Winter walk from Honister

Winter walk from Honister Pass

A winter walk from Honister.

Imagine the scene. It’s cold and misty, and there’s frost on the ground. But the weather forecast suggests the thin mist should lift, and besides, it is only at low level. So you’d really like to get up high for a view of the whole of Lakeland above cloud level, but you either don’t have the inclination or the winter-walking skills to start at valley level and reach the top of one of the higher fells of the Lake District.

The answer: walk up Dalehead from the top of Honister Pass. Here is the story of one such short expedition.

Winter walk from Honister Pass to the top of Dalehead

Winter walk from Honister - Lorton Vale
Lorton Vale in winter mist

As we drove down Lorton Vale in the direction of Crummock Water, the sun was trying to melt away the freezing mist and sheep were cowering to keep warm.

At Crummock Water there was no sign of further thinning, but as we passed The Bridge Hotel at Buttermere the first sight of blue above us made us thing we might have made the right decision.

Driving up Honister Pass we had expected that the road might be slippery, but it was only where little becks* had run across the road that we held our breath to make sure we didn’t slide.

Half way up, as the valley closed in and we drove through the boulder fields and the road became much steeper, the mist around us disappeared. We were above the cloud. On top, with luck, we would be looking down on cloud in the valley – a cloud inversion.

Just beyond Honister Slate Mine and the Youth Hostel, we turned into the car park. We dug out our warm winter gear, including good walking boots and walking poles. Hats and gloves could be essential on top if there was to be any wind.

At snow level

We were at snow level, and so were tramping through an inch or two of snow almost from the start. The path follows a fence line and so navigation is quite easy – at least in good weather it is.

Winter walk from HonisterAfter about an hour of steady climbing, through the occasional drift of snow up to about 18 inches deep, we approached the summit. A stone cairn marks the point, and the views were extraordinary.

Newland Valley stretched away from us in sunshine. Beyond, the valley that contains Bassenthwaite Lake, Keswick and Derwentwater as covered by the low cloud. Skiddaw and Blencathra stood proud, their lower slopes dark but the tops and ridges white with snow.

Winter walk from HonisterAt our own height the entirety of Lakeland fells seemed laid out for us. Helvellyn, Great Gable and the Scafell range.

A breathtaking sight.

Following our own footsteps back down was simple, even the sun above us to guide us southwards and back to the car.

On another day we would go into Honister Slate Mine for the tour and the café, but a roaring log fire and hot food were called for. Possibly a pint of Jennings Bitter for the non-driver. We set off for the bar at The Bridge Hotel in Buttermere.

By this time, the Buttermere valley was in broad sunshine, and as we drove back down the valley, had to stop for compulsory photos of Crummock Water.

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* beck = stream for those not familiar!

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