Lake District: Skiddaw

Skiddaw Little Man (NY 266277, 865m)
Skiddaw Man (NY 260290, 931m)

10.7 kilometres
740m of ascent

Skiddaw route
Click to enlarge
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Path data © OpenStreetMap contributors under the Open Database Licence

On the way home from Yorkshire, a few months ago, I took a quick swerve into the Lake District to spend a couple of hours wandering up and down the tourist route on Skiddaw. Other priorities meant that I didn’t get around to posting that walking report until now.

Even on a weekday in late March, the rudimentary car park at Ormathwaite was packed with vehicles, and the hill something of a processional. I wondered how busy the approach from Bassenthwaite in the north was—I’d made a decision to go for the rather plodding southern approach simply because of the relatively short road detour in and out of Keswick.

Anyway. It was a scenic enough walk, albeit along the sort of motorway track that’s required on such a heavily trodden hill. I passed the pretty Hawell Memorial, commemorating three shepherds of the district, and then struck off up the long zig-zag on to the shoulder of Jenkin Hill.

Hawell Monument, Skiddaw
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The Skiddaw motorway
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The view south, across Keswick and Derwent Water towards Scafell Pike opened up steadily as I climbed—I took about four photographs of the same view from slightly different heights.

Derwent Water and Keswick from Skiddaw
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As usual in the Lakes, I was feeling oddly under-dressed. On a bright spring day, I was strolling along in shirt-sleeves, but I kept encountering people who were wearing the sort of garb I associate with skiing in sub-zero conditions—swathed in multiple layers, balaclavas covering their faces, hoods pulled up. I couldn’t help but wonder what they wore in the winter.

On Jenkin Hill I turned left from the main drag and climbed Skiddaw Little Man, where I took another picture of Derwent Water, and then headed across the dip to the main Skiddaw ridge.

Skiddaw from Little Man
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The ridge itself gave me my first view down on to Bassenthwaite Lake, and a glimpse of the path that comes up over Longside Edge and Carl Side—I’m really going to need to go back and come up that way.

Longside Edge and Bassenthwaite Lake from Skiddaw
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And then on to the trig. point on the main summit, Skiddaw Man, and its little view indicator (surprisingly basic for such a well-patronized hill).

Skiddaw Man
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Skiddaw view indicator and Bassenthwaite Lake
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I walked along the ridge a little farther, for the view northwards, and then turned to descend the way I came up. And it was here, at the south end of the ridge, that I had another encounter with the Hill Police.

I seem to be doomed to have one of these meetings once a decade. In my thirties, I was approached and chastised by a man wearing a kilt, for leaving my rucksack by the cairn while I nipped over to another summit a kilometre away (on a cloudless day of light winds, and carrying a compass with my return bearing already registered). In my forties, on a Grampian plateau in foul weather and worsening visibility, I was stopped by two men who told me to turn back immediately (at which point I had to explain that I had already turned back—I had just come up from the opposite direction to them). In my fifties, a young woman interrogated me in the car park about my plans for the day, and then assured me, with a combination of concern and disdain, that I didn’t have nearly enough food with me (I suppressed the urge to tell her that my provisioning plans had been working pretty well for the last thirty-five years).

And now, barely into my sixties, the Hill Police were at me again—I can only deduce that, while I imagine I radiate an air of calm capability on the hill, I’m actually coming over as a hapless idiot to those around me. On this occasion, a man wrapped in more clothing than Hillary and Tenzing wore on Everest came striding across to my shirt-sleeved self and directed me to descend the hill immediately, because the wind was “lethal” and I couldn’t “be up here dressed like that”. I was staring at him with some bemusement when I happened to glance over his shoulder and burst into laughter. Two young women were arriving from the direction of Carl Side, and they had not only stripped down to their T-shirts for the climb, they had rolled up the T-shirt sleeves. He wheeled around, stared at them incredulously for a moment, waved his arms up and down, shouted “My God!” in their direction (much to their consternation), and then strode off without another word.

So that was … interesting.

2 thoughts on “Lake District: Skiddaw”

  1. No difficulty following your trek. I laughed at the persnicketiness of the mountain police. I suppose there may be some dolts out hill walking who have no regard for the circumstances

  2. Yes, some folk are obviously completely inexperienced and unprepared, and you tend to meet them in quite specific tourist locations. And some folk have a bit of experience but have ventured into a place beyond their abilities – storms, winter conditions, exposed ridges.
    I’m just slightly distressed that after a good half-century in the Scottish hills, man and boy, I’m still not managing to pull off the “grizzled veteran – leave me alone” look.
    I’ve always wanted to be a grizzled veteran.

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