Skiddaw from Millbeck

Outline of Route
Millbeck - Skiddaw Little Man (via SW arete - Wainwright's route) - Skiddaw - Carl Side - Millbeck (Grid ref. NY 255262)
Total Distance 4.2 miles, Total Ascent 3000 feet, Equivalent Distance 10.2 miles

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Escape Routes

  1. None. Once you reach Skiddaw Little Man, Carlside is the easiest way back.

Details of Route
Parking in Millbeck is free, though there is no obvious place to park. I managed to find a spot, just off the road, opposite a signpost indicating the footpath to Skiddaw. This spot is about 50 yards along the road northwest of the T-junction in the middle of Millbeck. From here follow the signpost along a drive for about 5 yards then turn left through a small gate and follow the track between a wall and a fence to another gate, which gives access to the open fell. Follow the broad path up the fell and, ignoring the path to the left which leads up to Carlside - in fact the route back from this walk - head along the path towards the boundary wall of the now somewhat denuded, fir plantation. Continue to the dam across Mill Beck.

From here the summit of Skiddaw Little Man is in sight; as is the southwest arete, which looks impossible for the walker. In fact it is perfectly possible and not anxiety-provoking in the slightest. It is worth mentioning here the alternative, more common route, which involves crossing Mill Beck and following the well-walked path up the fellside which then bears left up to the summit. Returning to the route under consideration, follow the path upstream and to the left of Mill Beck. This traverses the fellside, gradually rising above the beck, giving an airy, high-level feel to the walk (photo). It returns to the side of the beck, now Slades Beck, just opposite Black Beck, which enters it from the right. Cross Slades Beck here and set off up the fell, on the bank alongside Black Beck. From here the route is unremittingly steep: an ascent of 1850 feet in a horizontal distance of 2900 feet being equivalent to an average 32 degrees. There is the semblance of a path to start with, but it soon becomes overgrown with heather. I found that for quite a while it was easier to clamber up the wet vegetation alongside the beck than plough through the heather, but forsook this at about 1500 feet to follow the scree, which I first took to be a path (wishful thinking), up to the arete. The scree, being very loose, is extremely hard going, but so is the heather and it's convenient to switch between the two. The heather becomes more sparse once the arete is reached but is replaced with bilberry. Here the going becomes easier and the views more enjoyable. As a challenging arete it is no match for Swirral Edge or Hall's Fell but is as good as the Skiddaw massif can offer. It leads directly to Little Man's summit cairn. Your reward for all this hard work is a view of the Lakeland panorama that is truly wonderful (photo) - and defying better description by this unworthy writer.

Skiddaw is ahead of you (photo) so head north to a fence and continue downhill along it to its end, where you join the tourist path from Keswick. There is a 400 foot ascent to Skiddaw summit (photo) from the depression, but this is child's play compared with your scaling of Little Man. Whilst it's normal to greet your fellow walkers on the fells, here on Skiddaw you're likely to get the sort of response you'd get if you tried greeting strangers in the middle of Keswick. The views are fine all round, including Longside Edge (photo), the Helvellyn ridge (photo), but I'd recommend taking the opportunity to have a longer look at the fells to the east, including Great Calva, Knot and Carrock Fell, and their layout (photo). You may later wish to take to them as an antidote to the crowds here.

From the main top retrace your steps back towards the south top. Before you get to it there is a path going off diagonally to the right, southwest, at a cairn. This leads to Carlside col and is a better proposition than that from the south top itself. There is a good view of Longside Edge from here (photo), subject of another walk. From the col there is an easy continuation to the summit of Carlside (photo). From here, going south, down to Millbeck you will have plenty of opportunity to look further at the superb southern prospect (photo). The walking is easy and the path simple to follow. You may wish to visit the subsidiary peak of Carsleddam, to the left, on the way down, but you'll need to find your own way through the heather, and frankly, I'd had enough of it. The heather apart, I find this an enjoyable half-day walk.

Rev. 02 September 2014

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