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Date: 06 May 2005
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||Crookdale fells||15 miles / 2810 feet (24.2km / 856m)|
|Day 2||Sleddale fells||11 miles / 1450 feet (17.7km / 441m)|
Another circuit of the far eastern outlying fells, covering the Crookdale fells omitted last time. As pointed out on Shap Fells #1, the going is pretty boggy in places and therefore quite tiring, but the ridges have expansive views and the remote daleheads are little frequented, an area of quiet wild charm.
From Shap we took the lane SW to Keld and over the River Lowther. At 548141 a track branches off L to join the access road, where we turned L over the bridge and hiked SE to the lane to Wet Sleddale reservoir, accompanied by the pure trilling of the local curlews. From the car park information board, a track heads along the S shore and just before a stone building at a waymark post, a discernible path climbs the hillside L to meet Poorhag Gill on the L of the trees. Further up, a line of shooting butts guide the way to the Lunch House and beyond on the L of the stream, a slow boggy climb. The large boulder of Gray Bull came into view on the R, and we crossed the trackless heathery moor to reach it. A short walk beyond on the far side of Sherry Gill is the first objective Sleddale Pike, a minor rise on the slopes of scrubby heather and grass.
Crossing a trackless area of peat hags with a central pool, a short climb gains the ridge at Wasdale Pike, where a grassy tractor track gives much easier going SW and passes through a gate to arrive at the wall/fence junction on Great Yarlside. Turning SE on the far side of the wall, a short climb gains a small cairn on the secondary top (the main summit lies to the NW of the junction). As the ground starts to descend, a few metres from the wall is a trig ground station, a concrete disc with a central metal stud.
Crossing to the L side of the wall at a breach, we followed the ridge SE, passing over the minor flat top of Little Yarlside and circling L around a bog to Whatshaw Common, with a good view E to the Whinfell ridge and the Howgills. The fence arrives at the bridleway just before the A6 at a gate, and a very wet churned up mess it is too. With some ingenuity we negotiated it successfully and it quickly improved, descending to Hause Foot farm and joining the access road. Just after the road passes under the pylons, we climbed very steeply SW up High House Bank. We were expecting to find a stile but we must have missed it and had to negotiate a stone wall, not difficult. Beyond the wall, the angle eased and we quickly reached the summit.
The ridge NW was easy going on dry grass with a thin path, which made short work of Robin Hood and Lord's Seat. The stiff breeze had become a strong wind by now, and we descended to Bleaberry Gill to collect water and seek out a sheltered pitch. We found a good spot in the lea of a rocky knoll near Buck Crags and pitched just before the forecast rain and hail set in for the evening.
In the morning the northerly airstream had cleared the air well, and only the highest tops were capped in cloud as we set off climbing NW across Crookdale Head, reaching the ridge to the E of Harrop Pike with its fine cairn. There were fine views as we walked SW to Grey Crag, with the Yorkshire hills visible as far as Ingleborough. Crossing the spongy col towards Tarn Crag, the low sun illuminated the rich marsh colours beautifully.
Descending to the head of Mosedale, the bridleway down the valley rates highly on the squelchometer and becomes a track at Mosedale Cottage where there was one tent pitched. Further along we collected water at a side stream and took the R fork, which peters out as it approaches the bridge over Mosedale Beck, and climbed around Scam Matthew to the rocky top of High Wether Howe.
Due N are the scattered rocky knolls of Swindale Common. This usually deserted route is pathless at first but easy going, first to a cairn atop a small rocky rise and then to the more substantial Fewling Stones. Descending around the prominent outcrop of Beastman's Crag, a thin path appears that follows the intake wall to the top of the attractive deep cleft where Gouthercrag Gill tumbles over the edge amid the trees. From here there are several tractor tracks meandering generally NE, and it is easy walking to the cairn on Langhowe Pike.
A grassy cart track descends NE through 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.