Thursday, 9 July 2009

The ‘Must Do’ Hills

As the M6 motorway works its way north through Lancashire and Cumbria it leaves the industrial north behind and threads its way through rolling countryside where cattle give way to sheep as the land rises. Just north of Killington Reservoir it turns right to join the West Coast Main Line ready to turn left, with the railway line, into the narrow valley created by the river Lune. The hills on the left, to the west of all three modes of transport, around the “other Borrowdale” generally attract little interest from passing motorists whereas the the hills to the east dominate the valley to such an extent that they cannot be ignored. We, like many others, drove up and down through the Lune valley for years thinking, and even saying, “we must do these hills, one day”. We did “do them” eventually on a cold February day in 2001 when they were covered in deep snow. We had a great day, one of the last for a while as “Foot and Mouth” was already closing the fells, although low clouds denied us the views we should have enjoyed. Sitting in the car afterwards we thought and said, we must do these hills again, in clear weather. We have been back several times and every time concluded the day (or night but that is a different story) with the same thought..

The Rucksack Club took us back to the Howgills last Saturday to visit the 600 metre Tops starting from Sedbergh where a warm sunny morning greeted us. A doom-laden forecast for later in the day was put to one side as we set off on the long gentle approach to Yarlside and and Green Bell beyond.


Towards Green Bell with the Pennines behind


Green Bell (the bump in the middle distance) is the most eastern of the 600 metre tops and marks the point in our route where it turns due west, across the grain of the land, and begins to reveal the real character of these rolling grassy hills. The dilemma facing walkers and runners crossing the grain of the land is how to minimise the impact of crossing consecutive ridges and we are still trying to find an effective way to do it.


Across Bowderdale & Langdale beyond



After Randy Gill Top (from where the above was taken) the route crosses Bowderdale, over the next ridge to Langdale and then on to the ridge on the skyline. In about 2 and a half miles you give up 800 feet, climb 500, give up 500 and final climb 900 feet to reach the second ridge and if you didn’t understand the character of these hills before you will now.


Preparing for the climb out of Langdale


By Fell Head, one of the summits visible from the M6, we had done most of the climbing for day and could enjoy views from the ridges leading to The Calf and beyond. Leaving Calders and watching thunderstorms sweep north over the Cumbrian Fells the thought struck again – we must do these hills again, preferably on clear winter day, when the Pennines and Yorkshire Three Peaks will be seen in all their glory. Any smugness we may have enjoyed watching the storms away to the west was short lived as the next bank of storms didn’t confine themselves to the Lakes but wandered sufficiently far east to sweep over the Howgills.


Last blue sky before the storm


Time to don waterproofs and run for Sedbergh

Just before we ran for Sedbergh


If you have ever looked at the Howgills and thought I must do these hills, I can only suggest you should think no longer but simply get out and do them and, if you are a runner, there is always the 14 mile, 6000 feet Sedbergh Hills race on Sunday August 23rd at 12.00 noon.


  1. Ah this truly is the green green grass of home!

  2. How beautiful, even with the storm!

  3. i will take your advice! we're always passing but never stopping