Date - 30th May 2010 Distance - 9.5 miles
Ascent -
Map - OL5 Start point - Car park at Mardale Head (NY 469107)


Summits achieved

Name Height (ft) Height (m) Grid Ref
Rough Crag 2060 628 NY 4542 1124
High Street 2718 828 NY 4407 1104
Rampsgill Head 2598 792 NY 4433 1287
Kidsty Pike 2560 780 NY 4473 1257
High Raise (High Street) 2634 802 NY 4482 1345
Low Raise 2474 754 NY 4565 1376
Castle Crag (Mardale) 1296 395 NY 4692 1275


Preface & Route

Shaun, with Little Eric hitching a ride on his back, trotted in to find Allen, Grizzly & Tetley, pouring over walking books and scrutinising intently an Ordnance Survey map.

"What ever's going on?", he asked

Allen said excitedly, "Dad has said we can choose the walk for Sunday, the only stipulation being that he does not want to have to drive too far to the start."

"So what progress have you made so far?", asked Little Eric.

"We have got hold of Dad's list by location area of those Birkett fells we have not climbed, and it seems to us that doing some in the Eastern Fells, would be most appropriate", replied Grizzly.

"That's right", added Tetley. "There are a few we need to do from the head of Haweswater, and we were just in the process of sorting out which to do and the best route to take."

Allen had been looking closely at the map and said, "the layout of the outstanding tops is such that we cannot do them all in one walk."

Shaun trotted up and looked at the map over Allen's shoulder. After giving it some thought he said, " I think the most exciting route up would be via The Rigg and over Rough Crag to High Street."

"You're right", said Tetley. "Then heading north along the ridge we can return to take in Low Raise and Castle Crag. That way we would bag three Birketts. We will repeat four Wainwrights too, but that will be good for Little Eric, who has not visited them before."

"Thanks pal", said Little Eric cheerfully.

"So that's decided then" said Shaun. "Now we just have to see if Dad agrees."

"I'll go", called out Allen grabbing the map as he rushed out.

"He rushes about like a whirlwind. Makes me feel tired", said Tetley laughingly.

It was not long before he returned with a wide grin on his face, so we knew that Dad approved of our idea.

So here is a map of our route -

We start from the parking area at Mardale Head, rounding the head of Haweswater. At a junction we climb a narrow path onto The Rigg and then climb to Rough Crag. The dark area just north is the steep side of the ridge falling to Riggindale. The dark patch to the south is Blea Water. Then on up Long Stile to reach High Street. Walking north we head to the summit of Rampsgill Head, before turning SE for the short walk to Kidsty Pike, which dominates the north side of Riggindale. Then it's north again to High Raise. On new ground, an easy walk roughly NE brings us to Low Raise marked by a very large cairn. A long descent, that steepens as we progress brings us back towards the shores of Haweswater. Here is a little separate top of Castle Crag. It may seem odd to go north from here, but this is the only safe way down to the path by the reservoir, which is followed to the start.


The Walk

With the long days we were awake early, and we all lent a paw to get our picnic ready and safely packed in Allen's rucksack. Meanwhile Dad was getting his kit ready and before long it was being placed in the car boot.

"Almost ready", called out Dad.

"OK", replied Shaun, as we rushed to settle on the front seat, waving to Uncle Brian as we passed by.

As Dad backed the car out of the drive, Little Eric asked, "which way are we going?"

"The quickest route is up the M6 to Shap then via Bampton Grange to Haweswater", replied Dad

"Is that the way we went when we walked from Burnbanks in January 2009?", he persisted.

"Yes", said Dad patiently.

"I am really excited, as I have never been to Mardale Head before", added Little Eric, finally lapsing in to silence.

The M6 route was so familiar, the Howgills looking majestic as we swept through the Lune Gorge.

Allen called out, "I can see the three we still have to do, to complete all the tops."

"We will definitely be doing those, as I am determined to complete the Howgill challenge this year", said Dad emphatically.

Soon we were leaving the motorway and passing through the long linear village of Shap, at the end of which the narrow road we wanted forks off to the left, substantial dry stone walls enclosing it on either side. There was little traffic and we made good progress.

As we neared Bampton, Tetley called out, "look that's Knipescar Common over there. It is one of the Outlying Fells and if my memory serves me correctly we climbed it with Uncle Eric in February 2007?"

"I remember it well, and that unusually the trig point on the summit was a ring set into the ground", piped up Grizzly.

Here we are at the summit. The distant fell on the left is High Street, then going right Kidsty Pike (small bump on horizon) and High Raise with Low Raise slightly lower in front. All were to be summited today.

Soon we were passing the sign to Burnbanks to the right, our route being on ahead. As we rounded a corner , we were rewarded with a wonderful display of bluebells in the woods to the left. "Enchanting", murmured Shaun.

Glimpsing the huge dam, Allen called out, "just look how low the level is."

"Aye lad, if we don't get some substantial rain soon there will be a drought", replied Tetley.

Well just a few more miles and we were finally at the car park at Mardale Head. It was nearly full when we arrived about 09.30, but it was Bank Holiday. As Dad got his boots on, we jumped into his rucksack and settled down. A gate gave access to open fell, and we started right, rounding the head of the reservoir. However the view of the mountains surrounding the head of the valley is so arresting and majestic, we just had to stop and give them due appreciation.

Here the sunlight dapples Mardale Ill Bell. This is one of the tops forming the Kentmere Horseshoe. A path makes its way to the junction of walls seen in shadow to the left, climbing onwards passing Small Water, and then steeply up to Nan Bield Pass. This is a col between Mardale Ill Bell and Harter Fell, whose craggy face dominates the head of the valley on the left, seen here with Mardale Beck in the foreground.

Our reverie over, Dad turned his back on this scene, and walked along shore side path. Ahead was The Rigg whose long ridge we were to ascend ultimately to High Street. To cut a corner we took a narrow path branching left to reach the ridge. This forms one side of the valley of Riggindale that is home to the only Golden Eagle in England. Despite keeping a sharp look out unfortunately we did not see it.

"Wow", called out Allen. "What a superb view of Haweswater. Get the camera out Dad!"

"What is the promontory called?", asked Little Eric.

"Speaking Crag", replied Shaun as he consulted the map. "We will cross it on our return at the end of the walk."

"Well it's time for some real effort now", said Dad as he commenced the ascent of the ridge.

The winding rocky path, steep at times led up over numerous rises towards our first summit objective Rough Crag. More superb views too of the lake and the fells at the head of the valley. To the left of Harter Fell, was the sinuous path that leads to Gatesgarth Pass.

In fact we were to climb that path the next Sunday, to reach the tops of Adam Seat and Little Harter Fell, thereby completing all the Birkett tops in this area. What a different day weather wise too, with thick cloud and mist shrouding the mountains all day.

Some way ahead now we could see the cairned top of Rough Crag, finally reached after further stops to take pictures. This summit was a first for us all.

"Get the camera out Dad", cried Allen as we settled on the cairn.

The summit afforded further wonderful views. North-east the crescent shape of Haweswater Reservoir was plain to see.

In the opposite direction is the corrie tarn of Blea Water nestling below Mardale Ill Bell, and to the right the slopes of High Street. This tarn has the distinction of being the deepest in the Lake District, at 206ft (63m). Its depth is only exceeded by Wastwater and Windermere.

We were now about half way along the ridge, the remaining steep ascent known as Long Stile, clearly ahead. Yes, despite appearances there is a path, albeit narrow steep and rocky. The cairn at its top can just be discerned, a little to the right of the highest point.

To reach this however, it was first necessary to make a diagonal descent from Rough Crag and then cross the col known as Caspal Gate, with its small tarn. This view looks back to Rough Crag.

So, best foot forward now, Dad took us up Long Stile. We had not walked this ridge before, but without a doubt this is the best way to climb High Street. We passed a walker making the descent, who told us it was windy on the top - how right he was too. Once on level ground it was just a short walk to the trig point and, as you can see it was a busy day on the High Street.

Despite the wind we managed to settle on the lee side of the trig point for our usual picture. At 2718ft this was the highest point reached today. Away to the west there were fine views of the fells of the Helvellyn Ridge, and we recalled the walk just last Thursday with Uncle Eric, when we had climbed Birkhouse Moor and Catstycam.

Across here runs the High Street Roman Road. In all it runs for some 23 miles. North to south from Brougham Castle (BROCAVVM ROMAN FORT), then via Brougham Hall, Eamont Bridge, Yanwath, Tirril, and over Moor Divock. It then climbs over the long ridge crossing Loadpot Hill, Wether Hill, High Raise, Rampsgill Head and on to High Street, its highest point. Then it descends via Troutbeck Park, Troutbeck, Robin Lane & Jenkin Crag to end at GALAVA ROMAN FORT (Ambleside). We tried to visualise the cohorts of Roman soldiers that had walked along here, and wondered where they had originally come from, before they were posted to Britain. Today we were to walk from here the section north to High Raise.

So, in the footsteps of the Romans, Dad strode north, descending steadily towards the Straits of Riggindale. Haweswater could be seen as we looked right down into the valley of Riggindale. On its north side is Kidsty Pike, our next objective. Distantly behind is High Raise, to be visited after Kidsty Pike.

At the 'Straits', the impressive Twopenny Crag falls away on the right.

Here the path forks and we went right to climb above the crag, where it forks again. Ahead to High Raise, and right to Kidsty Pike. However before this fork Dad suddenly cut off left over rough ground.

"Wherever are we going?", called out Allen. "We need to keep on the path if we are to reach Kidsty Pike."

"I'm deviating to Rampsgill Head first, so Little Eric can bag the summit", said Dad.

"Oh yes, I had forgotten that", replied Allen.

"Thanks Dad", cried Little Eric.

It was not far over the rough ground, and soon the summit cairn was in sight. Just before, Dad stopped to chat to a couple for a few minutes. It was windier still up here, and after a sudden strong gust they decided to end the chat and head on. Despite the wind we hopped out, but only long enough for our picture.

"So it really is to Kidsty Pike now", called out Allen.

"Yes", replied Dad, as he strode off.

It is just a third of a mile, first over rough ground then joining the path for the gentle climb to the summit. We could see that other walkers would arrive soon after us, so we hurried to settle on the cairn for our picture.

If you think it looks like there is a steep drop immediately behind the cairn, then you are quite correct as the cairn is literally on the edge. The ridge immediately in the background is the one we had climbed earlier to High Street. We were safely tucked in the rucksack again, by the time the walkers arrived, and it turned into quite a social occasion. A couple arrived, and when Dad saw them get their camera out he offered to take their picture at the summit. They then went on their way, but in the meantime another couple arrived. They told Dad that the first couple were on their honeymoon. This second couple were doing the Coast to Coast walk, and we noted that coincidently the lady was carrying a bear just like Allen, except that he was wearing trousers. Apparently their daughter had bought it for her Dad, but he said he was not carrying a bear. Unlike our Dad!!!! She was amazed how many walks we had been on. Dad kindly took their picture too, before directing them on their way. They did not seem to have a map or guide book, but hopefully it was in the their rucksack. Dad wished them well on their adventure, and we hoped that they would not get too wet on Tuesday as rain was forecast.

As we set off again Allen said, "it would nice if I had a pair of trousers like that bear."

"I'll have to see what I can do", replied Dad. "They sell clothing at the bear shop in Manchester, but it is for larger bears."

A clear path led north and soon we were at High Raise, topped by an impressive and shapely cairn, adjacent to which is an effective wind shelter.

This was the 4th Wainwright that Little Eric bagged today. The wind was extreme now, but by sitting facing south behind the shelter, we were able to have our lunch in comfort while the wind whistled overhead. Next our route was roughly north east on a clear track for the ten minute walk to Low Raise, which is a Birkett top. Its flat summit is crowned with a large cairn and tumulus. High Raise can be seen in the distance.

We were now at the furthest point from our start, so as they say we were finally turning for home. This area is pretty well unfrequented, so the route down the south-east ridge was over trackless rough grassy terrain. It was a steady descent, that eventually steepened as we encountered crags, where Dad carefully picked his way down before climbing slightly to cross the undulating end of the ridge, whence our objective the separate little top of Castle Crag, could be seen across a tiny valley below. The top is cairned and we jumped out here for our final picture today. This is the site of an Iron Age Hill Fort. It was excavated in the 1920s.

To the north below is this small enclosed plantation, with Haweswater stretching away behind.

To regain the path by the reservoir we had to walk to this plantation, but not directly, as on the north side Castle Crag drops away vertically, and stepping over would be certain death.

Dad circled left and found the old narrow trod that contoured down to the plantation. We had not seen many sheep today, but just here we espied a ewe with its black lamb. Well it would not be a story if we did not include a sheep picture.

Facing the plantation, we walked right to join the path by the reservoir. This was followed for about two miles south over Flakehowe Crags, Gate Crag, Bowderthwaite Bridge and The Rigg and so to the car. There were further fine views including this of Speaking Crag and the The Rigg backed by Branstree.

It had been a superb walk, which we had all enjoyed despite the wind. We were pretty tired when we got home so slept very well. Thank you Dad as always!!

Unsurprisingly Dad was hungry, so he stopped at Junction 38 Services at Tebay. Here he fortified himself with a roast beef dinner, chocolate cake and pot of tea with extra hot water. Well he had certainly earned it.


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