COMBE GILL HORSESHOE

 


Summary

Date - 17th August 2008 Distance - 5 miles
Ascent -
2395ft (per Birkett Complete Lakeland Fells)
Map - OL4 Start point - Verge parking on road to Thornythwaite (NY 249 135)

 

Summits Achieved

Name Height (ft) Height (m) Grid Ref
Thornythwaite Fell 1883 574 NY 2454 1184
Combe Head 2405 733 NY 2495 1093
Stonethwaite Fell 2073 632 NY 2557 1137
Rosthwaite Cam on Rosthwaite Fell 2008 612 NY 2558 1183
Bessyboot on Rosthwaite Fell 1807 550 NY 2582 1247

 

Preface

It is summer 2020, and we are reviewing and rewriting some of our earlier adventures from 2008. We came across this walk that at the time was rejected for a story due to lack of picture variety. In 2003 our then two club members, Shaun and Tetley, had climbed parts of this route, so including a few pictures from that day, we have managed to bring this adventure to life. Glad too, as for Grizzly and Allen it incorporates important milestones on their quest to complete the Wainwrights.

So.... let us go back to those 12 years to August 2008.

Allen, Tetley and Little Eric were chatting.

"Uncle Bob is in the Lakes with the caravan. I wonder if we might get a walk with him?", said Little Eric.

"Sadly no", replied Allen. "He is there with family, so needs to be with them."

Just then Shaun and Grizzly, trotted in, Grizzly in a state of excitement.

"Dad is taking us walking on Sunday to Borrowdale. The plan is to do the Combe Gill Horseshoe, taking in a few Birkett summits that none of us have done before, so advancing that challenge. But of more importance to Allen and I one summit is the Wainwright Bessyboot on Rosthwaite Fell. It will mean I will finally complete Book 4-Southern Fells, as will you Allen.

"Oh great", cheered Allen. "I think that Book 4 is one of the hardest to accomplish. Good to finally get it done."

Shaun said, "that will be your 212th Wainwright. Just two left to complete the challenge.

"Yes pal", replied Grizzly. "I can hardly believe I am so close. Just Brae Fell and Knott in the Northern Fells to go."

 

The Walk

The walk starts near the distinctive cottages called Mountain View beside the road through Borrowdale.

Shaun advised, "the River Derwent runs past them on the far side, and Strands Bridge carries the road. We do not cross, rather take the road left that leads to Thornythwaite. Birkett states, after about 400 yards or so round a bend there is a large grassy area to park."

So soon ready and us safely tucked on the rucksack, we walked the few yards to this gate and the track that ascends the ridge on the west side of the valley known as The Combe.

At first through woodland then out onto open fell,

Just past the woodland there was a clear view of the valley to our left, and looking down, Allen said, "that waterfall on Combe Gill will make a nice picture."

Beyond a kissing gate the real climb started as the route steepened, but was graded in places. The views were opening out too. "Worth a picture looking back", called out Tetley. Dad took a virtually identical shot on 20th August 2003, which is below, being the better of the two.

"What can I see?", asked Little Eric who is not yet familiar with the Lakeland Fells.

Grizzly answered. "we are looking through the Jaws of Borrowdale to Derwent Water backed from the left by Ullock Pike, Long Side, Carl Side, Skiddaw, Skiddaw Lower Man, Lesser Man on Skiddaw and Lonscale Fell. In the foreground is Castle Crag left and Kings How right."

"Wonderful", said Dad, "but time to get going", as he attacked the gradient.

After another 20 minutes we stopped again as Shaun called out, "just look at that dramatic view to Fleetwith Pike and Honister Crag on the right."

"Wow", cried Little Eric. "How majestic."

Another 10 minutes now of steady ascent, then finally the gradient eased on the approach to Thornythwaite Fell, whose rocky summit is just yards off the path and about 10-15ft above.

"Bet many walkers are unaware of the top and probably do not go the extra few paces", commented Allen.

"Just Birkett baggers like us", replied Tetley with a laugh.

"Picture time", called out Grizzly."

In 2020, Grizzly comments, "using the Lake District Place Names book, Thornythwaite means 'the clearing by the (haw)thorn trees'."

Rejoining the path we continued at times over boggy ground. Ultimately this is one of the ascent routes to Glaramara, but that was not our objective today, Shaun stating, "we have to veer left and climb that grassy and rocky ground."

Eventually a narrow trod emerged that led us to Combe Head that dominates the head of Combe Gill. Seeing the large cairn marking the summit, Allen called out, "come on pals, picture time again."

Up to now the weather had been dry but looking to the Langdales, Grizzly said, "looks like rain is on the way",

Indeed the dark clouds in the above picture did not bode well so Dad sensibly put his coat on. However thinking it would just be one shower he did not put his waterproof over trousers on. Dad was to regret this.

The rain arrived as Dad made his way across the head of the valley past Combe Door. Here is the view taken in 2003. Thornythwaite Fell is on the left.

The rain was torrential and Dad got thoroughly soaked, as we made our way across the wet ground and up to the small cairn on Stonethwaite Fell.

The rain had stopped, so Tetley called out, "come on pals let's get our picture here."

Combe Head forms the backdrop with the tip of Glaramara on the right.

Again Grizzly comments about the name. "Stonethwaite means 'the stony clearing'. Two tracts of Stonethwaite Fell illustrate the application to upland pasture rather than to the specific peak."

We quickly snuggled down just in time as another downpour arrived. "We descend and then skirt round Great Hollow", said Shaun. "After that it is up left to the bouldery block top of Rosthwaite Cam."

Here and in many other places Dad had to be extremely careful not to slip on the wet greasy rocks, but we were not worried as he is sure footed. Bizarrely at the summit the rain held off yet again!

"Quickly pals, let's get settled for the picture", encouraged Little Eric.

In the distance on the far left is Pike o'Stickle, one of the Langdale Pikes.

Rejoining the path we began to descend. In 2003 soon after leaving the summit, Dad had taken this shot looking back to Rosthwaite Cam, with Combe Head and Glaramara behind. Dramatic scenery!

Looking ahead, Allen pointed, "there's Bessyboot on Rosthwaite Fell. The path to it can be clearly seen."

It was dry and bright just then, but sad to say it did not last as more rain swept in to soak Dad!

The path descends to the tarn and here is the picture Dad took at tarn level in 2003. Again Pike o'Stickle can be seen at the end of the long ridge above the valley of Langstrath.

With determined stride Dad then made the climb on the clear path to Bessyboot on Rosthwaite Fell.

"Yippee" cheered Grizzly. "That's Book 4 completed. Just Brae Fell and Knott in the Northern Fells to complete the all the 214."

"And for me too", cried Allen with glee. "I've now done Books 4 and 7."

Bizarrely again the rain held off while we were at the summit.

Grizzly then sat on his own, to celebrate his completion of Book 4. Writing this in 2020 Dad says, "I feel a bit guilty for not having Allen sitting with Grizzly, as he too had completed Book 4."

Too add further interest, Grizzly comments about the name. "Rosthwaite means 'the clearing with/by a cairn'. Bessyboot means, 'Bessy's shelter or fold, with the pet form of Elizabeth for the first. The second is a dialect name for sheepfold."

The photo session over we got settled in the rucksack. From Bessyboot we descended the valley side of the Combe on a good path.

Suddenly Little Eric pointed, "aww look a Herdwick lamb. They have such lovely faces."

The path brought us to a sheepfold where Dad crossed the beck that was rather in spate.

His feet slipped on the rocks and the water came over the top of his boots. "Yuck wet feet", moaned Dad.

"Oh dear", said Shaun, "but it is only half a mile to the car."

There Dad was glad to get his boots off and we saw him literally wringing his socks out. Glad too to get out of his wet clothes too but he had to endure his soggy trousers. "Oh if only I had put my over trousers on."

Here at the car it was now dry and in Keswick it had obviously not rained at all.

Looking back up Borrowdale we could see that the clouds were still down. "Well" said Allen, "we can honestly say that the "Head of Borrowdale" lived up to its reputation as the wettest place in England today!!"

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