Outline of Route
Gale Road CP - Lonscale Fell - Jenkin Hill - Skiddaw Little Man - Skiddaw (High Man) - Sale How - Skiddaw House - Gale Road CP - Latrigg - Gale Road CP (Grid ref. NY 281253)
Total Distance (inc Latrigg) 11.2 miles, Total Ascent 2900 feet, Equivalent Distance 17.1 miles
Total Distance (without Latrigg) 9.9 miles, Total Ascent 2700 feet, Equivalent Distance 15.3 miles
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Details of Route
The ascent of Skiddaw has long been an attraction for tourists visiting Keswick and I, for one, don't begrudge them their bit of exercise. For the experienced fellwalker the "tourist" ascent, walking up a long but gradual slope just to walk down it again, is somewhat mundane. With a bit of variation, climbing Skiddaw from the south can be a varied and enjoyable trip - much of it away from the noisy, complaining throng.
The car park at the end of Gale Road is free, but it's also very popular, despite the suspension-shattering drive. Exit the car park at its end, via stile or gate and turn left along the path by the fence. The path bends slightly to the left before reaching a gate to the open fell. The tourist path continues by the fence, going uphill, but our route goes off diagonally to the right and slightly downhill to Whit Beck (photo). Ford the beck and continue, now to the east, along the well-used path (the Cumbria Way) as it rises slightly whilst traversing the fell. There's a good view east to the Pennines from here. A fence, with gate and stile, is reached after about three-quarters of a mile. Cross this and turn left up the hill alongside the fence. The path is hardly well-worn but it is easy enough to follow. The higher one gets the more worthwhile it is to keep need the edge, by the Lonscale Crags, for inspiring views down to the Glenderaterra Beck below. As you approach the top it is easy to make a bee-line to the right for Lonscale Fell's eastern peak, and a last look down on the path by which you will eventually return.
Head west, now, back towards the fence. The narrow path takes you to a stile, broken when I last visited, and then on to Lonscale Fell's true summit. The panorama to the south, the full southern arc, is excellent, as they all are for this route up to Skiddaw, but there is a fine view to the north as well (photo). Here is a complete panorama (photo). Leave here heading WNW until you reach the fence again. A path continues on the left side of the fence but gradually peters out as most people overstraddle the fence sooner or later and continue on the other side where the path is more pronounced. Follow the fence down to the col and up the other side to the summit of Jenkin Hill, then down to the Skiddaw tourist track. There is a gate here where you can get back through to the southern side of the fence and you can now do a straight-forward ascent of Lesser Man - a subsidiary of Little Man. It is worth going down to the edge of Grey Crags to have a look at the profile of Little Man's south-west arête - you may wish to tackle it at a later date, if you haven't already. Now go up to the summit of Skiddaw Little Man and survey that wonderful Lakeland panorama (photo).
Skiddaw is ahead of you (photo) so head north to a fence and continue downhill along it to its end, where you again join the tourist path from Keswick. There is a 400 foot ascent to Skiddaw summit (photo) from the depression. Whilst it's normal to greet your fellow walkers on the fells, here on Skiddaw you're likely to get the sort of response you'd get if you tried greeting strangers in the middle of Keswick. Continue past the cairns on the southern top and middle top to the true summit (High Man). The views are fine all round, including Longside Edge (photo), the Helvellyn ridge (photo), but I'd recommend taking the opportunity to have a longer look at the fells to the east, including Great Calva, Knot and Carrock Fell, and their layout (photo). You may later wish to take to them as an antidote to the crowds here.
Return to the southern top and follow the tourist path until you reach a gate. Once through the fence turn left and, leaving the tourists behind, aim for Sale How, slightly to the north of east. There is no path at this point, though you may occasionally come across tracks made by a farm vehicle. In good visibility this is an easy route to follow, but in hill fog you need to be a moderately competent navigator. Unless you go wildly off course there are no life-threatening hazards in this area. Once you reach the col and the rise to Sail How the path becomes clear. From the summit you get a glimpse of Skiddaw House (photo) and also a view of the later part of your route below Lonscale Fell (photo). Stroll downhill from here to Skiddaw House, now a Youth Hostel, and circle round it and its grounds - as if it were a roundabout - before heading off south east along a well trodden footpath. You are now back on the Cumbria Way. Away to the north east Carrock Fell is prominent above the Caldew Valley (photo).
As we walk along this path through the gap between Blease Fell and Lonscale Fell the view of Lakeland gradually expands in delightful fashion (photo) and as the Glenderaterra valley falls away the path becomes more and more elevated. At one stage there is an almost sheer drop of 300 feet from the path but the acrophobic have no need to venture close to the edge. The path finally turns right, round to the southern slope of Lonscale Fell (photo), and we are back to the gate from which we climbed the fell. Return to the car park and decide whether to do a quick lap of Latrigg.
About 70 yards from the head of the car park, on the left there is a stile and a gate through which one gains access to Latrigg. The path descends as it curves round the fellside then rises, doing a couple of zig-zags before reaching the southern slope of the fell. There are fine views towards Bassenthaite Lake during this traverse (photo). From here the ascent to the summit is simple and the views over Derwentwater, superb (photo) making this final excursion all the more worthwhile. Continue over the top of the fell and on reaching the fence bear left and follow it back to the car park.
Rev. 17 July 2012