#211 – Cat Bells – small but perfectly formed!

Heading south on the Cat Bells Ridge

Heading south on the Cat Bells Ridge

Our day on Skiddaw (see post #210) had been a change from our local hills in North Wales, and a check on the weather forecast showed it looking fair for the day after.   It didn’t take long to decide to grab another lakes day, but where?    A short hill day before driving back to Wales (including a dog walk for Border Collie ‘Mist’) was looking favourite, and we were in the Northern Lakes so it had to be Cat Bells.

Starting out

Starting out

Cat Bells is regarded by many as a bit of a soft option, and no wonder.   A height of 451 metres (1,480 ft) isn’t going to set many pulses racing, either through excitement or exertion, and it’s widely regarded as a family day out – so what’s wrong with that, I ask.  The well-known Lakeland walker Alfred Wainwright said of the hill,  “It is one of the great favourites, a family fell where grandmothers and infants can climb the heights together, a place beloved. Its popularity is well deserved.”

On the low east-side path, with Derwent Water to the right

On the low east-side path, with Derwent Water to the right

I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve been up here, but one occasion was July 23 1986.   I remember it because it was the day that Prince Andrew married Sarah Ferguson, and rather than stay at home with wall-to-wall royal wedding on the TV, I decided a walk up Cat Bells with my oldest daughter Kelly would be a good alternative.   My youngest daughter Heather was too young to make the walk at two years old, but Kelly romped it at 3¾ – Cat Bells certainly is a hill for all ages.

The start of the uphill ….

The start of the uphill ….

…. and a little further on

…. and a little further on

The popularity of the hill has its downside – get to the start point after nine o’clock on a warm Sunday morning with good weather guaranteed and you can be certain that every parking space in the area is full.    Well, not quite every space, and a bit of local knowledge soon turned up enough room for the camper.

Still heading upwards ….

Still heading upwards ….

…. and a busy day!

…. and a busy day!

Our route was the classic circuit – the path on the lower slopes of the east side of Cat Bells took us to the popular start point near Hawse End, followed by a southerly traverse of the Cat Bells Ridge before descending at Hause Gate and heading down towards Manesty.

The Northern Fells behind – the Skiddaw group (left of centre) and Blencathra (right)

The Northern Fells behind – the Skiddaw group (left of centre) and Blencathra (right)

Border Collie ‘Mist’ checking out the route ahead

Border Collie ‘Mist’ checking out the route ahead

Looking south on the Cat Bells Ridge with the summit looming ahead

Looking south on the Cat Bells Ridge with the summit looming ahead

Everyone having fun!

Everyone having fun!

We expected it to be busy, but found it not too bad – several family groups with kids mingled with the older generation, but there is enough room for everyone up there.  Joining in with the fun were a couple of paragliders taking advantage of good soaring conditions over the summit ridge.

The view north on the Cat Bells Ridge, with Skiddaw (centre) and Blencathra (right) in the distance

The view north on the Cat Bells Ridge, with Skiddaw (centre) and Blencathra (right) in the distance

Chris at the top of the scrambly bit near the summit ….

Chris at the top of the scrambly bit near the summit ….

…. and heading south from the summit to start the descent

…. and heading south from the summit to start the descent

Despite all the family joviality going on, there are a couple of short rocky scrambles to add interest to the day – it’s the kind of ground that fell-runners hurtle up or down but where the less confident or those with creaky legs might suddenly think, “Hey, I thought this was supposed to be an easy day out!”    In reality, the rocky bits really are short and add interest like a bit of extra seasoning.

Paraglider pilot having fun over Cat Bells summit

Paraglider pilot having fun over Cat Bells summit

The start of the downhill bit ….

The start of the downhill bit ….

…. heading towards Manesty in the Borrowdale valley

…. heading towards Manesty in the Borrowdale valley

Good old Cat Bells! –  Not the biggest or the longest or most difficult day out in the Lakes, but plenty to occupy three hours or so.   And did I mention the views?  The photos probably give an idea, but if you have never been there, you’ll have to go and find out for yourselves!

On the way home

On the way home

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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3 Responses to #211 – Cat Bells – small but perfectly formed!

  1. Stan Bonnar says:

    Now this is more our size, and beautiful too! Will tackle Cat Bells soon. Thanks Paul, hope you and Chris are well.
    kind regards, Stan

  2. LensScaper says:

    You had the perfect day too, Paul. It’s one of my favourite walks too, and the view of Cat Bells from the far side of Derwentwater makes for a beautiful Photograph – there’s something special about the sinuous rise and fall of that ridge.

  3. I like Catbells now but have to say that, when I started out as a very nervous fellwalker, it used to scare me quite a bit and I never thought it was a beginner’s hill – there are many simpler hills. The reason was the steepness/narrowness of the ascent and the rocky sections, especially in the wet. I’d never recommend it as someone’s first Wainwright – I’d send them up something like Barrow I think…
    Carol.

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