Hello, my name is Mal Tabb.
Thanks for visiting our web pages. Marion & I operate a small outdoor activity organisation called Canoes, Mountains & Caves. We provide activities for: adults, young people, schools, charities, families & individuals. A key aspect of our work is the provision of a "Community Programme" which is offered free of charge to participants. If you think we might be able to help please don't hesitate to contact us, you can find out more about what we do on our main website www.canoesmountainscaves.com

Friday, 20 January 2012

Scrambling in Cat Gill

With: on my own
Weather: persistent rain falling as snow above about 400m; cold; low cloud
Where: Lake District; Derwent Fells
A verdant Cat Gill viewed from the entry point which is the foot bridge leading from Great Wood NT carpark

I've been off since completion of the Blaithwaite electrical upgrade project on Monday - a couple of days across in the North East and looking ahead to a weekend with quite a full diary. This left today as the only available day to get outdoors, unfortunately in terms of the weather its the worst day of the week with persistent rain; the Cumbrian sort that soaks everything; blanket low cloud and a raw cold feel. Above about 400m there's a dusting of snow.
What to do?
Cat Gill which drains part of the Derwent Fells just south of Walla Crag has been on the list for ages, its a grade 1 gill scramble.The guidebook describes the gill as being fed by a small catchment area so the reasoning was that it might not be too full today. 
The temperature on the car's gauge at Great Wood car park was a raw 4 degC & the drive past Ullock Pike & Longside Edge had painted a dreak picture of Lakeland. Its not far from the car park to the footbridge in the picture above & there is an easy route down to the bed of the gill from the bridge. Water level could probably be labelled as moderate.
The gill essentially drains an area of moorland above and cascades down the side of the fell as a series of cataracts. Its hard to describe the routes that could be taken and as is the nature of gill scrambling they will vary according to water level. Overall I would say the scrambling is not continuous and the most interesting bits are found by sticking close to the bed of the gill. Its good fun right from the start but by far the most enjoyment is to be had on the numerous waterfalls, at the level today I was able to tackle all except one of the falls and I walked around this one just to avoid a complete soaking. Lower water levels would offer a multiplicity of additional route options and add significantly to the quality of the day. Escape from the bed of the gill is possible just about all the way up and the main hazard is simply the slippery nature of the rock which will always be the case in such an environment.
One of the more interesting falls - got my foot wet here!

In the higher reaches of the gill several other falls tumble in from the right hand side and the general aspect widens out becoming less gorge-like. Eventually a path crosses the stream. I stepped out a little before this point and wandered up & across to the wall which heads roughly north east towards the rocky outcrop which constitutes the summit of Walla Crag. The views today weren't great: a grey moody Derwent Water below and a snow dusted Bleaberry Fell just about visible through the cloud off to the south (photos below). The walk back to Great Wood down the path which runs alongside Cat Gill was over quicker than  anticipated and it was back to the car for close to a complete change of clothing - I never fell in but a combination of wet feet through slipping off rocks; spray from the falls and the persistent rain produced a thorough soaking.

South toward a snow dusted Bleaberry Fell - just visible through the gloomy low cloud

Derwent Water Islands
A short drive back to Keswick and coffee in Java proved to be too irresistible a temptation! There's a petition in the shop at the moment as the local council don't want the outside tables in the summer any longer - its worth getting in to sign it, Keswick wold be a poorer place without them!

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