High Pike via Brandy Gill & Carrock Mines

23 10 2020

Wed 9 September 2020
Another gill I’d been eyeing up for quite some time – Brandy Gill which rises from Carrock Mines and goes between Carrock Fell & High Pike. This is how NOT to do it!

All photos:
my Zenith manual film SLR

During my campaign on Bowscale Fell, which was primarily a campaign of the face above Bowscale Tarn, I kept seeing this gill. It looked pretty interesting and I kept determining to have an explore of it – as you do…

As it happens, this gill does have a path all the way up it and all difficulties are avoidable… but that wouldn’t be much fun would it? πŸ˜‰

Brandy Gill (and a giraffe-sheep) from Bowscale Fell

Late one sunny afternoon (you have to walk late this year or you won’t get parked anywhere and the fells will be mowed out) I decided it was the day to visit the gill and drove around to Bowscale to park. You can park up the valley at the roadend by Carrock Mines but I was in my old and battered Sunny and didn’t want to wreck him on the bad road surface. Anyway, it’s only a single-track road and I figured everyone would be making their way back down it by the time I arrived (around 1600).

As it turned out, there was only one car parked up and no-one passed me as I walked the couple of miles along the pleasant valley road. This road would be superb for cycling and I’m planning to take Richard to see the mines sometime and have suggested we cycle down the valley.

The mines look very interesting but I only gave them a cursory look as it was the gill I was interested in really and I knew I’d be coming back for a better explore of the mines. The mine road takes off at the end of the tarmacked road and has a barrier across.

Bowscale Fell from Carrock Mine Track

The gill starts directly from the information board at the mines and goes up the hillside on your right…

A track sets off on the right-hand side of the beck through the heather…

There is a bit of beck crossing if you want to stay with the gill (which I did) and then, around a corner, you meet the first fall…

A path stays high on the right of the waterfall and bypasses it easily. On the left, down by the beck, where I was, I climbed up a landslip to a traverse towards the lip of the fall. This was fine apart from one awkward slab which was too far to stride across and had a very bad slope and a very slight foothold. I took a deep breath and went for it. My foot didn’t slip off and I reached the far side of the slab without incident – phew…

Looking back down some way after the first fall…

There was what I call a ‘meadow section’ – I think it was before the second fall but not sure – could have been after it…

The second fall is easily bypassed on either side – easier on the right so, of course, I went left…

The third (and final, although I didn’t know it at the time) fall looked to have a nice climb up the left-hand side of it. A little path traversed in to about five feet up the fall and I could clearly see my first few moves so I went for it. This waterfall has an interesting-looking mine level to its right – on reading other blogs, apparently the roof of it has some interesting crystals…

I left the little path onto a good ledge about five inches wide – from here I could see a good toehold up to my right. The trouble was, it was a pretty long way up to my right. I looked harder and saw a narrower and shorter ledge under a slight overhang which was five or six inches higher than the main ledge. This was all it took for me to comfortably reach the toehold up to my right. I launched myself up the two holds.

At this point, handholds became very sparse. I had another very small foothold further up to my left – by now I was quite a way to the right on the rocks and well away from my initial ledges. At this point I didn’t think it mattered and I fished around for more handholds.

I had one good handhold but everything else I tried was either loose or came out in my hand. I’d also run out of footholds – I only really needed one more but there really wasn’t anything – just smooth slab. If I’d had two great handholds, I’d have been happy to just put my right foot on the smooth slab and try to haul myself upwards. However, I just had the one and it was quite a way to the left…

I groped around higher and eventually found that the top of the fall consisted of a very solid triangular ledge of rock which was pointed-side upwards. I could put both hands on this and debated about whether to just haul upwards on this and try my foot on the holdless slab. However, I was a bit daunted by the fact that the rock was mossy and my hands might slip off – I thought they probably wouldn’t but I was about 20 feet up now and didn’t fancy sliding back down in a hurry!

I dithered around for a while but in the end, lost faith and decided I really ought to climb back down the waterfall, bearing in mind I was on my own and no-one had any idea where I was.

I reversed the two upper footholds and lowered my left leg as far as I could down to the left looking for my original ledges. The first ledge was too far even for my humungous reach and the higher, smaller ledge was hiding somewhere refusing to be found.

Bearing in mind the looseness of the other handholds in the vicinity of the one I was clinging to with both hands and, by now, with all my weight on it as I’d abandoned my higher footholds, I was starting to worry the handhold would eventually part company with the parent rock and hurl me down the waterfall…

I searched and searched for the required foothold but, by now, was certain I was going to peel off and scrape all the way down the rock to the beck below. I wasn’t worried about getting wet but I was worried about the damage I might incur during the descent!

Eventually, I found something for my foot, my handhold didn’t fall off, and I managed to get back onto the comfortable ledge I’d traversed in on. I was a little shaken up by now though!

I quickly went up the heather at the side of the fall and continued up the gill. There was a fence with a stile over it, lots of new tree planting in the gill and then the landslips I’d seen from Bowscale Fell. I was thinking this part of the gill would be exciting but there were no more excitements to be had – just a long plod upwards through long, rough grass with holes hidden in it.

looking back down from near the end

The gill spreads out into a semi-circle at the end with lots of easy exits – I chose the boggiest as that was where the stream went and I wanted to be a purist. The way ahead up a sandy banking is the proper route though and probably nicer but there was a nice patch of Rosebay Willowherb flowers at the top of my exit…

Exit ridge from beck top

Final look back down the gill before going through the gate at the top and across rough grass to the Carrock Fell-High Pike path…

I then stomped up High Pike feeling quite tired after my little excitement! It was cold and windy up here so I didn’t stay but just headed straight back down to take the track to Lingy Hut – once a shooting hut and now an MBA-run bothy…

There was nice, changing light on the corrie with Bowscale Tarn in across the valley so I took a couple of photos…

Lingy Hut was unlocked and I had a quick peep in. What a lovely little bothy – I must have a night in it sometime when the Covid thing is over. As soon as you entered it was snug and warm after the cold wind. There was a pack of cards, a couple of good sleeping platforms and a great view down the valley.

A path headed straight down to the valley below the hut and I took it – a very wet path it was too!

You descend past another pretty little gill but it doesn’t look exciting in any way…

On reaching the mines again, there was just the long but pleasant walk back down the valley and then home for a well-earned tea! πŸ™‚

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21 responses

29 10 2020
underswansea

Very fine post. Sounds like quite a hike. Great photos as usual. I am glad you considered that no one knew where you were before you trusted that mossy hand hold. I have become fond of your ‘cowardly’ adventures and would be disappointed if they ended abruptly. πŸ™‚ Take care out there.

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29 10 2020
mountaincoward

well falling back down the waterfall wouldn’t have killed me – it was only around 20 feet and would have been a scrape back down rather than a clean fall. But I still didn’t fancy it!

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2 11 2020
underswansea

There were two young people killed in the mountains near here this year. They both fell down a ‘bank’ not a cliff. Both succumbed to their injuries. They hadn’t told anybody where they were and nobody thought to look for them until they didn’t show up for work 3 days later.

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2 11 2020
mountaincoward

I suppose there’s the advantage that Richard (my friend who I sometimes walk with) expects me to ring each night (to cover these kinds of eventualities). If I don’t, he sends the police out looking for my car. Doesn’t help I have 2 cars though!

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28 10 2020
Alli Templeton

That’s quite an adventure you had there, Carol! All that clambering and finding foot and handholds would have terrified me. Stll, it looks well worth it for the views and the beautiful photos you got. That’s a true piece of wild England at its best. I’ve never been inside a bothy before, but that one looks lovely from the outside. But would you really spend a night in one all on your own?
Really enjoyed this one, and sorry for the late reading. I’m into my final (dissertation) module now, and it’s pretty heavy going, but it’s always good to escape into the world of Carol’s adventures for a nice break from the hard slog. πŸ™‚

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28 10 2020
mountaincoward

Hi Alli – yes, I’ve spent nights in bothies on my own before so I definitely would. You can never guarantee to be on your own though as bothies are ‘open’ so people can just turn up. One post (which is pretty entertaining) which I wrote about a lone bothy trip is here:
https://mountaincowardadventures.wordpress.com/?s=bendronaig

Liked by 1 person

28 10 2020
Alli Templeton

Another fantastic read, Carol, and an education. Loved it. πŸ™‚

Liked by 1 person

26 10 2020
tessapark1969

You might need to change the name of the blog as that sounded anything but cowardly!

The parking has been awful and I’ve ended up having to set off way earlier than I normally would.

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26 10 2020
mountaincoward

I definitely don’t do early though so I have to go late. It’s been terrible though and I’m hoping it’s better next year when the usual people can go back abroad or something.

I never said I was a gill coward, just a mountain coward! πŸ˜‰ Mountains involve potential falls of a few hundred feet but gills are generally just about 20 feet or so – usually survivable but probably unpleasant! I also tend to be overconfident in the Lakes – especially my ‘Northern Fells’!

The next post is pretty similar – me having trouble with another northern fell gill… after that, not sure when another post will be as I can’t figure out this new WordPress ‘editor’ yet! 😦

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1 11 2020
tessapark1969

I’m struggling with the new editor too 😦

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1 11 2020
mountaincoward

I have a plan… when it’s ever warm enough to write a post upstairs on my laptop (when this bloody wind goes away!), I’m probably going to do just a written post first. Then I’m going to put out an inconsequential post with 6 stray photos which need editing into older posts but which I daren’t do yet (I don’t want to wreck already published posts). I’m hoping that, after that, I might be able to figure out how the damn thing works! 😐

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24 10 2020
bowlandclimber

Those later photos looking down the gill have a Heaton Cooper light quality – lovely.

Liked by 1 person

24 10 2020
mountaincoward

Those are my 2 favourites. I think I’m going to have another go at that waterfall but take Richard up the gill so he can assist if I need to downclimb again. That way, at least someone will be on hand if I do fall off. He can just do the footpaths at the sides – he isn’t really scrambling lately as he’s too unsupple.

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24 10 2020
bowlandclimber

Take a parachute πŸ™‚

Liked by 1 person

24 10 2020
mountaincoward

I don’t suppose I’d have been seriously injured if I’d scraped back down the fall – but it wouldn’t have been very pleasant!

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24 10 2020
John Bainbridge

Must say you seem incredibly fit.

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24 10 2020
mountaincoward

That was quite a short evening saunter – I think I was only tired after the ‘excitements’!

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24 10 2020
bob

A good adventure Carol. You seem to be getting bolder with your new hip. I do that as well sometimes- leave later to avoid the crowds.

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24 10 2020
mountaincoward

I don’t mind walking late but 1600 is pretty late even for me. I used to start off around 14 or 1500 by choice. Now winter is approaching, I hope the parking situation improves as I don’t usually walk at night!

I was getting very bold just before I had my hip done with my Munros and Tops on Skye etc. – I was starting to really enjoy those. Mind you, I always had a guide for the really difficult stuff in Scotland. I’m much more confident in the Lakes – sometimes too much so – as you can see from this post!

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24 10 2020
Blue Sky Scotland

A good adventure. Are you sure It’s just your hip that’s been replaced as you seem to have improved with age rather than slowing down? I do that as well sometimes, head out in the afternoon to get a parking spot when everyone else is going home but I tend to avoid rough ground and scrambles now as my abilities and reaction times have definitely gone down with age. Popped my knee out the other day on a flat path without any warning and could hardly put any weight on it afterwards. If it happened up a mountain I’d be stuffed without help or a long crawl..

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24 10 2020
mountaincoward

Well I hope none of my joints decide to ‘pop’ out – sounds horrific! I’ve taken to gill exploration in a big way – it’s my new ‘thing’ now I’ve run out of Munros and Tops to bag. I’m now bagging Lakeland gills! πŸ™‚

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