The Coledale valley to Grisedale Pike
Driving West on the A66 towards Keswick below the towering ramparts of Blencathra, a striking looking conical peak is visible almost directly in front. This is Grisedale Pike.
I'd passed Keswick and turned off through the small village of Braithwaite to stop at the carpark on the left just up the hill from the village. The weather seemed unsure which direction to take with cloud clinging to some of the higher summits, but it wasn't actually raining which is at least a start for the Lakes.
At one end of the carpark - which it pleased me to find out was free - there's a signpost for the path to Grisedale Pike, but my route would come back that way and I left through the gate at the far end. The path or rather wide track as it is here, runs almost level around the hillsides, firstly with a view of Braithwaite itself and then of the river - Coledale Beck - winding lazily through clumps of trees in the valley below on the left. Ahead the valley runs almost straight for some distance bounded on either side by vast sweeping slopes to end 2 or 3 miles further on with the rocky heights of Eel Crag.
The weather improved gradually as I walked along here and the path could be seen ahead, snaking up towards the pass, Coledale Hause. After about 2 miles, my route forked off to the left to cross the river while ahead was a large disused mine building occupying a wonderfully lonely spot beneath a wide cirque of crags and a waterfall descending from the hills above.
Now the uphill started. So far the path had climbed almost imperceptably but now it began to make up for lost ground, steepening all the time as it led up the opposite slope. A rough stony section took me past the waterfall away off to the right to emerge on an eclosed grassy plateau. Ahead the trail rose in a few steep zig zags up the last bit to Coledale Hause.
Coledale Hause is something of a crossroads high in the fells. Straight on takes one down towads Crummock Water and Loweswater while left sees paths climbing to Eel Crags and Grasmoor. Turning right, I headed up the hillsides towards Hopegill Head ignoring another right turn which took a short cut towards Grisedale Pike. The long ridge of Whiteside on the left led the eye towards the distant Irish Sea where the Isle of Man floated on a greyish horizon. I crossed the gravelly top known as Sand Hill and completed the short walk to Hopegill Head.
Hopegill Head is a delight. I'd not been up here before and it was a surprise as the ground dropped sharply away to overlook the patchwork fields of North West Cumbria and the silvery Solway Firth backed by the far off hills of Scotland. Closer at hand lay a very pleasant looking forested valley - Grisedale - after which the Pike is named. At its lower end the Whinlatter road was just visible.
From here I continued on round towards Grisedale Pike with good views back of the crags of Hopegill Head. The path dropped quickly to a grassy depression before climbing a subsidiary peak and finally the tiring haul up to Grisedale Pike's summit. I finished my lunch up here with fine views of Keswick, Derwentwater and most of the North Lakes bounded to the East by the long dark line of mountains making up the Helvellyn Range.
Nearby a group of 3 or 4 blokes a bit younger than myself were discussing the merits of different types of zoom on digital cameras. By my feet a small patch of grass was growing - very slowly - it was debateable whether this or the conversation provided the most interest. As if digital zoom wasn't enough, one of them now decided to give a reading from their guidebook for the benefit of his mates, myself and anyone else within about half a mile. If indeed they now planned this 14 mile route it would be a long night for them all. Setting out from here at 2pm would test their headtorch batteries to the limit and it would be too dark for photos, with or without digital zoom!
Time to go. I now set off down what is the most popular ascent route of Grisedale Pike. The way was steep loose and rough and judging by the people I saw coming up, it was a good idea to go down this way. After the steep section, the path followed the heathery ridge of Sleet How towards Keswick before breaking off down to the right. This then followed another long level ridge to reach the last hill known as Kinn. Here I followed the main path straight on and downwards. The steep trail to the right has many brambles but straight on leads pleasantly down into woods. Almost at the last moment as I was wondering whether I should have taken on the brambles after all, the Whinlatter road appeared directly below and some steep wooden steps led down from the trees to emerge in the carpark by the signpost for Grisedale Pike.
Summits: Hopegill Head 770m/2526ft, Grisedale Pike 791m/2595ft
Essentials >>> Up 850m >>> Down 850m >>> How Far? 12.2km