A Travellerspoint blog

Kirkstone to Ambleside

6 Wainwrights from Kirkstone Pass


From the top of Kirkstone Pass, I followed the path that leaves the car park opposite the Kirkstone Inn at its far end. The slope ahead was daunting - a vast wall of screes and crags that rose still over a thousand feet above. This was the fell known as Red Screes and it's well named as the tongues of scree descending below the cliffs do indeed have a reddish tint to them. I was setting out to walk from Kirkstone to Ambleside via Scandale Pass and Dove crag which is a walk of nearly seven and a half miles or about 12km. The route takes in 5 Wainwrights - the Lakeland fells classified by AW Wainwright - Red Screes, Little Hart Crag, Dove Crag, High Pike and Low Pike with the option for the dedicated peak bagger to divert to High Hartsop Dodd which makes the walk 9 miles.

Despite the fearsome appearance of Red Screes, the path finds a steep but easy way through the obstacles and stone steps have been constructed up much of the route making it less rough than when I was last here. The only remotely tricky part was where the track veered left across a wide ledge to a short scramble but the route is marked with an arrow painted on the rock which if followed avoids any difficulties. I was soon stood on the summit admiring the breathtaking views of Lakeland and sheltering from the cold wind behind the cairn. My route ahead could clearly be seen and I began the descent heading in a north westerly direction towards Dove Crag. Bearing too far to the North will take you down the ridge leading to Middle Dodd and would require retracing your steps to continue the route. My current heading led down easy slopes towards the attractive castle like twin summits of Little Hart Crag which rose across Scandale Pass.

The path crossed the Scandale Pass track and climbed the open grassy slopes opposite and where it tended to head off to the left towards Dove Crag I diverted to the right to Little Hart Crag which is a fine summit - the first craggy knoll is the highest point - with spectacular views of the craggy eastern side of the Fairfield range. In the shelter of the cairn was a perfect lunch spot where I could occasionally hear parties of fellwalkers passing below on the path to Patterdale and Brothers Water though no-one came up the last fifty feet or so to the summit.

From Little Hart Crag I headed down the main path to High Hartsop Dodd - an easy walk that gave good views of the fells around the top of Ullswater before retracing my steps and continuing on my way to Dove Crag. this diversion would only be recommended if you havn't visited High Hartsop Dodd - it isn't really on the way!

The route to Dove Crag is a wide path through grassy terrain but - with care - a diversion to the right will give impressive views down the precipitous crags overlooking Dovedale - an almost comletely unspoiled valley hidden in this particularly beautiful area of eastern Lakeland and a microcosm of what the Lake District was like in years gone by. There is no way down here though so don't try unless you are a proficient climber and have a rope to belay with. Certain death awaits efforts to scramble down unroped!

From this flattish area the route begins a steady ascent which emerges on the south ridge of Dove Crag, the summit being a short walk to the right up the broad ridge. I ate the last of my food here wrapped up against the freezing wind before setting off on the last leg of my walk. If you havn't been here before then a diversion of about 400m to the North gives spectacular views of Dovedale from the top of the crag after which the fell was named. I had so I didn't on this occasion.

Wainwright describes the walk from Dove Crag to High pike as the easiest mile in Lakeland and it is though this fact didn't stop me from slipping and falling ungracefully on my backside after 10 minutes. The gradient though is just right for walking down - enough slope to walk down with no effort yet not so steep that you have to slow yourself down. On towards Windermere which stretched away in front, barely rising over the summit of High Pike before making a steeper descent with the stone wall on my right.

The weather became steadily warmer as I lost height with the wind losing its chill. Low Pike rose just to the right of the path and I scrambled up to where the summit rocks and cairn nestled against the wall providing an interesting and comfortable perch on which to enjoy a banana and some water. Lower down the ridge was steep for a while as I followed the wall which was something of a feat of engineering descending the craggy ridge. A little lower still and trees began to return to the landscape which became softer and less rugged as Ambleside and the valley were approached. The cold wind had now gone but spots of rain were starting to fall from a grey sky.

If the ridge is kept to there is an awkward rock step to negotiate which is easier going up. It can be avoided by following the path to the left where it forks. Heading down through scattered trees on what was now a cart track I presently arrived at a bridge over the rushing waters of Scandale Beck which was pleasantly located in lush woodland and a short walk down a lane brought me into the busy centre of Ambleside.

This walk is ideal for anyone based in Ambleside even without transport as a regular bus service crosses Kirkstone and the start of the walk. As described it is about 9 miles in length, involves 2700 feet of ascent and 4050 feet of downhill. for the peak bagger the route visits 6 of Wainwright's summits. Not including High Hartsop Dodd does shorten the walk somewhat.

Pete Buckley May 2010

Summits >>> Red Screes 776m/2546ft >>> Little Hart Crag 637m/2090ft >>> High Hartsop Dodd (optional)519m/1703ft >>> Dove Crag 792m/2598ft >>> High Pike 656m/2152ft >>> Low Pike 508m/1667ft

Essentials >>> 7.5 miles or 12km of walking >>> 2700 feet or 830m of ascent >>> 4050 feet or 1230m of descent >>> Start at Kirkstone Pass and finish at Ambleside

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

Posted by PeteB 07:49 Archived in England Tagged me mountains lake_district walking hiking foot Comments (0)

Dale Head and Hindscarth

A circular route from the Newlands valley


The Lakeland hamlet of Little Town is as quaint as it sounds and it was from between here and Newlands Church that I began this route. Walking back up the road for 100 metres or so towards Little Town, I doubled back up a path up to the right which very soon joined a wide track leading up the Newlands Valley towards Dale Head and the steep sided peak of Hindscarth to its right. I walked ufollowing its twisting course to my right. After perhaps a mile and a half, the track passed between 2 spoil heaps - a relic of mining activities that occurred here in the past.

Now the view opened up of the wild scene at the head of the Newlands Valley - a sharp contrast to the wooded lanes of Little Town and the lower dale. Here 2 paths led off to the left - both lead to Dalehead Tarn - the second by a convenient rest rock.

Ahead the path sloped gently down to the river and could be seen - not so gently - ascending the opposite slope towards Dale Head's crags. As I watched, a beam of sunlight shone through an invisible gap in the clouds and like a searchlight, moved steadily across the rugged slopes, illuminating momentarily the grass and stones with an enhanced colour. Then it was gone as the upper winds shifted and closed up the gap to the Sun.

Crossing the river proved to be no problem and the obvious way ahead followed a grassy ditch-like feature in a rising traverse of the fellside with the river rapidly disappearing below. Opposite, the craggy wall of the fell known as High Spy filled the view while hehind the light and shade moved rapidly across the lower dale watched over by Skiddaw to the North.

Presently my path turned a corner into a gully and crossed a stream that flowed from a rocky ravine just above. Here I stopped for a short rest as a violently gusty wind began to buffet down the slope from above bringing with it sprigs of heather apparently ripped from the earth. This along with the cloud shadows moving at express train speed should really have warned me of what lay ahead!

My ascent continued, this time via wide grassy zig zags in the path. Above lay a high rocky buttress, an impregnable looking wall of crags. My route would take me up behind them and from here it was difficult to see how without getting involved in at least a difficult scramble. As I drew level with the base of the crags though, the fellside opened out into a wide bowl in which lay the ruins of an ancient miners' hut. Passing the hut the path climbed again up a steep rough section before traversing left across a wonderful grass and bilberry shelf above the crags but unseen from below.

Here the wind returned in earnest though thankfully most of the buffetting was towards the slope rather than the steep ground below. I continued in a gently ascending traverse of the strip of easy ground with the line of crags below and steep scree above. Wainwright describes this route in the North Western Fells as "a mountaineering must" and it is indeed a wonderful and varied way to the summit of Dale Head. The same guidebook mentions an awkward scree slope just before the ridge is reached though this presents no problem - perhaps the route has changed since - though the original miners' path is upwards of 400 years old.

The views now opened out to the South with the Langdale Pikes seen from an unfamiliar angle and Bowfell and Esk Pike rising grandly beyond. As I started up the wide ridge though, the wind returned with a vengeance. The forecast had been for 65 mph winds earlier in the day though these gusts were well over 80 - possibly around 100 mph. After being blown over a couple of times I debated whether to descend this ridge and return via Dalehead Tarn but I persevered, and in a crouching position, made my way towards the summit.

Strangely, higher up on the south side of the ridge the wind was much reduced and my ability to walk upright was restored. It still made itself known though and I was accompanied up the ridge by a noise that sounded as though a jet aircraft were flying just out of sight below. As the top of Dale Head was reached the sheltering effect was lost and I had to lie flat at one point or be blown down - at this point I abandoned plans to continue to Robinson opting for the nearer Hindscarth.

I was again sheltered as I followed the path overlooking the steep slopes that fell to the Honister Pass with the lower part of the road clearly visible 2000 feet below and Buttermere sparkling in the sunny valley like a jewel. My route turned away from this pleasant scene across the grassy plateau leading to Hindscarth. Hindscarth has 2 shelters - one on the highest point and one on a subsidiary summit just to the North. It was here I stopped for another rest and to finish lunch before continuing down the ridge ahead.

Scope End is the narrow heathery ridge leading down from Hindscarth straight to the Newlands Valley and I followed this ridge - an enjoyable walk with panoramic views all the way. The gale that raged high up became a mere breeze as I descended. The path emerged not far from Newlands Church which I passed to cross the bridge to where I'd left the car earlier in the day.

Pete Buckley October 2009

Summits >>> Dale Head 2473ft/754m >>> Hindscarth 2385ft/727m

Essentials >>> Up 700m >>> Down 700m How Far? 11.7km >>> Start and finish at Newlands

Posted by PeteB 08:58 Archived in England Tagged me mountains lake_district walking hiking holidays foot Comments (0)

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)

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