We had finally got our Mickle Fell permits for 4th/5th March, and the forecast looked best for the Saturday. The sun was trying to break through the clouds as we parked up at the cattle grid on the Cumbria/Durham border at NY825209. Given reports of Mickle Fell being boggy, and all the recent rain we were wearing our waterproof trousers with over trousers on top!
The instructions said to phone the guardhouse before setting off, but there was no signal on any of the mobile phone networks we had with us. With permits in our map cases we set off, hoping we could get a signal while still in the access area. Thankfully as we reached a high point we got a signal and Martyn phoned into the guardhouse who took our details and the car registration and where we were parked. We could then carry on into the range area knowing we had done it all right. It was very wet underfoot, but relatively clean peaty wet rather than muddy. It was a long haul to where the fence bent right at Hanging Seal with a couple of slightly awkward stream crossings. We then had the worst section of peat hags to cross before we started to ascend. As we progressed the weather brightened with some breaks in the cloud, as the whale shaped lump of Mickle Fell got slowly closer. As we approached the steeper section heading up towards Kings Pot we met the only other walkers seen that day, who advised that the route up by the fence we steep wet and slippery and advised heading slightly right towards rocks on the skyline.
Summit getting closer
At the top, we crossed the fence onto the summit plateau and having made a 2m FM chase of Paul MW0PLA on Arenig Fawr GW/NW-011 by the fence, headed right on the track that followed the wide ridge until the large summit cairn appeared in the distance. By now it was quite sunny and extensive views were opening up – a snow topped Cross Fell, Burnhope Seat, Selset Reservoir and even the Lake District hills in the distance. Caroline set up VHF one side of the summit cairn, supporting it by jamming the bottom section in a convenient hole in the cairn, while Martyn sat the other side with the HF antenna to the South East. Caroline got 9 more 2m FM contacts including an S2S with M6IIE/P on Hailstorm Hill, though wasn’t surprised when Dave G6LKB noted that she was much weaker than when he had heard her chasing earlier – the chase had been from the edge of the scarp, but the true summit was in the middle of a flatter area. Martyn got 12 contacts on 5MHz, but we found 40m rubbish and Caroline struggled to 5 contacts before returning to 2m FM for another 2 contacts while Martyn got another 2 on 5MHz.
It was nice at the summit but we didn’t have time for more bands since we needed to be off the hill before dark, so packed up and retraced our steps, finding a slightly better route through the peat hags around Hanging Seal, and over the stream crossings. Unfortunately, Martyn managed to go one foot deep into a bog: at least it was on the way back. After returning into the access area we started looking for a phone signal to phone the guardhouse – eventually a signal appeared and we signed out – the female guard asking if we had had a good day – which we had. As well as the favourable weather, the lower level parts of the walk has been accompanied by the sound of curlews, and there were a lot of grouse throughout the walk.
Mickle Fell summit
Mickle Fell summit
Mickle Fell with snow topped Cross Fell in background