Dunnerdale Fells – and how to Make a Drama of Them!

20 03 2011

Nov 2010

Richard and I have just had a week’s walking back in our beloved Lake District, starting off at Broughton-in-the-Furnace (as we call it, although it was anything but warm!) The night we arrived I said that, as there was no snow, I wanted to do the Dunnerdale Fells of Stickle Pike, Tarn Hill and Great Stickle as they look gorgeous in autumnal colours and I wanted some nice pics. I was pretty miffed to wake up and find it had been snowing!

I had a brief sulk and we set off to see what the roads were like but I’d pretty much changed my mind about the Dunnerdales as I don’t think they look the same in snow. However, as we got to the roadend for Stonestar, we saw the road was gritted and decided to stick to my original plan. We were soon parked up in a quarry parking hole (I think around Brantstocks on the map) and got out to boot up. As I was booting up I was studying the quarry and saw what I thought was an interesting looking ‘arete’ up the edge of it. I pointed it out to Richard and he thought it looked interesting too – more of that later…

We walked towards Ulpha Bridge and took the bridleway heading east towards Hoses Pass. The snow was shallow and soft but there was a lot of hard ice so we were soon regretting leaving our micro-spikes in the car! As we got further up the snow deepened and there was a lot less ice. We soon reached the north ridge of Stickle Pike and headed up it. Despite this being the north side there was no further ice and we were soon on the summit of this lovely little peak. We managed to find a nice spot in the sun and out of the cruel north wind and had a quick coffee.

Caw from north of Stickle Pike

We decided it was too dodgy to head down the very steep southern slopes and so headed back slightly along the north ridge to where another chap had stomped up the east side from the pass. We joined his route until we’d descended below the steep cone and then followed the good path southwest to Tarn Hill, one of my favourite Lakeland spots. This hill is very aptly named and has lovely little tarns all over it between nice rocky hummocks. You can spend quite a while exploring this area, especially with a camera.

1st Tarn, Tarn Hill

2nd Tarn, Tarn Hill

3rd Tarn, Tarn Hill to Stickle Pike

4th Tarn, Tarn Hill to Great Stickle

4th Tarn, Tarn Hill to Great Stickle1

5th Tarn, Tarn Hill, Crazy Ice Paving!

When we’d visited most of the lovely but frozen tarns we headed up to Great Stickle. We had another break in the sun just below the trig point but it was pretty cold so we headed back to Tarn Hill to find one of the tarns we’d missed out on its west side. This was a much sunnier spot so we had a long break and lounged in the sun eating Richard’s famous tea-loaf and having more hot drink.

6th Tarn, Tarn Hill

After a good break we then headed south again to find Hovel Knott – a fascinating, tiny but aggressive-looking peak. We climbed up onto it but didn’t stay more than a minute as it was absolutely freezing! From there we headed back towards the car along the bridleway which comes up under the Knott.

Hovel Knott, approach

Hovel Knott, looking from summit

There are paths all over the place in this area so it was just a case of picking the one in the right direction each time you reached a junction. I had in mind however, a nice route I’d once taken which came through a mini-rocky valley and down a made zig-zag path down to the road. The road appeared from our current path but it was a bit further north than the path I wanted so I wanted to divert off to find my route. Richard wasn’t so keen however as the car had come into sight and the path we were on took a lovely sunny route back whereas it was obvious my route would be shady and icy. I still wanted to do it however so he grumbled a bit and followed me. He grumbled even more as we slithered our way down the track back to the road.

Descending the old mine zigzag

Old Mine zig-zag

When we reached the road, rather than walk along it, we decided to go for the best of both worlds and headed off on a track which took us back up to the sunny path we’d branched off from and followed that back to the quarry.

We took our bags off and I was again eyeing the ‘quarry arete’. I asked Richard what he thought about it. We moved round the base of it studying it… He mused a bit and said it looked like it had a lot of escape routes so I suggested we gave it a go. In order to make the start more exciting, Richard chose the rockiest start and I followed. All very simple to start with…

After the first rocky section there was an area of slab with quite a few patches of grass and soil on little ledges. I’m not really keen on that kind of thing on a slab as I always suspect its stability and expect it to peel off. I still continued happily up behind him though…

Then we reached a rocky corner where you had to step onto quite a small step on the other side of the arête… this was over the quarry face proper so was quite sheer below. Unfortunately, I took this moment to notice my little Polo… it looked tiny and far below – eek! Of course, this was then the moment I started to rapidly lose confidence!
I continued up to a ledge where Richard was just tackling a sort of smooth groove. I joined him on the ledge and watched as he hauled himself up with difficulty and started to disappear round the corner.

“What’s it like up there?” I asked nervously.

“It’s okay” he said calmly and disappeared out of sight.

“I don’t like it up here” I said, quickly followed by, “Why have I come up here?”

“Well go back down” was the perhaps obvious reply…

I looked down the slab I’d just come up to the nasty corner – no way was I going down that again. I looked for our ‘escape routes’ we’d seen off to the right. They were round the corner along the ledge. Going straight down the slab away from the corner was pretty much out of the question as it was steep and fairly smooth with a big drop off it. I had one attempt at getting up the smooth groove by climbing onto the one foothold and grasping the one good handhold – I really wasn’t happy as there were no further footholds and I’d just have to literally haul myself up from there, about 4 or 5 feet of smooth rock – all I could think of was the now very large drop behind me! I cautiously lowered back down to the ledge. I thought I’d best wait for Richard to get back down and give me more directions.

He soon appeared at the foot of the climb and I asked him to look around the corner from where I was and see if I could get down off the slab that way. He had a look and shook his head. He told me to come back down again but I said I couldn’t. He said to continue up then. I said I wasn’t happy with that either and could he come back up again. He obligingly clambered back up to just below the nasty corner and told me to come back to where he was. I said I wasn’t going to downclimb that! He came further up to just below my ledge and stood halfway up the smooth slab which made me feel very uncomfortable indeed!

I pondered unhappily on my choices and realised the only realistic one was to bite the bullet and go up the groove. It was either that or have to be rescued from a pretty public carpark right by the roadside – something which would no doubt draw interested crowds of bystanders – very embarrassing indeed! The thought of the humiliation made my decision for me – I had to continue.

I went back up onto the foothold and grasped the single handhold again. It was a very good handhold – extremely firm and a real ‘jug’. I just used my other hand as a friction hold, not that there was much friction. As Richard said, I had the reach so shouldn’t really struggle – it was definitely just a confidence thing. I hauled hard on the handhold and pushed off as hard as I could from the foothold. After a bit of smearing up the smoothness with my other foot I was up that bit and looking at the corner… Trouble was, there were two routes and I didn’t know which Richard had taken. There was also a huge drop on my left now which was extremely offputting.

“Which way did you go round the corner? Did you take the immediate right or go round this bit in the middle?” I shouted down.

He said he’d gone round the bit in the middle… I looked at it – it took me right out above the quarry – no way was I going round there! I looked at immediate right and saw it was yet another slippery and apparently holdless groove but this time without any handholds as it led to the top of the arête which was nice and rounded – ugh! I panicked and looked, panicked and looked… eventually I decided I’d better calm down. As soon as I did that I saw there was a huge scoop on the edge of the right-hand wall of the groove – it looked like it had been deliberately cut into the rock – either that or nature was being very generous in her old age! It was exactly the right height to be a perfect step up onto the top. I stuck my foot in it and dived for the top.

As I came up over the top, thinking it was all over, I suddenly saw that the route ahead was short but narrow and with that very small layer of snow on it which makes things very slippery indeed! I could see Richard’s footprints had gone along the right-hand side of a slight bulge along the top but decided it was far safer to walk with one foot each side of the bulge – that way if I slipped I’d just end up sat astride it rather than risk slipping off altogether.

At last I reached grass and set off at speed away from the awfulness for the route back down to the road. At this point both my arms got pins and needles and went completely dead and I started with a bad attack of the shakes. It was a very shaken mountain coward who arrived back at her car moments later, but a wiser one – now I know that a quick summary of a quarry route from below and seeing apparent escape routes isn’t always how it looks and isn’t necessarily a great idea. I asked Richard what he thought to the climb – he said he thought it had been ‘tricky and awkward’. I also asked whether he’d do it again and he said definitely not (shame I made him do it twice). We agreed that there had been no escape routes whatsoever!

Quarry Arete & Polo for Scale

A few pics of how I like the Dunnerdale Fells to look:

Autumnal Caw&Dunnerdales

Autumnal Stickle Pike fm Gt Stickle

Autumnal Stickle Pike fm Tarn Hill tarn




7 responses

10 02 2018
David Keel

Theres a nice video here : https://youtu.be/BMZZl_aFcNM


10 02 2018

Thanks, I’ll have a look at that. I see it’s 20 mins though so it will have to be next week I think.


17 07 2012
wyroby z drutu

I believe what you typed was actually very reasonable. However, what about this? what if you composed a catchier title? I ain’t saying your content is not solid, but suppose you added something that makes people want more? I mean Dunnerdale Fells – and how to Make a Drama of Them! The Adventures of a Mountain Coward is a little vanilla. You might glance at Yahoo’s home page and see how they create post headlines to grab people to open the links. You might add a video or a related pic or two to grab readers interested about everything’ve got to say. In my opinion, it could bring your blog a little bit more interesting.


17 07 2012

I’m afraid I don’t have a video camera and generally only use my own content. As to the title, I suppose I was primarily writing that post for walkers in Britain who know how tame the Dunnerdale Fells – that knowledge would make them want to see why I should have made a drama of them. But thanks for your ideas


28 06 2012
jay gnowles

I truly enjoy looking at on this website , it holds good content . “Sometime they’ll give a war and nobody will come.” by Carl Sandburg.


26 06 2012

Thanks! I try 😉


26 06 2012

I enjoy the efforts you have put in this, regards for all the great posts.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: