High Street, Rough Crag, Mardale Ill Bell and Harter Fell

12 August 2006

An early start saw George and Stephen at Mardale Head before 8 o'clock. Having walked alongside Haweswater to The Rigg, we now prepare to climb the long ridge which leads directly to the summit of High Street

Looking across the (unseen) Small Water to Nan Bield Pass, with Harter Fell on the left and Mardale Ill Bell on the right

As we ascend the ridge, a look back along Haweswater

Gatesgarth Pass between Branstree and Harter Fell, with Tarn Crag appearing over the col.

George takes a breather on our ascent of Rough Crag

The impressive Blea Water comes into view - we last saw Blea Water in winter.

Stephen and George on the summit of Rough Crag (628 metres above sea level) with High Street Behind, its summit gradually emerging as the cloud lifts during our ascent.

Beyond the summit of Rough Crag, the ridge descends slightly before the final pull to High Street; the col is named Caspel Gate, and contains this tarn, pictured with Harter Fell beyond.

Almost at the summit of High Street, a retrospective view, with Riggindale leading to Haweswater, and the ridge of Long Stile leading to that tarn at Caspel Gate and then the summit of Rough Crag, behind which the declining ridge runs to wooded promentary of The Nab, which can be seen jutting out into the lake.

A muddy George on top of High Street (828 metres above sea level). The summit itself is unexciting, the rounded dome curtailing views into the neighbouring valleys.

A short distance to the west is the High Street itself, route of a Roman road across the fells between the forts of Brocavum near Penrith and Galava at Ambleside. Here we see it running north across the pass named Straights of Riggindale before turning right to cross near the summit of Rampsgill Head. Its antiquity is suggested by the fact that this "road", now kept alive by walkers, doesn't visit the fell summits, but merely keeps to the high ground.

Windermere peeks into view through the bottom of the clouds

Taking the route along the edge of the escarpment to Mardale Ill Bell, we get a dramatic look down onto Blea Water. Behind, running from the left across the top of the picture, is the long ridge we climbed along the top of earlier this morning to reach High Street. The scene made me yearn for the wide angle lens on my previous camera.

The summit of Mardale Ill Bell. Although raised little from the col that links it with High Street, it has a distinct presence.

Looking across the ridge of Thornthwaite Crag, the Coniston Fells come into view, with Black Combe peeking into view on the left of the Dow Crag ridge.

As we descend towards the Nan Bield Pass, the triple-summits of Yoke, Froswick and Ill Bell are prominent.

A stop for a rest and reflection, as we look down on Nan Bield Pass with Harter Fell beyond. The original plan had been to descend from Nan Bield, but with such good time having been made, and with the legs bearing up very well, and George still full of boundless energy, a decision was made to visit Harter Fell too, and descend via Gatesgarth Pass.

As we near Nan Bield, a look across Small Water down to Haweswater

Kentmere Reservoir with Yoke and Froswick behind.

The wall shelter sits on the crest of Nan Bield Pass - a very tidy pass, with the two ascents from Mardale and Kentmere meeting with the two paths from Mardale Ill Bell and Harter Fell at a definite point with hardly a square metre of level ground - a true saddle.

Looking down the path from Nan Bield into Kentmere, there is a beautiful set of zig-zags. It is remarkable that so few paths have developed like this - when faced with a stiff climb with no path, I tend to zig-zag naturally, but it seems that so many people tend to take the most direct course, but happily not here.

As we near the summit of Harter Fell, a look back along the ridge from Nan Bield, then across Mardale Ill Bell to High Street.

The summit cairn on Harter Fell is an odd affair, being a mixture of stones and the rusting remains of old fence posts.

From near the corner in the fence on the descent towards Gatesgarth, a look along Haweswatere. It was here that A. Wainright was pictured in his Guide and which was used in the TV programmes from the 1980s.

A look from Harter Fell to Gatesgarth Pass, with more zigzags, with Branstree beyond. The path from Harter Fell to the top of the pass has been repaired, but unlike some repaired paths with their large stones, this was very easy to walk, and we were at the top of the pass in no time at all. After a short rest we continued along the route down to Mardale: this section is a byway, but fortunately a Traffic Regulation Order prevents motorised vehicles from using it except for access to agricultural land, and the path remains in good condition.

The valley bottom nears, and the walk is nearly over - an excellent expedition. Total distance 12.7km, taking 5 hours 50 minutes (including 2 hours stopped).


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Unless otherwise stated, all images copyright (c) Stephen and Lucy Dawson