Take a walk on the wild side with John Hunston – avoiding the honeypots

The track from Ravenstone Hotel on Ullock Pike

As I write this, the spell of exceptionally bright, warm weather is coming to an end and we are having the first rain in about a week, says John Hunston the walking mountain leader. 

Sunrises & sunsets

Sunrises and sunsets have been spectacular, and I’ve been trying to make the most of this by getting out at those times of day, although to be fair sunsets are easier than sunrises for me these days! The half term rush, spread over three weeks, is now dwindling and the fells are certainly fairly quiet. 

Sunset on Hall’s Fell, Blencathra

Avoiding honeypot areas

However, I’ve avoided the honeypot areas such as Helvellyn, turning left (north) rather than right at the top of Sticks Pass the other day to get onto the Dodds.

Having the hills to ourselves

It felt a bit like that thing about turning left at the top of the aeroplane steps to access first class, not that I’ve ever done it, as the feeling of space and freedom was far better than getting a “big tick” alongside the economy class hordes. Plus there was a dog going the other way, and I try to avoid them with Larry. He’s not keen on them, as regular readers may know, which is a shame but seems a difficult trait to correct. Anyway, we had a lovely time with the hills all to ourselves, and Larry found a sheep bone to play with, which always gives him the “zoomies”! 

Something smells good to Larry

I’d not been up Sticks Pass for years, and it struck me as a particularly good way onto the ridge, with lots of easier angled stuff after the initial, relatively short, ascent. If you can arrange two cars, a traverse over Raise to Helvellyn and beyond makes an excellent day, with the single-car option of dropping down to Wythburn and walking back along the forest track initially, then keeping above a series of intake walls to reach Stanah and your car. 

Running over Ullock Pike from Millbeck

I was chatting to a friend the other day and he mentioned running over Ullock Pike from Millbeck, just outside Keswick, where he lives, via the Ravenstone Hotel on the A591.

Ullock Puke with Skiddaw in the background

I’d never been up Ullock Pike from there, having preferred the circuit of Southerndale from the Orthwaite road just after High Side farm. There’s space for a few cars there and it makes a great round. Years ago, Wainwright published a coffee table book which included it and for a while it was quite popular, but it seems to have fallen from favour somewhat. 

Wainwright calls it Ullock Pike

Anyway, I parked up just south of the Ravenstone and headed uphill onto a lovely open fell side, then onto the ridge and rocky steps to the summit. Although Wainwright calls it Ullock Pike, the highest summit at the south end of the ridge is referred to as Longside Edge on OS maps, with Ullock Pike a lesser summit further north. Either way, it’s a cracking viewpoint for Skiddaw and other peaks to the west. From there, I dropped down over Carlside in the company of a runner from Gilcruz who was happy to walk for a while (my plantar fasciitis is still playing up!) before descending to White Stones from where a track leads to the pass between Skiddaw Dodd and the main fellside. I’ve always remembered this particular spot as a good place for bilberries, and I must remember to return here later in the year when they are in season.

Derwent from Carlisle

From there, I kept to the forest track that hugs the north bank of Skill Beck until a sign indicates a smaller, quite delightful northbound track through the forest keeping fairly high.

Sign for Dodd Summit & Skill Beck

The sign was for Dodd Summit and Skill Beck tracks. Then after a little while another yellow sign pointed straight on for Sandbed Gill track, leaving the main track as it led back north to the Dodd café. This led all the way back to my starting point, with sunlight filtering through the trees all the way and pine cones littering the forest floor.

Dodd Wood

I’ve just had a day with Duke of Edinburgh students training them for their Bronze Award. This was a classroom-based course with a session on the playing field putting up tents and practising with stoves. The year 9 (3rd form in old money) students were a pleasure to work with and I look forward to their expeditions later in the month. One or two had spent time in the outdoors, but I suspect the majority will be encountering some new experiences. It will be interesting to see how they cope with carrying heavy packs, camping and keeping their spirits up, especially if the weather is against them too. I’ll be reporting back next month!

John Hunston –  the walking mountain leader
johnhunstonwalking.com

John is a member of the Keswick Mountain Rescue – you can donate to this amazing, lifesaving charity online via this link: http://keswickmrt.org.uk/donate/

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