Skiddaw is a mountain situated in the Lake District National Park in the United Kingdom. With a peak at 931 m (3,054 feet) above sea level it is the fourth highest mountain in England. It can be found just north of the town of Keswick, Cumbria and dominates the skyline here. It is the easiest of the Lake District mountains of this height to ascend and as such, many walking guides recommend it to the occasional walker wishing to climb a mountain.
The Northern Fells comprise a roughly circular upland area with a diameter around 10 miles. At the centre is the marshy depression of Skiddaw Forest, a treeless plateau at an altitude of around 1,300 ft, and flowing outward from here are rivers which divide the area into three sectors. The south western sector, between the Glenderaterra Beck and Dash Beck, contains Skiddaw and its various satellites.
Skiddaw itself takes the form of a north-south ridge about half a mile long, with precarious slopes to east and west. The ridge continues in a northerly direction over Broad End to Bakestall, a fell overlooking the Whitewater Dash waterfall. Further ridges fan out eastwards and westwards from the southern end of Skiddaw. To the south east are Skiddaw Little Man, Lonscale Fell and Latrigg, an easily accessible vantage point for Keswick and Derwentwater. Beyond these fells one can find the Glenderaterra Beck and the Blencathra group.
The south western ridge curves round through 180 degrees to run north above the shoreline of Bassenthwaite Lake. This gives Skiddaw an ‘outer wall’, so to speak, comprising Carl Side, Long Side and Ullock Pike, collectively referred to as ‘Longside Edge’. The last member of the Skiddaw Group is Dodd, a satellite of Carl Side.
Between Skiddaw and Longside Edge are the peaceful valleys of Southerndale and Barkbethdale, separated by the spur of Buzzard Knott. These drain the western flanks of the fell down to Bassenthwaite Lake.
The eastern side of Skiddaw runs into Skiddaw Forest, much of the water reaching the Candleseaves Bog. This marsh is the source of both the Dash Beck flowing north west to Bassenthwaite and the River Caldew, starting its long journey north eastward to the Solway Firth via Carlisle. Two smooth spurs on this eastern flank of Skiddaw, Sale How and Hare Crag, are listed in separate tops in various guidebooks.
Below Sale How is Skiddaw House, a stone house which has variously served as a shooting lodge, shepherd’s bothy and Youth Hostel. Its windbreak comprises the only trees in Skiddaw Forest, and it is reached by a long access track up the Dash Valley.
Skiddaw’s slopes are mainly rounded and convex, looking from a distance as though a thick velvet blanket has been draped over a supporting frame. On the ridges the general terrain is of loose stones and pebbles, but elsewhere all is grass and heather.
The bedrock of Skiddaw, known as Skiddaw Slate, is the Kirkstile Formation. This Ordovician rock is made up of laminated mudstone and siltstone with greywacke sandstone. At the top this is overlain by scree and to the south are areas where the underlying Loweswater Formation surfaces.
The summit ridge bears a number of tops, which from north to south are called North Top, High Man, the summit, Middle Top and South Top. All now bear cairns and a number of stone windshelters have been built. Skiddaw has a subsidiary summit, Little Man, which lies around 1.5 km south-south-east of the main peak. Despite its limited independence, Wainwright listed it as a separate fell in his hugely influential Pictorial Guide to the Lakeland Fells, a convention which is often followed.
The view is as spectacular and panoramic as might be expected, given Skiddaw’s topographic prominence. From High Man the north east quadrant is filled by the fells of Back o’Skiddaw, with the Border hills, Cheviots and North Pennines behind them. To the south east are Blencathra, the Far Eastern Fells and the Helvellyn range; behind these are views of the Yorkshire Dales and Forest of Bowland.
The Coniston Fells are visible directly south. On the other side of South Top is a splendid view of the Scafells, Western and North Western Fells, with a portion of Snowdonia visible between Kirk Fell and Pillar. The Isle of Man is visible some 60 miles away, as are the Mourne Mountains 120 miles away, visibility permitting. The final quarter is taken up mainly by the coastal plain and the distant Solway Firth, backed by the hills of Galloway such as Merrick, Criffel and Broad Law. Goat Fell on Arran can be seen at an angle of 313 degrees, around105 miles away.
Many routes of ascent have been worked out for Skiddaw. The most popular tourist route starts from Keswick and first climbs behind Latrigg, before the ascent continues over the slopes of Little Man to the summit. The walk can be made considerably easier by driving to the top of Gale road and beginning from the public carpark just behind the summit of Latrigg.
Another popular route is to follow Longside Edge, first ascending Ullock Pike, Long Side and Carl Side before making the steep ascent up from Carlside Col. Also from the north, a somewhat more difficult alternative is to walk up Buzzard Knott between Southerndale and Barkbethdale: after crossing to the southern edge of the shoulder above Randel Crag climb due east to the summit. Easier than either of these is the compass-walk due south from Cock Up, reversing this route provides a safe descent, especially in adverse weather conditions.
From the south west direction at Millbeck, Carlside Col can be reached directly. A start from nearby Applethwaite can also be used to provide a variation to the normal tourist route. The northwest ascents can be made via Southerndale, or via the northern end of the Skiddaw ridge. Finally on the west the hiker can first make for Skiddaw House, a fair step from either Keswick, Threlkeld or Peter House. Once Skiddaw House is reached a direct line is possible, ascending over either Sale How or Hare Crag.
In the north east an unmarked but well-worn path starts at Whitewater Dash waterfall where the hiker can follow the fence, along Birkett Edge just south of Dead Crags, past the Bakestall outcrop and follow the fence until just before the unnamed top at 831m. From the 831m top, a path leads directly to Skiddaw Man.
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