Walking Route: Dale Head North Face, Lake District

For a bit of drama north faces are the way to go, argues Ronald Turnbull. Here he turns his attention to Dale Head

Illustration photo of Walking Route: Dale Head North Face, Lake District

Route description

  • Dale Head North Face: Route Head up Newlands valley track to below Castlenook Crag. Cross the stream at the foot of Near Tongue Gill (NY227166) to the faint green path slanting up southwest. It crosses Far Tongue Gill to the hollow above.
  • From the ruined mine building, the faint path heads straight uphill into the rocks and screes, then slants away to the left (ignore the map’s right-of-way line) to arrive at a slight shoulder (630m) on Dale Head’s northeast ridge.
  • See more North Face walking and scrambling routes in the Lake District here

    Slightly similar to: Piz Badile 3308m

    Because: they’re both minor mountains with better routes than they deserve

    Rising from the woods of Bregaglia valley, Piz Badile offers a north face that’s a slab of granite 1000m high. There’s a line of climbable corners, discovered by the great Riccardo Cassin. Rébuffat “marvelled at the audacity of such a route... the climbing airy as you could wish”. Dale Head, a triangle of scree and scrappy rock blocking off the head of Newlands, has its own ‘audacious line’; one caused by copper miners rather than the great Cassin.

    To undertake these Lakeland faces as two-day expeditions would be bonkers. None of them is more than a three-hour ascent. But then... walking up Scafell Pike is pointless. So why not drop one letter: and (just for the L of it) turn walking up to waking up. As Rébuffat says: “The man who bivouacs becomes one with the mountain. On his bed of stone, leaning against the great wall... facing empty space which has become his friend, he watches the stars and sleeps again.”

    In the hollow below Dale Head’s upper screes there’s a ruined mine building, and a tiny stream. As night falls you watch the colours change on the face of Skiddaw, six miles away; listen to the breeze, and the tinkle of the stream. In the morning, find the faint way up into the scree, and slant up the path a footfall wide, to an exciting arrival on the high ridgeline just below the summit.

    First published in The Great Outdoors April 2015

    Words and pictures Ronald Turnbull

    Walk details

  • Slightly similar to: Piz Badile 3308m
  • Because: they’re both minor mountains with better routes than they deserve
  • Walking Route: Dale Head North Face, Lake District