Howgills – Did Carlingill but Missed the hill!

8 07 2020

Over the winter
Sometime over the winter (possibly January), I agreed to meet up with my friend and fellow blogger Simon for a walk in the Howgills. I was fairly insistent that I particularly wanted to go up a mountain I’d been eyeing from the M6 each time I’d driven past as it had inviting-looking ridges up the front. The map said it was called Fell Head…

All photos:
my Zenith manual film SLR
click on photos for full size/resolution

We met up around 1030 for the hour’s drive to the little back road near Tebay where we intended to park. There was a great parking spot just below the ascent ridge (or so I thought). A couple of others were also parking up…

When we’d left home it had been a stunning clear and sunny day but, as we’d headed down the M6 towards Tebay, the cloud had got lower and lower and our hills were in mist.

We got our bags on and set off straight up the ridge above – I said we’d probably either come down the next ridge to the left or perhaps come down the whole of the northern ridge to Carlingill Beck as there was a big track going down that shoulder. We were going to decide on the summit.

We headed off up the track at a reasonable angle. Soon, the path petered out (as they often do). Also, after a while, it became very steep indeed and also quite stony – I was surprised as I hadn’t thought it looked like that from the M6 – it just looked pleasant and grassy and looked to have a continuous path. I didn’t suspect anything however…

We continued to plod steeply and sightlessly upwards through the mist until the ground started to flatten off onto a huge and featureless plateau. Eventually we reached what we thought must be the highest bit as it went downhill all around us – funny – there was no summit cairn whatsoever. Even on grassy hills, someone usually drags a few small stones from below to mark the spot. Hmmm…

The map said we had to head slightly down the back of the hill and we’d soon meet our track. We did and we did… it was a nice 2-person track (probably made by a vehicle) and it headed off northwards down the long shoulder to the beck – we decided to follow it all the way down the hill…

It was a pleasant walk down the track and we met quite a few people coming up into the mist. Soon, the mist cleared and we saw the motorway which we’d been hearing all the time we’d been plodding through the mist.

Towards the end of our descent, I mentioned that the fascinating and reputedly-scary Carlingill was behind our descent ridge and asked if Simon would be interested in heading round for a look. He was as keen as I was.

We descended to Carlingill Beck and headed up the gill – at first just pleasant and grassy. We had to change sides a couple of times though as some bits of banking were awkward otherwise… After a big bend, we saw the dramatic narrowing of the gill and steepening of the sides. The next photo is looking back from around the bend to our descent ridge…

A little path set off up the left-hand side of the gill…

As we finished gaining height up the side, we came to a very unpleasant bit indeed… I hoped there weren’t too many of these. The loose and crumbling path went across the top of a vertical section right by the top of a tree (which emphasised the drop nicely!)

I rushed across it followed by Simon – it was slightly uphill so was going to be easier on the way out than on the way back. Then the path continued on around the corner and was fine again.

looking back at scary bit

All the time I’d looked from the motorway at Carlingill, I thought that Black Force (a steep and spectacular side gill) was the famous ‘scary exit’ of Carlingill. Below is the bottom fall of Black Force (all we could see at the time) but Carlingill continued on past it. This is certainly an escape route – either up the rib to the left or up the beck itself (a Grade 1 scramble which I quite fancy).

The gill continued levelly and we remained down at beck level but it started to get rockier.

There was a lot of beck crossing (but then there always is in gill exploration)

a couple of awkward sections…

and a very pretty slabby section – here is a before and after stitched photo – before on the left, after on the right when it had started clearing a bit on our way back…

We rounded the final corner (at this level) and The (infamous) Spout hove mistily into view…

We studied the left-hand side of the waterfall for potential routes up – we both agreed it all looked pretty lethal really…

About the only way I could see to go was to ascend the rib to the left of the waterfall by its right-hand side after going up the first small step of the waterfall to reach it. It’s fine from there to the top of the rib which takes you perhaps a quarter or third of the way up the height you need to reach to pass the fall.

I’d go up on the very left of the photo and traverse across just above the top slabs

Being above this rib means you’ve less distance to slither rapidly back down when the mossy ground gives way further up! Might make a slip survivable anyway. I’d say all other options are just lethal. I’ve seen photos of Bowland Climber’s ascent further left looking back down the drop – they were completely horrifying! Superb photos on a better day though – have a look here

Where Bowland Climber and his mate went up – looks far worse from above!

After gazing in horror and disbelief for a while, we headed back along the gill. I noticed as I looked through my lens the weather was starting to clear a bit now…

Black jaws!

We were soon back at the magnificent Black Force which you could now see…

If the two becks are low enough, I’d advise crossing here and taking the other gill-side back as that would avoid the nasty and loose vertical section!

The rib to the left of Black Force looks easy and would make an excellent escape route if you don’t fancy the gill scramble…

But I really fancy the gill scramble so took this photo to study later 🙂

We stayed on the side we’d used earlier and headed on to tackle the ‘nasty bit’. It was worse in descent – I led and Simon followed – neither of us liked it! But then all the excitement was over…

We headed back down to beck level and rounded the big bend again. We stayed on the right-hand side of the beck this time. It was grassy and pleasant and we didn’t feel the need to cross the beck at all… It was so nice on one section that we stopped for a coffee and biscuit break – the sun was even trying to break through…

We then set off again around the final bend to the road bridge over the beck for the mile walk back to the car.

On rounding the final bend to the carpark, a very unfortunate sight met my eyes… My desired ridge was quite a way past our carpark and we’d completely missed, not only the beautiful ridge, but our hill! We’d just done the shoulder of it (Linghaw)!

I wondered whether I should tell Simon… in the end I did – after all, I may well want to take him up the proper route sometime. Good job we’d visited the gill or we’d have had a completely wasted day! I was glad I’d seen Carlingill though and intend to go back for a longer look and maybe a scramble up Black Force Beck (or its rib if not).

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27 responses

25 07 2020
Simon Howlett

Really enjoyed the walk Carol, even the scary bits! Nice series of photos, Black Force looks magnificent. Hope to head out to the Howgills with you again at some point when covid is sorted.

Had a nice walk yesterday, Striding Edge and Swirrel Edge from Thirlmere side. Loads of people up there, we all formed a nice orderly queue!

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26 07 2020
mountaincoward

The fells are far too busy now aren’t they? And Keswick centre etc. I’m hoping it all calms back down again soon. I did my first gill exploration since the ‘lockdown’ the other day – got exceedingly wet!

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28 07 2020
Simon Howlett

Yes, there were a lot of people heading up to Helvellyn, car parks full on the Thirlmere side. The gill exploration looks like a lot of fun – nice to splash around in the water during the ascent!

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28 07 2020
mountaincoward

Well, I didn’t mean to splash around. I didn’t fall in but there were quite a few bits where I was squeezing up a very narrow bit of grass at the side of a fall and the water was running down off the rocks above and down my neck while I faffed about trying to get up! Gave me an added incentive anyway!

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28 07 2020
Simon Howlett

Next time I do a gill walk I’ll bring a bar of soap, sounds like a great opportunity to have a shower!

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29 07 2020
mountaincoward

well there’s certainly plenty of ‘plunge pools’ if you want a bath instead!

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13 07 2020
Blue Sky Scotland

Left 4 earlier comments but didn’t get through due to Akismet- which is why it was so short.

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14 07 2020
mountaincoward

Hmmm – wonder why it suddenly decided to pick on you after letting your comments through all this time? It isn’t anything within my control unfortunately though…

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9 07 2020
bob

Always fancied a day on the Howgills.

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10 07 2020
mountaincoward

Hi Bob – not sure why I had to moderate and approve your comment? I don’t normally have to!

Well, if you fancy a day on them and are staying for more than a day, I’ll gladly accompany you and you could even stay at my house (post Covid of course). I could guide you to just miss another summit!

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9 07 2020
Stuart Templeton

Sounds like you had a fantastic walk even if you did miss the hill you were actually after – the scramble up the Black Fall looks great fun.

I’m always massively impressed by the photos you get out of that old Zenit – superb stuff!

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10 07 2020
mountaincoward

They’re fairly awful photos for this post – partly with being sat around in my drawer waiting for the processors to open, partly because their chemicals were probably sat waiting too and partly because it was so misty!

Liked by 1 person

11 07 2020
Stuart Templeton

I thought they looked pretty good actually – they add to the atmosphere!

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12 07 2020
mountaincoward

Thanks 🙂 There was plenty of ‘atmosphere’!

Liked by 1 person

9 07 2020
KC Redding-Gonzalez

If you hadn’t “missed” it, look what you would have never guessed was there! So beautiful…

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9 07 2020
mountaincoward

Oh I knew Carlingill was there and had been meaning to go and visit it for ages – I’m glad we did that day as it saved the day from being a failure. I’ll certainly be going back for a longer look – preferably in better weather!

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9 07 2020
Alli Templeton

This sounds an amazing adventure even if you did miss the hill! Your imposing photos made me feel as though I was there with you. The weather really was vastly different when you were there from when you’d set off, wasn’t it? It can’t be easy with all that mist obscuring your view forward, but in any case, names like ‘Black Force’ would be enough to frighten me off in the first place! You’re a plucky lass, I’ll say that! And when you go back to bag your hill, make sure it’s a clearer day, and mind those ‘nasty bits’… 🙂

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9 07 2020
mountaincoward

The hill itself doesn’t have any nasty bits – none of the Howgill hills do – just that one gill which is a scary beast! I’ll be hoping for much better weather next time but, with it being an hour away, there’s no saying it will be good there when we get there – it might do the same again!

Liked by 1 person

9 07 2020
Alli Templeton

All adds to the excitement, I guess. Just be careful, even on the less scary beasts. 😉

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9 07 2020
John Bainbridge

Not really done that side as we mostly go out from Sedbergh. How very dramatic!

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9 07 2020
mountaincoward

Probably the most drama in The Howgills. I’m still amazed people go up ‘The Spout’ at the end – it really does look damned dangerous!

Liked by 1 person

9 07 2020
underswansea

Sounds like a great day of exploring. You will have to go back on a nicer day and tackle some of those rocky draws and maybe a dip in one of the pools of the tumbling creek. Wonderful looking country. Take care.

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9 07 2020
mountaincoward

I fully intend to go back and will be hoping for much nicer weather.

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8 07 2020
bowlandclimber

You didn’t have the best of weather did you, but you made the most of the day which is always satisfying.
I think all those scrambles would be pleasanter on a dry summer’s day.
I have vague memories from years ago of scrambling up a virtually dry Black Force. The lady I did it with is now suffering from severe Alzheimer’s so obviously can’t concur – very sad.
Thanks for reminding me of our near-death experience with your link.
This pandemic is going on a bit, isn’t it?

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8 07 2020
mountaincoward

I thought it would go on to be honest – I think it will be all this year at the very least – I said that right back at the start. A bit like ‘foot and mouth’ year…

Liked by 1 person

8 07 2020
bowlandclimber

I’m certainly not booking any holidays this year.
We are lucky to have the hills close by.

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9 07 2020
mountaincoward

I’ll be going to some of our usual guest houses in the Lakes but no further afield this year. They’ve all had to set up proper social distancing within the accommodation so, hopefully, it should be safe. We’re leaving it till the rush dies down a bit though!

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