Dollywagon Pike

Published 17 September 2015

The summit cairn at Dollywagon Pike, with view towards Ullswater

The third fell of a four fell walk taking in Helvellyn, Nethermost Pike, Dollywagon Pike and Seat Sandal.

“So which one is Dollywagon Pike then?” I asked.

From the top of Nethermost Pike, I could see two mounds in front of me, with the path to them curving slightly as it made its way from where I stood. Anyone following it would hit the mound on the right first, before visiting the one on my left. One of them was my next target. As for whatever the other one was, well I had no idea.

“It’s the one on the left,” replied Catherine, oozing with the confidence of someone who has recently looked at a map.

Looking towards Dollywagon Pike (left) and High Crag (right) from Nethermost Pike

This answer seemed to contradict what was obvious from our vantage point. The first of the two mounds we’d pass over – the one on the right – had a great big dock-off cairn on it. The one on the left – that was believed to the Dollywagon – had just a teeny-tiny one. The second fell also appeared to be lower in height.

Of course I was assuming that Dollywagon Pike would be the higher of the two bits of land I could see. Had I actually looked at the map, as Catherine had, I would have realised that when we left Nethermost Pike (891m above sea level), we’d have to go over High Crag (884m above sea level) and then to Dollywagon Pike which came in at a mere 858m above the sea level. But for me to have that knowledge would have meant me also looking at the map. And I couldn’t as it was in Catherine’s pocket.

Now I could have challenged her, or perhaps even just go “oh, could I just look at the map for a moment” but then Catherine had done most of the navigation when we’d walked both the Pennine Way and the Coast to Coast. And we hadn’t got lost. Much. Even when traversing Cross Fell in heavy fog, we still stayed pretty much on track. So really, was there much point in questioning her judgment? If she said that second lump of rock and grass was the one we were after, well it probably was.

Extremely large cairn on High Crag

That didn’t stop me having the odd doubt, especially when we reached that absolutely massive cairn that (it turned out) crowned High Crag. Why was it so big? Did they need it to be seen from miles around? High Crag wasn’t that important after all. It wasn’t even a Wainwright.

We followed the path as it stayed close to the cliff edge, with its steep drop down below; a steep drop that was revealed in true splendour as we reached Dollywagon Pike’s summit. From there we could see High Crag in all its glory, looking as if a giant excavator had come along and simply scooped off half the hillside. And maybe it had, for some attribute the name Dollywagon Pike to an Old Norse name; a combination of two words ‘dolgr’ meaning ‘fiend’ or ‘giant’, and ‘veginn’ which means ‘lifted’. Giant lifted. Not that that explained the need for a huge cairn of course.

Looking towards High Crag and Nethermost Pike from the summit of Dollywagon Pike

If the giant had been around now, I would have asked him to swap the two cairns over. Dollywagon’s summit cairn really was far too small small, but (inevitably) the views were most certainly large. Fairfield stood tall and proud to the south, whilst too the east was Ullswater again. Yes, that lake had been a prominent feature of many a view for the day, yet here on Dollywagon Pike.

“Good views,” said Catherine under-statedly.

“Absolutely Giant,” I replied.

Well, okay, I didn’t. I mean I didn’t even know Dollywagon’s entomological history until sitting at a computer writing about it, at which point I suddenly sat there and thought “What an odd name, I wonder where it came from.” But lets assume I did say it. After all, to do so would make a far better ending to this tale. Wouldn’t it?

Next fell: Seat Sandal. View all 57 of my Helvellyn and More walk photos on flickr

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