BB1829 : Three Black Veils

Thursday 30th August 2018

She walks these hills in a long black veil

She visits my grave when the night winds wail

Nobody knows, nobody sees

Nobody knows but me

The last thing we expected to see today, high in the hills and miles from the nearest road, were three women, each with her face covered with a black veil.  But we did.

The day had started well.  It was bright and sunny as we secured the last place at the Latrigg Car park.  This time we were not going to make the mistake of many years ago.  On that day, we had congratulated ourselves on leaving the car here, already nearly 1,000 feet up the hill but totally forgot about the 600 feet we would have to climb back up to it at the end of the day.  Today, cunningly, we had already left a car at the north end of our intended route, 300 feet lower than the start.  We set off along the Cumbria Way whilst most folk were heading up the Skiddaw motorway.

Behind us you could see the Great Divide and many of the Derwentwater hills.

Our objective was to enable Stan and myself to complete the Northern Fells Wainwright book and to add to Terry’s total.  This required us to climb hills on opposite sides of the Dash Beck.  First, however, we would have a lengthy but easy stroll to Skiddaw House, a YHA  hostel in the middle of nowhere.

Here there is a choice.  The Cumbria Way splits into a northern branch and an eastern branch, depending on how far away from civilisation you want to be.  Our route went north so off went the boys.  However, outside the house sat the three black-veiled women.  

Whilst the boys wandered on their way, strangely disinterested, I approached them to resolve the mystery of their veils.  Had they anything to do with Johnny Cash? Had nobody seen them but me?

No BOOTboy knows, no BOOTboy sees

No BOOTboy knows but me

Once I had discovered their secret, I set off and caught up with my colleagues in time to take the Bob Graham route up Great Calva.  

This looked an easy climb and would have been had it not been for the fact that the trail was mostly on peat which, after all the recent rain, had the underfoot joy of a wet sponge.

Nevertheless, we reached the summit without too much difficulty and, contrary to what Stan and I would have preferred, stopped for lunch.  Had we not, Tony would have gone on strike- it was well after noon and his natural rhythm had been disturbed by the early start.

As I had feared, the descent was somewhat trickier.  It wasn’t the boggy area over to Little Calva that was the problem but how then to get down to the col.  Various web reports referred to following the fence but we spotted what we thought was a track taking a more direct route.  Well, it was more direct but the track vanished and we had to struggle through knee deep heather.

Mike, Terry and Tony decided, wisely, that as they didn’t need Bakestall, they would head on down the Cumbria Way leaving Stan and me to carry the BOOTboy flag to the summit.

I remembered the climb up by the fence from BB1535 but I don’t remember it being as long and as steep as it proved today- perhaps our legs were weary from coming down though all that heather.

We looked back to the Cumbria Way and across to Great Calva.  We couldn't see the boys but could just about see the path down which we should have descended.

However, the ascent was the easy bit.  The descent from Bakestall was even worse.  It was not just steep but the grass was moist and therefore didn’t have the grip that would otherwise have been the case. Fortunately (I think) there was still a lot of heather around which not only provided a more secure footing, it gave something pretty substantial to hold on to.  Stan, of course, was in his element and skipped down the hill.  I am not as nimble or as confident so it took me rather longer to reach the Cumbria Way.

Once down, it was an easy walk back to the car where we regrouped, drove to collect the other vehicle then travelled along England’s finest A road to the Traveller's Rest near Grasmere.

I wanted to celebrate the fact that Stan and I had now completed the Northern fells book (again).  However my colleagues were more interested in me telling them the secret of the the black veils.  Well, it was quite logical really.  No crying over bones when the north wind blows. They were simply wearing midge nets.  There had been quite a few such beasties but fortunately, not nibbling me.  Presumably the ladies were tastier.  

But what were they doing sitting outside such a remote location?  Again, a straightforward reason.  They were part of a group of eight staying at the Skiddaw House hostel and these three were artists.  They were painting the view, in three contrasting styles in three differently styled black veils.

Don, Thursday 30th August 2018



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If you click on Johnny Cash's picture, above, you can hearing him singing this mournful tale of mistaken identity to the obvious delight of the inmates of Folsom prison.


Surprised you know that one!


I didn't but Uncle Google did.


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Comitibus:  Don, Tony, Mike, Terry, Stan

Map : Harveys 1:25k


BB1829 : Three Black Veils


Thursday 30th August 2018


Great Calva, Bakestall

Distance in miles (Garmin):

10.3 Don & Stan; 8.6 Mike, Terry & Tony

Height climbed in feet (OMN):

2,681 Don & Stan;  2,093 Mike, Terry & Tony

GPX track



Don, Mike B, Stan, Terry, Tony


If you want to know which BOOTboys reports refer to having visited any particular Wainwright or certain other hills, see BOOTboys Hill Log.

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