5th March 2016

A Newlands horseshoe - Cat Bell to Ard Crags

Time 7:40am to 4:10pm
Duration 8 hr 30 min
Distance 14 mile
Ascent 5200 feet -or somewhere around that figure
Walking with Paul Sharkey
Gutherscale - Skelgill Bank - Cat Bells - Hause Gate - Bull Crag - Maiden Moor - High Spy - Dale Head Tarn - Dale Head - Hindscarth Edge - Hindscarth - Littledale Edge - Robinson - Buttermere Moss - above Moss Force - Newlands Hause - Knott Rigg - Ard Crags - Aikin Knott - Birk Rigg - Birkrigg - road to Stair - Skelgill - Gutherscale
Fells visited
Directory places visited

Starting Point Information Centre -
Parking spaces, Gutherscale (below Cat Bells)

A convenient car park for an ascent of Cat Bells, and access into both Newlands Valley and Borrowdale, but be warned, if you try to park here in the middle of the day it's doubtful that you'll get a space.

On a positive note, parking is free.

Weather Readings

The Gadget
All readings were taken using a Kestrel 2000 Weather Meter
Live temperature recorded at the time I press the hold key
Maximum Wind Speed Maximum wind speed since the weather meter was turned on at each location Average Wind Speed
Average wind speed since the weather meter was turned on at each location
Wind Chill
Combination of wind speed and temperature. The gadget does the calculations not me.

Route Map


Well, we certainly didn't expect to be doing this walk today. Yesterday's forecast for today (think about it) said nothing clearer than sort of, perhaps or maybe. Or, to put it another way, , , , it was a clear as mud. The previous evening we threw a few ideas into the pot and eventually opted to set out on this walk and assess things once we got going.
Shortly after setting off we look across Derwent Water and see the northern fells with a good covering of cloud.

On our right hand side we see the north western fells. Most have snow stubbornly clinging to their summits and the higher fells remain topped with cloud.

Looking ahead to Cat Bells summit.

It looks like the Grange area of Borrowdale is enjoying its own private spell of sunshine while the rest of us remain in the shade.

Reaching the snow line on route up Maiden Moor coincided with a brief spell of sunshine. I'm tempted to say the brightness over here made the Skiddaw fells appear darker than they were but even when the sun vanished they remained as dark as that.

High Spy and Dale Head seen from Maiden Moor.

I'm sure there must be a name for this but because there wasn't a huge distance between us and the cloud base, we were given the impression that we were looking straight across the underside of the cloud. A bit like holding a bedsheet above your heads and looking straight ahead. It's rather hard to put into meaningful words but I'm sure you see what I'm getting at.

A close up of Grange.

Once up above the snow line the depth varied quite a lot. we had everything from a slight dusting to 2 or 3 feet deep. Consistent is not a word I'd use to describe the snow conditions today. Had it been deep and crisp and even, it's doubtful we'd have had time to do our full route.

High Spy ahead, and Dale Head on the left, under cloud.

Here we're on the route between High Spy and Dale Head Tarn; the first significant down hill section of the walk. You can see the tarn down there in the lower ground ahead of us. Dale Head is up on the right and still topped with cloud.

Dale Head Tarn.
It was here that I chose to put on some gaiters - - - for me personally, the most uncomfortable item of clothing ever invented. However, they do exactly what they're supposed to and keep snow out of your boots, or water if you're on boggy ground. Apart from that, I just don't see the point in wearing them.

Another snow shower moves across the fells at the far end of Newlands Valley.

Not far from Dale Head summit, and before we disappear into the cloud, I take this photo looking across towards Hindscarth Edge.

Dale Head summit cairn appears through the cloud.


Despite carrying them with us, crampons weren't really needed today. However, care and attention to detail was still needed on the route down from Dale Head.

Looking back across to the Cat Bells / Maiden Moor / High Spy ridge.

Looking ahead to Hindscarth - on the right.

Hoar frost on Hindscarth summit shelter.


Robinson summit - the most wintry spot on the walk. No views up here today, but as seen as though we were only in cloud for a short time it actually added to the walk instead of taking anything away from the enjoyment. No hanging about today so "let's make a move and head down to Buttermere Moss".

"Right, , , , what d'ya reckon"
We're heading down to Newlands Hause (the blue circle) so, rather than take the normal route "lets walk down to the big red circle and to see if there's a way down there".

Typical, someone's stolen the red circle. Never mind, we'll walk across to the edge and have a look down.

Well, we're not even going to try going that way. So, we pick our way between the crags until we join the 'proper' path from Buttermere Moss down to Newlands Hause. Ah well, the detour didn't work but we reckoned this route was probably quicker than the 'proper' route anyway and, it was certainly a lot drier underfoot. Plus, this was the first time we'd stood right above the waterfalls and looked down so all wasn't lost by trying to cheat.

Food was consumed in the rain today while we sat a little higher up from Newlands Hause. And, although we were only a couple of feet from each other conversation seemed to be put on hold as both of us gazed through Newlands Valley. I'm sure Paul had his own thoughts but me, I was reminded of the time I walked all the way over Newlands Pass while taking on my Lakeland Passes project in 2012.
That walk was also done at the start of March but that day I had blue sky, sunshine and the warmth of early spring.

After already walking around from Cat Bells, the walk up Knott Rigg needed us to change down to first gear and ascend at a snails pace. Here we turn around to have a look across to Moss Force.


A view across to Knott Rigg.

And, once past Knott Rigg we look ahead to Ard Crags.

Sunshine in the upper area of Newlands Valley.

and, a little bit of brightness on Robinson.

Looking across to Wandope (Addacomb Hole), Crag Hill and Sail.

I don't suppose Ard Crags would get a mention if you were to ask any well acquainted fell walker to list a few of Lakelands steep ascents / descents but make no mistake, when walking down the Aikin Knott section of path you need to put more than just a little bit of thought into what you're doing. And, don't take your eyes off your feet. Jennifer always calls this (H)ard Crags, , , , because it is.
Rather than take the path off to the right, cross the beck and then walk to Rigg Beck we continue straight along the grassy ridge, take a sharp right at the end and minutes later arrive on the Newlands Pass road.

Birkrigg - what a lovely spot.

Before walking the final five minutes of todays excursion we pause to look across at Rawling End and Causey Pike on the opposite side of Newlands Valley. Both of us felt pleased with what we'd done today, and quite rightly so. Not just because of the uncertainly at the beginning of the day but more to the point, because this is the type of walk we'd normally reserve for those clearer, bluer and perhaps longer days.

David Hall -
Lake District Walks