Dawdle around the Deepdale Round

When planning the Deepdale Round I would take advice from AW and read about his account of Clough Head and how naughty it can be in bad weather.  But when looking at the fell from different positions you can clearly see that the mountain has no shelter from any of its neighbours making it a somewhat blustery peak.1

For once, it was a day where the rain wasn’t bouncing down early doors and that big yellow thing was peaking its head out, allowing us some blue sky.  Our journey to the start of the Deepdale Round was rain free and for once I was hoping to start this testing walk without donning my waterproofs, at least not straight away.  Our plan was to include Clough Head, Great Dodd, Watson Dodd, Stybarrow Dodd and Hart Side, it was a bit ambitious as we’re still just getting back into fell walking after a year off due to injury, but we had smiles and for the moment, good weather.

We parked at the car park to the side of Red Moss on the A5091, the cloud was half and half, to the north was blue sky and sun, to the west a couple of grey clouds were hanging around looking for hikers to drench.  The weather forecast said we’d be relatively rain free so we set off with a skip in our step and chatting about the past couple of soakings and feeling positive about the miles ahead.  Hugging the plantation on the coast to Coast route we headed North West towards the ford over Groove Beck.  At this point we’d been hoping to see Kel’s sister who was cycling the C2C route but we never saw her, we later found out she’d wimped out and only completed a small section, I’ll not tell why.  Anyway, we took a right at the ford heading north before swinging left and heading towards Wolf Crags.  Near the plantation we’d felt a few specks of rain so because of our past few days we’d put on waterproof jackets.  Near Wolfcrag Moss I started to regret this decision as the sun had reappeared and this fairly exposed part of the track I was getting a bit hot under the collar.  At Mariel Bridge we stopped for a drink and looked at Clough Head trying to see the path up to the 2top.  No path in sight but there were 3 laden hikers trudging their way up the side of this deceptive peak.  To be fair, there is no sign of a path on the map but we had planned our route using ‘go4awalk.com’ and it had stated there was no path.  So, we walked to the point where we ‘thought’ the other walkers had gone through the tatty fence line and started our bid for the summit.  This side of the fell is covered in that thick sodden moss, it’s like walking in deep sand and before long my thighs were bursting out of my skin.  It seemed an eternity before we reached the scree near the top then we saw the trig point, which was a great sight.  From the top we had great views of Bassenthwaite, Blencathra and the Skiddaw range, plus we had a cracking view of the dirtiest, blackest cloud heading our way at an alarming rate of knots.  The wind picked up and the cloud hit us before we could move, the sleet and hail gave us a good kicking before heading off to Great Dodd to pick on other unsuspecting walkers.

As we descended Clough Head we could see the cloud hitting GD which wasn’t too thrilling as that was our next destination.  For once, I wanted the wind to keep up its pace and we should be good for the summit.  We hit Calfhow Pike quick quickly and met up with the 3 female walkers we’d seen climbing up Clough Head.  They were sheltering from the high wind and tucking into their sarnies and looked very cheerful as they said ‘hi’ peering through their misted up spectacles.  We decided to hit Great Dodd and have bait there, seeing as the 3 girls had taken up the best spots from the blasting gale force wind knocking us off our feet.3

I looked up to the top of GD and it was getting visited by light fluffy clouds but nothing to worry about so we put our heads down and started our ascent.  I was keeping as eye on the North West as that was where the wind was bringing all the nasty little clouds that were wetting everyone.  After a brief chat with two gentlemen on their way down GD it wasn’t too long before we reached the cairn on the top, and was met by the thickest cloud we could have ‘wished’ for, I didn’t see that one coming!  This was easy the densest cloud we’d experienced for some time and the visibility was down to about 30-50 metres.  The two blokes we chatted to said there was a half decent shelter on the summit, but I couldn’t see it, come to think about it I couldn’t see much apart from the rain dripping of Kel’s nose.  I decided to take a bearing (yes it was that bad) to Watson’s Dodd just in case the path wasn’t obvious but I couldn’t hold the map straight long enough and feared it would be blown back into the valley.  Now, where’s that bloody shelter!?  After about 5 minutes of searching in the thick cloud, I briefly saw what looked like another cairn and we headed to one of the most welcoming sights I’d seen in ages, it was like seeing the Dog & Gun I’ll tell ya!

Sat in the relative comfort of the shelter we decided to have our bait and try and warm slightly and regain our thoughts.  I’d had times like this in the forces where the elements take over your thoughts making map reading difficult.  However, with a cheese and ham buttie down our necks things looked better, plus our 3 female hikers had wandered into the 30 metres of visibility and seemed to be lost.  They disappeared into the cloud briefly and Kel wondered if they’d gone the right way and looked at the map.  The cloud was thick, but we had to crack on, we were getting cold and the visibility wasn’t getting better.  Just as we decided to make a move, the 3 girls came back into sight and sat behind the shelter.  They smiled at us but the smiles didn’t appear to be as convincing as earlier when we passed them lower down.  Bearing took, now to find the start of the path and the route to Watson’s Dodd and hopefully clearer views.  We scanned the likely descent and we briefly lost sight of each other, I shouted for Kel then heard I “what!” in the near distance, she was only metres away but I’d lost sight.  She’d found the path and things were looking grand.  We joined hands and set off down the hill, closely followed by our 3 hangers on; to be fair I was relieved they’d waited for us to make a move rather than wandering off into god knows what.  If you look at the map, GD has a very steep drop as a north west face so one wrong move could prove fatal.  It’s not the highest peak but it just goes to show you, mountains need respect.5

As we descended from Great Dodd we also left behind the thick cloud and with our 3 new taggers on we picked up the pace and headed south west towards the cheeky little summit of Watson’s Dodd.  The route was very boggy and a couple detours around obvious ‘sinking holes’ were needed to get to the small cairn marking the top.  I tried to avoid following Kel on this little route, she has a canny knack of finding deep bogs, I’ve lost count of the times I’ve watched her vanish into sodden peat in the lake district.

The view was now clear and we could see High Rigg, the scene of a good soaking a few days before and the untimely demise of Kel’s waterproof trousers and her initiation into the wet knickers brigade.  A few photos taken and we were heading south east towards Stybarrow Dodd, as we were half way across we heard a girly cheer coming from Watson’s Dodd, a quick look back and our 3 ladies had reached the cairn.  Obviously they are bagging Wainwrights too, quite an enthusiastic celebration but Kel and me decided we’d stick to our celebratory kiss rather than shouting the fells down.  It’s not a massive climb up Stybarrow and it wasn’t long before we’d reached the top of the fell and the return of the high winds and driving rain.  Visibility down again and we stuck to the path to the pile of stones at the end of the small plateau.  I eventually got the map out again as I didn’t fancy it floating off into Thirlmere and looked for Hart Side and the path down.  Now, call it a brief brain fart or the fact I’d not looked at the map for a bit, I’d decided the path I needed on the ground was the one heading up Raise.  I pointed in the direction of Helvellyn’s little mate and hinted to Kel that was the route.

6When writing this blog I try to stay clear of colourful language just in case some younger people may come across it.  So I cannot put down on paper the words that came out of my beloved wife’s mouth when she looked up the chunk of rock I’d just pointed at.  Translated into everyday English it would read, “My darling, I will not be walking up that hill, please can I look at the map just to see if you have made a genuine mistake!”  You get my drift don’t you, needless to say she corrected my minor mistake and we set off west down toward Hart Side and not south up the 12th highest peak in the lakes.

As we trundled down the moss and heather I wondered where our 3 fellow AW baggers had gone.  I’d not heard the cheer of Stybarrow but when I’d last looked they were following us up the fell.  They weren’t heading up Raise making the same mistake as I did, they weren’t following us and they weren’t going back up Great Dodd surely.  Hey ho I thought as we squelched our way to Hart Side and the start of our last decent. 9

Tod Crag was a minefield of heather covered holes in the ground and mini landslides as the thick boggy peat.  We aimed for Goegill Beck and crossed over heading for an apparent footpath down into Dowthwaitehead.  Couldn’t find the path so we just free-styled until we saw an opening in the wall and bingo, a path and an end to dodgy ground.  We could see the bridge crossing Aira Beck and it wasn’t long before we crossed it and was walking through the farmyard.  Farmers always amaze me, they must have thousands of walkers bimbling through their land a year, but they always stop what they’re doing and stare as if you’re gonna run off with a Herdy under your arm.

A quick look at the map and the road from the farm goes straight back to the car park after about a mile of sturdy tarmac beneath our feet.  The weather had cleared up and we were smiling, come to think of it, we were smiling at the top of Great Dodd. A  Back at the car as we collected our thoughts looking over to the rainbow that had appeared, Kel mentioned the 3 ladies who we’d left on Stybarrow.  We scanned the surrounding fells and there was only us two left.  Kel shrugged her shoulders and said, “They’ll be ok, I’ll check Twitter later to see if the mountain rescue guys had a call out!”  She’s so caring!

10Funnily enough, Raise was mentioned a few times on route back to the caravan and I had to just take it, there’s no let-up in our little family when someone makes a tiny mistake!

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