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Wednesday, 12 October 2016

The last but one

Sunday 9th October '16

I had two remaining English Marilyns* to climb: Mickle Fell and Kinder Scout. Gimmer, is a long-standing friend from school and scouting days. He recently bought a house near Dufton and we had agreed that Mickle Fell would be a joint ascent.

Warcop military firing range incorporates MF which is surrounded with "DANGER AREA" markings on the OS map. As far as one can understand one is obliged to obtain a permit. Well, just you try!

It is possible to find an address, but no telephone number or email address. That leaves the only possibility of writing for a permit for a day in the future and awaiting its return hoping for fine weather. That wouldn't be so bad if it was a quick dash to the summit, but the shortest route is an eight mile round trip ascending on pathless bog, heather and peat hag - no push-over. We both researched possibilities exchanging emails considering various options. One telephone number was found leading to a female voice rattling off future non-firing times and dates apparently recorded in a noisy room with the speaker muffled with a knitted sock in her mouth. Gimmer and I had listened, Gimmer could glean nothing. The only intelligible morsel I could interpret was a recurring Sunday availability after 1:00pm; we decided to claim diminished responsibility and assume that was available without permit - it may well be so, but there seems to be no way of finding out. We searched accounts of other ascents on Hill Bagging, but could glean nothing more.

Gimmer (always one for pushing matters to the edge), now enthused with the added drama, plotted a route ascending to High Cup Nick, following Maize Beck, and striking up to Mickle Fell via four kilometres of wild moorland terrain. I measured this at sixteen miles. Hill Bagging showed no records of this route, and it looked more likely to be an area of unexploded ordnance. I was able to persuade Gimmer that this was not  good on the grounds of safety, terrain, and above all distance.

My option was to take the shortest route from the cattle grid at NY 831 198 on the B6276, but Gimmer, having had his master plan vetoed identified a longer route that I had considered and dismissed, mainly because it was longer; a twelve mile round trip starting from NY 872 211. This had the advantage of being on CROW access land to within three kilometres of the summit, so  we could time our crossing into military land after the 1:00pm deadline, and it had the advantage of a track nearly all the way to the summit. So I was overruled.

The weather held fine except for a cold wind and one brief period of drizzle. We visited the big cairn, and the supposed highest point, a minor cairn sixteen metres away, then walked to the far south-western end of the ridge, returning to the summit for pasties, flapjack and hot coffee.

Views  in all directions were impressive, including Ingleborough, and nearer, Cow Green Reservoir and the line of the Pennine Way.

The track had been monotonous, and seemed to go on forever both ascending and descending and I was glad to have company. We saw not a soul, and even though I have a greater capacity than most for being solo, I did think to myself during the last couple of miles that this would have been a long lonely trip on my own.
Since writing this I have found various other more informative accounts of Mickle Fell ascents, but whatever is said the military seem to make it purposefully difficult to conform with their rules which only leads to  people being tempted to disobey them. The same applies to farmers and footpaths, where the odd marker post across a field would save the farmer and the walker inconvenience.
* Marilyns - all hills in Great Britain with a minimum drop of 500ft all the way round the summit. 

England    175
Scotland  1218
Wales       158
Total       1551

I have climbed 427, and only have one left to do of the English 175

Fish Lake on the ascent

The monotonous Land Rover track

Mickle Fell

The trig on Mickle Fell - the proper summit is another couple of kilometres along the ridge

Cow Green Reservoir. Cauldron Snout (waterfall) visible, appears to be in full flow.
The Pennine Way runs past there right across this photo

The main cairn, and the supposed highest point smaller cairn in the foreground.
Photo courtesy of Gimmer

This photo was taken circa 1968/9. My mother had heard of the construction of Cow Green Reservoir and wanted to see the area before it was flooded and I took her there, so this view would now all be reservoir. The construction infrastructure can just be seen in the distamce.


AlanR said...

Glad you managed to get up there.

Gayle said...

I'm in two minds whether to apply for a permit well in advance for a Sunday when it will be convenient to be passing, and accept that I may have to do the walk in poor weather, or whether to just do as you did. As it goes, it's unlikely that we'll be passing there until next May, so it's not a pressing question for me!

So, only Kinder Scout to go for you now, which presents no access issues and (since the re-greening programme was so successful) is doable at any time of year, so I wager it won't be too long before you announce your completion of the English list.

(I'm going to whisper the next bit really quietly, in case you don't want to hear: Muncaster Fell was redefined last month, with the Marilyn summit being relocated to a different lump on the ridge. As a new hill has been created in the hill lists for the revised Marilyn summit (I assume the old entry in the list remains extant as a Wainwright Outlying Fell, hence a new entry for the Marilyn), I can't log my visit in June this year so I need to go back and do it again. Grrrrr! Hopefully you're either not such a pedant as me, or you've been all over that ridge already.)

Anonymous said...

Pleased you didn't get shot or blown up. Did you see another person?
Upper Teasdale was my playground as a youth and the construction of Cow Green Reservoir was highly contentious with the loss of rare plant habitats. We all thought Caldron Spout would be a thing of the past but fortunately there is enough rain to allow run off from the reservoir, as illustrated in your picture.
Well done.

Sir Hugh said...

Gayle - I would see no problem with doing MF on a Sunday by the route we used without a permit, especially if you cross the "border" at, or after 1:00pm. At your current rate of progress and fitness you will be up and down in a flash.

As for your second point it has provided a catalyst for a post- so watch out.


Bowland climber - As far as I know the performance of Cauldron Snout is spasmodic, dependant on the level of the reservoir. It was in full force when I passed by on my Pennine Way. From my log:

"28th april 1997
Up to Cauldron Snout - very impressive - lots of water coming down. I think this must be released from Cow Green. It certainly hasn't been the result of any recent rain. There hasn't been any since before I set off!"

Anonymous said...

Conrad, Yes you are right it is regulated by release from the reservoir, but still a spectacular sight.

Ruth Livingstone said...

Well done! Sounds like a bit of a slog, but now you've only got one left. Or is that two, since they reclassified Muncaster Fell :D

Roderick Robinson said...

That list - a mixture of the evocative (Old Corpse Road, Riggindale, Dunmail Raise) and the downright mundane (Steel Fell, Angle Tarn, High Street). I've done tiny fragments of that walk, notably Eskdale FROM Hardknotts. I might have done Ravenglass too: a wide-ranging OBMS treasure hunt required my group to "bring back something foreign from Drigg Beach". We managed a small length of bamboo.

My longest walk was a mere 22 miles, including four road passes. It rained throughout and quite early on, although fit, perhaps because I was fit, I passed into a trance. It was the aftermath that surprised me; when I finally sat down in the destination barn my legs, twitching like those of an amputee frog in a lab experiment, continued spasmodically to walk. Making me wonder how long I might have walked, having long since ceded body autonomy.

I trust you mentioned your mental state in the account of your marathon. That's the bit that would have deserved the closest description, especially if you ended up in Ravenglass mentally unaffected.

Sir Hugh said...

RR - That letter is the only written record I have. All I can say is that I was obviously tired, and Barney, my springer was even more tired. Because the contributor of the walk to the book had never done it I did have a sort of macho feeling of superiority, coupled with some annoyance ovwith his effrontery. One aspect of such exceptional, stamina draining exercise is difficulty in sleeping. Most people would think that you would be in deep sleep within seconds - not so. There is a cliché word often applied here when people with no physiological knowledge tell you that the "adrenalin" is still pumping. I am sure medical guys will have a much more technical description. Adrenalin has a lot to answer for in general conversation.

Sir Hugh said...

Ruth - Just one. As I said, I think I gave Muncaster Fell its dues when I traversed the whole ridge on that long walk.