A winter jaunt up Harter Fell

Distance: 11 miles

Fell: Harter Fell

Who with: JP, and my best mate, Susie, the Patterdale Terrier!

On what was a fantastic winter’s day, we parked at a cold Kentmere at about 8am, where we started our day. The forecast looked like it was going to be accurate, with a dry, cold and crisp  morning although a relatively strong wind in the valley’s.

We made our way down the road to Brockstones farm/ Hallow Bank, before turning off the tarmac about 15 minutes in and taking the footpath over past Stile End and Tom’s Howe down towards Sadgill. The path was extremely icey and proved slow going, and it seemed too early to put our crampons on….much to JP’s disappointment! The views over towards Longsleddale opened up, as we started descending towards Sadgill, and the sunshine brought out the fantastic winter colours on the fell side.

We headed further up into the snow covered valley (towards Haweswater), in the shadows of Goat Scar and Kentmere Pike. Heading up towards Gatescarth Pass, having still not met another sole on the walk, we bumped into our first walker enjoying the break in the winter weather. As we continued to ascend the pass, the conditions soon became more wintry with the snow depth increasing with every step.

We arrived at the crossroads, where we headed West up towards Harter Fell, which was today’s summit. Straight on led down towards Mardale Head, whilst heading East would have took us up the steep bank of Branstree, a fell I have done a number of times – providing excellent views (on a clear day) over the Eastern Fells.

The ascent from the pass, up towards Harter Fell can only be described as a ‘trudge’, with some steps leading to us slipping into thigh depth snow holes. It was here that Susie, my little mountain goat, was battling furiously to make progress, but she did….and quicker progress than JP and I. We took a breather for Susie (honestly!!), and she enjoyed half a pork pie (athlete’s diet) to keep her energy levels up, before we continued on. We noticed a slight trail of blood, which upon examining Susie’s paws, we noticed that she must have cut her paw on the ice. Susie has since been bought a set of Ruff Wear boots (£70!) to ensure she doesn’t get any further cut paws! It was here that JP finally got to put his crampons on, so he was happy!

We arrived at our destination summit, Harter Fell, which offered fantastic views in every direction, especially towards Blea Tarn and Haweswater and whilst the wind had increased significantly bringing a wind chill, we paused to soak in the views, although it was too cold to spend more than a few minutes here. Having bumped into a few more fellow walkers, and exchanged a couple of very brief ‘hellos’, we made our way down Nan Bield Pass towards the shelter, before heading South towards Kentmere Resevoir.

From here, we followed the path down for 3-4 miles towards Kentmere, on what led to us slowly dropping out of the Wintery conditions into the damp and boggy valleys of Kentmere. The sun was starting its descent behind the Lakeland fells, and with a lovely sunset, the temperature was falling quite rapidly with the remaining light.

We arrived back at Brockstones farm to complete our circuit and re-traced our steps from the morning back down the road towards Kentmere village, where we were parked. Upon arriving back at the car, Susie proceeded to lie down in the grass for a rest, so I knew she would be having a sleep on the way home!

Another cracking day in the Lake District fells, and a route that I will definitely do again.

Nick

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