Lakeland’s boring giant?
Making acquaintance with Skiddaw
Through a decade of hill wanderings I’d managed to avoid hoary old Skiddaw, and Peter, having started his mountain journey in his teens had successfully got away with it for almost twice as long. It’s a well known fact that Skiddaw is a yawnsome lump; a mountain for ambitious pensioners, not serious hill folk like us!
That was our confirmed opinion but last October I remember coming along the A66 from Cockermouth and seeing it in a completely different light. Gone were the sleek lines and bracken clad prettiness, replaced by a massive grey scree covered hump which somehow caught my imagination. Furthermore, we’ve set up camp beneath the old bugger on several occasions this year and slowly but surely that huge heap has infiltrated our psyche and become an object of desire. Though we were, for a period unwilling to admit it to ourselves let alone each other the truth always has a habit of coming out in the end so when it did we both felt like the weight of the world had been lifted from our shoulders; but if we were to tackle the blighter then by what route? Silly question really, for any Wainwright aficionado there can be only one…these photographs will help tell the story…
As I write this the rain is beating upon my window and I am sat beside the fire with a good single malt (Ledaig if you really must know) which is in total contrast to how it was last week! Here we see Peter toiling up from Dodd Wood in the grip of an Indian summer. We were leaking fluid faster than we could get it on board such was the heat of the afternoon.
And here’s Peter on Ullock Pike. The ridge below is known as ‘The Edge’ and provides some classic fellwalking en route to our first ‘Wainwright’ of the day. It’s also a good place for budding geologists to study outcroppings of Skiddaw slate, the very fabric of the mountain and completely different to the volcanic material of the fells further south, accounting for the smooth outlines of these northern hills.
These two shots illustrate ‘Longside Edge’, a lovely glacial arête giving a safe but airy perambulation for even the most timid of walkers which is pure joy to tread. I sent Peter on his way to the top of Longside to add scale to the photographs, the second of which is a close up. Indeed, you have to look really closely to spot him on the first one!
Oh, and did I say that the view over Bassenthwaite Lake to the North Western Fells is rather good?
After the delights of Ullock Pike and Longside Edge (which can be seen behind Peter) we reach Carlside Col and its tiny tarn which we’ll stop to look at later, right now we’ve got work to do with a lung buster up to Skiddaw’s lofty summit.
And at the summit we can confirm that the views are extraordinary. Peter has a saying which goes a bit like this…”Better to be on the ugly mountain looking at the handsome ones than the other way round”. Please don’t let the fact that Skiddaw isn’t that ugly spoil the sentiment; you know what he means!
On our return to the vale we had time to look at Carlside Tarn, surely one of the smallest named tarns in Lakeland. We found Foxes Tarn to be smaller but if you know of any others then don’t be shy, let me know.
Beyond Carlside we came upon a rash of white stones possibly quartzite, a very strange discovery amidst the profusion of sedimentary rock thereabouts. We sat there for quite some time as it’s a splendid perch on which to view the Keswick illuminations. As always we are loath to leave the hill those lights below serve only to remind us of the food and drink waiting to make its way into our bellies. So, what about Skiddaw then? Well put it this way, we’ll be back!