5th October 2013

Nethermost Pike to Clough Head


Walk Overview
Time 7:55am to 3:10pm
Duration 7hr 15 min
Distance 13.4 mile
Ascent 4400 ft
Walking with Paul Sharkey
Wythburn Church - Birkside - Nethermost Pike - Swallow Scarth - Helvellyn - Helvellyn Lower Man - White Side - Raise - Sticks Pass (top of) - Stybarrow Dodd - Watson's Dodd - Great Dodd - Calfhow Pike - Clough Head - Old Coach Road - Wanthwaite
Fells visited
Directory places visited

Starting Point Information Centre
Car park, behind Wythburn church, Thirlmere

Undoubtedly most people park here to begin an ascent of the ever popular Helvellyn fells. Speaking personally, the path from here on to the Helvellyn ridge via Birk side is my favourite route up to the Helvellyn ridge.

There is a charge for this car park and it does tend to ful up prety quickly at all times of year.


Route Map

It was third time lucky for this walk. The previous two attempts had been cancelled because of bad weather but today was set to give us a dry day even if it would be lacking in sunshine. As it turned out, the whole of the walk was dry and the final section was done under a blue(ish) sky. Well worth the couple of cancellations.
With the luxury of two cars we were able to do a linear route walking along the fells between Wythburn to Wanthwaite. I took this picture as I waited for Paul to arrive at the end of St John's in the Vale. Had I been five minutes earlier, I'd have caught the best of the sunrise, as it was, I just managed to photograph the closing moments of what could well have been a good display of colour..

Cloud topped Skiddaw Fells taken from the lay-by where car number 1 was left. Actually it could have been car number 2 because this is the one we ended up at.

Here's a somewhat spooky picture taken as we walked through the woods to get to the car park we were supposed to be setting off from. Confused?

You see it was like this. We arrived knowing we were going to get ripped off by the pay and display department. You can pay for 2 hours or 4 hours and then it jumps to 12 hours, , , with nothing in between. "But hang on a minute, the white sign says we can park for up to 24 hours for the same price as 12 hours on the purple sign". "Right, we'll go for that option. It doesn't make a scrap of difference but at least we'll feel like we're getting more for our money".
After trying unsuccessfully to get the machine to accept our cash we gave up and decided to park half a mile further along the main road and walk back; hence the previous picture.


A short but steep section of path through the woods brings you out near Comb Gill where you can look across to Steel Fell.

The path twists and turns its way up to Birk Side, up on our right.

Zooming in on the end of Thirlmere. A couple of times we commented on how low the water level was.

Thirlmere opens up a little. We notice the central fells are getting more sunshine than us. Luck of the draw I suppose.


For now at least, Helvellyn was clear of cloud. Before we made for Helvellyn, we headed up to Nethermost Pike; up on the right hand side of the picture. It may be off path but it's hardly any distance at all so as long as you're walking up hill you'll end up in the correct place.

Nethermost Pike.

It looks like we'll be out of luck as far as getting a view from Helvellyn goes.

Taking a picture of Paul taking a picture of Striding Edge and Catstye Cam.

A photo of Helvellyn shelter below the summit
and now a picture of the summit above the shelter

The trig point. I wonder why they never built it at the top.

It's only a short walk from Helvellyn to Helvellyn Lower Man. From here we had to loose about 500ft of height which we both hoped would be enough to get us below the cloud again.

This is a bit better. Ahead of us is the path to White Side.

The views opened up and I'm looking towards Thirlmere, Bassenthwaite Lake and if you look really carefully you can see Scotland in the far distance.

On t'other side of the ridge we see Ullswater, Sheffield Pike, Catstye Cam, Keppel Cove Dam and Brown Cove Dam.

A close up of Brown Cove Tarn (and dam).

The down, up and back down nature of the ridge is pretty hard to miss as you look ahead. In the far distance you can see Blencathra is topped with cloud.

Typical, Helvellyn is clear now. I know I sound like I'm moaning about it, but to be honest, walking in a bit of cloud can actually add to the enjoyment of a walk. It's not like I haven't been up there and seen the view before.

Heading for Raise summit.

Our arrival coincided with that of the sunshine. The path ahead leads up to Stybarrow Dodd.

A close up of Ullswater; part of it anyway.

As we walked down from Raise, we took a detour across to the ski tow. Not what you'd expect to find in the Lake District is it?


The ski hut wouldn't look out of place in Switzerland or Austria. They've almost thought of everything here haven't they? Solar panels in case it sunny but not windy and a small wind turbine in case its windy but not sunny.
"What do you mean almost"
"For completeness I'd have built a water wheel in case it was raining on a day with no sunshine or wind"


We picked up a path again just below the top of Sticks Pass. The path you see here is the Glenridding side of the pass.

A view back to Raise. Some of you may remember walking along here before there was a path. It was always wet, boggy and trying to find a dry route across was not the easiest of things to do.

We refuelled behind the wall at the top of Stybarrow Dodd and then made our way down / across to Watson's Dodd.

Great Dodd seen from Watson's Dodd.

Even though you get fine views along the full length of the ridge I reckon the view in this direction wins first prize for variety of terrain. You have the high Skiddaw fells on the right, the high north western fells on the left and between them and me are the lower heights of Walla Crag, Latrigg and High Rigg. All around these fells you have some lovely countryside.

A close up of the area around Tewet Tarn.

The boggy bit between Watson's Dodd and Great Dodd. I've seen it much worse than this which is just as well because my boots have just about had it as far as keeping the water out goes. These ones have passed the 12 month old point so I can't really complain. I just need to talk myself into taking the time to get a new pair; which always feels like a necessary hassle and not in the least bit enjoyable. You've probably guessed I'm not really interested in looking at (for) new walking gear.

Looking back to Watson's Dodd.

The next point on the walk was Calfhow Pike, an easily recognisable place for those unfamiliar with the area to confirm they are where they think they are (or not). Bassenthwaite Lake can be seen on the left hand edge of the picture and Tewet Tarn is just to the left of Calfhow Pike.

Judging by the skies over there, it seems we're in the best place at the moment.

The last proper 'up' of the day was this path leading from Calfhow Pike to Clough Head. It's not far really, but it usually feels harder than it should because it's generally done at the end of an already long walk.

It doesn't feel like it when you're walking the route but when you look back to Great Dodd you realise how much height you've lost.

Clough Head may be the final summit of the day but there's still a good distance left to walk. Behind the trig column is Blencathra.

A close up of a sunny Lonscale Fell.

We left Clough Head off the path and headed down towards Marial Bridge and the Old Coach Road.

On the Old Coach Road and it had turned into a nice sunny afternoon.

The Old Coach Road seems to be heading in the direction of Blencathra, that is until it swings around to the left and heads past the quarries to eventually reach the valley. By the time you reach the quarries you have to do an about turn if you want to look at Blencathra.

Looking across Threlkeld Common towards Great and Little Mell Fell. If you like plenty of space then this is the place for you.

Right next to the track is this old railway wagon slowly but surely rusting into the ground. Given the terrain, I suspect they were used a some sort of shelter for people out for a days shooting.

A close up of Threlkeld.

It's time to head down to valley level now and after a walk of this nature, walking down hill is as tiring on the legs as it was walking up Birk Side at the start of the day.

Blencathra and Threlkeld.

We're not far from Hill Top Farm now; not the Beatrix Potter one. Over on the skyline you see High Rigg.

Well, that was a great walk. Lots of fells visited, most of the day spent at height and no rain. And although it's not unusual to do walks of this length over this type of terrain, long linear walks always seem to feel that little bit special.

David Hall -
Lake District Walks