Dominating the northern skyline at 931m high (3,054 ft), sits the sixth highest mountain in England – Skiddaw. This noble and well-loved peak towers over the picturesque town of Keswick as if keeping a close eye on its inhabitants. Skiddaw forms part of the ‘Skiddaw massif’ range which includes Skiddaw Little Man, Skiddaw Lesser Man, Ullock Pike, Longside, Carl Side, Broad End, Latrigg and Lonscale.
What did Wainwright say? “Make no mistake about Skiddaw. Heed not the disparaging criticisms that have been written from time to time, often by learned men who ought to have known better, about this grand old mountain. It is an easy climb, yes; its slopes are smooth and grassy, yes; it has no frightful precipices, no rugged outcrops, agreed; it offers nothing of interest or entertainment to rock-gymnasts, agreed. If these are failings, they must be conceded. But are they not quite minor failings? Are they failings at all?” (A Pictorial Guide to the Lakeland Fells – The Northern Fells, Book Five, A.Wainwright 2003)
Skiddaw is probably the easiest of the Lakeland mountains of its height. For those looking to climb their first mountain, it’s certainly worth considering. There are various routes up so it’s worth choosing a route to meet your abilities. The easiest is via Jenkin Hill. There is a clear and wide steady path leading to the summit ridge. Some park at the head of Gale Road, already at a considerable height – and no this isn’t cheating, while some start in Keswick. A fit walker could reach the summit within a couple of hours. It’s often dubbed the ‘tourist trail’ but in fairness it’s an ascent that most can enjoy.
The route via Ullock Pike, Longside Edge and Carl Side is generally deemed the most interesting amongst keen fell walkers. It’s a quieter ridge approach which allows you to bag a few Wainwrights. Not quite like some of our famous ridges, but lovely, nonetheless. You can start from the Ravenstone Hotel, after which the path starts to climb immediately. Whichever route you decide, Skiddaw will reward you, in some way or another.
Hints/tips: Being somewhat of a shy old mountain, Skiddaw often has its head in the clouds. Try to choose a day where the clouds are high to enjoy the view – easier said than done in the Lakes we know. For those tackling the 214 Wainwright challenge, there are a few smaller peaks around Skiddaw that can be incorporated into your walk. As with any mountain, the weather can change in seconds. One minute you’re basking in sunshine, the next your reaching desperately for waterproofs. Be aware of conditions, check the forecast and prepare accordingly.
Why we love it: We agree with the admired Alfred Wainwright, Skiddaw is indeed a gentle giant that has stood the test of time, witnessing the creation of Lakeland. Skiddaw often gets overlooked in favour of the more exciting and high-profile mountains such as Helvellyn and Great Gable, but we believe this grand old mountain should be appreciated and respected for all its beauty and nobility.
Plan to prepare, prepare to plan!
As with any walk, it’s important you plan and prepare. Essentials include a map, compass, torch and whistle. Wear suitable footwear and clothing. Check the weather. Our weather is incredibly changeable, even in summer. Take plenty of food and water and include a first aid kit in your bag. Don’t rely on your mobile phone, many areas have little or no signal. Really useful guidance can be found at http://keswickmrt.org.uk/ (Keswick Mountain Rescue)