Whinfell Ridge – Cracking Ridge but a Long Finish

4 05 2019

Sat 6 Apr 2019
My friend Simon and I found we had one of the same ambitions – that of doing the Whinfell Ridge between the A6 and the M6. While I’m perfectly happy to wander along these lonely hills on my own, company can really liven up the day and make the miles go quicker so we agreed to meet up one day in April to do it. This was the day – and what a cracking day out it was! 🙂

Click on photos for full size/resolution – all my Zenith manual SLR film camera

Being a late riser, I was even more delighted when it was suggested that we start from my house for the 30 mile drive to the start near Tebay at the grand time of 1030. What a civilised start time for a change!

The day in question turned out to be superb weather – absolutely perfect – a very gentle breeze and bright sunshine. As Simon is a superb photographer who often sells his photos, I was surprised to be the only one bringing a camera.

We parked up in the large parking area with the memorial a couple of miles south of Tebay and near the M6 – this is where I parked when I did Grayrigg Pike. The plan was to do exactly the same ascent to start off. As this section is on a different map, it was handy that I knew the start and finish of the walk already. This time we went through the gate right by the parking – last time I walked to the higher one up the road – I think this start is better and is the normal one…

The cows were again up on the ridge but further from the path this time – I was glad, not because I don’t like cows (I love them) but because I don’t like disturbing livestock when out walking. It was a steady plod up the beckside to the lovely ridge up the front of the fell – I warned Simon the ridge was really steep though!

We chatted until we started the steep part of the ascent and then we had to fall quiet for a while. Cracking views across the corrie to the crags though!


Looking down to M6 from top of steep step in ridge

We were soon at the summit – the path restarting again after the steep rock step (it disappears at the start of the steep section). Last time I was there, I came back and read about the hill and aspersions were cast about whether the cairns were the actual summit or whether, in fact, it was a lump behind. I have to admit to wondering that when I was up there the first time. This time, to make sure, we had a wander round both of the other two lumps which looked higher.


The ridge I used for my descent last time

We continued along the path which takes you through the gap in the wall (used to be a gate but is now a stride over an unbarbed wire fence) – this path also then gives up but just pick the easiest line straight ahead. Soon the trig point on Grayrigg Beacon hove into view. I had to change a film here last time and this was exactly the point I had to change one this time too!

We then set off on another path which transpires at the summit and heads off down the back of the fell hoping it would take us to the two comms masts on the col.

It seemed to be heading too far left but did take the best route to the masts. It was a nice novelty to walk on a proper road for a while between the two masts.

From here, a continuous path takes off from the mast road for the rest of the walk. For this reason we were glad we’d done the hills in this direction… Whinfell Beacon was next and, from the stile, looked a long and stiff climb – it turned out to be anything but in the end though and we were soon up it…

We had a short break for a hot drink here and then started the easy descent for an undulating section of ridge following the wall and heading for Castle Fell (which turns out to be Castle FellS as it is a twin summit)…


Castle Fell Twin Summits – a couple of steep buggers they were too!

We admired the views from the twin summits – this is Whinfell from the higher summit…

Looking back along the first half of the walk…

Our next fell, Mabbin Crag, from the main summit…

Mabbin Crag from the lower summit – we stood puzzling for a while about the best way to tackle the forest!

We headed back to the wall and followed our earlier path down alongside it to the wall in front of Mabbin Crag. We were still discussing the way to deal with the forest – Simon though we should head for the wide break in it to the right. This meant losing height however and, as I’m becoming a lazy devil, I was looking not to do that and hoping there would be a route through the thicker part at the top of the joining ridge.

As we veered between the two desired routes, we found we could just get across the wall anywhere as it was mostly derelict. And, as we’d left the wall path by now, we didn’t see there was a stile at the intersection which would indicate a potential route into the forest.

I still wasn’t happy with having to lose height so set off back to my left towards the intersection and spotted the stile. The forest had a little corner here so I squelched across the boggy ground to investigate around it. A small path did head muddily into the forest… I called Simon and he joined me to see if the path would take us up.

For a while the path kept its height and headed off to the right but then I came to a split. One section had a small path which headed left up the hill via a small, grassy bank. The other, however, looked to continue contouring the fell. I dithered and then suggested we take the uphill route.

This turned out to be completely wrong and we were soon confronted with a bank of thick trees – the other path appears to be the correct one after all. The trees didn’t look too thick and I could see some daylight to our right and higher up – I suggested this might be the path we’d seen up the hill above the forestline.

After a short climb up through the trees, we came out onto another contouring path which, fortunately, in a short time, took us to the final section of path up the hill. At least we were back in the sun and we were soon at the summit cairn.

At this summit I got a shock – the kind of shock where Richard, if he had been with us, would have gone on instant strike! I’d thought this was the last fell on the ridge and that I’d be looking down on the A6 by now – not so! There looked to be another three hills at least still to do! It turns out that all these ‘hills’ are lumps on the same named fell – Ashstead Fell.


There’s More!

I was quite keen to continue anyway as these hills had a tasty looking crag band ahead – not many of those on this ridge. Not only that, on reaching it, it had a tasty little gully – and also the only people we saw all day on the ridge – a couple of runners…

The gully, while presenting a little excitement in the day, didn’t present any challenge whatsoever and we were up it in a flash. The ridge from here was a roller coaster of great interest and this turned out to be easily my favourite hill of the day. Well worth a wander up from the A6 on its own I’d say. We had a quick look back to Mabbin Crag and then continued…

Looking back to the Eastern of the three peaks…

Heading for the final summit…


Nice little crag near the summit

We eventually reached the summit where we sat in the sun overlooking the quiet A6 road and had another tea break 🙂

The forest top from my vantage point…

We then took the very steep descent path down to the road. On the way down, I saw something blue just across the beck – it looked very like a sleeping or bivi-bag. We went to see if there was a body in it – it was rather a strange sight. I was assuming someone was bivvying out but had gone to do the ridge and would be back in it later as the bag looked in perfect condition and was a lightweight beauty. However, when I saw the stuff sack nearby, it had obviously lain there for many months and was rotting away – strange!


Our descent from near ‘The sleeping bag’

I did these fells last year – see my Crookdale Horseshoe post


Hucks Bridge on the A6 – the starting point for doing the ridge the opposite way

We then reached the A6 just above Hucks Bridge and the start of the good track to take us back along the Borrowdale Valley. This Borrowdale is known as ‘Westmorland Borrowdale’ and I personally like it better than the more well-known one!

The first half of the valley was very beautiful and went very well…

But it is very long…

There were once two farms in the dale but now one is derelict…

So it’s all just down to the one farmer now – what an idyllic place to live though – and what great pasture!

After the last shot, and just before the farm, I ran out of film! Around a mile or so after that I ran out of patience with the valley as the track was quite hard and my legs were starting to hurt. I think Simon was getting fed up too. Beautiful or not, it’s a damned long way! Soon we were both wishing we were back at the car and wishing we could just whistle and it would come and get us (a useful invention for automated cars in the future I think!)

We eventually reached the main road for the quarter of a mile or so back uphill to the car – by now both my hips were aching – I hoped I hadn’t done any damage (they were fine the next day however). On reaching the car, we both sank gratefully down on the wall to change our boots and finish our flasks. A truly great walk but a very long finish!

The walk, excluding Grayrigg Pike is 12 miles, 2722 feet of ascent. Ours was a little longer with a little more ascent and took us 6.5 hours.

You’re reading a post by Mountain Coward. If you’ve enjoyed this post, be sure to follow The Mountain Coward from my homepage

Advertisements

Actions

Information

24 responses

18 05 2019
tessapark1969

That looked very nice – if rather long!

Like

19 05 2019
mountaincoward

Superb ridge along the hills and very nice valley walk – but you’re best to use 2 cars I think and do both separately! When we do the ridge the opposite side, we’re using 2 cars

Like

11 05 2019
Simon Howlett

Superb series of photos Carol, I really enjoyed the walk with you. I agree, the return leg along the valley was a long trek. I should have flagged down the farmer in his landrover – would have been nice to rest our weary legs! Definitely a 2 car adventure next time for the adjacent ridge! I’m looking forward to it – any day during late June/early July would be good. And after that, the Howgills!

Like

11 05 2019
mountaincoward

Look forward to it – very keen to do the other ridge (Whinash Ridge on t’internet). Also keen to get on with some Howgills.

Liked by 1 person

11 05 2019
underswansea

Very fine post and photographs. Sounds like a great hike, Doesn’t seem your hip is giving you much bother. That was a very interesting grove of trees in the middle of the grasslands. You will have to go back in December and get yourself a Christmas tree. 🙂

Like

11 05 2019
mountaincoward

I never have a real tree – I have the same one year after year and just re-decorate that. My Mum and Dad went one better – they used to leave it decorated, put a poly bag over it and shove it in the loft each year until the next Christmas!

Like

11 05 2019
underswansea

Ha ha! I like the poly bag idea!

Like

5 05 2019
Alli Templeton

That sounds like a truly epic trek, and what a beautiful day it was for you, Carol. Some of that amazing landscape looks as though it could have been on another planet – how wonderful to feel so away from it all. I’m not sure how I’d have felt to reach the summit of a hill only to find there are three more to cover, but you seem to have coped admirably. And you must be pleased with the photos – they’re gorgeous, as ever, and they really convey a sense of the stunning landscape you were travelling through. Well done. A really great walk 🙂

Like

5 05 2019
mountaincoward

Superb walk in superb weather and with great company! We hatched a plan for the adjacent ridge – we’re going to take 2 cars and park one each end – lovely valley or not, I don’t want to walk that bit twice!

Liked by 1 person

5 05 2019
Alli Templeton

That sounds like a great plan. 🙂

Like

5 05 2019
John Bainbridge

Very interesting countryside and a lot quieter than some places.

Like

5 05 2019
mountaincoward

I absolutely love the fells and rounds of fells each side of the A6 – becoming my favourite walking country. Just such a lovely, desolate feel

Liked by 1 person

6 05 2019
John Bainbridge

We go out from Sedbergh a lot – very quiet even at weekends

Like

6 05 2019
mountaincoward

I’m looking at starting the Howgills from the M6 side soon

Liked by 1 person

7 05 2019
John Bainbridge

Well worth it, lovely quiet walking those hills. Doing The Calf from Sedbergh was a grand walk.

Like

7 05 2019
mountaincoward

Yeah I did The Calf via Cautley Spout and then back over many of the other hills to descend back to Sedbergh via the gap between Knock and Winder with a guy from work. We never saw a thing though – great navigation practice there though

Liked by 1 person

8 05 2019
John Bainbridge

Well worth looking at the fells on the Dent side of Sedbergh as well – more lonely country.

Like

5 05 2019
Jim R

That was a lot of work and a long day. I’m sure you enjoyed it. Thanks for the post.

Like

5 05 2019
mountaincoward

Really enjoyed it – and such cracking weather for a change – it went off again after that – the very next day!

Like

4 05 2019
Blue Sky Scotland

Not an area I’m familiar with at all but looks good. One of the reasons I stopped hill-walking with my old crowd was the ridiculously early start. Often getting up at 5:45 am in my case to drive over to the other side of the city for a 7:00am meet up. I miss the company at times but not the early rises.

Like

5 05 2019
mountaincoward

Well you’re welcome to come down here and join me for some late-start walking. I think the earliest I’ve ever set off, even when doing long days in the Munros, was around 0800…

Like

4 05 2019
simplywendi

such lovely countryside.

Like

5 05 2019
mountaincoward

It’s really beautiful. I was just looking at photos of that valley when all the meadow flowers are out – looks like it’s worth a re-visit then

Liked by 1 person

5 05 2019
simplywendi

🙂 such a wonderful countryside you are blessed to be near.

Like

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 )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google 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 )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.




%d bloggers like this: