High St. and Mardale Ill Bell via Riggindale in Snow

Name of walk High St. and Mardale Ill Bell via Riggindale in Snow
Date of walk 2011-12-18
Distance walked (miles) 6
Duration of walk 5 hours 45 minutes
Weather Sunny with blue skies
Peaks on walk High St., Mardale Ill Bell

Finally a weather window to do some walking in the snow! Sunshine was forecast in the eastern fells and with windspeeds of only 30mph and gusts of 45mph, a walk today looked a good bet! It is back to gales for the rest of the week. So today Brendan and I decided to drive to Mardale at the head of Haweswater in order to climb High Street (2718ft) and Mardale Ill Bell (2496ft), a walk of about six miles that I had been looking forward to repeating for a while. We left home in the dark and by the time we had arrived at Haweswater it had turned into a wonderful blue sky day! Even better than was forecast!


View across to what Wainwright refers to as the "connoisseurs route up". The ridge starts on the far left of the photo and climbs all the way up to High St. The valley on the right of the ridge is called Riggindale and is the only place in England with Golden Eagles. There is a Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) observation post in the valley. A pair of eagles first nested in the valley in 1969 and the male and female of the pairing have changed several times over the years, sixteen chicks have been produced. The female bird disappeared in April 2004 leaving the male on its own. However, the RSPB are hoping a replacement female will be drawn to the area. The moon is still visible.




We set off walking at 9.45am. The car thermometer said -3C.....a bit nippy! We are quickly up above the snow line and once you are in the sunshine and moving, it is not so cold. This is also the first Microspike walk of winter!


The snow was knee deep in places and walking through the unconsolidated powder snow took a lot of effort.


The three guys ahead of us came from Swansea. We eventually caught them up and it turned out that they were doing the same walk as us......as well as the same Microspikes!!


High St. looks quite near but it isn`t!


Looking across Riggindale to Kidsty Pike.


View down the length of Haweswater. The snow covered Pennines in the distance.


Tackling the steep bit up Rough Crag, the snow was very deep here!


The way ahead.


Blea Water with Mardale Ill Bell to the left.


Heading towards Longstile, there is a series of climbs and descents to reach it.


Longstile is ahead. For added perspective the three guys from Swansea are below it in the distance.


and looking back the way we have come over Rough Crag.


Looking down on to Blea Water.


Finally the end is in sight.


One final slog up deep snow. It is much easier if you step in someone else footsteps. For the final steep section someone had kindly cut steps.


Brendan tackling the final steep section. Great views out over Selside Pike to The Pennines and back along the Riggindale ridge.


On High Street. A close up of Blencathra.


Helvellyn and Striding Edge on the far left. It was a white-out with gale force winds up there yesterday morning!


St. Sunday Crag right of centre, Fairfield centre.


Looking south west along the wall.


Coniston Old Man is far left. Bowfell and the Scafells on the right


Ordnance survey post on High St. summit. It had taken just over three hours to climb the ridge.


Heading for Mardale Ill Bell with Harter Fell behind.


Close-up looking south over Froswick to Windermere and Morecambe Bay.


Looking to Yoke, Ill Bell and Froswick.


View from Mardale Ill Bell summit.


Looking back up to High St. on the left and over the Riggindale Ridge to Kidsty Pike. Blea Water below.


Brendan heading down from Mardale Ill Bell


Small Water below. One slip on this steep section and we will be there quicker than we thought!!


Heading for the Nan Bield Pass shelter (square box below just in the sunlight). To the left is the route down to Small Water to the right is the route down to Kentmere. The ridge up to Harter Fell beyond.


Brendan trudging through the deep snow with the three guys from Swansea behind.


Looking down on the Kentmere Reservoir.


The Nan Bield Pass shelter below.


Unfortunately the shelter was full of snow so we had to have lunch stood behind, it out of the wind! Small Water and Haweswater below.


Small Water.


There are three old stone shelters on the shores of Small Water for travellers caught out by the weather. The Nan Bield Pass has always been an important route. The shelters go a long way back, about 8ft


View out from the entrance.


We cross the outflow.


Then we head back down towards Haweswater.

We got back at 3.45pm, which is sunset. The walk had taken us five hours and forty-five minutes. Pretty good time given the snowy terrain! We stopped off at the Haweswater Hotel for a coffee sitting in large armchairs opposite an open wood fire….cosy!


Blue skies and white snow always make for pretty good photos!