Little Whernside

Little Whernside & Dead Man’s Hill

Walk Summary

An enjoyable if sometimes rough walk in the upper reaches of Nidderdale climbing Little Whernside before a long tramp across Dead Man’s Hill to Great Haw and then returning along a combination of shooting tracks and mine paths.

Distance: 12.5 miles
Total ascent: 2150ft
Walk Rating: ****
Parking: Car park, Scar House Reservoir
Route: Download Route [GPX]

Photo Gallery

Walk Report

Other than the Nidderdale Way walk last year I hadn’t done a huge amount of walking in Nidderdale over the last couple of years, something of a shame as it is my ‘local’ dale. On this occasion I decided to head up to Scar House Reservoir near the head of the valley to climb Little Whernside. During the course of the walk I decided to extend my route over Dead Man’s Hill to visit a couple of tarns on the slopes of Great Haw.

I nearly didn’t make it to Scar House Reservoir. Unbeknownst to me the Tour de Yorkshire was passing through Pateley Bridge the same day. Fortunately I managed to make it through Pateley Bridge before the road was closed down for the race. Indeed knowing that the road may not be opened again for a while also contributed to me extending my walk.

“It has been over 13 years since I last climbed Little Whernside from this direction and I’m glad to report that the peat hags near the summit were not quite as huge as I remember them.”

Having parked up at Scar House Reservoir I crossed the dam, already enjoying grand views across the reservoir towards Little Whernside. On the far side of the dam I climbed a short way to reach a junction of tracks. Turning left I headed west above the reservoir on a good track called Carle Fell Road. As I continued on Great Whernside came more into view as did the impressive dam for Angram Reservoir. This section was also notable for the number of lapwings flying in the pastures either side of the track.

In a stand of trees I came across the ruined buildings that once formed part of the hamlet of Lodge. Some newly erected inscribed tablets recorded the names of the occupants. These included ‘Simpson’ a farmer at New Lodge in 1911 and Thomas Allen, a scholar, at the house called Middle Share with the date 1871. The latter house had the remains of a fabulous cobbled path leading from the track to the ruined house.

A short distance along the track from Lodge I came to another junction. Eschewing the track climbing up to the right I crossed over to take the bridleway climbing up Lodge Pasture on to the slopes of Little Whernside. Although marked as a bridleway on the map the path was little more than a faint trod. Fortunately due to the recent dry weather it wasn’t too boggy. It was still heavy going though for a cyclist who had passed me before Lodge. Indeed I nearly caught up with him on several occasions and he only beat me to the col between Little Whernside and Nidd Head by a couple of minutes.

Having finally reached the wall at the col I turned right to follow the wall, and then a fence, up on to Little Whernside. It has been over 13 years since I last climbed Little Whernside from this direction and I’m glad to report that the peat hags near the summit were not quite as huge as I remember them. Once again though the dry conditions did make matters underfoot easier than normal.

Having visited the summit cairn I walked a short way northwards to visit the small crag I’d first discovered in 2015. This really is a grand spot with some quite fantastic views down the length of Coverdale towards Pen Hill. Having stopped to eat my lunch I eventually carried on by returning to the fence, crossing over, and descending in a generally north-eastern direction. The ground can be very boggy on the broad col with Dead Man’s Hill but once again I had little difficulty on this occasion.

Crossing over a track I continued on to climb up to a ruined building or sheepfold on the western edge of the wide, flat summit plateau of Dead Man’s Hill. From there I headed across the pathless moor to reach the 546m spot height. The unmarked summit was completely indistinguishable from any other point in a hundred yards radius.

From the 546m spot height I turned north to make my way towards the ‘safety’ of the fence running over Carle Fell. Here I joined a thin path alongside the fence to head towards my next objectives, Woogill Tarn and Coverdale Tarn. I’d last visited these two tarns on a grey August day in 2016 when my friend Paul and I had climbed Dead Man’s Hill from West Scrafton in Coverdale. This time the weather was much brighter so I was able to get some nicer pictures.

From Coverdale Tarn I continued up on to Great Haw. For some reason, no doubt due to an optical illusion, Great Haw always looks much higher than Dead Man’s Hill. It is in fact four metres lower. From the top of Great Haw I turned south-west for a short pathless descent to reach the top of a shooter’s track just below the modest Haugh Crags.

After five minutes or so the track became much more solid underfoot. Contouring around the head of Woo Gill I stayed on the track for half a mile or so before reaching a junction where I turned right. The track soon entered the upper reaches of Carle Fell Quarry. Winding its way down through the different levels of the quarry the track provided me with some first rate views of Scar House Reservoir.

From the bottom of the quarry all that was left was to take the steep track leading back down to Scar House Reservoir, cross the dam and back to the car park. Overall I enjoyed the walk. Even with the benefit of drier than normal conditions it is a walk that does still contain some rough sections where navigation could be difficult in poor visibility. This is not then a walk for everyone but for those who like long stretches of wild walking it is highly recommended.

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