Winder to Cautley Spout
Ok, so I find myself no fewer than 10 blogs behind on the hiking front *Urghhh* but it’s Christmas, so I figure I get first dibs on the subject matter for this blog. My choices are far-reaching: Norway – Mount Tuven (1029m) or maybe Mount Snorvillen (995m)… or I could stick to home ground, the UK: another visit to Scafell Pike (978m) or Great Gable (899m), but then again there’s the Howgills, which I like to think of as my backyard!
So, the Howgills win it by a nose and on this occasion I veered off my usual plodding route to the Calf (676m) and beyond, instead opting to head via Calders (672m) and Great Dummacks (669m) for the picturesque area around Cautley Spout.
Cautley Spout is Britain’s highest waterfall; it cascades down 650ft of cliff, having travelled from a source on a flank of the Calf, whose peak is the highest point in the Howgills.
With the current daylight-hours situation (I completed this walk two days before the shortest day of the year), I coerced Jen into doing a point-to-point exercise, the idea being I could cover more ground during daylight in a single direction, as opposed to completing a loop.
Sure, I could just take the car and park a kilometre or two from Cautley, but what would be the fun in that? Besides, it had been almost a week without a good hike and my body was venturing into that state where I could all too easily sit at home with my feet up, listening to music or ‘daydreaming’ about what I might climb tomorrow, rather than giving my legs a good stretch today!
So we planned the details. Jen would drive to a layby on the road near Cautley Spout, park the car and do one of those crazy manoeuvres up the steep, craggy mountain path, over the top to the Calf, then Calders and onward towards home… you know, I think the term is ‘running’! Perish the thought of my body ever trying to coerce me into doing likewise. So I opt for the equally gruelling but lower-impact form of self-punishment by heading up the face of Winder from the Spar shop at Sedbergh.
A plan is formed!
It all started out quite well really! I was duly dropped at Sedbergh Spar and recruited ‘Janet the GPS’ on the “Map My Hike” app. She’s a feisty one, that Janet, and when I’m walking alone she’s a good companion, a real motivator! In fact so good that no sooner had I waved goodbye to Jen, Janet was already loudly announcing to everybody in the car park that I’d just completed my first kilometre in under two minutes. Let’s say I was ‘virtually’ embarrassed!
Using my better judgement, I decided to turn her volume down and put her in my deepest pocket, so that she simply mumbled in a muffled tone about what heroics I might achieve next.
In reality, let me tell you, I was slow and it hurt! Seconds after reaching the top of Winder (480m), I had Janet out and was begging her to sing in that wonderfully motivational voice. I wanted to hear the “two-minute kilometre” chant… It had taken me 36 minutes to get to Winder’s double trig point, and as I looked ahead to Arant Haw I made the decision, for blogging purposes of course (new material being required and that sort of thing) to bypass the cairn. Instead I opted to take the lower Dale’s Way route around the summit of Arant Haw, sparing myself an additional climb. I hadn’t actually ever done that before, and it didn’t bode well for post-Christmas-festivity walks that I was already struggling… but hey ho. On I went, and came out just before the final descent from Arant Haw on the way to Calders.
For those who may not have walked this route before I might point out there’s a nice little “rest pocket” near Rowantree Grains Fold. It’s almost always sheltered from whatever freezing wind and/or wind chill may be assailing this intrepid hiker, so it’s a good place to stop, soak up the views and perhaps remove or add a layer of clothing before heading up to Calders.
So, I held up for a rest, munched a few bits of dried mango, and then something in the distance caught my eye. Jen had already driven to Cautley Spout, climbed the knee-breaking ascent to the top and run via the Calf to Calders, where she was now doing star jumps to attract my attention before swooping down the hill at breakneck speed before I’d managed to put my daysack back on. Ah well, now this was the point of no return. I was hardly warmed up, but it was time to move on. We had a brief natter about our respective “first halves”, the merciless wind and the fact I was about to feel the full might of the ice chill at the top of Calders… and on that encouraging note we parted, agreeing to meet back at home.
The short break must have done some good, or perhaps it was the sweet-tasting mango that got me going, but the ascent to Calders wasn’t half bad. (Jen later commented that from where she was, it looked like I was racing along!) I stopped at the top to check my map, as from here on in I would be hitting new territory. Whilst I had been up Cautley Spout before, I hadn’t approached from this end of the hills. I noted the craggy peaks on the map and wondered how it would look when I got there, as in the main, the Howgills are rounded, rolling hills. I set off on the boggy path out to Great Dummacks (summit: 663 metres) where the wind chill was truly bitter. I was hastily pulling on my gloves, but by the time I’d finished my hands were actually hurting with cold, and I needed to get moving. It wasn’t long before I came across the small stack of stones (call that a cairn?! – Meh!) at Great Dummacks, and I reached for the map again. Easy… now it’s a brief walk almost due north to the crags.
Now, at this stage I should probably remark that all I could see was rolling hills and peaks. However, within a hundred yards or so I was actually taken aback as an entire valley opened up and I found myself on a path at the edge of a sheer clifftop (not marked on the map!). It was as if I had instantly transported myself to the Lakes; the entire topography had changed, and even better… the wind had disappeared completely. I had no choice: this view demanded to be enjoyed properly! So I sat down and just soaked it up for five minutes – then and there deciding that this would make an excellent “wow factor” walk for guests next year. I mean, who knew? It turned an afternoon slog into something quite remarkably different!
From this vantage point I could see Cautley Spout in the distance, which in itself was a relief as negotiating my way down the precipitous steps alongside Cautley Spout with only a head torch for company – oh, and of course Janet – would not have been fun at all.
The path down was quite exposed, the rocky steps slippery, and there were two becks to cross on the way to the main descent path. At times it was difficult to keep an eye on what was ahead rather than the scenery, and I must admit (slapping my wrist!) that I slipped twice before getting to the main drag at the bottom of Cautley.
From the bottom it’s about two kilometres to the layby where Jen had parked the car (Cross Keys pub). This is a fairly level walk in a beautiful part of the countryside and with a bit of history that can make the walk more entertaining. Meanwhile, as I reached the car and asked Janet to stop pestering me, she announced I had hiked 18+ km! So, where was my audience now in this moment of glory? Huh, huh? Probably a good thing nobody was about, as my trusty piece of string on my sturdy OS map delivered an entirely different conclusion – 11.2km MAX!
Janet, we’ve gotta talk…
Simon Duringer is an award-winning blogger, interviewer and author. His own books can be found on Amazon too by clicking any of the following icons…