Ascent of Mickle Fell on 2009-07-05

Climber: Peter Stone

Others in Party:Jill Stone
Twm Stone
David Stone
Ceri Stone
Patrick Stone
Paul Harris
Jill Renney
Guy Harris
Date:Sunday, July 5, 2009
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
Peak:Mickle Fell
    Elevation:2592 ft / 790 m

Ascent Trip Report

Mickle Fell is the highest mountain of County Durham and previously of the whole of Yorkshire before the reorganisations of the 1970s shrank the North Riding. It’s certainly one of the major hills of the North Pennines, a huge block of a summit plateau rising above the surrounding boggy moorland.

Notoriously it has among the most restricted accesses of any hill in England. Not only is it in a Ministry of Defence live firing range (Warcop Training Area - WTA) whose public rights of way are only open for a limited number of days each year, but also one is required to apply for a specific permit to climb it by one of two designated routes as there are no rights of the way to the summit. See the Cumbrian County Council website (with links to the MOD website) for more information: click here. This all seems very un-British with our tradition of unregulated access to the rights of way network and the right to roam on uncultivated land but at least one gets safe passage this way.

Our permit duly obtained from the Range Officer at Warcop a few weeks in advance of our trip we decided on the approach from the south and parked at the cattle grid on the B6276. One is supposed to phone the Range Office immediately prior to entering the WTA but there was no mobile signal so we proceeded anyway.

The weather was lovely, warm with mostly blue sky and minimal wind but the route is hard work across trackless heather, sedge and bog. Up and down every few tens of metres to rise and fall over the peat hags and groughs and slimy watercourses (with one or two larger streams to ford, cross on narrow wooden planks or by means of using wire fence lines for wobbly traverses). The going becomes much firmer once you reach the rising hill itself. The topography is often compared to that of the Falkland Islands. Strangely we noticed a lone walker far to the side apparently keeping his distance and stopping whenever we did and delaying his topping the summit until we had descended. I can only assume he was unpermitted and thought us such a large party we might have been ‘official’ and likely to challenge him (although stealth ascents must be easily obtained on non-firing days).

The summit has an enormous cairn, a smaller cairn on the true high point, and very fine views to the Lake District, Cross Fell, the Dun Fells, over Teesdale, towards Weardale, and further to the south and east. The trig point is 32 metres lower, 2 km further east, and we didn’t think it merited a detour. The return journey was via the same route although it was enlivened by one of our party falling up to their armpits into a sphagnum bog and a massive thunderstorm with extremely proximate lightning just as we crossed the final ridge before reaching the cars. All in all well worth the climb for the elevated viewpoint and for the sense of space and solitude, even if like most UK uplands some native trees would certainly add to the aesthetics and biodiversity.
Summary Total Data
    Total Elevation Gain:1057 ft / 322 m
    Route:Boundary Route - South
    Trailhead:B6276 Cattle Grid  1535 ft / 467 m
    Route Conditions:
Open Country, Stream Ford
    Weather:Thunderstorm, Pleasant, Clear

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