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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


Thursday, 12 May 2022

Bowderdale, Howgills, and The Calf

 Wednesday 11th May 2022

Bowderdale and The Calf, Howgills.

Walk 4 from: The Lune Valley and Howgills, Dennis and Jan Kelsall, Cicerone Press.

The authors say in their introduction  "If you only do one walk in the Howgills, this should be it."

My Met Office forecast app shows a row of shining suns for the day so off I go.

Over recent years these forecasts have been highly accurate. So when I park up at the cul-de-sac road end in Bowderdale I am not concerned at the  heavy rolling cloud cover varying from light greys to brooding darkness. I watch swallows darting through the car window as I sup coffee from my flask confidently believing that a clearance would be forced by the strong wind. But, perhaps a shred of doubt sets in as I find myself employing delay tactics for my departure.

On the stroke of 8:00 am I am away. The last bit of tarmac leads onto a good farm track but littered with puddles from the heavy overnight rain. 

At a wall-end I branch left leaving the track to continue its way up the ridge that I will be returning by. 

I am now on a narrow but  well defined walker's footpath which has been skilfully engineered to  follow a contour with hardly any loss or gain in height for around five kilometres to the head of the valley. The rounded but impressive peak of Yarlside dominates at the end of the valley. The Calf is hidden round the corner to the right.

The cloud cover of variegated greys has not cleared and halfway up the valley rain arrives and the wind increases and this continues for the rest of the walk

At the head of the valley the path demonstrates again the skill of its designer by taking a slanting climb across the fellside. The angle chosen allows (me at least) to walk at a steady plod without the need for frequent stops to catch breath, a remarkable achievement for a path that needs to gain  height in a short distance. As I swing to the south-west I get views down to the A683 with a rare patch of sunlight illuminating the starting point for the normal ascent of The Calf via Cautley Spout.

As the path pulls out onto the plateau there is a tiny tarn. The wind is now ferocious driving intermittent spells of rain. I am battling into that and meet two guys walking The Dales High Way and we have a brief chat. They warn me to be careful in view of the high wind. I must look like a vulnerable old codger who should know better than to be up here in these conditions. So much for the Met Office  forecast. At the Calf trig I take a quick snap with no consideration for composition. I then remove my rucksack and delve to get a pair of gloves out of the pocket of the hollowfill jacket therein. With the wind tearing at everything this is a more onerous task than one might imagine - the wind catches a handkerchief which I must retrieve but I am stood there with the jacket being torn about by the wind as I stuff it back and then scamper to reclaim the handkerchief. I depart the summit in haste.

I now have that wind behind me and trot along with more ease. The Dales high Way ridge from here back down to Bowderdale must be one of the best ridges in England - I backpacked this LDP in 2016.  Even in today's conditions it is a delight with enticing views into the steep sided  valleys and distant vistas in all directions. I am pleased to remember to branch off at the little tarn from the well defined path by which I ascended.  The Dales High Way path is not obvious where it leads off from the tarn and it would be easy to blindly follow the more well defined path that leads back down into Bowderdale, but I reckon you would soon realise the mistake. 

At eleven miles ( including 2069 feet of ascent) that is the longest I have walked for a long time and I'm pleased to note that I am in no way fatigued as I devour my packed lunch back at the car - there had been nowhere whatever to stop for that on the route especially in those conditions.


Interesting stats: Memory Map gives me 2069ft. of ascent and then 2070ft. of descent; what happened to the other foot?

The Bowderdale road ends a sort distance beyond this. 8:00 am and I'm off

The farm track littered with puddles. 

First views looking up upper Bowderdale. My path swings to the left a bit further on to pick up the contouring path.

Note the well defined path, the clouds, and Yarlside dominating at the head of the valley

The path clinging obediently to its contour

Looking back down Bowderdale

A glimpse back down to the Sedbergh road and the more conventional starting point for the ascent of The Calf

The Calf - (676m. - 2217ft.)

The Dales High Way path from The Calf summit. It soon becomes more of a  boggy trek but nowhere enough to be a real nuisance. Note the ridge extending forever in the distance.

The route on the right is that of my Blease Fell walk posted here a few days ago


  1. bowlandclimber13 May 2022 at 10:24

    A decent stretch of the legs there. You keep coming across the Dales High Way.

  2. BC - Nearly every walk I do these days seems to include at least part of something I have done before. I reckon with you that would be even more likely. At 11 miles that is the most I have walked for a long time.

  3. Well done Conrad. A lovely route, shame about the weather.

  4. Phreeunner - I do get some satisfaction from being competent to handle bad weather. My inexpensive Mountain Warehouse waterproof shell kept me totally dry

  5. the only time i've been up atop the Howgills was with you one winter's day, aiming for The Calf - all I remember is that we didn't make it as we were driven back from the plateau to a sweaty teashop in Sedbergh by the same sort of fierce wind (plus whiteout, as bonus) that you met here: it must be the smooth shape of these hills that allows the smooth unimpeded flow of air - one often sees wind driven cloud hugging the flanks and tops as one drives up or down the M6 - always looking fierce and 'challenging'.

  6. gimmer: I'm sorry to say that I only have a vague memory of that episode. Wasn't there some issue about using the compass?

  7. That tended to happen in whiteouts and wind - can't see the way, can't hold the compass steady, map torn to shreds or blown inside out - whiteouts were one of the exceptions I made in an earlier comment about disdaining the use of GPS mapping ! And anyway, the Howgills are well known for magnetic anomalies - so, coupled with my distrust of compasses, it is more than likely that we had problems - we turned back when our way across a smooth top suddenly turned into what looked like a very steep drop into the void - probably not so severe but in the conditions and when you cannot see, a good reason to retreat !