BB0821 :  Black, White or Grey Combe?

Thursday 19th June 2008

There are some unkind folk who say that Barrow isnít the end of the world but you can see it from there.  Cruel Barrovians agree and add that it is at Millom.  One thing you couldnít see today from Barrow, or anywhere else for that matter, was Black Combe, the hill that dominates the skyline behind Millom.  It was under clag.  Which made it a strange choice of destination for todayís outing, especially when you bear in mind that the views are supposed to be exceptional, extending from Wales to Scotland via the Isle of Man and Ireland.

However, that is where Bryan and I decided to go, influenced as much as anything by the MWIS forecast that said the best of the weather would be in the west.  And they were not wrong!  Indeed, it was a pleasant sunny drive to Millom but you could see the clag was down on the tops.

Approaching Beckside

We parked at Beckside and headed north up Whitecross Beck.  Bryanís original idea was to cross the footbridge and then go direttisimo west up the fell.  However the bracken had grown somewhat since he was last there so we opted for the much gentler valley approach.  For a hundred yards at least.  And then he realised that the bracken was not growing on the nose of Sty Knotts so direttisimo it was after all.


Whitecross Beck Valley


Frog on green leaves

We disturbed a frog on the climb (good breath-catching opportunity) and wondered what the vegetation was under foot, short springy plant with green leaves tinged with red.  Quite easy walking and another breath-catching opportunity to examine it.

The view back to Millom and the Duddon Estuary

We must have hit the clag at around 1,500 feet, perhaps a little higher.  Visibility was very poor but at first it was not a problem.  However, as we reached the higher parts we began to get concerned that we could not see the cairn.  By this time Bryan had both map and compass out, always a worrying sign.  He took one look and concluded we were going in quite the wrong direction for the trig point.  Then he lost confidence in his compass and asked for mine, which told him the same tale.  Meanwhile I was looking at my gps which told me that we were very close to the trig point.  The trouble was that I had misread my map and (not for the first time) mistaken the cairn sign for a trig point sign- only about 400 metres out!

Bryan subsequently wrote: When we reached the top of the escarpment (near Eller Peatpot) I started following what I thought was the edge of the steep ground, keeping it on my right.  The mist, however, makes all ground look much steeper than it is and we drifted away from the edge as we climbed. It's a classic mistake and shows that the time to get the compass out is when you know where you are!  Good relocation skills though!


Bryan heads into the clag


Team  photo in Black Combe shelter

Quite so; he directed us straight to the trig point where there was a very welcome wall shelter- it was blowing a gale by now and there was a considerable wind chill factor.  I still had my trousers in shorts mode so I took off my boots, put on the trouser bottoms and redressed my feet.  This untying, zipping and retying meant that I had lost virtually all feeling in my fingers.  I had a pair of hand-warmers in my sac and I very nearly decided to open them.  Hand-warmers in June, for heavenís sake!  I opted instead to put on gloves plus my emergency anorak and have first lunch.  It was, after all, nearly twelve oíclock!

Our next objective in the continuing gloom was Whitecombe Moss and it was essential to take and follow a bearing which we did successfully.  We got occasional glimpses of the valley down to our right to encourage us that we were on the right path.  

 White Combe and Whitestone Beck Valley

As we dropped to Whitecombe Head we came out of the clag and could see our way to the Moss summit (such as it is) and then along to a stone nest of a shelter on the summit of White Combe where we stopped for second lunch. 


Looking back to Black Combe


Bryan in the stone nest on White Combe


Blackcombe and Whitecombe

On the descent, we took the essential detour along the intriguing narrow ridge of White Hall Knott- one way in and out but a splendid viewpoint up to Blackcombe and Whitecombe Screes and also over Millom to the Duddon Estuary.  We also had a good view of our direttisimo!


White Hall Knott


The direttisimo reviewed

We made an interesting discovery.  Remember the comment earlier about bracken not growing on the nose of  Sty Knotts?  Well, it became clear that the bracken only grew on the south facing slopes, north facing slopes were clear.


Clag lifting amidst the foxgloves

From there it was an easy trot back to the car although we had to negotiate some old trails rather overgrown with nettles and foxgloves.  

Comparing our gps satellite signals proved something strange and a little worrying- the two machines were interfering with each other.  If we held them close together we lost signal strength and some satellites. Correspondingly the reported accuracy deteriorated and recovered as we separated them.

The drive home in lovely June sunshine confirmed that whilst it was delightful along the coast, most of the Lake District was in cloud and possibly rain.  So it hadn't been such a bad choice after all, although grey was the predominant colour, not black.

 Don, 19 June 2008 

Footnote:  One of the consequences of the increasing readership of these blogs is a corresponding increase in feedback about aspects of our walks.  Last week for example, the review was read by the sister of the farmer in Bannisdale across whose land (and walls and fences) we had crossed.  It seems that the reason that AW's wish for stiles did not come true was that he shouldn't have been there in the first place!  In those day, he was trespassing. Nowadays, with Right to Roam, we think we were there legitimately (indeed the CROW Open Access map seems to show a footpath) and we were acting responsibly regarding walls and fences.  Nevertheless, stiles would have been welcome!





7.4 miles

Height climbed:

2,159 feet

Wainwrights: (Outlying Fells)

Black Combe, White Combe


If you have Memory Map on your computer, you can follow our route in detail by downloading BB0821.

For the latest totals of the mileages, heights and Lakeland Fells Books Wainwrights see: Wainwrights.

If anyone wants to claim other peaks, please let me know and I will submit them to the adjudication committee!


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2008 Outings

  • BB0801 : Avoiding the Graupel;  
    Wednesday 16 January 2008
  • BB0802 : Lyth in the Old Dogs;
    Tuesday 22 January 2008
  • BB0803 : That's Lyth;
    Sunday 27 January 2008
  • BB0804 : Tony's Memory Lane;
    Wednesday 30th January 2008
  • BB0805 : Fell's Belles!  Thank You Mells?  
    Wednesday 6th February  2008
  • BB0806 : The Langdale Skyline and a Fell Race!
    Wednesday 13th February 2008
  • BB0807a: An Outbreak of Common Sense;
    Thursday 21st February 2008
  • BB0807b: Askham Fell and  the Lowther Estate;   
    Thursday 13th March 2008
  • BB0808 : Thanks to the MWIS
    Wednesday 19th March 2008
  • BB0809 :  High Street and Kidsty Pike but no Fairy
    Friday 28th March 2008
  • BB0810 :  Prelude to Spring
    Wednesday 2nd April 2008
  • BB0811 :  Spring in Lakeland
    Sunday 6th April 2008
  • BB0812 :  Wet, Wet, Wet Sleddale to Mosedale Cottage
    Thursday 10th April 2008 
  • BB0813 :  What's It All About, Tony?
    Thursday 17th April 2008 
  • BB0814 :  The Hidden Mountain
    Tuesday 22nd April 2008 
  • BB0815 :  The Bowland CROW
    Thursday 1st May 2008
  • BB0816 :  High Cup Nick:
    The Gurt La'al Canyon
    Wednesday 7th May 2008
  • BB0817 :  Travelling Light
    Wednesday 14th May 2008
  • BB0818 :  Pensionersí Day Out
    Thursday 22nd May 2008
  • BB0819 :  The Northern Tip
    Thursday 29th May 2008
  • BB0820 :  The Bannisdale Horseshoe
    Wednesday 11th June 2008
  • BB0821 :  Black, White or Grey Combe?
    Thursday 19th June 2008
  • BB0822 : Thunder on the 555
    Thursday 3rd July 2008
  • BB0823 : We'll Give It Five
    Thursday 10th July 2008
  • BB0824 : Shelters from the Storm
    Thursday 17th July 2008



  • BskiB08 : Bootski Boys in the Sella Ronda  
    23rd February - 1st March



Click on the photos for an enlargement or related large picture.



Bryan has kindly produced a log of which Wainwrights have been done by which BOOTboy in the "modern" era, i.e. since the advent of Bootboys.  

To download the Excel file click on Wainwrights.  

If anyone wants to claim other peaks, please let me know and I will submit them to the adjudication committee!


BOOT boys

This page describes an adventure of BOOTboys, a loose group of friends of mature years who enjoy defying the aging process by getting out into the hills as often as possible!

As most live in South Lakeland, it is no surprise that our focus is on the Lakeland fells and the Yorkshire Dales.

As for the name, BOOTboys, it does not primarily derive from an item of footwear but is in memory of Big Josie, the erstwhile landlady of the erstwhile Burnmoor Inn at Boot in Eskdale, who enlivened Saint Patrick's Day 1973 and other odd evenings many years ago!

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