Outline of Route
Sadgill - Grey Crag - Tarn Crag - Branstree - Harter Fell - Kentmere Pike - Shipman Knotts - Sadgill (Grid ref. NY 484057)
Total Distance 9.8 miles, Total Ascent 3300 feet, Equivalent Distance 16.4 miles
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Details of Route
Parking at Sadgill is free and generally easily available at a point from which this (photo) of the farm at Sadgill is taken. Start the walk by passing through the gate (photo) and head for the stile visible high up diagonally across the field. From that stile you get a good view down on the village below (photo). Continue uphill towards and up through the wide gully and approach the wall. Bear right and follow the wall for about 200 yards to its end. There is a stile over the fence a few yards further on. Cross it and follow whatever paths you might find upwards till you reach the summit of Great Howe. There is no special indication that you've reached it, but the path ahead flattens out across a plateau. From here there is a good view up to Tarn Crag and Grey Crag (photo).
The slightly worn track heading northeast to Gray Crag is clear to see and easy to follow. Navigation from here onwards is easy, provided there is reasonable visibility, but this area should be avoided altogether in hill fog. The path leads to a junction of two fences, where a lower section of fence allows one to cross it with relative ease, and on to Grey Crag. From the summit, at the southern end of the felltop, the views to the south and east are excellent with many of the Shap fells and valleys well defined (photo). From here, set off northwards to the corner of a dog-leg fence then follow the fence northwestwards over some rough, boggy and hag-ridden ground - I'm referring to peat hags, of course. Once onto Tarn Crag and on easier ground aim for the summit. There is a glimpse of Kidsty Pike and Rampsgill Head through Gatescarth as a taster for what's coming. The survey post, a strange stone and concrete structure (photo), is some yards away from the summit, but is bound to have aroused your curiosity as it will have been prominently in sight since Great Howe.
Head north and then along by the fence, crossing it to the eastern side - where the going is slightly easier - when another fence meets it, blocking your way. Once down in the depression decide which side of the wall you wish to ascent - in windy conditions you may wish to use it as a windbreak - and go through the gate, or not, as appropriate. Now follow the wall to Branstree's summit. This section, from Tarn Crag to Branstree, is a long slog. The terrain has far more in common with the Shap fells than Lakeland. It is worth having one last look at bleak and boggy Mosedale to the east, before reaching the summit, to compare it with the Lakeland terrain that opens up to the west. It's also worth going downhill to the northwest from the summit for a look at Haweswater and the eastern spur and flanks of High Street (photo) before heading southwest down towards the summit of Gatescarth Pass. This is an easy descent on grass which contrasts with the rugged flanks of Harter Fell across Gatescarth.
The ascent of Harter Fell is easy but interesting with stunning views along Haweswater (photo) and down into Mardale. It's worth taking the final stretch up to the summit about twenty yards from the fence for a better sight of the valley below and a look at the alternative routes to High Street via Rough Crag, or Mardale Ill Bell's north ridge (photo), both described in another of my routes. There is a fine panorama from the southwest to the north (photo).
Follow the path by the fence from the summit, not the path down to Nan Bield, and gradually the views of Kentmere open up with the shapely Froswick and Ill Bell on the other side (photo). The fence is replaced by a wall as one approaches Kentmere Pike. There's little to keep you at this summit, so continue downhill. Here I recently came across half a dozen fell ponies (photo). making the detour from the main path, alongside the fence which has reappeared, to Goat Scar from where the views both up (photo) and down (photo) Longsleddale are excellent. Further downhill, after Shipman Knotts, the going gets rougher and in places quite steep. When the crest of the Kentmere - Sadgill pass is reached turn left through the gate and head towards Sadgill. Follow this road back to Sadgill.
Rev. 18 July 2012