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Skiddaw

 
   

 

Ann Bowker


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Height: 931m (3,054ft) GPS: NY 26040 29085 Walking Routes

Skiddaw is a mountain in the Lake District National Park and with a summit at 931 m (3,054 feet) above sea level it is the fourth highest mountain in England, and the lowest above 3,000 feet (910 m).

It lies just north of the town of Keswick and dominates the skyline in this part of the northern lakes. It is the simplest of the Lake District mountains of this height to ascend (as there is a well-trodden tourist track from a car park to the north-east of Keswick, near the summit of Latrigg) and, as such, many walking guides recommend it to the occasional walker wishing to climb a mountain.

The mountain lends its name to the surrounding areas of "Skiddaw Forest", and "Back o' Skidda'" and to the isolated "Skiddaw House", situated to the east, formerly a shooting lodge and subsequently a youth hostel.

It also provides the name for the slate derived from that region: Skiddaw Slate. Tuned percussion musical instruments or lithophones exist which are made from the slate, such as the Musical Stones of Skiddaw held at Keswick Museum and Art Gallery.

The Northern Fells comprise a roughly circular upland area approaching 10 miles (16 km) in width. At the centre is the marshy depression of Skiddaw Forest - a treeless plateau at an altitude of 396 metres (1,299 ft); and flowing outwards from here are the rivers which divide the area into three sectors
.

The south-western sector, between the Glenderaterra Beck and Dash Beck, contains Skiddaw and its satellites.

Skiddaw itself takes the form of a north-south ridge about half a mile long, with steep slopes to east and west. The ridge continues northwards over Broad End to Bakestall, a fell overlooking the Whitewater Dash waterfall. Further ridges fan out east and west from the southern end of Skiddaw.

To the south-east are Skiddaw Little Man, Lonscale Fell and Latrigg, an easily accessible viewpoint for Keswick and Derwentwater.Beyond these fells are the Glenderaterra Beck and the Blencathra group.

The south western ridge curves round through 180 degrees to run north above the shore of Bassenthwaite Lake. This gives Skiddaw an 'outer wall', comprising Carl Side, Long Side and Ullock Pike, collectively referred to as 'Longside Edge'.

The final member of the Skiddaw Group is Dodd, a satellite of Carl Side.

Between Skiddaw and Longside Edge are the quiet valleys of Southerndale and Barkbethdale, separated by the spur of Buzzard Knott. These drain the western flanks of the fell to Bassenthwaite Lake.

The eastern side of Skiddaw drains into Skiddaw Forest, much of the water reaching Candleseaves Bog. This marsh is the source of both the Dash Beck flowing north west to Bassenthwaite and the River Caldew, beginning its long journey north eastward to the Solway Firth via Carlisle.

Below Sale How is Skiddaw House, a stone building which has variously served as a shooting lodge, shepherd's bothy and Youth Hostel. Its windbreak comprises the only trees in Skiddaw Forest, and it is reached via a long access track up the Dash Valley.

Skiddaw's slopes are generally rounded and convex, looking from a distance as though a thick velvet blanket has been draped over a supporting frame. On the ridges the general terrain is of loose stones, but elsewhere all is grass and heather.

The summit ridge bears a number of tops, which from north to south are known as North Top, High Man (the summit), Middle Top and South Top.

All now bear cairns and a number of stone wind shelters have been erected.

Skiddaw has a subsidiary summit, Little Man, which lies about 1.5 km south-south-east of the main peak.

From High Man the north east quadrant is filled by the quiet fells of Back o'Skiddaw, with the Border hills, the Cheviots and the North Pennines behind them.

To the south east are Blencathra, the Far Eastern Fells and the Helvellyn range; behind these are vistas of the Yorkshire Dales and Forest of Bowland.

The Coniston Fells are visible directly to the south. On the other side of South Top is a fine view of the Scafells, Western and North Western Fells, with a portion of Snowdonia visible between Kirk Fell and Pillar.

The Isle of Man is visible 60 miles (97 km) away, as are the Mourne Mountains 120 miles (190 km) away (on exceptionally clear days).

The final quarter is taken up by the coastal plain and the distant Solway Firth, backed by the hills of Galloway such as Merrick, Criffel and Broad Law.

By moving to South Top a superb view of Borrowdale can be brought into sight
.

Many routes of ascent have been devised for Skiddaw; indeed, it is hard to devise a challenging approach in good conditions. The most popular tourist route starts from Keswick and first ascends behind Latrigg, before the climb continues over the slopes of Little Man to the summit. About 200m of ascent can be saved by driving to the top of Gale Road and beginning from the public carpark just behind the summit of Latrigg.

Another popular route is to follow Longside Edge, first ascending Ullock Pike, Longside and Carl Side before making the steep climb up from Carlside Col.

Also from the north, a somewhat tougher alternative is to walk up Buzzard Knott between Southerndale and Barkbethdale: after crossing to the southern edge of the shoulder above Randel Crag ascend due east to the summit.

Rather easier than either of these is the compass-walk due south from Cock Up (505m); reversing this route provides a safe descent, especially in bad weather. Scramblers may prefer simply to walk up Southerndale and climb Longside via a distinctive crevice seen easily from Skiddaw summit.

From the south-west at Millbeck, Carlside Col can be reached directly. A start from nearby Applethwaite can also be used to provide a variation to the tourist route.

From the north-west a tough but picturesque ascent can be made to the northern end of Longside Edge before following the ridge route to the summit.

Finally, ascents from due east are possible for the walker who first makes for Skiddaw House, a good distance from either Keswick, Threlkeld or Peter House. Once Skiddaw House is reached a fairly direct line is possible, climbing over either Sale How or Hare Crag.

From the north-east an unmarked but quite easy and fairly well-worn path starts at Whitewater Dash waterfall (on the Cumbrian Way) where the walker can follow the fence (along Birkett Edge just south of Dead Crags) past the Bakestall outcrop, and follow the fence until just before the unnamed top at 831m. From the 831m top, a path leads directly to Skiddaw Man.

 
Walking routes near Skiddaw
 

 

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