A Travellerspoint blog

November 2009

Grasmoor and Eel Crag

Grasmoor from Braithwaite by an exciting and little used route

semi-overcast 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

Posted by PeteB 13:29 Archived in England Tagged me mountains lake_district walking hiking foot Comments (0)

Grisedale Pike

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.

Pete Buckley

Summits: Hopegill Head 770m/2526ft, Grisedale Pike 791m/2595ft

Essentials >>> Up 850m >>> Down 850m >>> How Far? 12.2km

Posted by PeteB 10:44 Archived in England Tagged mountains lake_district walking hiking Comments (0)

Dovedale and Hart Crag

A circular route from Brothers Water

sunny 20 °C

The path led through the trees bordering the shore of Brothers Water. Ahead the distant Kirkstone Pass road could be seen snaking up the deep valley below Red Screes, the cars moving silently at this distance. I was following the path into Dovedale from near the northern end of Brothers Water and from that unspoilt dale I would ascend first Dove Crag followed by Hart Crag - both part of the Fairfield Horseshoe route from the far side - and make my descent via the long ridge of Hartsop Above How to my start point.

Leaving the lake behind, the path forked by some farm buildings and taking the left fork which seemed the most obvious, I headed into Dovedale. The rugged slopes of Dove Crag and Hart Crag rose impressively ahead as I passed an isolated barn. A little further on I crossed the stream over a footbridge to a water meadow with grazing cattle before the path began to climb up through trees. It was warm in the sheltered dale and the day promised to be a good one.

The eastern side of these fells - of which Fairfield is the highest - form a rocky barrier to the east in contrast to the grassy slopes facing Ambleside to the West and as a result the routes on the eastern side generally provide more interest. The way up here followed the stream in its rocky bed and soon left the trees to climb rough open fellsides to a higher valley unseen from below.

From here you can gain the ridge up to Dove Crag by heading up the slopes to the left but the main direct route crosses the river and continues up the valley before climbing steeply up towards the crags above. This route used to be rough and loose but a well constructed path now leads up an impressive gully which is climbed without difficulty. The last part was in the shadowed gully with rock walls rising above when all of a sudden I emerged on an almost level swathe of grass. Walking a short way to the right rewarded me with wonderful open views of the Eastern Fells. This is a good place to appreciate the unique wild beauty of Lakeland. From here there is little sign of man's interference in the area. Lower down are some ancient mine huts and the cropped turf is synonymous with sheep farming but the no building rule of the National Park has kept the wreckers out and the land looks much as it did a thousand years ago. I do like walking in the Alps and such regions but it is rare to find landscapes as natural as this. In a spot such as where I now stood, you would just as likely find a cafe or the dreaded ski pistes.

Up to the summit of Dove Crag from here is surprisingly easy after the crags of the valley below. The path led around the slope and I soon headed off it to the left up the grassy fellsides to walk along the top of the crag itself where I enjoyed stunning views back down into Dovedale while a pair of buzzards wheeled overhead. Now I walked the last quarter mile to the flat summit and rejoined civilisation in the form of several walkers eating sandwiches by the cairn.

Passing quite a number of fellwalkers now, on the Fairfield Horseshoe route I headed roughly north west towards Hart Crag. Whichever way you came up it was a great day to be on the fells with the distant views remaining clear and the light and shade patterns on the nearer hillsides inviting numerous camera stops. The walking was very easy until the last part of Hart Crag steepened ahead and I had to put some effort in once more.

From the rather more rugged top of Hart Crag with its 2 cairns, I followed a faint path in a roughly north easterly direction which rapidly became steeper down the stony slopes. This route should be avoided in bad visibility as there are steep crags hidden from view below. As long as you can see the way you can stick to steep walking and easy scrambles down but it would be easy to stray on to more dangerous ground without a clear view ahead. Even in these perfect conditions I missed the path a couple of times.

Surviving the cliffs of Hart Crag which now rose behind along with the awesome East Face of Fairfield, I found myself back on level grassy terrain which I followed gently downhill avoiding the occasional boggy patch to climb back up a short distance to the next summit, Hartsop Above How. This hill, though below 2000 feet, is listed as a separate fell in Wainwright's guide - The Eastern Fells - and its summit was the most impressive so far. The summit is on a long ridge which drops precipitously on both sides - especially to the South. Below was my route of the morning through the woods and meadows of Dovedale 1300 feet below where I sat while the fells of the High Street Range rolled out across the valley. It was another superb spot to just stop and enjoy my surroundings.

It was still a little way to go yet though so I was soon off again walking - always downhill towards Patterdale which filled the view ahead framed between sunlit hills. The ridge descended gradually and presently Patterdale became nearer and I was walking amongst trees again. A faint path led down through the woods and unerringly took me back to the road. I had seen nobody since leaving Hart Crag. A right turn short walk by the road saw me back at the car.

Pete Buckley summer 2008

Summits Dove Crag 2603ft/793m Hart Crag 2698ft/822m Hartsop Above How 1870ft/570m

Essentials >>> Up 830m >>> Down 830m >>> How Far? 12.9km

Please see the table of contents below for more walks in the Lake District

Posted by PeteB 10:29 Archived in England Tagged mountains lake_district walking hiking foot Comments (0)

Pillar from Buttermere

A long but rewarding route in the Western Fells


From the top of Scarth Gap Pass all the walkers trooping up from Buttermere turned left and made for the nearby summit of Haystacks. Straight ahead though,lay the craggy walls of Pillar and Kirk Fell broken by the dark gap of Black Sail Pass while below was the remote valley of Ennerdale, its landscape of pines not typical of the Lakes but no less beautiful. In this valley the river Liza meandered in its stony bed amongst the patches of trees and the peak of Great Gable rose high above the valley's upper reaches. It was into this empty wilderness that my path lay.

The way up from Buttermere requires little navigation. I'd ascended from Gatescarth with everyone else, turning sharp left past the copse of trees and climbing steeply up away from Buttermere's still water, now left well behind.

Heading down the far side of the pass I was immediatedly on my own. I think one or two of the Haystacks bound walkers actually looked over as if to say I was going the wrong way, and though Wainwright named Haystacks among his favorite fells I'm sure that with the numbers going there today, he would have followed this path instead.

The way was at first a little boggy until I found the path again following a fence down the slope. My steady descent took me down to the left south of Haystacks and towards the two Gables outlining the head of Ennerdale. The River Liza sparkled in patches of sunlight which moved slowly over the green landscape of trees and heather. It was a scene that recalled more of the Scottish Highlands than the Lake District and there was little sign of human habitation anywhere as I tramped down to join the path following the valley's floor. There is no motor road here, just a track, and a forestry sign informs that the car park at Bowness Knott is fully 6 miles away - further away than my start point in the next valley of Buttermere.

I followed this track towards Great Gable and presently the hut of Black Sail Youth Hostel came into view ahead. I have stayed at many of the Lake District's Youth Hostels - a few years ago mind, not being particularly youthful now - but never this one and as it is in one of the best locations in the region I made a point to stay at some time - if I'm not deemed too old that is! The door was open so I went in to see if they sold cups of tea or glasses of orange or any such thing. There was a mural of what appeared to be a Viking ship called the Black Sail on one wall which I thought was quite good but nobody was about so I had a snack on the bench outside before continuing on my way.

The path now led downhill slightly and briefly alongside the river before crossing it by a wooden footbridge. The trees ended around this point and the upper valley was a wide hollow of rough pasture watched over by Great Gable and Kirk Fell and in it, I appeared the only person for miles. On up the opposite slope and the going was easy on grass until a lone tree was reached clinging to the fellside just below some rocks. Here the path steepened over the rocks and became rough as it climbed out of the Ennerdale Valley once again. I came to a point where the track followed the stream descending from Kirk Fell but the way doesn't cross the river. Instead, the path re appears after a short bouldery section and climbs off up to the right. Here a waterfall in a large gully could be seen behind, a great rocky gash in the side of Kirk Fell. The route soon though began to curve back around to the left as the gradient eased and there in front was the view across to Yewbarrow and Wasdale Head - the top of Black Sail Pass.

Wasdale is surprisingly close to Buttermere as the crow flies and in fact most of the main valley systems of the Lake District with the exception of the eastern ones are within a short(ish) walk of here. Buttermere and Ennerdale are on this walk, Wasdale was just below, while Borrowdale was just over Windy Gap between the Gables. Langdale and Eskdale were a little further but still easily within reach if either were my destination for tonight.

Now though I followed the path to the right or roughly west towards Pillar. Soon after passing a small tarn on the ridge, I left the path to climb the short slope to Looking Stead where I stopped for the first half of lunch. Looking Stead is a superb viewpoint and I could trace my route from Scarth Gap past the youth Hostel and up around to Black Sail and up to where I now sat beside the lonely windswept cairn.

Onwards again and past the turn off for the High Level Route. I'd been in half a mind to follow that route to Robinson's Cairn and gain the summit by the Shamrock Traverse to the side of Pillar Rock but the lateness of the hour meant that that route would be saved for another day. I continued on up the ridge.

This was a good route anyway. The ridge was steep and rocky in places though never difficult and the views over Wasdale to the Scafells expanded the higher I climbed. Now level with High Crag across Ennerdale - not so far to go now. The path then crossed a wide and gently sloping area of sheep cropped turf before a final steep rough ascent led me up past a deep gully dropping away to the forests of Ennerdale far below. Here I passed a couple descending from the top - including them, I'd seen 5 people on this ridge and no-one between Scarth Gap and Black Sail. After a small stony summit, the wide flattish top of Pillar was directly ahead. Here I had the second half of my lunch in the summit shelter which I had to myself, huddled against the cold wind which now blew up here.

The best views are to be had by headind to the edges of Pillar's summit plateau and I wandered to the North a hundred or so metres where the view down to Ennerdale Water was particularly impressive. So was that over the several tops of Haystacks, a landscape scattered with tarns, towards the North and then back along the ridge I'd ascended to the curiously square looking top of Great Gable and around to the stark crags of Scafell and the Pike.

I followed the edge of the cliffs overlooking Pillar Rock and Ennerdale before heading back the way I'd come to Black Sail Pass and on down to the valley. This is a long walk and I was glad I'd not tackled the High Level Route this time as I trudged back past the Youth Hostel in the early evening light. Indeed, the haul back up to Scarth Gap was an effort though thankfully from this side, the climb is neither too steep nor too long. It was a steady ascent taken at a slow pace.

They were still wandering up and down the ridge to Haystacks as I reached the pass and stopped for a short rest. As I began the last stretch down to Buttermere, the evening sun emerged from the clouds to light the fells opposite in a warm golden glow before twilight began to overtake the Buttermere Valley.

Here's the route to Pillar and Haycock from Wasdale

Pete Buckley

Essentials >>> Up 1110m >>> Down 1110m >>> How Far? 15.4km >>> How High? 892m/2927ft

Ennerdale and High Crag

Ennerdale and High Crag

Great Gable

Great Gable

Wasdale Head

Wasdale Head

Buttermere from Scarth Gap

Buttermere from Scarth Gap

Please see the table of contents below for more walks in the Lake District

Posted by PeteB 12:44 Archived in England Tagged me mountains lake_district walking hiking vacation adventure holidays foot Comments (0)

High Street from Haweswater

Rough Crag, High Street and Kidsty Pike

sunny 8 °C

The drive over from Shap to Haweswater in the pale winter sunshine revealed that the eastern rim of the Lakeland Fells still held some remnants of snow from the recent cold weather. High Street's eastern crags in particular were patterned liberally with white which shone brightly in the morning sun.

Despite the calm and mild conditions which prevailed in the Eden Valley, I was greeted at the head of Haweswater by a blustery gale though strangely, the sky was still clear. Leaving the car, I set off through the gate below the brooding bulk of Harter Fell which rose at the end of the valley, lines of snow clinging to its craggy slopes. I followed the path around to the right along the shore of Haweswater, where the wind was blowing the surface into white capped waves, before climbing gradually to a copse of trees which gave expansive views down the length of the Lake.

From here I crossed the stile and headed up the slope behind, effectively doubling back and following the steep path up to the left of the ridge and presently passed back above where I'd left the car. The way now was a steep and relentless climb as I gained height towards Rough Crag which is really the east ridge of High Street though its top feels more like a separate summit. A fine spot this, a small rocky platform high above Riggindale on one side and the dark waters of Blea Tarn on the other.

Sheltering from the wind on its far side, I recalled the last time I'd been here. An equally gusty day of grey overcast and snow flurries when even the hardy Lakeland sheep had sought shelter behind the stone walls. Today the wind was not at all cold. Onwards along the broad ridge passing a small Tarn before beginning the final climb up to High Street. The path led uphill steeply in a series of easy rocky steps gaining height rapidly and after the hard work I'd made of getting up Rough Crag it was surprisingly soon that I was trudging up an easy angled slope of soft snow to reach the wide summit plateau.

The highest point of the fell is marked by an Ordnance Survey column besides a half broken down wall which runs the length of the summit ridge. This wall I followed north a short way, the wind now at my back, before stopping for lunch by one of the wall's many gaps. This wall was clearly not going to impede the peregrinations of the local sheep and I wondered if it dated back to Roman times when a road was built along the flat summit of High Street giving the fell its current name.

As I tried to figure how the chariots made it up here to trundle along this road, my eye was caught by the drifts of snow running off to the distance besides the wall for miles while the rest of the fell top was almost clear. The view to the west was impressive too and Helvellyn dominated here, its white garb declaring its 3000 foot elevation though hardly any snow lay on Skiddaw or the distant western fells.

Down then to the col known as the Straits of Riggindale where I decided that, as nothing wet was falling on me, which itself was unusual for the Lake District, I'd head on as far as High Raise instead of following the shorter path to Kidsty Pike. I set off over the nearby summit of Rampsgill Head and on across the open empty fellsides. This really is wonderful walking country and I appeared to be the only person this side of the Straits of Riggindale as the slanting rays of the sun reflected off scattered snowfields and lit the valley below with a soft light.

High Raise has a small stone shelter where I was able to have a rest and a snack in total isolation. There's no sign of modern life up here - apart perhaps from a very distant view of Penrith to the north - and thats only if you stand up. There's a certain quality about these fells. Perhaps they lack the drama of the rugged hills further west but they also lack the crowds!

So I began the last leg of my walk - back across the grassy plateau towards Kidsty Pike where the ground fell away steeply and the depths of Riggindale were revealed below. The path from here led back down the grassy eastern slopes of Kidsty Pike before descending more steeply, the last section into Riggindale itself - a wonderfully unspoilt valley bordering the western shores of Haweswater - before I followed the trail over a footbridge and back to the copse of trees overlooking the lake where I'd turned back up the ridge earlier today. A short walk in the gathering evening brought me from here back to the start point at the car park.

Pete Buckley

Essentials >>> Up 810m >>> Down 810m >>> How Far? 14.1km >>> How High? 828m/2718ft


High Street Ridge

High Street Ridge



Please visit my walking routes homepage or the table of contents below for more walks in the Lake District

Posted by PeteB 09:16 Archived in England Tagged mountains lake_district walking hiking foot Comments (0)

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