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Date: 30 Aug 2004
Start / Finish: Shap. Free car park on A6 main street.
Maps: Outdoor Leisure 5 and 7: English Lakes North-East and South-East.
|Day 1||Swindale & Mosedale fells||13 miles / 3110 feet (20.9km / 959m)|
|Day 2||Bannisdale fells||11 miles / 2430 feet (17.7km / 740m)|
|Day 3||Sleddale fells||12 miles / 980 feet (19.3km / 298m)|
A circuit of the little frequented far eastern outlying fells, 22 in all, a good choice for a bank holiday period. The eastern half of the Bannisdale circuit is quite boggy and surprisingly rough in places, and is a lot more tiring than the statistics suggest.
From Shap we took the lane SW to Keld and NW to Rosgill Moor, where a bridleway track heads off SW towards Scalebarrow Knott, the summit being gained by a short diversion R. Rejoining the track and crossing a depression, a steady climb leads to Harper Hills just beyond a reservoir building. Continuing by the wall to a chimney, we climbed SW over easy slopes to gain Hare Shaw, giving a fine prospect to the W. At this point we descended SE to join the corpse road down to Swindale Head, where a climb by the waterfalls was a major objective we had never done before. The succession of falls on the steep climb to Mosedale was not disappointing, although a scramble in the upper section right next to the river would have been more exciting than the path well above it - but not with backpacks!.
Reaching the top of the falls, we climbed R to the top of Nabs Moor with a good view of Swindale, then headed S over trackless but easy terrain to cross a fence, and SW to the summit of Howes. An attractive tarn lies on the edge of the fell to the E, and from here we slanted down SW to join a stream to the top of the old quarry. The quarry track winds through the ruins and peters out, but a short way further is Great Grains Gill, where we collected good water. Fording the gill, we soon joined the bridleway and squelched along to the col. A stiff pull to Tarn Crag with its summit cairn and tall pillar was rewarded with good clear views, with the distinctive shape of Ingleborough in the distance. Descending to the boggy col, there is a short section where the ground literally heaves underfoot like a huge blancmange, and a short climb S gave us our first grassy pitch on Grey Crag.
The morning was misted out at first, but it suddenly cleared over a wide area leaving veils and shrouds visible over the highest tops and distant Yorkshire mountains. Descending SE over wet and trackless ground, we veered E to cross a small stream that yielded quite good water, and reached the fence by a rocky outcrop. Turning S to the join the westernmost ridge, there is easy walking over a couple of fell tops that are nameless in AW8, but where the nomenclature has since gone a bit adrift:- the first top is clearly Ancrow Brow on the OL map, but the Birkett list has the second higher top as Ancrow Brow. The ridge cart track then swings out L around a tarn and marches on to Capplebarrow. Scaling a wall at the next col, a short walk gains Todd Fell. We returned E to recross the wall here and follow it up towards Whiteside Pike, which may well have been a mistake as we had to cross again at the top, where there was also a wire fence mounted on the wall to contend with. It was well worth the effort though as this is a splendid little top, with a neat cairn on a rocky tor and great views.
Descending ESE to a pool, the wall becomes a fence which unfortunately was in bog and standing water - we crossed the wall a fourth time. Circling around the bog, we then slanted down E over easy ground and followed a tiny stream to a gate by Dryhowe bridge. Through a gate on the far side, a grassy track immediately branches off R, and where it reaches the corner of the wood, we took to the slopes, climbing steeply to the R of the crags and gaining the small cairn on Lamb Pasture. This is a fell of two halves, the enticing crags and ease of the ascent are now replaced by a trackless and tiring descent to a gate through a blanket of awful dense tussocks. The going is a little easier but wetter on the far side, and a long trackless climb leads to Borrowdale Head (the Birkett designation, nameless in AW8). Easier walking now leads down to a wall gap and easy fence, and the slightly higher top and trig point of White Howe, another good viewpoint.
Heading N to the continuing ridge wall, a peaty walk brought us to a junction where Long Crag lies a short way L. There is now a clear and dead straight line between a wall and fence stretching ahead to Borrowdale Moss, where it turns W to the start point of the circuit. Collecting water at the same stream as this morning, we followed the boggy fenceline to our second pitch on Harrop Pike with its grand tall cairn.
A cold and clear morning had settled mist in the valleys, and we were able to capture a photo of the moon against a dawn sky of pink hues. A path follows the ridge fence to the indistinct top of Great Yarlside. At a wall junction we turned L on a grassy cart track that meanders out to Wasdale Pike and its collapsed cairn. The easiest route now is to return along the cart track and leave it beyond a gate to head N to Little Saddle Crag. The larger but lower Great Saddle Crag can be seen below, but the impact of the crags is seen to advantage only lower down. The next objective Ulthwaite Rigg is a very minor rise and not immediately obvious, but heading NW over trackless and somewhat rough terrain we crossed several tributaries of Sleddale Beck, collecting good water on the way, and made the tiny climb to the top. Surveying the land to the N, there are parallel ditches crossing the valley, and we followed the leftmost one which was a surprisingly dry and easy line, then followed the edge of the haggy area to the bridleway track.
Climbing N to another track, we followed it to the base of Scam Matthew, where we skirted the base and climbed easily to High Wether Howe, where Haskew Tarn came into view. Following the fence E, just past a rocky outcrop we diverged L on a cart track that threads its way directly towards Seat Robert, which has a cairn and windshelter. To the NE across a boggy depression is Great Ladstones, an area of rocky knolls from which there are grand views over this lovely and little visited area. Roughly following the line of rocky tors and their cairns, we descended to cross Mealhowe Gill and climbed to the top of White Cap. The cairn atop the last fell, Langhowe Pike, can be seen ahead and is quickly reached. A grassy cart track descends NE between the outcrops to cross Tailbert Gill, and just after the tiny outcrop at Blaze Hill we slanted off R to join the unfenced road, which rejoins the outward route.