Wednesday, 25 November 2015

Whitfell & Black Combe

Walk summary
Hesk Fell from half way up southern flank of Whitfell
First visit to the Lake District since April 2013, Catstye Cam. The reason for this visit is primarily to attend Rick Nordicstar & Jen's Birkett celebrations later in the week on Dodd (Lorton) which will be their final Birkett out of the 541, 1000' summits in the Lake District, as well as Charles's final and 175th English Marilyn on Seat Sandal. A noteable achievement for Charles's on his journey to complete all 1556 Marilyns of Britain and a worthy achievement for Rick and Jen qualifying them  for inclusion on the LDWA register 2C.
Rick and Jen have already completed 1160 Marilyns and Charles is on 774 so I am using this trip to knock off some the Lake District Marilyns I did not 'bag' during  my visit to all 170 (171 NPR) Lake District Nuttalls. So far after 7 years of hill walking I am on 167 so as you will appreciate a seemingly impossible task to get anywhere near Rick, Jen or Charles's totals let alone the elusive 1556 achieved by only 4 people so far.
Well like all big projects, unless you set yourself a goal you will not even start, let alone finish.

Peaks visited
Nuttalls (254E - 443E&W)
Hewitts (179E - 316E&W)
Marilyns (175E - 1550E,W&S)
Whitfell (94E - 168E,W&S)
Black Combe (95E - 169E,W&S)
HuMPs (444E - 2975EW&S)
Whitfell (150E - 245E,W&S)
Black Combe (151E - 246E,W&S)
Deweys (181E - 422E&W)
Whitfell (51E - 80E&W)
Black Combe (52E - 81E&W)
Wainwrights (214)
Birketts (541)
Whitfell (262E)
Black Combe (263E)
Black Combe South Top (264E)
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 - 25 November 2015
Walkers - Steve Smith

 -  YHA Arnside
Start Point - Various. See maps below

Finish Point Various. See maps below
Total Duration - 4hrs 07mins 
Overall Average pace - 1.96mph
Total Distance Walked - 7.97 miles
Total Height Ascended - 900.66 metres

Looking down at Bigert Mire from Whitfell descent
Click on photograph to view slide-show
GPX can be downloaded from
3.38 miles, 336.32m ascent.
The plan was to start at Arnside on the Wednesday and work my way round the west side of the Lake District picking off unclimbed Marilyns within reach of the A590, A5902 and A595 finishing up in Lorton on Saturday.
Tuesday night in YHA Arnside convinced me I did not fancy camping, even from the luxury of the campervan, so decided to set up base at the hostel and concentrate on the Southern Cumbrian Marilyns. Thought I would go as far as Whitfell and work my way back to the hostel hopefully visiting as many as 5 Marilyns for the day. No planned route for Whitfell but how hard can it be. Well the first problem was no parking spots on the road to Bigert Mire Farm so had to ask at the farm where I could park who kindly pointed me to a silage storage area in sight of cloud shrouded Whitfell. Walking along the bridleway towards Whitfell a fairly steep ascent was in front but with a choice of a shallower descent up the left or right side I decided to stay on the bridleway past the direct route and took the shorter option up the north flank. Not a well defined path, even the bridleway disappeared on occasions but from the col between Whitfell and Stainton Pike it was a left turn and heather trot up to the summit cairn and trig.
From the trig there was an obvious path down and to the east but that also soon disappeared leaving me to head for the bridleway by line of sight down a fairly steep heather clad route. 
Back at van by just after midday so already the five Marilyn target for the day had gone. I must get sorted and out earlier on these short December days. So it was off towards the A595 and Black Combe the second of hopefully three Marilyns for the day.

Black Combe
No visibility but still all smiles. Yours truly at Black Combe Trig
Click on photograph to view slide-show
GPX can be downloaded from
4.59 miles, 564.34m ascent.
Longer than expected transfer time and the need for lunch meant it was 1:30 before I set off from St. Mary's Whicham car park along Kirkbank and up the bridleway alongside Moorgill Beck. I also decided to only visit the two Black Combe Tops keeping focus on the Marilyns, leaving out the three Birketts to the east and giving me a chance to manage another Marilyn today, Kirkby Moor [Lowick High Common].
The chance it may be dark before I returned and the fact this was, at 600m, a higher potentially more exposed hill persuaded me to take my fully loaded back pack. In retrospect I would have been much better putting a couple of essential items, like a head torch in my pocket. As this was the first day of the trip my lack, or loss of, aerobic fitness was showing and while I was resting on my trek poles was caught up by a local who was just nipping up for an afternoon walk. Turned out he was a hill bagger (how could you not be, living near the Lake District) who has also done all of the Birketts as well as most of the other Lake District summits. I noticed the cloud had descended quite early on during the ascent but what with chatting we soon found ourselves at the summit shelter and trig point. At 62 he was slightly older than me but seemed so much fitter having built up his hill legs over the years. His plan was to run back down while mine was to head for the nearby South Top heading south and down through the cloud until the small tarn appeared out of the gloom at the col then up the other side. Because of the visibility (or lack of it) the first thing I spotted was the large cairn which I headed towards. Looking back from whence I came I realised this was not the high point. I think at some stage I had walked over it on the way to the cairn. So for the requirement of a summit photo I wanders back, finds a smaller cairn which is also not the high point, then plump for some embedded rocks east of small cairn and south of very large cairn as the summit.
Heading back to the van the cloud seemed to lift and once I reached the bridleway had to check the map. Non of this was familiar it was hidden by cloud on the way up. Luckily (or by excellent navigation) I was on the right path but by the time I was back at the van it was nearly 4pm. Still light but not enough time for a third Marilyn. Not surprising really at 600m Black Combe qualifies as a Simm but just misses out on Nuttall status by just under 10m. Also starting at near sea level meant nearly all 600m had to be ascended.