650 metres of ascent
Grade II scrambling
Much nicer weather than yesterday encouraged us to go higher. Harter Fell can be seen from all round the valley as a perfect pyramid and has very inviting rocky flanks (especially on the west and north). We once did a climb on the north side ( Demming Slab ) that turned out to be a very vegetated adventure but with a good mountain atmosphere for a relatively small peak.
We started (with our friends Richard and Polly and their dog Morgan) along the beautiful turquoise river Esk from Boot and along to the Doctor Bridge. I’ve no idea why it’s called the Doctor Bridge.
River Esk on the way from Boot to Doctor Bridge
Past Penny Hill farm and you strike up the hillside and the terrain becomes really nice. Incredible views east and west along the valley and north to the cirque of the scafells, bowfell and crinkle crags. Lovely rocky knolls surrounding you, you cross a tumbling stream and eventually the path gives out and you have to follow compass and terrain clues until you find the crossing of Spothow Gill and find the clearer path that ascends Harter Fell west flank.
Upper Eskdale towards Bowfell (pyramidal peak left of centre) and Crinkle Crags (in the clouds, centre).
Now you can see the rocky west flank of the hill and out with the scrambling book, Steve Ashton’s “Scrambles in the Lake District”. We were looking for routes 100 and 101. His pictures and descriptions usually, shall we say, allow for a spirit of adventure. I was pretty sure I was looking in the right place but couldn’t see any evidence of the so-called Harter Beanie, the “prominent hat-shaped knob”, on route 101 but route 100, the north-west crags route, did seem to be there and it looked very inviting.
Harter Fell north and west faces seen from Penny Hill farm. The scramble route is the lighter-coloured ridge in the centre of the face running slightly bottom left to top right.
The start was steep grass but it led into a very nice looking rock gully with steep but beautiful rocky walls on either side. Move leftwards up great rock onto what looks like a steep exposed ridge, though when you get there it turns out not to be at all exposed but now you can see a continuous line of good clean rock stretching away above you.
Joy looking up the route from a short way up. Perfect rock.
Looking down on the route from much higher up, on a more grassy section between the two main rock sections.
You can pretty much put the book away now and choose any line you fancy. There is a more continuous ribbon that invited us up. The moves were never hard, with just two or three needing thought and meriting grade 2. We had the rope handy but never felt the need of it.
There is a break after this stretch then another crag above. Out with the book to find the best route, which isn’t obvious but the description is accurate and the photo in the book useful. This is another good section of continuous rock until the ridge flattens and you’re on much easier ground with the top of Harter Fell ahead of you.
There are still some very nice easy rocks to play on as you make your way to the summit. Harter Fell is one of my favourite summits and I’ve often thought I should take rock shoes and a bouldering mat to play at the top but never have.
Views all the way were incredible. We could see the Isle of Man to the west, Morecambe Bay south-west, Pillar, Scafells, Bowfell, Crinkle Crags, Hardknott Pass. The weather had turned clear and sunny.
Looking west towards the coast. The Isle of Man is out there somewhere.
Looking west, down to Boot.
The Scafell range.
Return back the way we came, still needing navigation following compass and terrain features until back at Penny Hill farm, then along the road to Boot.