Date - 24th April 2011 Distance - 9.5 miles
Ascent -
Map - OL6 Start point - Near foot of Hardknott Pass (NY 211011)


Summits Achieved

Name Height (ft) Height (m) Grid Ref
Throstlehow Crag 1325 404 NY 2272 0436
Scar Lathing 1440 439 NY 2261 0494
High Gait Crags 1877 572 NY 2300 0578
High Scarth 1598 487 NY 2153 0439
Silverybield 1296 395 NY 2219 0390



Grizzly wandered in to find Allen & Tetley sitting in front of Dad's laptop, with books open on the table at the side.

"Did you enjoy Fringe on Sky 1?", Allen asked while tapping away with his paws.

"Very much pal, it gets better every week. Quite a scary episode too", he replied. "What are you two on with?"

"With all that Dad has had on this year, we have not done as many walks as we would normally expect, but we thought with all the good weather maybe we can get out into the Lake District, and tick off some of those 25 Birkett tops we still have to do", replied Tetley.

Allen went on, "I have pulled up the outstanding list, and Tetley and I were just looking through to see what we might suggest to Dad."

So Grizzly settled beside them to see what ideas they could come up with. After a while he said, " if I recall correctly, there is a walk that involved crossing a river, and Birkett says that it is not possible if it is in spate. With all the dry weather it will be low, so perhaps that is one to consider."

"That walk is in Eskdale as it is the River Esk that we have to cross", said Tetley. "They are in the Western Fells, so page down Allen."

"OK pal", he replied.

"There they are, the group including Scar Lathing", called out Grizzly.

By now Tetley was reading the description in the book. "Birkett says it is an arduous walk, so it will be hard for Dad, as he says he has lost some of his hill fitness with not doing so many walks."

"Well, we will just have to ask him very nicely", said Allen.

"You're the best at that", said Tetley.

"OK, I will go, Allen replied. "But not before I have had a mug of tea. I'm gasping."

It was then that Shaun with Little Eric riding on his back as usual, came to the rescue, bringing in flasks of freshly brewed tea.

"Your a saint", Allen called out rushing off the get the mugs.

Meanwhile Grizzly had got the tuck tin and called out, "biscuit anyone?"

"Too right", said Tetley.

While drinking his tea, Tetley explained to Shaun and Little Eric the proposal.

"Sounds a great idea", agreed Shaun. "If I remember rightly, when Dad looked at doing this walk, he thought about taking in High Gait Crags too, as it is nearby."

"Oh dear, that is going to make the walk even harder for Dad. You will need to be at your persuasive best, when you ask him, Allen", said Little Eric.

"Well no time like the present", replied Allen trotting out of the room.

It was quite a while before Allen returned. "Dad was on the phone, so that is why I have been so long. The good news is he has agreed to our suggestion. He knows it will be a hard walk, but will be glad to get these tops out of the way, and as he pointed out it will mean 20% of our outstanding Birketts will be done in one go."

"Roll on Sunday", said Shaun enthusiastically.


The Walk

It is a long drive to Eskdale, so we were up early to get ready. As we heard the boot slam shut, we dashed out to the car, calling our goodbyes to Uncle Brian.

The route took us up the Duddon Valley and over Birker Fell, to then take the road leading to the Hardknott Pass. We had been along much of the route before and we knew that the roads are very narrow in places. Dad had a shiny new car that fills these narrow roads, so we felt some trepidation for the drive. However despite some squeezes passing oncoming cars, the drive was accomplished safely in both directions.

Once again today there were cloudless skies, and with the walk being in upper Eskdale, we were in for some stupendous views of some of Lake Districts highest mountains - Scafells, Esk Pike, Bowfell etc.

So, booted up, Dad shouldered his rucksack with us safely tucked inside, and strolled the short way towards the pass. Then, at the telephone box we walked left along the track to Brotherilkeld Farm. The dominant fell behind is Hard Knott. We have a painting of this by Judy Boyes, on the wall at home. Whilst the buildings are the same, she has prettied the painting with flowers and lambs.

The path is diverted round the farmyard and then continues above the River Esk, skirting pastures on the right. Here as in other places too, the fields were full of our beloved Herdwicks, some with ever so tiny new born lambs like this one, taken later in the day near Taw House.

Pasture gave way to open fell, and the view ahead was dominated by the massive triangular shape of Esk Pike (2903ft).

The good path was to take us as far as the small hill dwarfed by Esk Pike, below which is Lingcove Bridge. A graceful stone arched packhorse bridge, that spans Lingcove Beck, just above its confluence with the River Esk.

In his map reading role, Shaun called out, "our route is across the bridge and on up the path rising more steeply beyond."

Soon the first objective Throstlehow Crag was in view, showing its craggy side. Dad at first considered crossing the rough ground in front, but what had seemed from a distance to be a path, was not. The ground too looked to be boggy, and beyond there seemed to be no clear way through the rocks. Instead he decided to continue on the path to the brow thereby gaining as much height as possible, before striking right to climb steeply up between the crags. The only drawback was that we then had to turn back right again and cross a rise, to then climb to the highest point on the front crag, where of course we hopped out for our obligatory picture.

All the fells today were not high in stature, but nevertheless without exception involved steep ascents to their summits. Birkett was quite right when he stated that this was an arduous walk, made more so too, by the fact that apart from the route to Lingcove Bridge, and the later return path to Scale Bridge, all the walking was over rough grassy, rocky and trackless energy sapping terrain. Dad admitted that he was pretty tired when he got back!

As we sat at the summit, Little Eric exclaimed, "wow!, what a fantastic view."

"Yes", replied Tetley. "That is Scafell Pike (3210ft), then Broad Crag (3054ft), with the triangular shaped top of Pen (2500ft) in front, with the massive Ill Crag (3067ft), to its left", showing off his knowledge.

"What's the fell in the foreground?", asked Little Eric.

Shaun jumped in with the reply, "that is our next objective Scar Lathing, and according to Birkett the ascent has to be made via the green ride up the centre."

"My that looks steep", mused Allen.

How true his words were too!

We descended the rough ground and headed over the bog to the feet of the fell, to then climb up on the right side. This Dad thought afterwards was a mistake, as he then had to negotiate the craggy area to gain the central ascent. It was indeed every bit as steep as Allen had thought, and when we reached the summit Dad let out a sigh of relief. Picture time for us, and as we sat there we once again enjoyed the magnificent prospect of the Scafells. Awesome!!!

However of more immediate import, was the climb to the next top High Gait Crags, seen here below with Low Gait Crags in front and part of Long Crag on the right in the immediate foreground. This was not on Birkett's planned route, but was for us the best opportunity to bag this unclimbed summit.

Shaun left us sitting at the summit and moved away to scrutinise the map. "I know that you planned to gain the ridge by climbing right between Long Crag and Low Gait Crags. However looking at the map and the ground ahead, it seems that it might be better to climb where there looks to be a narrow stream, and then continue to the right of the main bulk of Low Gait Crags."

Tearing his eyes from the view, Dad came over to look at the map too. "I think you are right Shaun, as that route seems to be fairly grassy. There will still be a steep slope to climb right afterwards, but that too from the map looks to be mostly grassy. Taking this route too, will avoid the rocky crossing of Low Gait Crags."

The debate over, Allen said, "come on Lads, we had better get back in the rucksack so we can get going."

Descending, we crossed a path that seemed to head round Great Moss, to then follow the planned route, which turned out to be a good option. At the ridge, we turned left to climb on between crags, to reach the furthest bump, adorned with a neat and impressive cairn that is the summit, seen here backed by the massive bulk of Ill Crag.

"A cairn", called out Grizzly with glee.

"Come on Dad, take our picture", added Allen, as we scrambled on to it.

Again the views were magnificent, so we all rested a while to enjoy them, and take the opportunity to have a snack and drink.

Seemingly rather distant we could see to the south-west our next summit, High Scarth. Dad said, "rather than return south, I am going to take a more direct route towards it."

Shaun replied, "looking at the map, it seems that whichever way we go, it will be a hard walk."

"Can't be helped Lad, but I do not regret getting this summit done", said Dad.

Soon after we set off we saw one of our lovely Herdwicks, that moved away gracefully over the ground, then stopped and looked back as if saying - this is my kingdom, you are only visitors.

As we descended we came closer to the flat and perennially boggy expanse of Great Moss. Scafell (3162ft) and Scafell Pike (3210ft) form the backdrop.

"There's Pen again, to the left of Scafell Pike", said Tetley. "One of the tops we still have to climb."

"Looks like it will be a bit of a scramble to the top", added Little Eric.

Eventually the rough trek was accomplished, and with Scar Lathing away to the left we reached the River Esk, exactly where Birkett suggests crossing. This was accomplished with easy boulder hopping today, but we could fully appreciate his comments that such a crossing would not be possible when the river was in spate.

"Time to take a rest Dad, and have another snack", said Grizzly.

"Absolutely", Dad agreed. "That was hard going from High Gait Crags, so I am ready for a rest, before we head up High Scarth."

It was lovely sitting in the warm sunshine by the river, and we could have sat there all day, but all too soon it was time to get going again. We settled ourselves in Dad's rucksack once more, and shouldering it Dad headed up High Scarth that was immediately above. Not as steep as the previous tops, but just a long haul, and of course the summit with its cairn was the furthest away.

"Just one to go", remarked Tetley, as with his pals he settled back in the rucksack after the summit picture.

So walking south we headed down and two sections completed, Dad suddenly stopped dead.

"What's the matter?, asked Allen

"I've left the GPS at the summit", replied Dad disconsolately. "Still there is nothing for it but to climb back up. At least we had not got down to the valley."

We were soon at the cairn and sure enough there it was lying beside. There was in fact some benefit, as it made Dad look more closely at the descent, and after the first section he turned more east to reach the valley floor, with the line of fells across on the other side. Taking rough aim for the one Dad considered to be Silverybield, we crossed the valley path and the rough boggy ground beyond to start the ascent. The GPS was helpful here, and guided us towards it.

Suddenly a cairn came into view and Shaun called out, "that must be the summit."

As we approached Dad checked the grid reference and said, "no this is not the summit. It's that next rise over there."

The top was flat and rocky where we sat for our final summit picture.

The valley behind is the one we had walked up in the morning to Lingcove Bridge, while to the north was this spectacular view to Esk Pike. We could also look back and reflect on some of the earlier sections of the walk. In the immediate foreground is Scar Lathing with rising behind Low and High Gait Crags.

"Well that's the last one", said Dad with relief.

"Yes", agreed Allen. "I don't suppose we will be coming back here any time soon."

Although it was the wrong direction, descending a little to the north, was the easiest way to regain the valley path that then led unerringly down. It was so good to have a clear path to follow, instead of the trackless terrain, even if it was rocky and rough in places. At first it meandered over the higher ground, before finally descending via the zig-zags to Scale Bridge. A short distance further the path divided, and here we took the left fork to cross pastures full of Herdwicks some with lambs. Away across Eskdale rose Harter Fell, providing a dramatic backdrop to the valley. We thought back to our adventure last October when we had climbed this and ticked off also two other Birkett tops.

Soon we came to Taw House, where a permitted path goes left through a gate across the field. Through the larger gate beside, some of our lovely Herdwicks were keeping an eye on us.

The path over the field leads to a stile and footbridge over the River Esk to Brotherilkeld.

Here we turned right to follow the access track, and then along the narrow road to the car. It had been a hard walk and we were all tired after it, but the views had been stupendous, and five summits had been achieved that were bagged by us all. Another part of Lakeland explored.

Thanks Dad, for an amazing day!


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