For newcomers

At the bottom of each post there is the word "comments". If you click on it you will see comments made by followers, and if you follow the instructions you may also comment and I always welcome that. I have found many people overlook this part of the blog which is often more interesting than the original post!

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


Wednesday, 11 September 2019

"...for whenever men are right they are not young" - e.e. cummings

In my last post (Carling Gill) I mentioned my previous visits to the Howgills but it seems my memory has not just dimmed but been completely extinguished - I have no recollection of the epic account I wrote below but I found my handwritten record whilst having a purge of my books today.

I cannot believe that I set off so late in the afternoon on such am ambitious walk and that we included the ascent of Black Force which on this last  Saturday I commented:

"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..."

Dan was my neighbour and is a friend and a fellow outdoory but with a main interest in sailing. From my memory I know he was not too confident on exposed terrain and to think he made that ascent is another matter of surprise to me.

It is sobering to note how age has altered my perspective and at the same time I'm glad that I am still here despite my contempt for self preservation in those days. 

I was a young 45 at the time.


As written in my journal - it would have been tweeked more today.

Sat. 5th May 1984

My first trip ever to the Howgills.

Set off from home at 4:15pm with Dan. To Tebay turn off, then down to Carlin Gill.

Started walking about 5:30pm. Slight drizzle but clearing - dead cow on side of stream - fearful stench. Drizzle stopped as we entered the steeper sided part of the gill. - this is very impressive scenery, much more rocky than I expected. Minor scrambling up the stream, and the scene becomes more dramatic all the way. 

We arrived at the branching gill on the right of Black Force - both main gill and  Black Force looked equally interesting, and the decision  which to follow was not easy - we opted for Black Force.

High in the sky above the top of Black Force we saw what Dan identified as  a peregrine falcon. The gill steepened considerably and we were now on mixed rock and very steep grass. Dan climbed out onto the side, but I stayed in the gill and pressed on. A grey wagtail rose from its nest and on the wall of the gill I found its nest with four or five eggs. The bird was vividly yellow as it flew from me, and impressed a memorable image on my mind. Next I found two different bird rings - looked like pigeons - victims of the peregrine? I have since sent the rings to the RSPB.

The gill now steepened again and  the way was blocked by a waterfall which I tried to climb direct, but eventually turned by the rib on its left. Dan was waiting at the top and we spent a fair amount of time watching a pair of ravens on the opposite side of the gill - they were obviously guarding a nest the site of which we could see on the opposite side of the gill.

We pressed on to the top of Field Head - 2045ft. finding two skylarks nests with eggs on the way. From Fell Head we could see the route ahead  to The Calf 2220ft. With some compulsory loss of height in between. I think we both knew that we would probably end up coming off in the dark if we went to the Calf but we kidded ourselves and pressed on. We made a slight detour to visit the large patches of snow on the summit slope of the Calf. Here we took some photographs and  kicked steps in this old snow which was in fine condition. We found two more nests with eggs on the way.

Suddenly on the top of the Calf it was much cooler. We got below the summit and ate sandwiches looking across to Killington Lake and the M6 (Ryvita paté  sandwiches - very good.)

We returned by Bush Howe and under the steep sides of Wind Scarth to Weathercalf Moss. Here we saw four or five wild ponies with long shaggy manes - they moved slightly in a codescending manner to let us pass, but they were not affraid. We then turned west and eventually picked up the top of Carlin Gill and tried to follow the stream bed back down again, but eventually our path was  stopped by an apparently overhanging waterfall with steep rock on both sides. It was now starting to get dark. The Waterfall looked to drop away for 50ft. or so, and certainly demanded a return visit to see if it could be climbed from the bottom, but tonight we gave it best and climbed out up very steep grass onto the northern side of the gill and over Uldale Head and back down to the car. It was now about 10:30pm and quite dark as it had been for the last three quarters of an hour.

This was a fine and eventful walk and an impressive introduction to the Howgills which are certainly worth visiting again.

It was interesting to note that this was bank holiday weekend, and we did not see anybody on the whole walk.

CLICK TO ENLARGE - The route is just short of 8 miles. I have drawn it as near as I can from my description


  1. Amazing. Thankfully you didn't descend by the waterfall or the tale may have had a different ending. What a difference a "few" years make.
    I am impressed with the detail of that old diary entry
    You've set me off to rummage through my diaries to find the occasion I visited the inner sanctuary of the Gill.
    Have a good trip.

  2. How lovely to have such a detailed account of a long-forgotten outing, moreover one that involves something that you would now class as foolhardy.

    Unfortunately, my walking records only extend to a year or so before I started my blog in 2007 (and, more unfortunately, at some point I must have binned my pre-2008 running log, which now seems a huge shame), so anything I did before then is subject to the vagaries of my memory.

  3. BC - I have quite a few more of those kind of records - I may post some more from time to time - I've just found one about my ascent of Ladhar Beinn which could be entertaining.


    Gayle - I think as an old codger my advice to any youngster starting out would be to keep records. Unfortunately photography was in its infancy in my younger days so not many photos are available. On normal film I think you only had a dozen or so exposures which made you parsimonious with your choices. Film then had to be sent away for developing and printing so it was a laborious process. with 35mm. slide film you had 36 exposures which helped, but then there was the hassle with projectors and all that if you wanted to view them. A few years ago I sent over 1000 slides of to be digitised onto CDs and they are now viewable on my computer. Converting all those at home four at a time would have been too onerous.

  4. I am both impressed and amazed - mainly by the record keeping: the gill exploits were pretty routine for us around then I think - that waterfall on The Screes being one: I never really kept records, other than film, or ticking off climbs - even with Afghanistan, my log only goes so far and peters out . . . like water in the wastes of the dasht e kevir !
    That was and is a shame, as even with 6 36 exposure films and another 20 on a short one bought somewhere, so little recorded - of a long lost time, when the country was, or at least seemed to be, at peace.
    Nowadays, digital images by the score but nothing to see.