lengthy walk to the summit of Yoke, and after a lengthy descent I eventually reached a wall. After crossing the wall, I walked across the snow-covered, reconstructed path across the extensive bog; the path becomes increasingly obvious as the amount of snow lessens, until I had to make the usual wet, boggy crossing of streams to reach the gate at the Garburn Road.
The Garburn Road track wasn't icy but it has become increasingly deeply eroded,and has exposed the underlying rock outcrop; the bottom of the road is being reconstructed following last year's floods, making it more of a mess than ever.
Andy Wallace 27th February 2010
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