Grasmoor from Braithwaite by an exciting and little used route
15.11.2009 6 °C
My long trek to Grasmoor had started along the same route as my Grisedale Pike walk, following the meandering stream of Coledale Beck from Braithwaite. For over 2 miles the wide track had led towards my first objective - Eel Crag which dominated the end of the valley beyond the old building of Force Crag Mine.
There was somehat more water in Coledale Beck than on my last visit, the ford over it requiring my full attention on account of the stepping stones being submerged by the fast flowing water. Remaining dry, I followed the track up the valley side towards Coledale Hause with views of the waterfall which cascaded down Force Crag opposite.
It is only after crossing the river that the ascent really starts, the previous couple of miles climbing imperceptibly. I followed the easy track up the steep valley side and negotiated the chaos of loose mud and stones that is the landslide area just below the top of the slope. It looked as though there had been a more recent slide here - perhaps due to the heavy rain we'd had - but the loose section isn't long or hard to get through. After crossing both streams I left the path and headed to the left over fairly level but damp and mossy ground. The route I was takeing up Eel Crag is described in Wainwright's North Western Fells and is known as the Shelf Route.
I followed an old stone causeway which took me past the worst of the wet ground and located the sheepfold on the right in Wainwright's description - there is no clear path here. From there I climbed the steep grassy slope ahead to find a small cairn with the faintest of paths leading up the steep fellside to the right.
After a short steep section, a shallow ridge was crossed and I reached more level ground. Thanks to the author there is now a slightly larger cairn here and from this, a faint path led up to the left of a rocky bluff and on across the grassy slopes of Eel Crag with cliffs above and below. The way onto the ridge above could be seen as a notch on the skyline ahead.
The slope steepened as I crossed it and after another go at cairn building where the route looked less obvious, I climbed up into the notch and there was the ridge. Ahead lay a wonderful view out to the west - the Solway Firth and Scotland seen across the crags of Whiteside and the West Cumbria plain. To my right rose the conical peak of Grisedale Pike seen over Coledale Hause with cloud topped Skiddaw beyond.
The weather was as good as it gets for the Lake District in November - the air bright and clear, if a little cold, and the breeze not too strong. I was going strongly up the ridge and soon reached the lower peak of Eel Crag before following the plateau-like upper ridge to the OS column on the main summit.
Grasmoor, the highest of the North Western Fells and the highest of the Lakeland Fells that I hadn't climbed, is at the western end of the range - Eel Crag actually being the central peak - so if I was to get down without recoursing to my head torch I would need to be quick!
A bitter wind blew up here and the ground was frozen so I donned gloves for the downhill jog to the gap between the 2 fells, soon warming up again on tyhe steep path up to Grasmoor's eastern cairn. The name of Grasmoor refers to wild boar (they no longer reside here!) not the grassy nature of the fell but there were few rocks in view as I crossed the green windswept expanse from the eastern to the main cairn.
So still in good time, I reached the summit of Grasmoor with its 2 stone shelters - the one on the edge of the escarpment affording spectacular views of Crummock Water, Buttermere and the Scafell Range seen over the ridges of High Stile. Here I finished the lunch I'd started on Eel Crag, sheltered from the cold wind. There was no one else here at all and I was able to enjoy the vast panorama of fell, lake and field with only the sound of the wind and the occasional bird for company.
As I descended back down the steep slope from the eastern cairn, I decided to head to the grassy top of Wandope before going down. This was at some risk of both being labelled a peak bagger as well as of being benighted on the way down but I was going well and felt sure I could be down for 4pm. This summit was reached across a gently sloping green plateau that would have put some lawns to shame but the summit view to the east across the Newlands Valley was as good as from any Lakeland fell.
Now I finally returned between Grasmoor on the left and Eel Crag on the right and continued straight on down an equally easy path in a valleywith Hopegill Head in front. The terrain was still smooth grassland until just before Coledale Hause was reached. Here it became stony - I'd almost forgotten what rocks looked like - as I passed below Eel Crag to my right.
An easy but steeper path left Coledale Hause and wound its way down past where I'd left it earlier for the shelf route and on down to Force Crag Mine and a 2 mile trudge in the twilight back to Braithwaite. My head torch made it as far as the top of my rucksack but never saw action.
Pete Buckley October 2009
Summits: Eel Crag 839m/2753ft, Grasmoor 852m/2791ft, wandope 772m/2534ft
Essentials >>> Up 930m >>> Down 930m >>> How Far? 17.2km >>> Start and finish at Braithwaite