Thursday, 26 November 2015

Whitbarrow, Gummer's How & Top o'Selside

Walk summary
Near top of Wihitbarrow Scar
look left down on Witherslack Hall School and Farm
Today was a slightly less ambitious, but still challenging plan than yesterday. With an earlier start, shorter walks and closer to base at Arnside Youth Hostel gives me the idea I will manage four Marilyns today. With Whitbarrow, and Gummer's How bagged before 12:30 I was still on schedule and confident of achieving the days objectives. However my little habit of picking off nearby peaks almost put the plan in doubt. Difficult ground with unmapped dense pine trees around Birch Fell summit took longer than expected and navigational hiccups on the descent wasted more time meaning I did not arrive at walk start for Top o'Selside until 14:30. Well if I don't hang around and don't have further problems I may have a chance to get up and down and be at the base of the Marilyn I did not manage yesterday, Kirkby Moor [Lowick High Common], before it gets dark even if it means coming back down via the quarry paths in the dark.
Well I did not really have too many problems, but short days in December are what they are, the clue is in the name. Even though I was back at the van by 16:40 it was well dark, putting any idea of a fourth Marilyn out of the question.
Even so quite a successful day. Still managed 3 Marilyns, 9.05 miles and 779.04m of ascent in 4 hours 52 minutes at an average pace of 1.86mph.

Peaks visited
Nuttalls (254E - 443E&W)
Hewitts (179E - 316E&W)
Marilyns (175E - 1550E,W&S)
Whitbarrow - Lords Seat (96E - 170E,W&S)
Gummer's How (97E - 171E,W&S)
Top o'Selside (98E - 172E,W&S)
Deweys (181E - 422E&W)
HuMPs (444E - 2975EW&S)
Whitbarrow - Lords Seat (152E - 247E,W&S)
Gummer's How (153E - 248E,W&S)
Top o'Selside (154E - 249E,W&S)
Wainwrights Outlying Fells (116)
Whitbarrow - Lords Seat (5)
Gummer's How(6)
Top o'Selside (Wainwright Summit) (7)
Birketts (541)
Gummer's How(265)
Birch Fell (266)
Top o'Selside (Wainwright Summit) (267)
Arnsbarrow Hill (268)
Stang Hill [Arnsbarrow Hill South Top] (269)
Historic County Tops (49E - 93E,W&S)
E: England 
E,W&S:England,Wales & Scotland

Other walks on this trip
25th Whitfell & Black Combe
26th Whitbarrow, Gummer's Howe & Top o'Selside
28th Dodd (Lorton)
29th Birkside & Hunt Laws
01st The Wiss
02nd Hods Law & surrounding Donald Deweys
03rd Law Kneis & Ward Law
06th Croft Head & Scaw'd Law
08th Four Marilyns between Moffatt and Berwick
10th The 100th English Marilyn

Walk Statistics
Walk Date - 26 November 2015
Walkers - Steve Smith

 -  YHA Arnside
Start Point - Various. See maps below

Finish Point Various. See maps below
Total Duration - 4hrs 52mins 
Overall Average pace - 1.86mph
Total Distance Walked - 9.05 miles
Total Height Ascended - 779.40 metres

Whitbarrow summit to right of cairn, viewed from the west
Click on photograph to view slide-show
GPX can be downloaded from
2.08 miles, 179.46m ascent.
To give myself any chance of completing all four Marilyns today I decided to abandon the planned longer circular route up Whitbarrow. From the walk start point near Witherslack Hall Farm you could see Whitbarrow Scar. Heading past Witherslack School football pitch it was a left turn and through High Park Wood and steep diagonal ascent along obvious path up Whitbarrow Scar. Half way up I could hear hunting horns and dogs barking. A couple of minutes later five or six hounds came bounding down the path after goodness knows what. They certainly looked like they were enjoying themselves, especially the one with one ear turned inside out. Turns out they had been let out by a local dogs home for a bit of exercise. I reckon they will be the rest of the day rounding them up.
Towards the top of the scar the path goes through a gate in the wall and follows the wall and rim of the scar until it turns sharp right after about 400m. This takes you on to the summit plateau and in sight of the summit cairn. The whole plateau is a part of The Lake District Naturalist Trust (now The Cumbria Wildlife Trust) and a plaque dedicated to its founder, Canon GAK Hervey can be found in the cairn near Whitbarrow summit.
The descent route should have been via the permissive path which should take you back to the ascent path as it passes through the wall. As is often the case with green dotted lines on the map, the physical realisation of it on the ground was no where to be seen but other than setting off from the cairn along the main ridge instead of diagonally off to the left there was no problem finding the wall and path. From the gate in the wall the descent was a reverse of the ascent route back to the van and Witherslack Farm 
Gummer's How
Hardy Luing cattle
just visible through the mist beyond cairn on Gummer's How
Click on photograph to view slide-show
GPX can be downloaded from
2.68 miles, 214.83m ascent.
By the time I reached Gummer's How Forestry Commission car park the weather had closed in with a steady wet drizzle. As well as the main summit I planned to pick off a nearby Birkett. Ignoring the signpost to Gummer's How near the car park which sent you east for some reason. Instead head north up the road and turn left at the signpost which correctly points towards Gummer's How.
The path is well trodden as I am sure it is a popular weekend route for all. There is a fairly steep ascent which may require a hand on a rock a couple of times but in no way could constitute a scramble.
As the summit and trig point appeared through the mist I could see a young guy explaining his route to his girl friend. I waited for them to finish, which seemed to take ages , but when they eventually moved on I took the necessary photos and took a bearing to head on to Birch Fell. I did notice the young girl was hanging around and I could see she was uncomfortable and ill at ease. I felt I wanted to say something to encourage her but couldn't think of what to say. Her boyfriend was waiting a little lower down, maybe a little impatiently shifting from foot to foot, and as I passed him I could see his girl friend gingerly picking her steps down to join him. I guess she was out of her comfort zone with the rain and poor visibility and it was at that point I thought of what to say, but by then I was out of sight. I do hope he manages to gently encourage her in to her comfort zone and she manages to overcome her anxieties. They will be able to share adventures and experiences together long in to their old age, maybe pass on to their children, that money simply cannot buy.
Anyway moving on to Birch Fell and reach the wall surrounding Birch Fell Plantation you come up against dense fir trees not marked on the map. No matter I continue heading up hill through the clearest route I can find until I get to the summit area. There are four candidates for the high point so I visit (and of course photograph) them all then head down south to find the track that will take me to the road and back to the van.
More problems as I end up following a fence in the wrong direction before noticing my mistake and eventually find the track back to the road.
Amazing really I am not even doing the Birketts, although I am nearly half way through as a result of my Nuttall walks, but this part of the walk was harder than the part to the Marilyn.
Top o'Selside
Forest track from NE of car park to follow at start of walk
Click on photograph to view slide-show

GPX can be downloaded from
4.29 miles, 385.11m ascent.
Like I mentioned earlier I still had ambitions to do four Marilyns as I set of for Top o'Selside and number three.
From the car park head north west through the gate and along permissive path. Very quickly the path on the ground started heading in a different direction than that marked on the map, so I head off path up hill through the wood. This was fairly hard going and after some time I rejoined the original path that took me in the direction I wanted and onto the track alongside Selside Beck. Following the track uphill until the marker post where you turn left. A little further on a second marker post indicates the point to turn right towards Top o'Selside summit. The path comes and goes but as you head uphill you eventually reach a cairn that I thought was the summit, until I peered through the mist and rain and saw high ground beyond. Further on there is a rocky prominence which I thought was the top, but once again - higher ground beyond. Still further on you reach a grassy mound which is the Marilyn summit. Hardly worth the trouble but the cairn turns out to be the Wainwright summit so a bonus extra peak bagged.
Looking around there was nothing to see other than fading daylight and poor visibility down to about 50m. Well looks like I am not going to have time for the fourth Marilyn of the day so I might as well try and pick off the two Birketts of Arnsbarrow Hill and Stang Hill. Heading on a southerly bearing through heather I did question the wisdom of heading down in to the mist as dusk began to cast it's cloak, especially as any paths I did find did not head in the required direction for long. However with the help of GPS on my smart phone managed to find Arnsbarrow Hill and subsequently Stang Hill. The map did suggest a path down headed south in the form of a green dotted line but in the absence of anything on the ground I decided to follow the compass on an easterly bearing until I founds a path then turned right along the path until it took me back to the marker post I used earlier to head for Top o'Selside summit.
From here it was a case of following the ascent route back to the path through the woods and this time stay on it all the way back to the van.
It was dark by the time I got back to the van and I was soaked so all that was left to do was change in to dry clothes and return to the hostel. Even though it was dark it would be an early night to get back and time to enjoy a pint and meal in the Ye Old Fighting Cocks in Arnside. Even so I managed to arrive after food had finished being served, but very kindly they organised  specially prepared meal. Thanks very it was much appreciated, my bones where really feeling cold and in need of some hot food.
One peak short of target but still a successful day. 7 peaks in all 3 of which are Marilyns all of which are of course HuMPs and 5 Birketts.