Dogs, cattle, mist and hill skills!


Wainwright count:                 3

Wainwrights:                          Caw Fell, Haycock and Red Pike

Who with:                               Susie, my Patterdale Terrier & Sally, my father’s Boarder Terrier

Date:                                       19th August 2015

After a day off to do some jobs, we were back in the Lakes and this time Wasdale was our destination on what was looking a pretty miserable day ahead weather-wise. We parked the old Landy at Netherbeck Bridge, half way down Wast Water and took the path which runs parallel to Nether Beck, which starts off a little boggy, as expected, but establishes into a very good and obvious path.


We continued on this path, with the weather currently dry (for now) until we reached Waver Beck, which is just past Great Lad Crag. At this point we noticed that there were a herd of cows with their young nestled all across the path, sheltering below Little Lad Crag. Bearing in mind that I had two dogs and only the week before a walker in Hartsop, Lake District, got seriously injured by cattle after walking through with her dog (see article below):

..and like any animals with young they are protective of them, and rightly so. This led me to decide to alter my planned route of continuing along the path past Little Lad Crag, and on up to the Eastern flank of Haycock. Instead, I decided to take the slightly more difficult route (pathless of course) of heading up to High Pikehow and then onto Caw Fell.

I don’t want to discuss the rights and wrongs of being a dog owner, but to me this is part of your responsibility when entering an area where cattle or sheep are rearing their young. In my experience, it just helps to avoid any unnecessary situations. Just to be 100% clear, although I have referenced the above article, it simply serves as an example that happened to be in my mind with it being recent and in the same area. I do not know the back ground of the above case and I am not calling on judgements of any kind regarding this example, it is just one of a number of potential examples that I could have used.

So, hopefully that is clear. Non-dog owners in many cases are quick to call dog-owners when there happens to be a dog involved even when the owner is being 100% responsible, which I think is unfair (in my opinion), but I respect the opinions of others, and it is like so many subjects that can cause debates! Getting back to the walk…having decided to leave the path, due to the dozens of cattle, I headed up High Pikehow and picked my way over long tussocky (if that is even a word) grass, which was tough going, but avoided any unnecessary issues with cattle, which made it the right thing to do at the time.

I then climbed steeply, up towards the Hanging Stone and the dry-stone wall, which runs between Haycock to Caw Fell’s summits (and further). After the exertion of the climb, I needed a minute, but I could see the weather front coming in, which was dark and wet looking! So, I continued on up towards the summit of Caw Fell, where the wind was now howling and it became very cold in the wet, feeling like autumn or early winter! It just goes to show that conditions in the valley may be warm, but you can easily get into difficulty and conditions soon turn dangerous. It pays to carry all the gear that you will need, so I donned my waterproofs and got my compass and map to hand, as I could see that dense mist and hill fog was ready to immerse us.

After reaching the summit of Caw Fell, I followed the wall back down to the bield and up towards Haycock summit, with the visibility now down to around 20 metres, due to the mist. Following summiting Haycock, I descended to try and find the path that drops back down towards Little Lad Crag, however in the conditions I missed this, and once I realised that I was beginning to climb again (towards Red Pike) I knew that I had missed the descent. I didn’t turn around to try and find the path, as I knew that the cows and their young would still be near Little Lad Crag, so instead decided to continue onto Red Pike.

However, I was following the path and keeping an eye on my altitude using my GPS, when the mist got even thicker. Now if you have ever had two dogs on leads, and tried reviewing your map in the wind and pouring rain, you will know that this isn’t the easiest thing in the world! I had now gone off the Northern top of my Ordinance Survey OL6 Map slightly, just before the summit of Red Pike, and upon going in my bag to get my OL4 map out (North West Lakes), I realised that I had made the school-boy mistake (or worse) of leaving this map in my car! This wasn’t a problem as I could always just follow a compass bearing back down towards Wast Water, but for the second time this week, it highlighted how a simple mistake, such as forgetting your map can lead to potential issues, in awful conditions in this instance.

As was the case earlier in the week, if I wasn’t competent in using navigational techniques, then I could have been in trouble, and if unprepared, can soon get wet, cold, disorientated, and this can lead to panic setting in. This, I am sure will have led to many people calling for the Mountain Rescue teams, over something that is simple to avoid, and really does illustrate the need for being prepared with the right equipment, and being able to use it, i.e. having the right skills (from a skills course, or self-taught and practiced). In the UK, we really can have 4 seasons in one day, and so the importance of being prepared is essential.

So, as luck would have it, although I could have taken a simple compass bearing and safely negotiated my way down, I bumped into a lovely couple of walkers, who leant me their map, and allowed me to follow the short distance to get me back on to my OL6 map. With extremely bruised pride, at my stupidity, I followed the path down to Dore Head, with the conditions now absolutely atrocious and the mist now down to Wast Water level as it turned out. From here I followed the distinct path down parallel to Yewbarrow, dropping back down to the car park at Overbeck Bridge, before the short walk back to my car.

A wet, misty day, but now I only have 1 more walk to do to finish my Wainwright round, which includes Lingmell, Scafell Pike, Scafell and Slight Side…so I am excited now! I have thoroughly enjoyed walking them and exploring the different parts of this wonderful district. That has been may main driver through this journey, so another days enjoyable walking for Nick and the dogs….who are once again filthy (but happy)!

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