Red Screes, Middle Dodd, Little Hart Crag, High Hartsop Dodd

Date: 21 Oct 2019 Weather: 9’C, sunny, light wind
Height gain: 1,608 ft Distance: 6.1 miles
Time taken: 5 hours 45 mins Wainwrights: 102,103,104,105 of 214

Route:  From Kirkstone Pass Inn up the direct route to Red Screes then down to Middle Dodd, across and up to Little Hart Crag, down to High Hartsop Dodd and off the nose down to Cow Bridge car park at the far end of Brothers Water.


This one has been on the agenda for a while and I’ve wimped out because of the very steep descent off High Hartsop Dodd.  It took me three refusals before finally doing this ascent up Red Screes the first time but now I know that it’s not as scary as it looks – that was almost exactly 10 years ago in October 2009 when we snuck in a hill-walk when invited to our niece’s christening near Chorley.

The rain has been so set in so far this month we wanted something with some challenge for this one day with a decent weather forecast so I was persuaded to face it at last.

We’re up early and arrive at Cow Bridge car park about half an hour before the bus is due.  We sit in the car for a while before booting up and walking along the road to the bus stop where one other walker is waiting.  The bus arrives within two minutes of its expected time, not bad, and we hop on for the 15 minute journey to the Kirkstone Pass Inn (at a rather staggering £5 each!).

A group of six walkers, three fifty-something couples, gets on the bus at the Brotherswater Inn and stand opposite us (it’s a full bus today, although only the nine of us are walkers) and start to discuss their plans to get up to Red Screes and then “bimble about up there”.

All nine of us are deposited in the layby next to the pub.  The lone walker from our bus stop heads up Caudale Moor.  We don’t hang about and head across the road and to the gate at the end of the car park onto the Red Screes ascent path.  The party of six stay where they are for a good 10 minutes getting themselves organised – no bad thing as it allows us to get out of each others’ way.

The forecast is living up to expectations – a nice day forecast after initial hill fog lifts.  The hill fog is swirling above Red Screes so the ascent route doesn’t look quite as terrifying as it usually does:

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We follow the path which starts climbing steeply almost straight away but is well engineered and straightforward.  We gain height steadily and soon the pub has got considerably smaller below us:

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The cloud is swirling around the Kentmere Round behind us:

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The party of six are now on their way.  Three of them are fast walkers, two not far off our speed and one guy is slower even than me.  We reach a shoulder about halfway up the ascent to let the three faster walkers past us.  Good views here across to Windermere and Coniston Water:

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The three also stop here to wait for their friends to catch up – two of them soon afterwards and then a longer wait for number six.  They then stop to take in the views, which gives us a chance to carry on and pull away from them again.

Once beyond the shoulder the engineered path gives way to steep rock – it’s hands and feet time as we move upwards in diagonals across and back along Red Scree’s east face.  It looks so scary when looking up from the pub but the route never feels too exposed or challenging and is really enjoyable.

We get to the top of the climbing and then it’s a last 100ft on a wide path to the top:

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The cloud is still around but the blue sky predominates and the views from up here are fantastic.  It’s a bit busy though – I’d forgotten it was half term – so we move away from the summit pillar to find a quieter place to sit and take it all in.

The views south west to the familiar range starting with Coniston Old Man then Crinkle Crags and Bowfell, Scafell and Scfaell Pike and the distinctive dome of Great Gable look fabulous, although the cloud is bouncing along their tops as we watch.  They all look very distant in the photos, they had much more impact in real life:

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To the east we can see one side of the Kentmere Round – Froswick, Kentmere Pike, Ill Bell and Yoke forming a ride of waves:

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Wainwright obviously liked it up here as well – in Red Screes 12, from The Eastern Fells, he claims Red Screes has more claims to distinction than any other high fell east of the Keswick-Windermere road and lists nine of them, including “(c) it has one of the highest sheets of permanent standing water, and, in springtime, the highest resident population of tadpoles” – we’ll have to revisit in Spring to see if that was a statement of fact or opinion on AW’s part!

There’s a bit of wind at the summit and the temperature up here is about 3’C and feels pretty chilly as we sit so we accept that we have to drag ourselves away from this lovely place and carry on with our walk.  Our next destination is Middle Dodd and we can see him stretching out 450 feet below us:

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The descent is steep in places but very straightforward and we reach the summit of Middle Dodd in less than 20 minutes:

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The views down to Brothers Water with Angletarn Pikes and Place Fell beyond it are very good from here:

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There’s a chilly breeze but we’re ready for lunch so we look for a sheltered spot.  A group of teenage lads has the best spot tucked into a hollow just below the summit cairn so we move away and find our own spot just below the ridge where we enjoy our pasties.

We haven’t judged it very well, though, we’re in shade and facing into the wind.  We’re pretty cold by the time we get going again.  We can see Little Hart Crag in front of us but it’s on the next ridge with a big dip in between.  We need to skirt around the flank of Red Screes to avoid going back up him again – we can see a path going round the side which ultimately reaches a wall and the main path between Red Screes and Little Hart Crag.

We set off on the mostly downwards route.  I never like skinny paths round the side of hills and this is no exception – it’s mostly ok but then there’s very boggy bits and a few very steep rocky down sections and although it’s only half a mile it seems to take ages.

Just as we finally reach the wall we recognise our party of six from the bus – all waiting for the slowest member of their party who’s picking his way slowly downhill behind us.  We’re glad they made it to the top of Red Screes – we hadn’t seen them up there and thought maybe they’d abandoned mission.

We stop and chat to a couple of them – they’re on holiday for the week from somewhere near Birmingham and are pleased to have got some decent weather.  They are on their way to Dove Crag so while we are initially all following each other they break off to our left as the ascent starts – their route looks very steep compared to ours (we keep an eye on their progress and they definitely make it to the top).

Our 400 feet of ascent to the top of Little Hart Crag is straightforward.  Just before the final 50 feet there’s a shoulder with a lovely little heart shaped tarn:

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We bound up the final 50 feet and are at the top:

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It’s a lovely little summit – two well defined tops, of which this is the highest, and all sheltered between the mountain ranges all around it.  There’s another good view down to Brothers Water in what is now a glorious afternoon light and we can see our next destination, the long nose of High Hartsop Dodd, stretching out below us to the right:

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We agree we’ll have afternoon tea once we get to High Hartsop Dodd to gear us up for the very steep 1,000 feet of descent off its nose that I’ve been dreading.  As we set off one of the locals peers out from his grazing spot to see what we’re up to:

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The walk down to High Hartsop Dodd is quick and straightforward:

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We don’t hang around too long but head for a wall just below the summit to find a spot to sit and enjoy our flapjacks.  We can see back towards Red Screes and Middle Dodd from here:

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All loaded up with fat and sugar we take a deep breath and start the abseil, sorry descent, off the nose of High Hartsop Dodd towards Brothers Water.  A narrow path of stone and scree has been worn into the hillside and it’s very steep but I’m not finding it as bad as I remember.  About halfway down we reach a stile over a fence and at this point the gradient eases up a little and the path becomes grassier again.

I look back at what we’ve descended so far:

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…. and look down at what is still to go:

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The pictures don’t quite do it justice – this is a very steep descent!

We carry on down and the valley starts to look stunning in the Autumnal afternoon sunshine – the two peaks of Angletarn Pike now much more prominent beyond Brothers water:

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Before too long we reach the bottom of the descent and start the walk across fields to Brothers Water.  I look back at what we’ve just come down but it’s difficult to photograph into the sun:

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It was definitely steep but I didn’t find it too bad – certainly not nearly as terrible as I remember.  Maybe I’m finally getting better as descending after all these years.

The final mile or so takes us all the way along Brothers Water on a good wide path in the trees – which is almost a shame on such a lovely afternoon.  We see an opportunity to reach the edge of the water just at its end and the views are stunning in the still sunshine:

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We reach the car soon afterwards and have an uneventful drive home.  This has been a great walk – I loved the ascent up Red Screes, the views were stunning and the descent I’d been dreading wasn’t so bad after all.