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Black Combe

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Black Combe
Black Combe from Silecroft
Shortest/Longest route - miles
3.00 / 4.25
Difficulty level: Moderate
Avg. Rating:

Standing well apart from the main mass of Lakelands fells and tourist centres, Black Combe tends to be excluded from books about the hills, and until recently the map makers too were guilty of drawing the boundary of their sheets on the larger scale visitor maps short of it. A study of any publication that does include this part of the area will show that Black Combe is connected to the heart of the district by an elevated ridge, albeit crossed by three motor roads on Corney Fell, Birker Moor and Hardknott Pass. The former crossing from the foot of the Duddon Valley to the coastal plain marks the northern limits of this section.
FELLS COVERED IN THIS AREA
Black Combe1970ft600m
Stoupdale Head1548ft472m
Stoneside Hill1383ft422m
White Combe1361ft415m
White Hall Knott1020ft311m



BLACK COMBE


  Standing well apart from the main mass of Lakelands fells and tourist centres Black Combe tends to be excluded from books about the hills, and until recently the map makers too were guilty of drawing the boundary of their sheets on the larger scale visitor maps short of it. A study of any publication that does include this part of the area will show that Black Combe is connected to the heart of the district by an elevated ridge, albeit crossed by three motor roads on Corney Fell, Birker Moor and Hardknott Pass. The former crossing from the foot of the Duddon Valley to the coastal plain marks the northern limits of this section. It is a high level road commanding extensive views, but sadly suffers from some users adopting greater speeds than it deserves. A narrow coastal strip separates Black Combe from the Irish Sea, and it is for the splendid outlook over this scene that the ascent is usually made, because in this respect this hill is unsurpassed. A clear day may enable you to see Scotland, Ireland and Wales as well as the Isle of Man. The town of Millom lies to the south, and beyond the Whicham Valley to the east is the estuary of the River Duddon. Also clearly in view of course are the grand hills around Wasdale and Eskdale no less impressive at this distance. Black Combe is broadly based with many buttresses, and is perhaps more Pennine than Lakeland in character, but the shattered cliffs to the east and other roughnesses give it some extra merit apart from the view. When the bracken glows or the heather is in bloom then Black Combe is a colourful sight, and there are few paths to high places more rewarding than the beautiful route from Whicham. The ridge can be attained from the summit of the Corney Fell road over Stoneside Hill, but the ascent to it is long and tedious. A better alternative is that from Whicham Mill up to White Combe when the finer aspects of the mass will be seen. I must not forget the stone circle at Swinside, a good example of it's kind, which can be part of a walk to Black Combe, but the long ridge over Swinside Fell connecting with the other lines of ascent on Stoupdale Head is lacking in features of note. It would be a shame to climb Black Combe in mist or dull conditions for the view is it's claim to glory, and few will be disappointed who pick the right day.


 

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 ROUTE ONE. BLACK COMBE FROM THE CORNEY FELL ROAD VIA STONESIDE HILL AND    STOUPDALE HEAD. 3.25 miles 1050ft of ascent.

Ascent Breakdown

Distance

Ascent

miles

km

ft

metres

Fell Road summit to Stoneside Hill.

0.25

0.4

100

31

Stoneside Hill to Stoupdale Head

1.5

2.4

400

122

Stoupdale Head to Black Combe.

1.5

2.4

550

168

 

click to enlarge

      There is plenty of parking space by the side of the Corney Fell Road at the summit. Stoneside Hill is a short walk away to the south, and the rocks found here should be welcomed for there is a dearth of such features on the long climb to Stoupdale Head. The hollow of Black Dub should be avoided at all costs by keeping well to the right, and then it is a case of heads down and count the sheep or something to alleviate the tedium of the long grassy slope. The summit of Stoupdale Head will not cause any excitement either apart from the thrill of finding the cairn. There is a good track coming over from White Combe and this leads unneringly to the large shelter and O S column on Black Combe. It is recommended that the edge of the escarpment above the combe is walked upon in the latter stages. Sadly the same route is the only straightforward way back, but if a car could be left at Silecroft so a descent can be made there this becomes a far better walk.

 

 

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ROUTE TWO. BLACK COMBE FROM BECKSIDE VIA WHITE HALL KNOTT, WHITE COMBE AND STOUPDALE HEAD.
4.25 miles 2000ft of ascent.

Ascent Breakdown

Distance

Ascent

miles

km

ft

metres

Beckside to White Hall Knott.

1.25

2

850

259

White Hall Knott to White Combe

0.75

1.2

400

122

White Combe to Stoupdale Head

0.75

1.2

200

61

Stoupdale Head to Black Combe.

1.5

2.4

550

168

 

click to enlarge

   A short distance north east from Beckside where there is limited parking and the lane to Whicham Mill branches off a footpath sign near Fox and Goose Cottages indicates a track to the open fell. A permissive path has been created to allow walkers to follow the edge of the fields avoiding the busy road. At the intake wall a grooved path seen on the approach is accessed at a gate, and slants up the bracken covered fellside. The ridge of White Hall Knott is prominent above, and when sufficient height is gained should be traversed to the grand ittle top. Easier going on returning to the path eventually leads to the large cairn on White Combe. Without any noticeable descent follow the path along the ridge to it's eventual junction with the one coming up from Whitecombe Beck. The summit of Stoupdale Head is a simple walk away to the right from here. Count it as an extra top as there is no other reward available for the effort. Now the route is a simple matter of rounding the top of Whitecombe Screes and gently climbing to the summit of Black Combe. Do have a look down into Black Combe as the summit is approached. The Whicham Valley is dreadfully short of public footpaths; so I can only suggest a return to the path from Whitecombe Beck, and use this to descend to Whicham Mill and Beckside.

 

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ROUTE THREE. BLACK COMBE FROM WHICHAM VIA SEANESS.
3 miles 1950ft of ascent. 1 mile 700ft of ascent to Seaness

click to enlarge

 This is the royal way up to Black Combe, and for that matter down so it should come into the plan of the walk somewhere. From the end of the road into Silecroft village on the A5098 take the path across the fields to Whicham which starts a short distance towards the junction with the A595 and leads to that road. On the opposite side a gate gives access to a path diagonally ascending the fields to Kirkbank; where a lane is followed round a corner left to a stile on the right. Part way up the first section a zig zag path can be taken giving the opportunity to visit the headland of Seaness. This track goes over to Whitbeck on the west side of the fell. Return to the main track which can hardly be lost, but note that it does not visit the highest point which is only a short distance away. If returning direct to Whicham go south by the small tarn to the beacon, cairns and plentiful rocks on Gray Stones. At one point the surface seems to bristle with sharp pointed rocks like teeth. Quite a contrast to the area around the main top.

I have descended Miller Gill direct to Whitbeck a route that needs a little care, but is quite practicable and not without interest if a different route down is wanted. Just head west from the pool on the summit to locate it.

 



Copyright (C) 2007 B S Baker