Snowy Dalehead, Borrowdale

15 01 2012

Feb 2010
After our 3 night stay at Broughton-in-the-Furnace during which I dragged Richard up ‘The Connies’ in proper snow for his first serious winter hill-walking, we moved on up the Lakes (using the main roads round the western periphery due to the snow-blocked roads in the middle) to Borrowdale and our favourite hotel there, the Royal Oak in Rosthwaite. Why our favourite? Well, for me, they do excellent and varied vegetarian food and also delicious tea and scones with home-made rum butter (free for regular residents) every late afternoon! For Richard, it’s right next door to the Scafell Hotel and bar and they do real ales. The staff are all very friendly too (in the Royal Oak and The Scafell bar).

The next morning, we set off in low temperatures with crisp snow which was perfect for walking on. I’d chosen Dalehead as Richard only had microspikes and no ice axe and there are ways up and down where you’re fine with those whatever the weather. We headed off towards the very steep route up through Rigghead quarries. The quarries path is north-facing and never gets the sun so is usually very icy. I took my ice axe as I feel more confident with it and don’t mind carrying it. I offered Richard my spare but he refuses to use one despite me trying on several occasions to persuade him and offering to show him how to use one.

Scawdel Fell from Rosthwaite Lane – The Rigghead Quarry route goes up to the col

We set off along the lane towards the river and, after a quick look at the snow-capped stepping stones, decided to try those instead of walking along to the bridge. They were a bit slippery on top but not icy and the river was pretty shallow if we fell in. I was okay as I used my ice axe for extra balance but we both managed to cross okay. We then headed off towards the quarries.

The Stepping Stones (Richard Wood)

The Other Option – Rosthwaite Packhorse Bridge (Richard Wood)

Rosthwaite Fell – shot into the sun

About half-way up the steep slope we stopped and fixed our spikes as it was getting pretty slippy. I’d already seen a guy really struggling up ahead and another group had gone completely away from the steep route and up the beck instead. We were soon catching the guy ahead up as progress was really easy with the spikes.

Climbing Thru Rigghead Quarries (Richard Wood)

Spiking Up Thru Quarries (Richard Wood)

When we got to the quarries we took some photos of the very icy entrances to the levels with icicles hanging down. I really hated the look of the second one as, when you saw it from the side, the ice was around a foot thick and menacingly old and grey!

Richard digi-camera-ing down Rigghead

Icy Mine Level Grotto

Horrible old, grey ice about a foot thick!

From the top of the quarry route, we crossed deeper snow to Dalehead beck and the tarn. We looked to see where the guy ahead had gone and he was stomping up the slope with the (now-buried) stone-pitching. He looked to be getting up okay despite not having any kind of spikes and just having poles so we decided to continue. The other option had been to go around Scawdel Fell past the pretty Launchy Tarns – a gentle route all the way. We were soon following him up the slope.

Dalehead – the route ahead

Snowy and Frozen Dalehead Tarn.

The snow was just over boot-deep and gave quite good grip – we mainly followed his foot-steps (as you do – thanks Mister). Richard was looking happy enough even without an ice axe and, because I was taking photos, was mostly ahead of me. We were soon up on the shoulder where the route turns left for the summit. I wasn’t as keen on this bit as it’s a bit narrower and, if you slipped backwards down the slope or off to the right, it would be fatal really, therefore I trended to the left-hand side of the slope above the bit we’d just come up in true coward fashion.

Dalehead Shoulder to Greenup

Snow-Patterned Dalehead Shoulder – Richard Waiting

High Spy from Dalehead

High Spy face from Dalehead

Thru Hole in the cloud…

Final Ascent…

Richard Posing on Dalehead Summit

When we reached the summit it went into cloud and there was a pretty cold wind so we didn’t hang around. I took a quick compass bearing and we headed off down the slope towards Honister Pass. The route down kept coming out briefly and tantalisingly, but then the cloud would take it away again just as I lined it up for a photo. A bit further down we came out of the cloud altogether and we could see the, for once, pretty deserted Honister Pass summit.

As progress was now much easier and more relaxing, I was losing concentration a bit and kept tripping over my spiked feet and falling on my front. On one fall I actually managed to land on my ice axe pick and made a hole in my waterproof coat – this was all Richard needed – he now says ice axes are too dangerous to use! I explained to him I’d just been very clumsy but now he persists in his view and I can’t see him changing it.

Snowy Descent

When we reached the pass we had a quick break in the shelter of the mine building and some cake and coffee. We were most amused to see silly 4×4 drivers being towed up over the pass one by one by a tractor unit from the mine workings! The road was clearly unusable so I’m not sure why they persist in attempting it really.

Icy Honister Pass – gradient of 1 in 4

I looked at my watch and decided it was a bit too early to go back as it was only 1430. I asked Richard if he fancied going up ‘The Drumhouse’ track to do Fleetwith Pike from the back. He was all for it so we set off. We met a couple coming back down with 2 dogs, one of which was a whippet which looked very cold and thoroughly miserable and shivery. They said they’d had to turn back as the dogs were too cold. We continued up but, as we reached the top of the drumhouse, we found they were right – it really was bitterly cold. The wind was at that point behind us but, if we persisted to Fleetwith Pike, we’d have a long walk back along the ridge into the terrible wind-chill so we too decided to turn back as we’d already done one hill so weren’t bothered about another really. As we headed off back down our coats started to ice up (I think my face did too!)

Dalehead from ‘The Drumhouse’ track (Richard Wood)

From the pass summit there’s a lovely track which cuts around the side of Scawdel Fell and goes back to Rosthwaite so we set off along that. I managed to trip over my spiked feet a couple more times including one spectacular fall where I nearly fell off a bridge but managed to grab the fence at my side as I fell – I took my spikes off after that – my knees were black and blue by the time I got back though! We again met the couple with the dogs and the whippet really didn’t look any warmer even in the sun and sheltered by the wall where they were taking a break.

High Doat from Path From Honister to Borrowdale

Jaws of Borrowdale

Greenup & Eagle Crag

We were soon back at the hotel and I was scoffing my scones and rum butter and Richard was drinking the tea which comes with it 🙂



10 responses

26 01 2012
Scafell hotel | Sheilahirt

[…] Snowy Dalehead, Borrowdale « The Adventures of a Mountain … […]


19 01 2012
Scotlands Mountains

Echo Bobs comments about the fells looking good under their snow cover.
Can`t understand why more Scots folk don`t go down there more often.
Me included..!


19 01 2012

Hi Alex, I think the only problem is catching the fells under snow cover. Some years they don’t really get any (hasn’t been much yet this year to my knowledge, although I may find some next week 🙂 ) and it can clear very quickly indeed.


17 01 2012

Nice to see the Lakes In winter Carol.I,m more Interested in walking down there than on my local mountains due to the novelty I suppose.Mind you I,d have to find a campsite ,even in winter.I.m a Scot…I,d rather freeze to death in a field with a ” Great! I,ve just saved £40″ Pound smile on my face than spend a night indoors.


17 01 2012

LOL – you’re tougher than me then! There’s no way I could freeze to death in a tent in winter! Yorkshire folks are supposed to be fond of money too but I’d still rather pay out than freeze to death. That’s why I never camp but do use bothies – at least you can light a fire in a bothy!


16 01 2012
Paul Shorrock

Great post carol, with good pics!
Glad to hear it was only your jacket that ended up with a hole in it 🙂
I’m in and out of the house on the ‘Spine’ race mentioned in #60 of my blog, and though we aren’t going to get the snow conditions of last year it’s looking like some foul weather on the North Pennines towards the end of the week.


16 01 2012

Oh great! Just what we need for our Lakes trip! But I’ve come to expect that for my trips – it’s usually great while I’m at work, then it screws up when I go away! 😦


16 01 2012

Thanks both of you 🙂 Yeah, we haven’t really had anything like that this year. I’m going up to North Lakes soon – I hope at least Skiddaw will oblige with a spot of winter walking!


16 01 2012

What a difference to this year so far – on the plus side at least the roads remain open. Great report as usual.


16 01 2012

Beautiful photos…all.


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