BB1340 : The Big Teth

Wednesday 13th November 2013

Keen skiers will recognise Les Trois Vallées as being one of the classic French ski areas incorporating the Courcheval, Meribel and Val Thorens resorts. On a good day you can complete a full circuit of all three valleys.

There is another three valleys circuit, a Westmerian one and hence rather more local to us. This incorporates Kentmere, Mardale and Longsleddale.  These are linked by the three passes: Nan Bield, Gatescarth and, search as I might, a seemingly unnamed one.  It therefore falls to the BOOTboys to provide it with suitable nomenclature.

Accordingly, I hereby declare this third pass to be known in future as The Tetherer Pass. For the benefit of offcomers, "tetherer" is old Westmerian for "three".

I also declare the full round to be known as: The Big Teth.

If skiing the Three Valleys, you would probably hope for deep, crisp, pisted snow and glorious sunshine.  On the other hand, the The Big Teth is best kept for a day when the weather on the tops is too fierce but you still want to have an adventure and achieve a reasonable total of distance travelled and height climbed.

The day was right for The Big Teth.

Strictly speaking we should have started from Hallow Bank but instead we parked in the farmyard at Green Quarter with its charity honesty box.  Yes, of course we paid!

Upper Kentmere valley

Looking back down Kentmere

Drygrove Gill

Manfully we strode up the Kentmere Valley.  We didn't expect it to be a great day but it was greyer than we had hoped.  We knew that winds gusting up to 70 mph were a possibility on the tops but expected this route to be reasonably sheltered.

Yoke, Ill Bell & Froswick across Kentmere

However, the higher we climbed the stronger the wind.  Sometimes it helped us up the climb.  Sometimes it challenged the balance somewhat.  It was a relief to arrive at the Nan Bield Shelter and even more so to discover no one there.  But not for long.  We were soon joined by four people who were working their way from I forget where to Brotherswater, quite a challenge.  In admiration of their adventure we invited them to join in the Comitibus photo.

Nan Bield shelter on horizon

Comitibus :  Nan Bield

As we were leaving, they were joined by a mass of other folk who seemed to be part of the same group.  Their objective put our gale-averse objective somewhat to shame.

The drop down to Small Water, with its three one man and his favourite sheep bolt-holes, then on to Haweswater should have been in the lee but it didn't feel like it and, what's more, the air got very damp and spitty.

Small Water and Haweswater

The mysterious flag

Shepher's shelter?

Small Water Beck

We could see a white flag with some red on it and first thought it was left by some Japanese tourist but soon realised that there were quite a lot of them (flags, not Japanese tourists- they seldom get beyond Beatrix Potterville), presumably for a fell race.

By the time we reached the bottom, there was a sailor's trouser patch of blue and it was sufficiently dry and gustless to have lunch.  I don't like eating until the climbing is out of the way and we had two more passes to climb but needs must. Had Tony been with us, I think we would have had to eat in the gale half way down.

Haweswater, I should explain, is in the valley of Mardale and lies above (litterally) the village of Mardale Green which was drowned after Manchester Corporation Water Works secured a compulary purchase order in 1919

Autumnal colours, lower Gatescarth

Next was Gatescarth Pass. We didn't expect this to be as challenging as on one day a month it is open to motor vehicles.  It was challenging.  Partly because the surface was somewhat loose but principally because the wind was now gusting with such force that at times forward progress was temporarily impossible.

Looking down Gatescarth Pass to Haweswater

The digger.....

Handsome face distored by gale

..... has an engine!

A small digger provided a good opportunity to catch breath and wonder what make it was. There was no driver today to ask.

Once over the top and dropping down Longsleddale, it seemed a lot calmer.  

Wren Gill becomes River Sprint.  Click for action.


Sadly, though, rain started to set in.  Fortunately, it was not too heavy as we still had the third pass to climb, Tetherer Pass.

Sadgill bridge

On the Tetherer Pass!

On reaching its saddle we struck off left on the trail that leads down to Green Quarter and the car.  I suppose, if we were purists, we should have followed Tetherer all the way down to Hallow Bank but the prospect of an earlier return to the dry of the car won.

As in France, where they have enjoined a fourth valley to the Three Valleys, The Big Teth now has a fourth pass linked with it further down the Kentmere valley.  This starts and ends at the Hawkshead Brewery in Staveley and is called the Thoushallnot Pass.

We didn't!

Don, 13th November 2013

Biggles Flies Undone

Tim (he of BB1317 : CU on the C2C fame) was sufficiently excited by the Biggles reference last week to query whether I had read his best book:

Biggles Flies Undone.

Well, I have to confess that I haven't, nor have I seen the musical.  

We did, however, name our two dogs after Biggles and his friend Lacy (Flight Lieutenant the Hon. Algernina Lacy).

We also had a lovely cat called Gingersnap.  No relation to Flying Officer Ginger Hebblethwaite.

Biggles, Don & Lacy





Wednesday 13th November 2013

Distance in miles:

11.9 (Garmin GPS)

Height climbed in feet:

3,368 (Memory Map / OS)


Nan Bield, Gatescarth, Tetherer Passes


Don, James, Martin, Mike



BOOTboys routes are put online in gpx format which should work with most mapping software. You can follow our route in detail by downloading bb1340 .

To discover which Wainwright top was visited on which BB outing - although it may not be that up to date - see: Which Wainwright When?

For the latest totals of the mileages and heights (ditto) see: BB Log.


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