Backpacking bloggers in the Howgills

by backpackingbongos

Day 1 – 5.2 miles with 470 metres ascent

I did a couple of circuits of Ravenstonedale looking for a spot where I would be happy to leave the van for two nights.  By the time I actually parked up I had no idea how my location actually related to the map.  I feel a bit ashamed to admit that I powered up the mapping on my iPhone to determine my exact location.

It was early afternoon and I had arranged to meet Martin and Terry at a high level camp later on that evening.  I had previously backpacked with Martin and we had got along well, I had yet to meet or speak to Terry.  However after reading his blog and watching his videos for a while now I had a firm image in my mind what he would be like.  He lived up to those expectations in the flesh!

With my map now following the reality of what was on the ground I located my first footpath with ease and crossed a field.  I was immediately surrounded by the friendliest lambs I have ever come across.  They all crowded around me, pushing and shoving to see who could get the closest.  One even nuzzled my knee and was up for a good stroke.  This put a big smile on my face as I made my way along lanes to the A863.

The weather however soon removed my smile as I fully kitted up in waterproofs whilst watching the clouds get lower and lower on Wild Boar Fell ahead.  A steady drizzle soon gave way to a downpour on my climb up the bridleway that eventually leads to Mallerstang.  I found temporary shelter under a band of trees and stood watching the cows as I loaded up on fuel for the long climb ahead.  From the Limestone pastures of Stennerskeugh Clouds I looked towards where Sand Tarn was located, hidden from view by the mist.  I took a bearing to a cairn on the horizon and descended across marshy ground before ascending the grassy hillside.  The clouds were lifting by the time I reached the tarn, ragged tendrils drifting across its surface.  It looked a dark and foreboding place the shifting mist providing a gloomy atmosphere.  I located a spot for the tent, pitched up and laid down for a while.  My empty thoughts were soon disturbed by a brightening though the nylon and I peered outside to see the sun weakly piercing the clouds.

With a change in the weather came a change in atmosphere around my high wild camp, it went from dark and brooding to bright and friendly in less than an hour.  I sat and cooked my dinner and and ate it on a rock overlooking my ascent route.  In the distance I spotted two figures slowly make their way toward me, disappearing from sight every now and then as the moorland dipped.  Finally Martin and Terry appeared over the final rise and wandered over to say hello.  Tents and shelters were erected and we spent the evening in awe at the spectacle that nature laid on for us.  The ever-changing light was magical as the sun made its slow progress towards the horizon.  Sand tarn soon became a very inviting spot indeed.

I think that we must have taken hundreds of photos between us that evening, it was hard to resist snapping away constantly.  We wandered around camp for hours chatting about days in the hills and kit, pulling on more and more layers as the air chilled around us.

Just before the sun finally disappeared from sight we started guessing what the temperature was.  It felt cold, far colder than I have ever experienced in June.  My watch left in my tent said that it was 3 degrees celsius.  We were all glad we had brought along warm down bags that night.

Day 2 – 11.1 miles with 870 metres ascent

We had hoped, almost expected to wake to a spectacular inversion.  Mist had started to form in the valley the evening before and the air had been clear and totally still.  The inner of my tent was soaked with condensation, in some conditions this is totally unavoidable.  The climb to the trig point on Wild Boar fell was steep but short.  A great spot but the best of the views are hidden by its extensive plateau.

However a couple of minutes walk away the ground plunges steeply into the valley of Mallerstang.  An outcrop of rock called the Nab is the perfect spot to stand and linger whilst taking in the views.

The eastern escarpment stretches for roughly a kilometre, bringing a bit of drama to the usual soft folds of the Pennines.  Tall slender cairns look like people standing by the edge from a distance.

It was a relaxed walk towards Swarth fell, easy chatter about the stuff that backpackers find interesting, common interests shared.  Lots of time to take in the wild and deserted landscape.

The original plan had been to ascend Baugh fell but we were all tempted to explore the hidden delights of Uldale, a world of gorges and waterfalls, hardly hinted at by the map.  An easy grassy descent led to a crossing of the infant river, it was a case of ignore the map and seek out the best line down the valley.  Terry had come this way before so took the lead.

We contoured steep slopes high above the river hidden below.  It was hard slow going, the calling then sighting of a Red Kite adding to the experience.  Suddenly we were on the edge of a large sheer drop, the sound of a hidden waterfall below us.  A steep descent and a bit of muddy scrambling brought us into a secret oasis, a deep pool surrounded by luxurious vegetation.  A small cascade fell into the pool whilst behind, partially hidden from view a large waterfall plunged into a rocky amphitheatre.  A truly lovely spot.  Terry was the only one to brave a slippery traverse of the rocks above the pool to get a closer look.  Food was eaten in the sun until a heavy shower got us packing and on our way.

We stuck to the valley bottom as best as we could until a wide grassy bridleway lead us high above the Rawthey valley, the view towards the steep grassy Howgills becoming more dominant with every step.

There was talk of food and ice-cold cokes on the descent to the road and it was suggested that we see if the Cross Keys Temperance Inn was open.  Thankfully it was and we were soon sitting on the back patio with pints of coke and bowls of chips.  We were aware of the steep climb ahead of us to the summit of Yarlside, a hill that has a bit of a reputation for its exceptionally steep grassy slopes.  It can sometimes be difficult getting back up and backpacking after a good feed and sit down but we were soon making swift progress up the path towards Bowderdale Head.

Cautley crags and the surrounding hills looked like they were covered in green velvet, the greenness of summer must surely have been at its peak?

A group was passed at Bowderdale head and a guy made a comment that we must be sponsored by Rab.  I have to admit that we were all pretty much dressed head to toe in the stuff!  By the way I am not sponsored by Rab but if they would like to sponsor me…………..

It was steep and slow going as we climbed Yarlside.

The summit gave amazing views of line after line of hills spreading into the distance.  Looking west there was no suggestion of the hand of man, walls and fences being absent from this cracking little range of hills.  The sky was moody and broody and we watched showers as they tracked their way across the landscape.

Terry made the suggestion of a camp high on the summit, to sit in our tents and stare at the views would be a great way to pass away the evening.  There may even be another sunset treat.  The wind however would have made it unpleasant and myself and Martin persuaded him that a sheltered camp would be a better idea, even if we lost the views.  The descent to the saddle between Yarlside and Kensgriff is exceptionally steep.  A slip in wet weather here could potentially be serious, you would slide down the cropped grass with speed.  We descended in a row just in case someone did slip, that way they would not take anyone else down with them.

The flat spot that we identified was not as flat as it looked from higher up the hill.  Once the tents were up it started to rain which it continued to so on and off for the rest of the evening.  Once again it was cold and I felt like I was dressed for winter.  Terry had brought a special beer dispensing rucksack with him on this trip, a ready supply of cans being produced each evening.  I am sure that the taste of beer on a wild camp would have been very pleasant, but I never found out 😉

Day 3 – 4.9 miles with 270 metres ascent

We were up and out of our tents by 6.00am.  The cold and rain of the night before being replaced by a bright sunny morning, the warmth already being felt.  A time to appreciate our camp spot, something we had not been able to do before.

We were walking by 7.00am, something that I rarely do.  The light soft and clear bringing out the textures of the surrounding hills.  It was worth getting up early for.

Various sheep trods helped us as we contoured along the steep slopes of Kensgriff.  It was a steep pull in the increasing warmth to the col below Randygill Top.

The ascent was best summed up by Terry.

Once up high the walking along a good path to the trig point on Green Bell was easy.  A last chance to take in this unique range of hills.  I mapped out some future routes in my mind and we talked about the possibility of a backpack that took in all the summits.  That would be a challenge, not so much in distance but in all the steep ascents and descents that would be necessary.  I think that would make a cracking long weekend.

We left the path at Knoutberry and made our way down easy pathless slopes to Ravenstonedale.  It was still early morning when we arrived at the village shop to buy cold drinks.  The village looked idyllic in the summer sunshine.  We were lucky to get such a perfect weather window that morning as on the drive home it tipped it down.

All in all an enjoyable and relaxed backpack with good company.  You can read Martin’s account of the trip here, and Terry’s here.

106 Responses to “Backpacking bloggers in the Howgills”

  1. James, good post, excellent photos, which came alive for me as you have people in yours !! My photos of these hills are shots of the hills as I nearly always walk solo. I have covered all these tops in two separate walks. Just a great area to walk and quiet too.

    • Thanks Mark. I often walk alone as well so it is nice to get people in the shots, adds a bit of perspective to the scene. A great area the Howgills.

  2. Good work, Mr Boulter. Looks like a wonderful area. I like Terry’s cavalier attitude to the weight he’s carrying there; I’m always impressed by a man who finds room for a few beers in his rucksack…

    • I think that we should do a trip with Reuben and Dougal there in the Autumn Pete, what do you think? Some nice remote valley pitches for when the weather is blowy on the tops.

      • Yes, JB, that would be very good. It’s a while since Dougal’s taken me anywhere exciting for a walk. He’ll like all that water… My shoulder’s pretty much mended now so nights in a tent are back on the agenda.

  3. Sounds lovely James, I’ve not been walking in the Howgills. I must get my butt up there some time soon!

    • You should give the area a go. Very different from many other hill ranges and still pretty quiet, although I think they are getting a bit more popular these days.

  4. Great trip report as always. The Howgills are under-rated, probably because of their proximity to the Lake District – not been up there for a few years

    • Thanks Andy. I think that a trip to the hills just on the otherside of the M6 may be order one day. They look a bit like the Howgills, could be a good way of walking into the Lakes.

  5. Hi Lames.
    What a good trip and photo’s to go with it. Wished that we had had weather like that last weekend. Ours was dreadful.
    We managed a few beers though.

    • No beer for me on this trip unfortunately 😦 Thanks for the comment. I hope that ‘Lames’ is a typo?!

  6. Excellent work, as ever. A very enjoyable read, it shows through that the 3 of you had a good time. Both camps look very nice, although I bet in your mind the first overshadows the second somewhat. Spectacular photos of the evening at Sand Tarn too.

    • Thanks Charlie we all had a really good time, its nice to spend a weekend backpacking with some good company. That first nights camp was probably one of my best, the sunset and changing light was stunning.

  7. I think I only had six items of kit made by RAB that trip. Again it was great to meet up and do the walk James. It was a great time and the wild camps where fantastic.

    • I bet that we had a fair few bits of Rab kit between us Martin. Good to meet you again, an enjoyable weekend.

  8. What incredible photos — those skies are incredible!


  9. Great photos! I always wanted to go backpacking 🙂

  10. These photos are amazing!! Wow…so jealous of you right now for being able to do that trip. 🙂

  11. Thanks for sharing – great pics – love the lamb pic – how sweet:) Congrats on being FP!

  12. Great post and cool shots, congrats on being pressed.


  13. Great post – good to see photos of my (fairly) near area which I unfortunately never get round to visiting!

    • I highly recommend that you pay the Howgills a visit Mountaincoward, you are lucky that they are reasonably close by.

  14. Awesome post and brilliant photos. That sky is brilliant. Congrats on Freshly Pressed.

  15. Day 2 , 2nd Pict …. extremely cool !

  16. I want to go camping with you!

  17. James – looks like you have been pressed again !!

  18. What amazing scenery. Love the tent shot and beach shot. Love all the shots really. Some of them remind me a bit of where they would camp out in Harry Potter. Congrats on being Freshly Pressed.

  19. Looks like an amazing trip! Awesome pics!

  20. Are you blogging right from there or you have come back and now posting your memory? If you’re blogging from there, I’m really jealous. 😦

  21. Dear James,

    I will certainly check this area out after having seen your super pictures. Thanks and congratulations for freshly pressed.


  22. those views are incredible! the countryside is amazing. i’m jealous of your trip, but i hope to visit very soon.

  23. I wasn’t sure where you were at first because some of the landscape looks strikingly similar to familial land in Western Canada … but when I saw the cairns I realized you had to be in England, yes? The land appears ancient … and so beautiful. Thank you for including the video clips so we could hear not just you and others but the wind whipping as well. Wonderfully rich post … congrats on being Freshly Pressed to boot!

    Cheers, MJ

  24. Looks like a fantastic adventure! This will be something I look forward to once I’m out of college.

  25. Great fun and adventure! Lovely photos! Thanks for sharing!

  26. Thanks….these are gorgeous photos. The lamb’s head on your knee is so lovely! Congrats on FP…

  27. I love what you did with the sunset shots, and the water shots too. The colors, symmetry and lines are all spot on. Great pics. Thanks for sharing and happy trails!

  28. amazing shots.. great adventure.. what more can i say? congratulations!

    manila, philippines

  29. Great blog & cool pictures!
    Troy, Michigan

  30. I love the photo of the tent with the color of the sunset shining through it. Some great shots!

  31. What a rewarding pastime. Fantastic pictures and a great post. I’ve subscribed and I’m looking forward to more like this.

  32. First time seeing a blog like this. This is truly great. Beautiful photos and awesome descriptive writing. I am subscribed! – Nick

  33. Remarkable photos – idyllic!

  34. That’s an incredible photo of the lake reflecting the sun!

  35. Great blog. Just a thought though… Could you let us know which country this is in and who you are. cheers Alistair (New Zealand)

  36. I love to try something like this.

  37. those views are incredible! the countryside is amazing

  38. great photo and great adventure!!

    Buzzone – italy

  39. WOW~~ What a gorgeous place. I can’t wait to take that trip myself! it looks amazing and beautiful and soooo big!

  40. I know this area pretty well – it’s a good choice for wild camping. The Howgills are pretty unique being between the Dales and the Lakes yet belonging to neither. Nice post – enjoyed reading it.

  41. Nice photos.

  42. Very nice!

  43. These photos are amazing! This trip looks great

  44. Blooming hell, James!!! 🙂 You’re gonna over crowd the Howgills now!!! LOL 😉

    Read your trip report from my wild camp the other night 😉 (woke to an inversion this morning) As always, a pleasure and we’ll hook up again soon. Nice pics, too mate.

  45. It looks like you are on an incredible expedition! The photos certainly captured my attention, Howgills looks simply beautiful!

  46. Such beautiful photos! Wonderful blog!

  47. If it weren’t for my irrespressible desire/drive to die in Scotland…this place would do just fine and i’m gonna feel very stupid if I search and find out the the Howgills are after all in Scotland in which case my destiny will be clear. This was really well done piece. Thank you! I want some.

  48. Fantastic experience you captured here. I’m a subscriber for sure!

  49. Wow! I love the pics, well done and congrats on the FP!

  50. Beautiful sights! Thanks for sharing

  51. All is green. I loved the description. Yours photos are incredible and I love your blog. Definitely I am going to subscribe it. I do not want to miss anything from you. I have just started writing mine. English is my second language and at times I struggle with grammar and thats my weakest area and I would love to improve to be a better writer. If you have way to help me I will be happy. Visit it and leave your comments and I accept any constructive critism. Only I want is to be a good writer.

  52. very cool photo, very cool nature…

  53. Great photos…and scenic views

  54. Color me completely jealous! Those Pennines look so cool and the photos of the sun setting through the back of your tent are incredible. We were hiking in the woods of Florida this week and stumbled upon the strangest thing I have seen in a long time. Still not sure what it is. Definitely not a rock. Very strange. Can you help me? photo and video We thought it could be a huge abandoned bee hive but it was very hard on the surface. Any idea?

  55. I love your photographs. I’m ashamed to say your pictures of the sunset are quite striking. I hope you’ll visit my blog. I’m documenting backpacking trips in a similar photojournalistic manor.

  56. Wow!! seems like a really cool adventure!! on day i’m also gonna go globetrekking….dont worry i’ll post my pics and videos of the adventures 🙂

  57. the beauty full savana 😯

    nice trip & amazing nature

    ,also visit mount bromo- & tengger plateu in indonesia Mr…! the landscape also awesome 😀

  58. I like your blog. You have some great photographs.

    If you are interested in reading about hitchhiking in the United States, you might want to read this:

    “Hitchhiking Stories”

  59. WOW the pink turkish delight sun down is AMAZING!

  60. I like reading your blog, so inspiring especially with all your photographs they were amazing, keep it and looking forward to read more blogs from you.

  61. wow……… all of these photographs are breath-taking!! especially the sunset.

  62. Great blog. Stunning photos:)

  63. Thanks for a great post, reminds me of the days I used to go fell walking, very difficult these days due to a busted knee from skiing. Breathtaking photos, cheers

  64. Great pictures. Wow. I’d love to do what you do. So keep on doing it!

  65. wew…what a great.. 😀
    wish i could go there someday

  66. Awesome trip, nice pictures,the lambs are cute and enthusiastic.

  67. beautiful pictures! definitely inspires me to continue hiking 🙂

  68. Lovely photos. I love the lamb… it’s so adorable!!! It sounds like a great journey that I’d love to venture on.

    Thanks for sharing!

  69. Nice blog. i like it….

  70. Really nice photos….Am currently collecting gear to tour on my Electra Glide. Like western Kansas and Colorado….

  71. What a gorgeous place! Very great shot!!!

  72. wow… great adventure, great photos, 🙂

  73. Very interesting! I enjoyed your post very much. 🙂

  74. Gorg! Who knew bloggers could leave their computers for such an extended period of time? :-p

  75. From a man whose idea of roughing is 3 people sharing a bathroom at the Sheraton, those pics are awesome. Not in a million years do I desire the walk, but I envy you at the same time.Just gorgeous.

    • Thanks! You should try backpacking, just once for the experience. The bathroom will be there when you get home!

  76. This makes me really want to get back in to my hiking mode, and go for another expedition over Dartmoor.

  77. Great post and cool shots, congrats on being pressed.

  78. Thanks!!! t sounds like a great journey that I’d love to venture on………

  79. I rarely comment, but i did a few searching and wound up here Backpacking bloggers in the Howgills | Backpackingbongos. And I do have 2 questions for you if you tend not to mind. Could it be only me or does it look like some of the comments come across like they are written by brain dead folks? 😛 And, if you are posting on other online social sites, I’d like to keep up with everything new you have to post. Would you list of all of all your community sites like your Facebook page, twitter feed, or linkedin profile?


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