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My blog nick-name is SIR HUGH. I'm not from the aristocracy - my middle name is Hugh which relates to the list of 282 hills in Scotland compiled by Sir Hugh Munro in 1891. I climbed my last one (Sgurr Mor) on 28th June 2009


Sunday, 8 September 2019

Carlin Gill

Saturday 7th September 2019 - Carlin Gill

There is something I can't define about my avoidance of walking in the Howgills. I vaguely remember an excursion with Gimmer many years ago - the details have dimmed but my remembered perception is not favourable, although not one of epic drama. I hope Gimmer may elaborate.

I climbed Green Bell and Middleton only because they were part of a trig point campaign. 

Years ago I climbed Grains Gill in full winter conditions cutting steps out of the steep exit, and also had a scary time on the adjoining Weasel Gill on rocks near the top on a trip with my old neighbour Dan which was his suggestion.

When I walked The Dales High Way it followed the splendid ridge  across the  middle of the Howgills from Sedbergh to  the A65, so again the prime motivation was not from attraction to these hills, and those are my total visits in what one may say is a lifetime.

When Bowland Climber phoned me to suggest a walk in The Howgills I suggested Carlin Gill. I had read somewhere that this was a worthwhile objective. 

The first mile followed the lively beck with ever steepening and enclosing hills on either side and an increasingly rocky path; the surroundings were majestic and a delight. The sides steepened and the path now on the northern side rose high above the beck with an almost vertical drop down to the right and more and more care was needed. We eyed the impressive gash of Black Force. I had read about a party having a scary time on that ascent - it looked as though it would need drier weather or commitment verging on the foolhardy - my photo below does not convey the steepness.

Carlin Gill ends with a dramatic waterfall and there is no defined exit from this cul-de-sac. BC had Wainwright's guide and his suggestion were vague. From everything I have read about Wainwright he tended to faint heart on airy and exposed situations; I am surprised that he managed to climb out of this place. It took us some time to weigh up the options before I set off first on the northern side. Within twenty feet I found myself on very steep grass mingled with moss which turned into a slimy slippery mess when footholds were attempted and I got myself to a point of gibbering no-return. By then BC had arrived, and with his assistance and encouragement I managed to reverse and follow him up less mossy very steep grass (I don't often use the word very but it applied here.) For me that was a pretty scary ascent - halfway I strapped my poles to my rucksack so that I could dig into the grass with both hands until we arrived at patches of heather which provide much better handholds. We traversed off to the right and fortuitously arrive on the exact contour to pick up the path leading to the col between Docker Knott and Over Sale involving a long and arduous ascent, but with ever increasing extensive views on this perfect sunny day.

One might have thought that once onto the ridge it would be easy going, but there were still less than trifling ups and downs taking us over Breaks Head and Fell Head then a long descent with several steep sections back to the car.

Our route only measured 5.4 miles, but it was more strenuous than anything I have done recently and coupled with the nervous energy expended on the ascent out of Carlin Gill I felt as though the distance had been a lot more, but what a fabulous and memorable day.

Definitely worth clicking first photo for slideshow

Preparing for the off

Approaching Black Force

Black Force - much steeper than it looks here

Approaching The Spout - terminus of Carlin Gill

End of the road - how do you get out? Camera has found its match for exposure 

Our escape - about twenty yards to the left of BC in the last photo

Zoom to the Scafells

Zoom to Arnside Knott - my house is somewhere in the middle of that photo

BC decides to convert to shorts

Steep sided valleys everywhere limiting route options in these unique hills

Zoom back to our exit from the gill


  1. I've just caught up, Conrad. You seem to be fairly active at present, but I can't see where you've been sunning yourself today!

  2. A good account of our exploits and some excellent evocative photos. I like my new cap!
    A [another] day to remember.

  3. Phreerunner - The bit of motorway on the map is about 6km. south of the Tebay Junction (38) on the M6 - grid reference of the start of the walk: SD 624 995


    BC - When I look back at posts several years old I find walks that I had forgotten about but this one will never be amongst them.

  4. Yes Conrad - but that was yesterday and I've followed it assiduously!

  5. Phreerunner - I'm now not sure what you were referring to in your original comment.

  6. Clinging onto grass/heather/saplings whilst clambering up/down/around a waterfall is up there, along with bashing through commercial forests, as one of those things that I always acknowledge is a bad idea even as I'm doing it, followed swiftly by short-lived vows to avoid getting into such positions in future.

    As you rightly say, photos never do justice to the steepness.

  7. Gayle - to some extent I agree but I tend to avoid the forest more than the semi-vertical grass because I am more aware of the former and somewhat naive about the latter. That is unfortunate because the steep grass is much more dangerous. In one of the early Climber's Club rock climbing guides for Borrowdale, written by an eccentric called Bentley Beetham, one of his phrases has stuck with me over the years "...for the nerveless devotee of vertical grass climbing only."

  8. you do allude to other essays - i've only been on the Howgills once - with you, on a really harsh winter day, aiming to ascend The Calf - but hurricane, blizzard and cold - nearly a white-out - made us abort and haste down - to a cafe in Sedbergh closely reminiscent of the 'terminus' cafe of the Lyke Wake Walk at Ravenscar - full of wet walkers, muggy damp breath and hot sweet weak tea . . . - I've never been back, but pass them by almost everyday, admiring and speculating about those deep cleft gills running down to the Lune . . .

  9. Glimmer - that vaguely fits in with my memory. I don't remember the café.

  10. I was trying to be too clever, Conrad; ignore me. I do like Gimmer's comment - I have the same memories of hot, sweet, weak tea in the cafe at Ravenscar, waiting for my dad to pick us up, late afternoon, after he had dropped us off at Osmotherly at midnight or later.

  11. I sometimes wonder if people do the Lyke Wake Walk nowadays -it was always the rage when I worked on Teesside - one tends not to hear much of it - maybe too tame, and as it's not a multi-day backpack doesn't interest the long distance brigade.
    To me it was always a grim business (not as grim as carrying a loaded coffin all that way, of course) and never really rewarded the effort in the way a similar 42 mile mountain walk does. Did the reverse direction just once - we thought that asthe only interesting bit, down the western scarp, would be fun to finish with in the daylight - but one was so exhausted by the trudge from the coast that even that was a thankless grind.
    There was a sense of anticipation and joyful camaraderie in the teams (always done in teams, with us anyway - mimicking the cortège purpose, obviously) at the start but the drudgery and desire to be done with it by about Fylingdales made it everyone for themselves - truly the devil taking the hindmost - at the end.
    Nothing to beat the old familiar hills - however shattered one might be, they still lift up the heart !

  12. I do hear of people doing it from time to time. I’m pretty sure I did it once each way both with you. Nothing in the world would induce me to do it again. The only personal comparison I have is my Shap to Ravenglaas 42 miler. That is in a class of its own. The LWW is just mental and physical torture, and you have painted the picture well.

  13. I had a teenage 'love affair' with the Lyke Wake Walk, guiding many folk across those wonderful tracts of moorland, come rain come shine. Happy memories from before my days of diary writing, though I may try to compile a few recollections of walking that sublime route across the Yorkshire Moors.

    The trouble was, it was popular, and the path, which when I first did it didn't really exist, got seriously eroded. That's when I started to choose alternatives such as The Crosses Walk.

    Happy Days

  14. I sometimes wonder if people do the Lyke Wake Walk nowadays -it was always the rage when I worked on Teesside - one tends not to hear much of it - maybe too tame, and as it's not a multi-day backpack doesn't interest the long distance brigade.
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  15. Sowmiya - I am not sure if your comment is really an advertisement for you courses but your question arouses my interest. I did the Lyke Wake Walk twice sometime back in the 60s, once one way and the second time the other. Having now done many long distance walks and many long day walks I rate the LWW as one of the most, or perhaps THE most boring walk I have ever done. A lot of it was done in darkness, or semi-darkness and whilst I enjoy purple heather clad moorland on a bright sunny day that was not the case on those occasions. The fact that it is not s multi-day project has nothing to do with my thoughts. I have just written something about the differences between one day and multi-day walking on my recent post: Lanes from Highwayman:

    Whatever else I or others may say about the LWW it is a serious undertaking and a significant achievement for anybody who completes it and I hope it doesn't put them off doing more inspiring walks afterwards. Try the Dalesway - one of the best walks in the country. Thst can be done in day walks if you want.