#210 – Skiddaw and t’ Back o’ Skidda

Heading for Skiddaw, with Little Man looming ahead

Heading for Skiddaw, with Little Man looming ahead

I’ve avoided Skiddaw (or ‘Skidda’ as the locals call it) for many years.  My first brush with the mountain as a teenager ended in a dismal retreat in a rainstorm, and I didn’t go back for almost twenty years.    On that second visit I was a mountain rescue dog handler on an early morning search for a missing walker, which ended sadly with the man’s body being found.    My third visit was so unmemorable that I don’t even remember it!

The route

The route

Chris and I had a couple of days in the Lake District, and my attention turned back to Skiddaw – it’s not that it’s a particularly dull mountain, more a case of a mountain surrounded by much more interesting options.   I mean, who would bother driving miles to go up Skiddaw when the magnificent Blencathra is just next door!

Setting out near Latrigg

Setting out near Latrigg

The start of the height gain

The start of the height gain

The view back towards Latrigg, with Derwent Water and Keswick to the right

The view back towards Latrigg, with Derwent Water and Keswick to the right

‘Back o’ Skidda’

‘Back o’ Skidda’

Cloud on the tops ahead

Cloud on the tops ahead

We had parked the camper in the car park for Latrigg, giving us a head start – the weekend was set to be fine, and there was little doubt that the mountains would be crowded as the day went on.   The path soon starts to gain height, giving great views back to Latrigg, Keswick and Derwent Water on one side, and the wilderness known as the Back o’ Skidda on the other.

Looking back to Little Man (right) and the north side of Blencathra (centre)

Looking back to Little Man (right) and the north side of Blencathra (centre)

The last bit of height gain to the summit of Skiddaw

The last bit of height gain to the summit of Skiddaw

 Getting nearer now ….


Getting nearer now ….

…. with the top there at last

…. with the top there at last

We declined the option of a detour up Little Man, partly through lazy-itis and partly due to the couple of large groups going that way.    Beyond Little Man the path made one last gain in height before levelling out on the approach to the summit – then that was it, the top!  There were a few more ‘early birds’ milling about, but by Lakes standards it was fairly quiet.

The way back over Sale How (centre) ….

The way back over Sale How (centre) ….

…. and looking back towards Skiddaw

…. and looking back towards Skiddaw

I had picked a longer return route, mainly for the interest.  We turned off the main track and headed for Sale How, then on to the lonely Youth Hostel at Skiddaw House.   The views were all into the Back o’ Skidda, an area little known to most mountain walkers – you have to look a long way to find anything like a wilderness in the Lake District, but this comes pretty close, and if solitude is your thing it’s a good place to head for.

Great Calva

Great Calva

Over to our left was the lonely outpost of Great Calva – in my younger days I used to run the fells, and I once went out to Great Calva on a recce for the Bob Graham round*.   There were fewer fell runners back then, and Calva was pretty well untracked – I remember it as a bumpy, heathery, tussocky hell, though with the increased popularity of the Bob Graham there are probably paths like the M6 now.

Heading down to Skiddaw House

Heading down to Skiddaw House

The view back to Skiddaw House from the Cumbria Way

The view back to Skiddaw House from the Cumbria Way

The track down to Skiddaw House was the wettest bit of our day, but things improved as we reached the Cumbria Way running past the hostel.  Skiddaw House has had a chequered history, starting out as a game-keepers then a shepherds house, before becoming derelict in the late 20th Century.   It was due for demolition in 2003 but was saved for use as a hostel, despite several disputes with planners – it is now independently run under the banner of the YHA.   Despite being three miles from the nearest road, the hostel (elevation 1550 ft/472metres) is a popular venue for those who value peace and quiet.

Heading south on the Cumbria Way with Lonscale Fell ahead (right)

Heading south on the Cumbria Way with Lonscale Fell ahead (right)

Looking back (north) towards Great Calva

Looking back (north) towards Great Calva

Autumn colours in the bracken

Autumn colours in the bracken

 On the slopes of Lonscale Fell ….


On the slopes of Lonscale Fell ….

…. passing through Lonscale Crags

…. passing through Lonscale Crags

The last part of the route took us on the path clinging to the side of Lonscale Fell – the rain that was threatening never quite arrived, and the autumn colours of the bracken brought a splash of colour to the day.    The last bit of the walk was spent trying to keep Border Collie ‘Mist’ clean and out of the mud – one last wash in the stream did the trick, and we were soon back at the camper with a wet but clean dog.

Heading for home

Heading for home

*  The Bob Graham round is one of the great mountain running challenges of the UK.  It takes in 42 summits (including Great Calva!) over 66 miles with 27000 ft (8300 metres) of height gain, to be done in 24 hours.

Text and images © Paul Shorrock

About Paul Shorrock

I've been mucking about in the mountains for longer than I care to mention. I started out by walking my local hills, then went on to rock climbing, mountaineering and skiing. Still doing it, and still getting a buzz. I'm now sharing the fun, through my guided walking business (Hillcraft Guided Walking) and by writing routes for other publishers, mainly Walking World and Discovery Walking Guides. Just to make sure I keep really busy, I am also currently a member of my local mountain rescue team.
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11 Responses to #210 – Skiddaw and t’ Back o’ Skidda

  1. Laura says:

    Lovely photos, I enjoyed reading about your adventures as usual 🙂

    • Thanks Laura 🙂 I don’t know how you go on with Bonnie but our Mist is a mud magnet! What’s more, if she gets wet, she’s wet all day – good job we aren’t too house proud!

      • Laura says:

        Our Bonnie is the same any mud or water she will make a beeline for! Yep same here no chance of being house proud between her muddy paws and hair shedding everywhere we would spend all our free time cleaning! I may have ordered this raincoat for really mucky treks in the fields to save us a bit of hassle. Time will tell if she will tolerate it! https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B00DDC4CS8/

  2. LensScaper says:

    I climbed Skiddaw in my teens – I don’t remember a great deal about it except that it was a long haul. Blencathra is a mountain I have never climbed but It has some superb lines. Did you ever complete the Bob Graham round?

    • For me, Blencathra is the jewel in the crown – I’ve never had a bad day there, lovely mountain.
      No, I never got round to doing the full Bob Graham Round Andy, though I did recce most of it, and acted as pacer/navigator for others – I’ll save it for when I’m running out of things to do!

      • LensScaper says:

        It’ll get harder to complete it in 24hrs as the years roll by! There was an amazing news item about an 85yr old runner who recently ran a Marathon in 3hrs 56mins. Astonishing time.

  3. I actually love Skiddaw – one of my favourite Lakeland mountains – but then it’s my most ‘local’. I never do Jenkin Hill though unless it’s under snow and ice to make it interesting. I love the path through the Lonscale Gap but am generally doing the more northerly end of the fell.
    Carol.

    • Longside Edge looks interesting on the map Carol – ever been that way?

      • Ullock Pike/Longside Edge is my normal route up – it’s rare I do any other ascents in summer. I vary my descents quite a bit though. I generally stick to ascending Jenkin Hill in full winter conditions.

  4. Pingback: #211 – Cat Bells – small but perfectly formed! | Paul Shorrock – One Man's Mountains AKA One Pillock's Hillocks

  5. Pingback: #215 – A dogs life! (in 2016) | Paul Shorrock – One Man's Mountains AKA One Pillock's Hillocks

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