Tuesday 7 March 2023

Ridge Romping in the Howgill Fells

Ridge Romping In The Mind in a Suntrap on Kensgriff
I will admit to dozing off at lunch. The ground was frozen and the wind nithered in a particularly nithering kind of way, drifting over the North Sea from somewhere vaguely in the direction of Bergen. So, when we dropped off the top of Kensgriff with the decision whether or not to chance the stupidly steep grass of Yarlside unmade, we (me and LTD) came across a spot sheltered from the brrrrrreeeeze and warmed by the sun. And on top of all this, a skylark was up in the sky being all cheerful and happy. So we (me and LTD) settled in for the egg and tomato butty and banana, or , in the case of LTD, a handful of gravy bones. As for me, I'm not all that keen on gravy bones and LTD is not a big fan of tomatoes. It was a lovely spot. We drifted off into cosy dreamy snoozy land where every day is a day of sunlit hills and happy larks. And, in the case of LTD, quite a big handful of gravy bones.
Who's that playing in the shadows?

Leathgill Bridge
I'm not sure how the decision to revisit this route on the Howgills happened, except to say that I left home with the appropriate map and a very good weather forecast and an intention to walk somewhere with lots of contours. I seem to have lost a bit of fitness over the winter and replaced this with some wobbly flab and a telling-off from a Diabetic Nurse Practitioner.  So here we were, parking by the main road just a bit to the left of Ravenstonedale (looking North) and heaving our obesenesses up some of those brown lines that join all the places of the same altitude together. We puffed. We panted. We cursed. We coughed. We spluttered. We wished we would soon be at the top. And, soon enough, we were. We bashed on with heavy legs.
LTD on the top of

Fearsome iced grass shows the way up Yarlside.
And soon - well, not really all that soon, to be fair, we crossed the Leathgill Bridge and were stood standing on top of Randygill Top. A short descent and another short yet vaguely painful ascent of Kensgriff brought up to our warm and cosy lunch spot wot I've mentioned above. The decision to be made was whether or not to climb up to the top of Yarlside or to find another way. Through the gap between my boots, the climb up Yarlside looked Steep, with a capital "S". I've been up there before and it is steep. It seems to me that grass couldn't get much steeper and the now wobbly and achy state of my legs would see this as a challenge, if, indeed, legs had eyes to see, which they don't, of course. An alternative course around the hill to the left was less steep but involved more contours and a descent to the right would put me in Bowderdale and a likely early return to the car. We slept on the decision. The skylark sang away. The sun was warm and all was well with the world.
The top of Yarlside

Cautley Spout
Maybe I would just follow the path down to the hawse/bealach/bwlch/pass at the bottom of the hill and decide there. So that's what we did and, on achieving the bottom of the slope, it didn't look all that steep. The map suggested it wasn't such a big climb anyway and the skylark suggested that I would regret not giving it a try and I could always come back down.  LTD wondered if I had any more gravy bones. So we set off up the slope. It wasn't too bad. At first anyway. The grass was frozen and there was a suggestion of slipperyness. The slope got steeper, but previous boots had dug some steps in the turf. There was scree. Hands and knees were employed and there was a very brief moment of wishing I'd cleared my internet browsing history before embarking on this, when the slope began to ease off. Eventually we were at the top and, dissuaded from hanging about by the arctic drift at the summit cairn we headed down to Bowderdale Head, an easy descent with a view of Cautley Spout.
LTD at The Calf

If he hadn't scoffed all those gravy bones he wouldn't have been so thirsty
Next on the agenda was a visit to The Calf. This is the highest part of the Howgills and my most visited - according to my log this would be visit number 30. Actually getting there from Bowderdale Head with legs who's opinion (if legs do have an opinion, which they don't) was that it would be much better to follow the bridleway back to the car and anyway, we'd all been there before and what's the point? I meantersay, what is the actual point? That's what they would have said, if they could speak, which they can't. 

So, ignoring the whingeing lower limbs and joints we suffered mightily and very very slowly up the steepness to the bridleway. This is where we met two walkers having lunch, so we had to pretend, briefly, that everything was fine and that no pain or discomfort at all was being felt and wasn't it lovely? After a brief spurt of effort, which almost killed me if I'm honest, we continued painfully and with harsh words to the bloody trig point where we go a lovely view of bloody Morecambe Bay with the bloody tide in. LTD cocked his leg on the trig. And serve it right, too.

View from a joyful romp

Somebody over there just opened a bag of crisps

And then , it all became quite wonderful. Apart from anything else, it was downhill. More walkers were met. LTD did zoomies and greeted them enthusiastically. The seemed a bit grumpy about it. They were going uphill after all. So we followed the path down the long long ridge North, straight into the refreshing breeze. We had the place to ourselves again. Mile after mile of superb ridge walking passed easily. This was, in fact, a joyful romp of a ridge. It's true, there were a few bits of uphill contours, which began to tell on the wizzened old legs. But the larks sang and the ridge meandered off in the rough direction of Glasgow. The bogs and other squishy bits were frozen and there were no regrets.  13 miles and 3400 feet of ascent.

Hopefully, I'm a few contours fitter. I'm certainly not any lighter just now.

I once wrote a sort of guide thingy to the Howgill Fells - 12 months in the Howgills, published only in Doodlecat, by the redoubtable Phil Lambert. The version was lost a while back, but I wondered, during this little trundle whether I should write that again. It is well out of date now, and I think , maybe I could make a better stab at it. I started it in the September. Maybe I might do that again. I asked LTD and his opinion was that it would be all right, providing a proper supply of doggy treats would be available. I should ask the skylark, I think.



Dawn said...

Looks as if you had a fantastic day Mike!

Quinn said...

Very enjoyable post, and I'm filled with admiration for your energy and perseverance. Also, now wondering what it would be like if our legs AND our eyes *could* see. It would be nice to be able to switch at will to a dog-level view of the world, I think.

Mike Knipe said...

Thanks Quinn - Its always nice to get some feedback. As for the legs, they refuse to comment!