BB0712 Bakestall, Great Calva and the Great Divide

Thursday 12th April

“Why?”  I kept asking myself, miserably.  

“Why am I doing this?”, almost crawling up a ridiculously steep ascent of Bakestall (yes Bakestall- you know, at the north end of Skiddaw), grabbing clumps of heather for dear life.

“Because it’s there” came back the standard answer.

“It?”  I pondered.  “It - this unheard of mound?”

“And there?  Where exactly is the there you mean?  Not because it is here, on the ground, under my feet."

The steep ascent of Bakestall comes into view

"The there in question is there in a book written by a grumpy old man and the because is because one of our number has a trainspotter's urge to put a tick on every page.  For the fourth time.”


But there again it was my fault.  A much gentler stroll had been advocated but who was it who went back to Bryan and suggested, to Tony’s horror, that with the big one looming, that something more challenging was needed?  Yours truly.  And this was the result.  

Realising that a long day was in prospect, I proffered an early pickup as long as no one laughed at my haircut, or to be more accurate, my tonsorial accident that Jamie, had described as resembling the fire break in a forest and of which evidence has been called. To be fair, the boys did not laugh. 

Tony clearly had other things on his mind.  He thought he was in line for a slipper stroll as he came out of the house complete with rucksack, and full climbing gear, including his Lowe Alpine bedroom slippers.


The evidence

Once he realised that was not the best footwear, he changed and we set off, picking up Stand and Bryan and set off north on what was probably the best day of the year so far. Daffodils still flowering, trees in full blossom and Rhododendrons coming into flower. Magic.

Cherry(?) Blossom Time

The Great Divide almost seen from Great Calva

Up past perfectly still Windermere, Rydal, Grasmere, and Thirlmere where we learned of the “Great Divide”- a geological fault that ran down the middle of Lakeland.  Round Bassenthwaite the wrong way and parked up by Peter House Farm.

The walk started on the Cumbria Way path to Skiddaw House but after a mile or so took the direct approach to Bakestall.  Stan and Bryan seemed to skip up it and not seem troubled by the “Why?” question.

Tony and I suffered!  On leaving the steepest part behind and the “Why?” question unresolved I then found myself pondering whether it was better to have false summits (as had just been the case) or a concave steepening slope in front of you, as was now the case.  This got generalised to “pessimist or optimist?” on the grounds that which ever you had you would probably get the other once over the brow. As I concluded, not for the first time, that the pessimist was the only truly happy person as things could only get better, the summit was reached.

Nearly there!

A Triumphant Tony

Team  Picture on Bakestall with Skiddaw in view

And such a panorama was to be seen that the intense pain of a few minutes earlier was forgotten.  Almost.

Click (possibly twice) for the panorama

Most people visiting Bakestall will do it as the first stop on the northerly approach to Skiddaw.  Then most people will come up the sensible way up Birkett Edge and then carry on upwards.  But then, we are not most people.  We are the BOOTboys and Bakestall, not Skiddaw was our target and having been achieved we could go back down the sensible route and take the pleasant undulating path past Candleseaves Bog to Skiddaw House to lunch before undertaking our second mission of the day.

Skiddaw House is under new ownership and is poised to open as a bunk house for those wanting overnight accommodation in this wild and remote part of Lakeland.  Today however it was little more than a picnic spot for a large party of what Bryan confidently described as teachers, it being the Easter holidays.

Great Calva from Skiddaw House

One of the circular sheepfolds

After lunch we turned our attention to Great Calva, looking innocuously easy in front of us.  But the ground is covered in heather and our fell running pals thought that would be too tough going and they knew a sneaky way up.  So we carried on along the Cumbria Way, past a couple of beautifully round sheep pens of which Andy Goldsworthy might have been proud, till we met the Wiley Gill and a fence that led straight to the summit.  Seemingly this the way the Bob Graham runners descend.  The most polite thing that can be said about using it as a route of ascent is that it was not quite as bad as the route up Bakestall.

The Great Divide separating Blencathra (peeping out from behind Mungrisdale Common) and Skiddaw

From the top of Great Calva, it was possible to see right down the Great Divide- or would have been had the visibility been clearer.  The weather now started to deteriorate somewhat and a nasty cold wind got up.  So we did not linger long but headed off to Little Calva, following the fence and continuing with it down a surprisingly difficult descent to the Cumbria Way.  The problem was that the path eroded by upcoming people was little more than a narrow gutter, difficult into which to place descending feet and prone at times to the ground crumbling away somewhat.

The Cumbria Way was, in the event  safely reached, from which it was an easy stroll under Bakestall with its looming Dead Craggs, past Whitewater Dash, the longest waterfall in Lakeland, and back to the car.  

Our biggest and most challenging outing so far this year.  Just what was needed before the “big one”.  Or as it has now been determined the “not quite so big one", more of which to follow!

Little Calva with Whitewater Dash

Don, 12th April 2007

Distance: 10.3 miles (GPS); 9.94 miles (Harveys)

Height climbed: 3,159 feet

Wainwrights:  Bakestall, Great Calva

Afternote:  My impression is that this had been a rather wet year so far (albeit not in recent days) and that we had not been out as much as in the previous year.  Wrong!. The 12th outing of BOOTboys in 2006 was actually on Friday 26th May, a fact that quite surprised me.



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Click on the photos for an enlargement or related large picture.

This page describes a 2007 adventure of BOOTboys, a loose group of friends of mature years who enjoy defying the aging process by getting out into the hills as often as possible!

As most live in South Lakeland, it is no surprise that our focus is on the Lakeland fells and the Yorkshire Dales.

As for the name, BOOTboys, it does not primarily derive from an item of footwear but is in memory of Big Josie, the erstwhile landlady of the erstwhile Burnmoor Inn at Boot in Eskdale, who enlivened Saint Patrick's Day 1973 and other odd evenings many years ago!

If you want to contact us, click on BOOTboys