Offlist Walk: Catbells

14 11 2010
14th November 2010
with Mrs NLW
4.0 miles
Explorer OL4 (The English Lakes (North-western area))
Cloudy, cold

Keswick beyond Derwent Water on the right, Bassenthwaite Lake on the left

Once we had decided to spend a week in Keswick the climbing of Catbells became an obvious venture. I had bought the Jarrold guide for ‘North & West Lakeland’ but we ended up deviating from the Catbells walk contained within as we found that the carpark referred to at Hawes End doesn’t really exist. I’m not even sure where they meant, there is merely a scrap of dirt that will fit 3 cars on it. After passing this we headed to the left (east) of Catbells on the road towards Manesty and Borrowdale, every now and again we spotted a parking space in a gap in the hillside, but they were all taken, after a mile we reached the woods at Brandelhow Park where there was a larger run of roadside parking.

View of Catbells summit

We decided to start off by walking downhill through the woods to the shores of Derwent Water and then head north along the shoreside path, with pleasant views north towards Keswick and plenty of ducks and kayakers to keep us company. The path would easily on towards Hawes End Outdoor Centre where we followed their drive out until we found a path cutting steeply back south-west towards the northern end of the ridge that features Catbells (Catbells consists of the first two peaks of a ridge which goes on to Maiden Moor and eventually Dale Head in Borrowdale). The climb is steep from the start, and we concentrate on plodding slowly so as not to get too tired, it probably only takes 15 minutes including the odd rest to reach what we had though to be the top of the first peak (the lower of the two) but it turns out that we have only reached the first rocky outcrop we need to scramble up. I didn’t know we would need to scramble up anything so it’s a bit of a surprise, but it’s not a problem and we are soon over it, and a similar section soon after and so we quickly reach the top of the first peak (Brandelhow Fell).

We take lunch at this point and marvel at the sheer number of people with child-carrier backpacks! I’m all for promoting healthy pursuits and an appreciation of the great outdoors, but I’m not so sure scrambling up rocks on a bitterly cold day, just a few hours before the sun sets is the wisest of choices. Still, there were a lot of them doing it so what do I know?

Sunlight on Maiden Moor

We press on, a short descent before we start to climb Catbells summit. Here there is a prolonged section of light scrambling, and picking your way through boulders, we find the muddy paths on the edges of these sections to be a bit easier than the rocky sections. We’re quite proud of the fact that on this section we kept up with a couple of men just in front of us who looked like they did this sort of thing every day. We reach the top of Catbells and it is noticeably chillier up here, the view though is wonderful: Keswick to the North with Skiddaw behind in, just to the east of that we see Basenthwaite Lake, due west is the beautiful Newlands valley with the foreboding Causey Pike beyond. Maiden Moor lies to the south and there are

Derwent Water

shafts of sunlight cutting through to illuminate portions of its steep fellside, to the east is Walla Crag and High Seat, with Derwent Water sitting in between.

We continue south descending to the col between Catbells and Maiden Moor, at the lowest point of this path we turn east and then south-east on the steep stony descent into the valley. the path has been laid (or cut) with stone steps, but these are rough and uneven and Mrs NLW’s back, and my knee both suffer. The descent takes quite a while but eventually we meet the ‘Allerdale Ramble’ path which makes its way across the lower slops of Catbells before it meets up with the road we parked on just before Brandelhow woods.

A great walk, which took about 2 hours. It should be noted though that the Jarrold books group their walks into 3 classes: green, blue and orange. It used to be the case that these colours denoted the increasing difficulty of the walk, however it now appears to be merely an assessment of how long the walk will take, with no account taken of the terrain. This may only be a 2 hour walk (2.5 if you add Brandelhow wood and shoreside section as we did) but it’s not without its challenges.

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