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Looking across to Yarlside from the top of Cautley Crags
Looking across to Yarlside from the top of Cautley Crags

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Route No. 178 - Wednesday 3 May 2006
Cautley Crags, Great Dummacks, The Calf, Cautley Spout - 9km
Around 400m climbing on very steep slopes
Howgill Fells . . .

Map: OS Explorer OL19 Howgill Fells & Upper Eden Valley at 1:25000
Route Map on 'Landranger' base from OS Open Space service


Cautley Crags from the Cross Keys Inn
Cautley Crags from the Cross Keys Inn
This morning we drove to the Cross Keys temperence inn on the A683 between Sedbugh and Kirkby Stephen at map ref. SD 698969. There is room here for about half a dozen cars to park off the road. The weather was perfect, bright and sunny with a strong breeze. We crossed the footbridge over the river Rawthey next to the road and headed off for Cautley Crags along the footpath. After about 1km at map ref. SD 687972 we crossed the stream on our left and began to climb straight up the steep grassy hillside to the boulder strewn area below Cautley Crags. As it turned out we should have crossed the stream about 300 or 400m earlier where there is a route, not exactly a path, but a route diagonally up the steep hillside to about the same point that we climbed to at around map ref. SD 684969.
Cautley Crags from the footbridge over the River Rawthey
Cautley Crags from the footbridge over the River Rawthey
Herdwick ewe and lamb by the river Rawthey
Herdwick ewe and lamb by the river Rawthey

Path to Cautley Crags and Cautley Spout
Path to Cautley Crags and Cautley Spout

By this stage we were already tired - it's a very steep climb (and we're both over 60!), so we sat for a while to admire the view which was already quite something. We then crossed the boulder field below the crags to the ridge along the southern edge of the crags at around map ref. SD 685966. From there we began the steepest part of the climb up the ridge around the southern edge of the crag. I have to say it was a bit more that we should have tackled. It's a route I have seen people doing in the past and I have wanted to do it myself for some time. I'm not getting any younger so I thought it's now or never.

Looking across the valley to Yarlside from part way up Cautley Crags
Looking across the valley to Yarlside from part way up Cautley Crags
Looking north east from Great Dummacks
Looking north east from Great Dummacks
Foxscat or droppings on the ridge on the steepest part of the climb
Foxscat or droppings on the ridge on the steepest part of the climb
View up the Rawthey valley from the top of Cautley Crags near Great Dummacks
View up the Rawthey valley from the top of Cautley Crags near Great Dummacks

There were times when I doubted my sanity on the way up but eventually and after several rest stops we reached the top of the crag next to Great Dummacks where we sat in the grass for a long rest and a bite to eat. The view was stunning in the spring sunshine with ranks of grassy hills rolling away from us. A couple who had left the car park just after us came walking round the top of the crag having climbed up the normal way on the roughly paved path and steps up the side of Cautley Spout.

The tree Yorkshire Peaks seen from Bram Rigg Top
The three Yorkshire Peaks seen from Bram Rigg Top

Looking north from The Calf
Looking north from The Calf

After our break we continued around the ridge and joined the path to Bram Rigg Top at map ref. SD 669965. From there we could see the familliar shapes of Pen-y-Ghent, Ingleborough and the hump of Whernside away to our left. We continued along the path to The Calf at map ref. SD 667970 and stood for a while to look at the view in all directions. There are the North Pennines away to the north; Wildboar Fell and Swarth Fell to the east; the Yorkshire Dales peaks to the southeast; Morecombe Bay to the southwest and the Lake District ridges away to the west. On a day with visibility as good as today I think it's probably the best vantage point I know.

A Rough Fell ewe - the Howgill Fells native breed of sheep
A Rough Fell ewe - a Howgill Fells native breed of sheep
Cautley Crags showing part of our route up
Cautley Crags showing part of our route up
Cautley Crags - showing our route up
Cautley Crags - showing our route up
Ponies roam free on the fells
Ponies roam free on the fells
From The Calf we took the path towards Bowderdale and after about 1.5km at map ref. SD 676980 we turned off the path to the east to drop down across a wet peaty area and then down a steep grassy slope to the col at map ref. SD 681980. From there we followed the path back down the valley for about 2km back to the Cross Keys where we had started. The whole route had been about 9km (with a steep climb of about 400m up the edge of the crag) and had taken us almost 5 hours to walk including our many rest stops. I was glad I'd done this route but I'm sure I won't be attempting it again. We drove up the road to check-in at the pub near Ravenstonedale for a relaxing evening ready for another epic route tomorrow.
A puddle on the path teeming with well grown tadpoles
A puddle on the path teeming with well grown tadpoles