Saturday 19th November 2016
Leader: Mike Earl
Photos: Charlie Billington, Kath Kirkman & Reg Hesketh


This might have been a day for lingering by the fireside, but not so for the fourteen hardy Burton Fellwalkers (including Bess) who gave up this pleasure to experience everything that the great British mountain weather could throw at them. And of course it was mountain weather, with Calf Top having joined the ranks of the elite only last year.

Ably marshalled by Mike Earl, who believed he was in Brigsteer, the group set off in very cold and gloomy conditions from the Village Hall in Barbon. The weather in no way minimised the view on the ascent from Eskholme, the cloud inversion that shrouded most of the valley staying in focus until Eskholme Pike had been cleared. It had been noted, however, that a heavy squall had been following the group from the direction of Low Barbon Fell, and sure enough it caught up at the cairn. Hastily donning waterproofs and expecting the worst, it was quite a surprise when shafts of light began to appear and the rain eased somewhat on the crossing of Thorn Moor.

It was replaced by snow on the long ascent up the ridge to Castle Knott, and by the time the cairn came into view the party was already trudging in at least six inches of it, a task made a little easier by a preceding group of walkers. With the sky a little clearer, good views were to be had of Low Barbon Fell and the Great Coum ridge, both resplendently white with spidery markings where snow hadn't yet stuck. By contrast the Middleton area behind Howegill Head appeared to be basking in bright sunlight, with no trace of white whatsoever!

The snow continued to thicken on the final ascent of Castle Knott, as evidenced by the image of the cairn on the Website Gallery. What was particularly noticeable was the sudden onset of very low temperatures, which would explain Cecilia's desire to dance and the party's to quickly move on.

Calf Top involved another climb, which became increasingly difficult as the snow deepened and the mist settled in. Little was seen of Bess at this stage, but she was no doubt having to concentrate hard to avoid becoming completely engulfed (and I bet she loved it!). The trig point and its surrounds were a complete white-out, but the panoramic vista was absolutely stunning, according to Mike.

Having acknowledged and celebrated England's newest mountain, the group did not tarry long before taking the Antarctic route down. Surprisingly the snow eased off, the weather brightened and it soon became quite a pleasant descent. A late lunch was taken in the dip before Castle Knott, where other walkers were able to express their gratitude for the snow having been trampled. Again there was a quick getaway, but not before the cold had taken its toll, in the sense that it was some time before normal service was restored to various extremities!

As the descent continued it became evident that a thaw was taking place, at least at lower levels. The surrounding skies only partly reflected this, as there were more areas of mist, rain, snow and squalls than there were of sunlight. And yet on the ground other areas were clear, the sun was occasionally intense, and the Lune glistened beautifully below the snowless cairn on Eskholme Pike. Further down the ground was extremely firm and relatively dry (apart from at the bottom), and Barbon was reached with absolute ease.

Fortunately the waterproofs had dried out, and having divested of them the Fellwalkers repaired to the Churchmouse Village Store where a very pleasant afternoon tea and the odd beer were awaiting. It had been a day of complete contrasts, there was much to reflect on, but most of all it had been a very unusual and enjoyable experience, a bit like the walk leader Mike Earl, whose efforts were acknowledged and greatly appreciated by all.

Charlie Billington.