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High Side, Skiddaw, Skiddaw House, Whitewater Dash, Cumbria.
[16.0 km]  Tue 22 Sep 2020

OS Grid ref: NY 23599 30988
Lat/Long: 54.668152, -03.186112

Today is the Autumnal Equinox and the official start of Autumn. The drive north along the M6 was mist all the way with a strong SW wind. I was expecting similar conditions as I reached the small parking area by the road at High Side off the A591 north of Keswick. I was surprised to see several vehicles already parked as I usually don't see anyone at 8am. I set off heading SE up the field towards the gate higher up and saw my first person of the day as a man and his dog were walking down the fell. Higher up I followed the track into Southerndale and across to Barkbethdale where the track vanished into a boggy area.

I managed to cross without getting my feet wet and crossed the gill to start the steep steady climb up White Horse and on to Broad End. It was quite blustery as I followed the easy path and could see the clouds rushing past the fells higher up. It wasnít long before I reached the cloud level and lost all views. Climbing up towards Gibraltar Crags I could look over the edge but see nothing. I was now on the main path and the swirling cloud made it very dark at times. Eventually the summit Ordnance Survey trig post appeared as a silhouette against the grey cloud. To the right was the information column with a steel plate on the top indicating what mountains can be seen if it was possible to see anything.

 Skiddaw summit 931m (3,054ft).
I was pleasantly surprised to find the wind was no stronger than on the climb. I took a couple of quick photos and continued over the summit heading directly south. I saw a young couple coming up through the cloud and we stopped briefly. They asked how far to the summit and I checked they had a compass before continuing on my way. I said hello to 4 more people further down before reaching the gate where I left the main path to head along the side of the fence in a SW direction. I was heading towards Sale How but at first there was no sign of a path.
Gate where I left the track.

 Mist and trees behind Skiddaw House.
Eventually one appeared and became more defined as I descended. It's a shame I was still in cloud as the views down to the River Caldew must have been impressive. There was a flat area of boggy ground before the final hump of Sale How which was marked with a small rocky outcrop. Further down I found some shelter in a dip by the path and stopped for my sandwiches. I was still in mist and as I approached the plantation behind Skiddaw House I took a photo of the trees appearing from the mist. I reached the access gate to Skiddaw House but there didnít seem to be anyone at home.

 Skiddaw House.

 Skiddaw House - back o' beyond
from Wainwright's Norhern Fells book.
The following information is from the information board by the wall.
At 1550ft above sea level, Skiddaw House is the highest hostel in Britain. It was built around 1829 as a 'Keeper's lodge' and grouse shooting base for George Wyndham, the third Earl of Egremont. The Wyndham family, whose descendants became the Lords Leconfield, owned the estate known as Skiddaw Forest and also nearby Cockermouth Castle. The building was originally divided into two separate dwellings; one side for the gamekeeper and his family and the other for a shepherd's family. The Earl and his shooting parties also had a few rooms to stay in when they came to visit. This joint usage continued until 1957, when the Leconfield Estate was broken up and Skiddaw House, with its associated grazing lands, were sold to a local farmer. The two resident families left, with just one shepherd staying on to work for the farmer. This shepherd, Pearson Dalton, lived alone in the house (except for his goats, cat and five dogs) for the next twelve years. In 1969, Dalton retired and moved out of Skiddaw House. The building was occasionally used by local schools and the Border Bothies Association but gradually fell into decline. In 1986 the two dwellings were converted into the current hostel.
Skiddaw House operated as a youth hostel from 1987 until 2002, when it closed and began to fall into disrepair again. But with the help of the previous hostel manager, many volunteers and the Skiddaw House Foundation (a registered charity), the hostel was renovated and reopened in 2007. It has been welcoming guests ever since, operating as an independent hostel affiliated to the YHA. The building retains many original features.

 Skiddaw House.
I set off along the access track towards Dash Beck but still had no views. It was long and boring for a while as I passed above the wonderfully named Candleseaves Bog. Above Whitewater Dash waterfall I eventually had a view and could see down into Dash Beck. A mountain-biker came up the track and stopped to take a photo as I descended. I had about 1.5miles to walk back to the road and a further mile back to my car. The rain had kept off during my walk but started on the drive back home.

Access track to Skiddaw House.

Looking down to Dash Beck.
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