Causey Pike

It’s one of Lake­land’s sig­na­ture hills – yet deftly es­capes the masses. Trail takes on a moun­tain un­der­dog with charisma to spare…


Back this moun­tain un­der­dog and you’ll wish you’d climbed it sooner.

Have you heard the thing about when birds are born and the first thing they see – when the lit­tle bit of shell falls off their head – im­prints on them as their mother? It’s why you end up get­ting baby ducks fol­low­ing cats around, and ea­gles be­ing raised by ot­ters or some­thing. I saw this on ei­ther Planet Earth or Peppa Pig, so it’s ei­ther def­i­nitely true or def­i­nitely not true. But ei­ther

I think of this when I think of Causey Pike.

The first time I went to the Lake Dis­trict I parked by Bassen­th­waite and climbed Skid­daw, by the el­e­gant Carl Side ridge that curls up to the sum­mit like a swept tail. It was sum­mer, I was hot and I didn’t en­joy it. Then I got to the top and turned around and saw the en­tire Lakes, and there, pok­ing out of a blue mist, was an out­line that im­printed on me: the buckled sum­mit of Causey Pike (see page 3). And that was, in many ways, it for me. The first se­ri­ously pos­i­tive as­so­ci­a­tion in my Lake­land life.

Ever since then, to me, that out­line pop­ping up in the wind­screen as I’ve driven along the A66 has been my in­ter­nal ar­rival bell to the Lake Dis­trict. I can look up at Blen­cathra, Skid­daw, Helvel­lyn un­til they fall down but I won’t re­ally get that fuzzy I’m-back-in-this-mag­i­calplace-again feel­ing un­til I spot the out­line of Causey Pike ris­ing over the road ahead like the knuck­les of a fist. That’s my im­print. And it’s never go­ing to go away.

The thing is, looks clearly aren’t enough. There can’t be many fells here­abouts that draw the eye so greed­ily, but the ones that do – Cat Bells say, Causey Pike’s spir­i­tual co­hort just across the New­lands val­ley – are swamped with walk­ers keen to trans­late their vis­ual ap­pre­ci­a­tion into an as­cent. And yet Causey Pike’s sum­mit sees far fewer feet. I know this be­cause I owned two that hadn’t been up there, de­spite the eyes they share a body with hav­ing stared at it in a kind of dopey won­der for years. But ev­ery time I in­tended to do it, some­thing would come up and I’d tear off to climb some­thing else. This had been go­ing on for so long I was start­ing to get a com­plex.

Or – if you want to get deep – maybe it’s the fear of some­thing called self-dis­pos­ses­sion; los­ing the thing that keeps you cu­ri­ous, that keeps you hun­gry. Maybe I hadn’t climbed Causey Pike be­cause re­ally, deep down, I didn’t want to. Maybe I didn’t want to be left with noth­ing new to dis­cover – the hill­walk­ing equiv­a­lent of buy­ing the com­plete set of Harry Pot­ter books and read­ing all of the last pages in a row. Or maybe I just needed to get on with it. So to­day, I did just that.

One of the rea­sons why Causey Pike doesn’t see quite as much traf­fic as other hills nearby is be­cause it’s not quite as ac­ces­si­ble. You have to drive round the back of Keswick then down into the New­lands Val­ley, high

above Der­went Wa­ter’s west­ern shore, then park up at the side of a road and walk up a val­ley. It’s hardly ar­du­ous, and ac­tu­ally rather nice – all sweep­ing hill­sides and un­fa­mil­iar sky­lines at the end of a ris­ing gorge run­ning be­neath the fell, broad­side to its steep south­ern flank. It feels like a back­wa­ter, de­spite be­ing just round the cor­ner from Keswick. It just feels tucked away, that’s the thing, so it’s hard to sort of see your way up with­out look­ing at a map. Causey Pike ac­tu­ally sits just off the Coledale Round – one of the bet­ter-known horse­shoe walks here­abouts – but most peo­ple don’t bother with Causey Pike. They put all their ef­fort into the side with Grisedale Pike on it and miss out Causey on the fi­nal re­turn leg, opt­ing in­stead for the more con­ve­niently de­scend­ing Outer side. Not, it has to be said, a dif­fi­cult thing to con­vince your­self of with tired limbs and the Coledale Inn in your nos­trils.

But once you get up it, ev­ery­thing changes. So up I climbed. It’s not hard to see the shape of the hill even from be­low, but it’s not un­til you get onto the long, broad – but beyond the crest, pleas­ingly sheer – back of Causey Pike that you re­ally start to ap­pre­ci­ate its unique form.

The stubby 637m high­point of a long ridge­line with Scar Crags at the west­ern end, Causey Pike has four sum­mits. Well, its sum­mit has four bumps on the top.

But it’s nice that a fea­ture so recog­nis­able from groundlevel ar­tic­u­lates so sat­is­fy­ingly un­der­foot. These lit­tle grey hillocks are part of a blob of mixed rocky ma­te­rial called an olis­tostrome – a kind of sed­i­men­tary fat­berg – and are great lit­tle watch­tow­ers from which to con­sider the land­scape around you.

And it does look very wild up here. Val­leys are steep and tight, their jostly sky­lines un­fa­mil­iar above empty, tempt­ing reaches. This isn’t the wild un­known – it’s the north-west­ern fells of the Lake Dis­trict, from a dif­fer­ent an­gle. I en­joyed this. Just when you feel you know the Lake Dis­trict, you find an an­gle that sud­denly deep­ens an area with mys­te­ri­ous, war­ren-like val­leys, like one of those old magic eye pic­tures, and you find your­self un­con­sciously plan­ning walks, camps, ex­plo­rations into places with half-fa­mil­iar names and un­fa­mil­iar vi­sions – cer­tainly from here. The Der­went Fells, But­ter­mere Moss, Sail Beck, Wan­dope. What a won­der­ful place.

So it’s ironic that a sum­mit so fa­mil­iar for so long from be­low was in the end my key to un­lock­ing a new ap­pre­ci­a­tion for some­where I thought I knew. Causey Pike had caught my eye a long time ago, but as I de­scended the steep nose of the hill down to Rowl­ing End, and back to the car, I re­mem­ber think­ing: I wish I’d climbed it sooner.




Look­ing out from Causey Pike’s sum­mit ridge, with the Coledale Horse­shoe to the right and the wild north-west fells to the left.

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