Saturday, September 21, 2013

A Newlands Round & Solo Wild Camp

Date : 20th -21st Sept 2013
Route : from Little Town, a clockwise circuit of the Newlands valley.
Wild Camp : Hindscarth
Wainwrights : (8) Cat Bells, Maiden Moor, High Spy, Dale Head, Hindscarth, Robinson, Knott Rigg & Ard Crags.
Distance : 13.7 miles (22km)
Height Gained : 4813 feet (1467m)

The route - clockwise from Little Town

 This was route long pondered but always declined in favour of other, more craggy fells. Reading a blog by fellbound, who trod a similar route recently, brought it back into focus. This, along with the prospect of bagging a further 8 Wainwright fells in my quest, cemented the plan. I set off from Little Town at the foot of the Newlands valley at 1pm and followed the path along the western side of Cat Bells, the first of the days objectives. 

Newlands with Cat Bells (left), Hindscarth (centre) and Robinson (right)

 I had intended to walk right around to the north side of Cat Bells and then follow the tourist route to the summit but as I passed the half way point I spotted an obvious path through the bracken which made its way steeply up the west side to the ridge above. I headed upwards, pleased to shave an hour off the planned route at the expense of a short but thigh burning climb.

Derwent Water from Skelgill Bank on the Cat Bells ridge

 Once on the ridge, Derwent water comes suddenly into view and also so do the crowds. From passing just a handful of walkers to this point I was now suddenly part of a procession meandering along the ridge to the summit. Wainwright describes Cat Bells as a family fell and it was certainly occupied by folk of all ages today.

The final push to Cat Bells summit

The final push to the top is quite craggy and steep in places which was pleasantly unexpected. Unsurprisingly the summit was full of folk mooching around or sat eating their lunches while enjoying the views over Derwent Water & Keswick, which really are 'quite nice'. This is not a scene which inspires the solo hiker though and so I headed off along the ridge towards Maiden Moor, hopeful that the crowds would dwindle with distance from Keswick.

Cat Bells summit view over Keswick towards Skiddaw and Blencathra

Cat Bells summit panorama west showing the whole route ahead

Cat Bells summit panorama east over Derwent Water

The onwards route to Maiden Moor

 The path from Cat Bells continues along the ridge following Derwent Water for about a mile before turning westwards on a gradual climb towards the large grassy plateau that is Maiden Moor. The actual summit Cairn is off the main path on the west side and is easily missed. From here there are good views over the valley towards Hindscarth but in all other directions the flat summit expanse obscures all but the distant fells. The path continues southwards following the lie of the land gradually upwards towards High Spy.

Maiden Moor Summit looking onwards to High Spy

Looking back at a precarious looking cairn on the approach to High Spy
The summit of High Spy is another flat plateau with steep crags falling away on the western side but the stand out feature is its statuesque summit cairn. It also provides the first views of Dale Head which was the next objective. As I left the summit a pair of walkers came up from the Keswick side, circled the cairn and then turned back. These were last people I saw until returning to the car the following day. 

High Spy summit looking towards Dale Head - now that's a summit cairn!

On leaving High Spy the path drops to a wide col where Dale Head Tarn nestles against the steep flanks of its parent fell. Sitting next to the tarn I briefly considered making camp. It was a lovely sheltered spot and a welcome rest from the buffeting wind which had been steadily increasing for the past hour. It was only 4pm though, and despite the temptation for an early respite I headed on up the steep path to Dale Head summit, which was the hardest work I had done since Cat Bells.

Dale Head Tarn

The summit of Dale Head is a fantastic place to be. The view as you emerge onto the top are some of the best I have seen in the Lakes and made all the better by its magnificent summit cairn which belittles even the one on High Spy. In all directions the view is stunning and I spent a good half hour wandering around taking pictures. Thankfully the cloud had lifted from the Scafells and so the whole panorama was uninterrupted.


Dale Head summit panorama video

Dale Head summit looking towards Hindscarth

Dale Head summit view back down the valley towards Newlands

Dale Head summit panorama north

Dale Head summit panorama south towards the Scafells

Great Gable with the Scafells behind

Looking across Honister to Fleetwith Pike from Dale Head summit

Gatesgarthdale Beck snaking along the Honister valley towards Buttermere

I reluctantly left Dale Head summit and continued along the ridge towards Robinson. After a few minutes Buttermere comes into view. It really is a lovely aspect looking down on the lake with Fleetwith Pike at its head and the High Stile ridge, from Haystacks to Red Pike, stretching out across the opposite bank. After just 1/2 mile the ridge to Hindscarth merges from the right to create a 'T junction' of sorts and I  followed this path along an easy 1/2 mile to the summit of Hindscarth. 

Hindscarth summit view back towards Dale Head

Hindscarth summit view over Newlands towards the Grasmoor - Causey Pike ridge

 By this time the sun was getting low so I began the search for a camp site. The wind was blowing strongly from the west and so I headed towards the leeward side which is a sloping grassy area. I managed to find a flattish tent sized spot and set about making camp.

Camping spot on Hindscarth

Tent guyed strongly against a fierce wind
 It was far from a good pitch as the pegs kept hitting bedrock after 2 inches and so I was unable to get them in at the ideal places. The tent was secure though, if not drum tight and pretty. After setting up and eating some hot food I walked the short distance to the summit ridge to sit down watch the sunset. Hat, gloves and down vest were required to keep warm for that half hour. The following is a 'tongue in cheek' video of the pitch …. which certainly wasn't pretty.

Sun setting over Robinson

It was a cold and windy night but nothing out of the ordinary for a lakeland summit camp. In the early hours I ventured out to 'spend a penny' and was greeted by a clear sky with a full moon which was low in the sky over Maiden Moor. It was too good a photo opportunity to miss so I grabbed the camera and tried for 10 mins to keep it steady enough for a decent piccy. I only had a mini tripod and the wind kept buffeting it so the best I could manage was trying to holding the camera steady on a rock.     

No need for a tent light tonight

Sunrise over Clough Head
 I woke at 6 ish and opened the tent door to a lovely red sky forming over Clough Head. Unfortunately, 20 mins later, the cloud rolled in from the south and stayed there for the rest of the morning. I packed up and retraced my steps back to the main ridge and then along to Robinson. Every now and then the mist cleared for a few seconds giving views down to Butteremere. 

Robinson summit in the clag

Glimpses of Buttermere from the descent to Newlands Hause

Robinson summit was shrouded in thick cloud and after waiting for 10 mins it didn't seem likely to clear any time soon so I headed off down the steep path towards Butteremere Moss and Newlands Hause. The initial descent is along a steep rocky path but as Buttermere Moss is reached the land flattens to becomes a wide mass of soaking wet sphagnum moss interspersed with grassy tussocks. Trying to step from tussock to tussock is unfortunately no defense against the drenched ground and I soon found myself sploshing across this boggy expanse with no escape from the water. Eventually a path appears which follows the shoulder of High Snockrigg before dropping steeply to Newlands Hause.

Knott Rigg & the Newlands valley from Buttermere Moss

Newlands Hause and Knott Rigg

Moss Force and Newlands Hause from the climb up Knott Rigg

From the road at Newlands Hause a good path leads steeply up to Knott Rigg, at the top of which is a small pile of stones which serves as a summit cairn. 

Knott Rigg summit 'cairn' looking towards Robinson

Knott Rigg panorama towards the Sail ridge

Knott Rigg view to Ard Crags

 From Knott Rigg a broad ridge is followed for about a mile towards Ard Crags. It has to be said that Ard Crags is decidedly uncraggy. In fact it appears to be a mile long ridge with steep heather covered flanks and not a crag to be seen as far as I could see. 

Ard Crags -  but where are the crags?

Ard Crags summit - Robinson just emerging from cloud

The Newlands valley towards Cat Bells from Ard Crags

Causey Pike from Ard Crags

Looking back up at Ard Crags and still wondering where the crags are?

Cat Bells over Little Town

 The descent route follows a steep path which cuts through the heather, dropping down to the foot of the Newlands valley where it joins the road to Little Town. 

So that's 106 Wainwrights and just 1 short of halfway. I'm not sure what to tackle next. Perhaps the Skiddaw group or some of the fells north of Blencathra. Til next time. Thanks for reading.

Kit List

Shelter : Tarptent Scarp 1 (1.3kgs)
Mat : Exped SynMat7 UL LW (595g) 
Sleeping Bag : Rab Alpine 400 (970g)   
Stove : High Gear Blaze titanium stove (48g)  + Primus 100g Gas Cart   
Pans : Evernew Solo-set (250g)
Rucksack : Osprey Talon 44 (1.18kg) 

Fluid : Deuter Streamer 2lt Bladder (185g) and 600ml Sigg bottle (100g empty) + Sawyer Squeeze filter (84g), 100 mls milk, coffee  
Food : Wayfayrer chicken jalfrezi, Buttered Bread, Supernoodles,various sugary snacks.
Bits & Bobs : headtorch and spare batteries, Iphone + Anker 5800mHh battery,  victorinox knife, map & compass, basic first aid kit and Petzl e-lite, spork, various fold dry bags, flint & steel, plastic trowel.  

Camera : Panasonic DMC-LX7 & lowepro case.  
Clothes : Ron Hill wicking T-Shirt, Rab 100 wt fleece (250g), Mountain Equipment Ultratherm jacket (275g), Rab microlight down vest (310g), TNF Meridian Cargo Shorts (190g), ME beany, Rab phantom grip gloves, sunglasses, Buff, Innov8 short socks. 
Hard Shell = Mountain Equipment Firefox jacket (320g) and trousers (259g) not used.
Trail Shoes : Meindl Respond GTX (820g pair)

Comments welcome as always.


  1. Good write up, Steve and nice photos of what looks like a good trip. You must have had to lug water to your camp spot? Where did you collect it?

    Happy to meet up in Lakes if our diaries ever coincide!

  2. Thanks David. I was a bit luckier than you with the weather it seems. I took 2.5 litres from the car and lugged it all the way up. Total pack weight was 12kg so not too bad. Wit a bit more planning I could have refilled at Dale Head Tarn. Cest la Vie !
    Would be nice to meet up. Ive still got 107 Wainwright's to go so plenty more walks to be done :-)