Freezing winds on Great Sca Fell

5.8 miles 3h 14m 457m ascent

Longhands-Little Sca Fell-Great Sca Fell-Meal Fell-Trusmadoor

A day may come when we are warmed by the shining sun, when we forsake our jackets, and don our sunhats and shades. But it is not this day.

with apologies to Tolkien, ROTK)

The last day of March the sun had shone in a sky empty of clouds. The land had warmed and with that warm my spirits had soared. The day following our walk saw the sun casting well defined shadows and the wind blowing without a chill (at least in the morning). But the day of our outing to the Uldale Fells saw a weather front arriving hours before it was forecast bringing with it winds cold enough to numb gloved fingers, and strong enough to snatch the breath from our mouths. Were I the superstitious type I might wonder if the recent switch to BST was to blame.

Skiddaw across Longlands Fell

The walk began beneath a cloud filled sky at Longlands, near Uldale, at a small parking area beside the Cumbria Way. A signpost Public Way, Green Head 1½, Cumbria Way’ indicated our way and took us along the Cumbria Way towards Charleton Gill. And after rising out of the dip by Longlands Beck we had views across Longlands Fell to Skiddaw.

Missing bridleway sign

We were looking out for a signpost indicating where a bridleway left heading to Great Sca Fell and the photo above shows what we found. The post remains but the sign has gone. We took this to be the correct ‘faint path’ and headed along it. This took us up along the slopes of Longlands Fell, a slow steady climb over mostly dry ground, but walking directly into the wind.

Beside Charleton Gill
Christy returning from a recce to tell us what was ahead (if only we spoke Spaniel)

At the head of the gill we started up to the ground between Brae Fell and Little Sca Fell. The climb steepening, the wind growing stronger and the temperature dropping. On we plodded, then the track appeared to turn away from Little Sca Fell.

Off piste below Little Sca Fell

A fainter track to our left looked to be a more direct route and so we were lured off onto a track that climbed enough to dissuade us from turning back and having to climb again. The track we had chosen then itself veered away towards Brae Fell. So we left the track, faint as it was to stride across the tussocks and moss in the hope of reaching Little Sca Fell. It was harder going but better than walking to Brae Fell and back.

Little Sca Fell summit

Back on a track of sorts we climbed the last few metres to reach the summit. We had walked on beyond a planned coffee stop, the wind being so cold, so the summit shelter offered us an opportunity to stop for a rest and a bite to eat. It was however still bitterly cold even in the shelter. Another walker turned up with his dog and decided against stopping for the same reason. So we stood, turned our faces once more into the wind and set out for the next summit, Great Sca Fell.

Great Sca Fell summit

Both summits had great views including Skiddaw, Saddleback, Bassenthwaite, and Criffel, but the cold prevented us standing about to enjoy them for very long. Indeed I was having difficulty removing the lens cap because of numb fingers. The very brief stop at Little Sca Fell, and removing my gloves to refasten a shoelace had taught me not to repeat either until we were better sheltered.

Meal Fell and Great Cockup

It is a steep descent to Meal Fell and my shoelace fastening had been poorly executed so I found my feet shifting forward in my now loose boots. So I used a nearby rock to refasten the laces (this time keeping my gloves on). I found myself zig-zagging down all the same, with Christy running up and down between us as if the slope wasn’t there.

Meal Fell summit

Meal Fell has a summit shelter of its own but its open side faced the wind so would offer little real shelter. The wind now was making walking difficult and we were keen to reach lower ground as soon as possible. So another steep descent tested my toenails.


Our original plan had been to climb Great Cockup, but given the strengthening wind we decided to leave that for another day. We turned to Trusmadoor, marvelled at the shelter it offered, and strode on down the valley. I’ll leave its description to Wainwright.

Nobody ever sang the praises of Trusmadoor, and it’s time someone did. This lonely passage between the hills, an obvious and easy way for man and beast and beloved by wheeling buzzards and hawks, has a strange nostalgic charm. Its neat and regular proportions are remarkable—a natural `railway cutting’. What a place for an ambush and a massacre!

A Wainwright

The return walk was relatively easy but did involve crossing a couple of Becks and negotiating some boggy patches. Despite this I arrived back at the car with neither my boots, my companion, or my dog particularly muddy.

There is a type of walk/weather than can be summed up in the phrase, “we had lunch back at the car”. It was one of those walks.

The names:

  • Uldale: Old Norse, ulfr, wolf; dalr, valley. But whether Wolf is a person’s name or wolf an animal is unclear)
  • Sca Fell (Little and Great): Old Norse, hill (fjall) with a hut (skali), or bald (skalli) hill (fjall)
  • Meal Fell: Old Norse, sandy (melr), hill (but this doesn’t seem to fit the hill itself). The celtic languages have meall (hill), and maol (bald). It might seem strange to have Norse origins for the other hills, but the valley below it does sport a name with celtic origins
  • Trusmadoor: Cumbric, trus,`door’; similar the Welsh drws 

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