A few days after my trip to Assynt, I drove to Penrith station to meet my wife from the train so we could spend a few days in the Lake District before heading back south. The weather on the first day was looking pretty good, so we decided to take on one of the higher hills, and as we were staying just a few miles from Keswick it didn’t take long to settle on Skiddaw as our target. I had previously climbed Blencathra via Hall’s Fell ridge, and had resolved to climb it’s northern fells partner at that time. Today would be the day!
We drove the short distance to Keswick in the morning and parked respectfully in Brundholme Road, very close to Spoonygreen Lane. A finger post directs you to a bridge over the A66 and then out onto the Cumbria Way, which leads around the minor hill Latrigg, and up to the Latrigg car park. You could, if you prefer, park at Latrigg which would shorten the walk. However this car park fills up quickly and when we returned there was some less than ideal parking down the verges, so we were quite happy with our selected start point.
Once you cross the A66 you will come to a wooded area, where the climb begins. Initially it’s quite steep, but it’s a pleasant, shady part of the walk and the advantage of the steep section is that the views begin quite quickly. As you skirt around Latrigg you will exit the trees and there are nice views down to Derwent Water.
Soon you will come to a sign to Latrigg summit on your right. We chose not to climb this, but this would make a nice walk if you are with children or want a less strenuous viewpoint. Following this you will pass through a gate into Latrigg car park. Turn right here and walk through the car park and you will see the path going up to Skiddaw. This is known as the Jenkin Hill route, because, funnily enough, it passes over Jenkin Hill.
Just after a memorial you will pass through a gate and see the zig zag path above you. This section is steep, very steep in places. You may find, as I did, that you need quite a few ‘photograph’ stops. I certainly have more photographs of Derwent Water than I will ever really need! However the views do become expansive quickly as you gain height and the path is well made.
Once you reach about 700 metres, you emerge onto Jenkin Hill itself. The gradient eases a bit here, and you should see the path running up to Skiddaw Little Man, which sits at 865 metres. You can climb Skiddaw without climbing Skiddaw Little Man, by passing through the gate and continuing straight on, but we elected to head up and do both summits. The image below shows the path up to Skiddaw Little Man.
The final pull up is again very steep, and it got very windy at this point so we added some layers and then hauled ourselves up to the summit. The views south of here to Derwent Water are stunning, and you can also now see the way ahead to Skiddaw itself to the north.
After enjoying the summit views for a while, we descended to the north, again the path is quite steep and it’s a bit soul-destroying to have to lose height only to walk back up again. The path here is well made and wide, and it’s not quite as steep as the preceding sections. Soon you will be on the summit plateau, with expansive views to Blencathra to the east, and down to Bassenthwaite lake down to the west, with a truly amazing view south. There are a couple of cairns to pass before you reach the true summit, upon which sits a trig point and a plaque that shows you what you are looking at all around (but you won’t need that because you will obviously be carrying a map!). At this point on our walk the wind was very strong and cloud was blowing across periodically, however we still had great views all around.
From here, you could take in a number of other summits, such as Carl Side, Long Side, Ullock Pike, Dodd and Lonscale Fell. However, we are not really ‘baggers’ and decided to descend via the same route we took up. In total it took about three hours to get to the summit, and around half that to get back down to the car. Navigation is pretty easy on this walk, even when the cloud rolled in as the path is wide and unmistakeable. However, you should of course make sure you have an appropriate map. I used the excellent Harvey Maps British mountain map of the Lake District for this trip.
We left the car where it was and wandered into Keswick for a well-earned late lunch. This was a thoroughly enjoyable walk, made all the better that I was carrying only a day pack for once instead of a heavy pack full of camping gear!