Catbells, Maiden Moor and High Spy

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The Monday of our holiday I set off for a more ambitious solo walk along the ridge of fells on the west side of Derwent Water and a little further along Borrowdale. The promised heavy rain arrived a little later than forecast on Sunday and continued into Monday morning so I hung around for a while, took the dog for “walkies” and set off around midday.

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I took the path to Hawes End and then started the steep climb up to the first, lower, summit of Catbells. It’s a relatively small fell (shaped like a mountain but not high enough to be counted as one) which dominates the skyline on the west shore of Derwent Water. It’s a popular climb and one extolled by Alfred Wainwright for the variety of the climb and the views. In his guide to the North Western Fells he tells us

Catbells is one of the great favourites, a family fell where grandmothers and infants can climb the heights together, a place beloved. It’s popularity is well deserved: it’s shapely topknot attracts the eye, offering a steep but obviously simple scramble to the small summit.

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Looking over the Newlands valley as I climbed

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and back down over Derwent Water

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Given it’s proximity to Keswick (it can be reached easily by taking the launch to Hawse End) there’s always plenty of people making the way to the top and today was no different. This was the third time I’d climbed it myself. It’s a mile to the main summit and although it’s quite steep and there are a couple of sections where there’s a short scramble up bare rock it’s not too difficult.

Looking over to Hyndscarth and Robinson at the head of the Newlands Valley

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It was crowded at the summit when I reached it. Most people would be making there way back down but my plan was to carry on along the ridge as far as High Spy. I stopped for a bite to eat, taking in the views and people watching before continuing on, dipping down to the Hause and then climbing up to the next fell, Maiden Moor. It’s an easier climb than Catbells, the path being a little more gradual and less scrambling. It’s a broad moor rather than a rocky peak and there’s no clearly defined summit.

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On the way up I was surprised to see a JCB working on path improvement. The operator told me that they’d driven it up the hill! Took 3 days, apparently!

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Looking down over Borrowdale

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I carried on along the ridge passing Blea Cragg making my way to the summit of High Spy. On the way I was caught by a fellow walker a couple of times. In both cases they slowed down to match my pace for a while for a chat before speeding back on along the ridge. They were both quite a bit younger than me! One of them was from Kashmir – he was studying for a PhD – and as he’s grown up in the foothills of the Himalayas it was interesting to hear his view of our modest mountains.

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I reached the summit of High Spy and stopped to take in the view and grab another bite to eat.

A couple of views from the summit

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I had a decision to make now. The ridge forms part of a horseshow with Dale Head at (as the name implies) the head of the Newlands valley with two other ridges – Hyndscarth and Robinson – across to the west. I could have continued round and made my way back along either fell, descending into the Newlands Valley. But I’d set out late and supplies were low (being diabetic I have to keep topping up with carbohydrates during walks) so I decided to save that for another, longer day and turned round to retrace my steps.

I diverted to Blea Cragg. This isn’t counted as a “proper” fell in it’s own right, but part of High Spy. But it’s a great viewpoint with vistas back towards Derwent Water and along the Borrowdale valley and the high peaks.

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Returning to the main path I followed the ridge along Maiden Moor and descended down to the hause.

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Rather than carry on back over Catbells, I took the path that descended into the Newlands Valley and then traversed along the bottom of the ridge back to Hawse End.

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The views to the east

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and west

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There were great views across the valley to the high fells including Causey Pike, although Grisedale Pike was hidden under a blanket of cloud.

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Looking back to the head of the valley

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and down the valley with Bassenthwaite Lake in the distance

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Reaching the bottom of the climb up Catbells, I retraced my steps from the morning back to Portiscale, making a short diversion to watch the launch pulling in at Nichol End.

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Arriving back at the apartment it was time for a brew. I think I’d earned it!

14 thoughts on “Catbells, Maiden Moor and High Spy

  1. A classic walk. The continuation round the rest of the Newlands Valley is a cracker but you’re right it is a long way. Always notable how you leave the crowds behind as soon as you step towards Maiden Moor from Catbells. Love the photos from the end of the day

    • The weather improved as the day went on. When I set out Maiden Moor and beyond was covered by cloud. Although it was still blanketing the high fells at the end of the walk it turned into a very pleasant afternoon.

    • Yes, Sunday was vile! A day for curling up with a good book and a cup of tea!
      When you do get over there, bear in mind parking is very limited. But you can park up in Keswick and get the launch over to Hawse End.
      I’d recommend if you do tackle it, when you reach the summit, after a rest!, carry on and descend down either to Derwent Water or the Newlands Valley for your return. Either way makes a good circular walk.

    • Yes, the day improved as it progressed. If I wasn’t running out of supplies I’d have carried on a little longer. But is was, for me, a long walk particularly as I stared and finished at Portinscale. A couple of extra miles in total than if I’d parked up (if any spaces were available!) near Catbells

  2. Beautiful photos! I was in the Lakes a couple weeks ago and my husband and I ran up Cat Bells and Maiden Moor. The views were stunning until we reached the summit of Maiden Moor… Then, everything disappeared behind a thick cloud!

    • Thanks Frede 🙂
      It’s a beautiful view up there – providing it isn’t foggy (which it often is!)
      Sounds like you’re one of those crazy fell runners who zoom past me whenever I’m huffing and puffing up a hill or mountain!!!

      • It was gorgeous on the way up and down when we were out of the clouds. 😊

        Probably crazy, yes, but I’m not sure I qualify as a fell runner yet! I only just started trail running and this was my first time in the Lake District.

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