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A Grisedale Horseshoe via Striding Edge

09.13.14

Posted by paul  |  No Comments »

I put this walk together under the pretence of giving myself a good run out on the fells, the type of walk where limbs would ache & summits often looked just too far to reach, it does the soul good every now & again to remember why I walk within the mist of quite a hectic lifestyle.

Initially I only had Helvellyn via Striding Edge in mind which of course in itself is a good day spent, however should my plan have gone ahead I would have also explored the mountain from tarn to edge. I think it was during my drive home from work where I often drift from work to walking when I thought about giving my boots a good run out, not to mention the aching limbs, I guess I got my wish & possibly more as I now sit typing this with muscles still aching.

It all started early morning at The Duke of Portland Boathouse.

 

ASCENT: 4,934 Feet – 1,540 Meters

WAINWRIGHTS: 8, Helvellyn – Nethermost Pike – Dollywagon Pike  – Seat Sandal – Fairfield – St Sunday Crag – Birks – Arnison Crag

SUMMITS VISITED: 10, Helvellyn – Nethermost Pike – High Crag – Dollywagon Pike  – Seat Sandal – Fairfield – Cofa Pike -  St Sunday Crag – Birks – Arnison Crag

WEATHER : Overcast & Muggy Highs Of 19°C, Lows Of 7°C

PARKING: Roadside Parking, Patterdale

AREA: Eastern

MILES: 11.8

WALKING WITH: On My Own

ORDNANCE SURVEY: OL5

TIME TAKEN: 8 Hours 10 Minutes

ROUTE: Patterdale – Grisedale – Striding Edge – Helvellyn – Nethermost Pike – High Crag – Dollywagon Pike – Grisedale Tarn – Seat Sandal – Grisedale Hause – Fairfield – Cofa Pike – Deepdale Hause – St Sunday Crag – Birks – Trough Head – Arnison Crag – Oxford Crag – Patterdale

Wainwright Guide Book One

Book 1

The Eastern Fells

 

-The Eastern Fells

Surely there is no other place in this whole wonderful world quite like Lakeland… no other so charming, no other that calls so insistently across a gulf of distance. All whole truly love Lakeland are exiles when away from it.

Alfred Wainwright

 

Map 1Map 2

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The Duke of Portland Boathouse, Ullswater.

I couldn’t resist a cheeky stop off at The Duke of Portland Boathouse as a low mist hovered above the surface creating a mirror finish, the mist was all but dispersing but very atmospheric.

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Dawn over Silver Crag, Ullswater.

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Heading along the Lane into lower Grisedale 07:47am 7°C

After leaving the Lake Road I soon passed through a busy Glenridding & an even busier Patterdale -this owing to the fact that there was a fell race where most of the competitors were based in Patterdale. I just managed to secure the last parking space opposite the White Lion Hotel.

Large groups of competitors were already passing me as I booted up behind the car distinguished by numbers on the back of their packs. It was here I wondered what their route would be, as it turned out, it was very similar to mine.

With the car locked I threw my pack over my shoulder & tried to gain some ground on the large groups by picking up the track behind the Village Store which sadly for me, didn’t work.

Whilst flanking the base of Arnison Crag I caught up with the rear of one of the large groups, some of which had quite a lot of foreign members, the group was so large I found it difficult to pass along the narrow track, at one point I was even mistaken for a member as the group photographer tried to take an ‘action shot’ as I waved my hand stating that I wasn’t part of the group ‘look at the water behind you while I take your photo’

I found myself repeating once more that I wasn’t part of the group which was rather embarrassing for the both of us as my voice started to get deeper.

The second part of the group was ahead so I quickly started to catch them up too, my ankles bearing the pain of my quick stance so early after leaving the car, as I gained on them a girl span around with a camera as if to take my photo, thankfully she instantly realised that I wasn’t part of the group before quickly apologising, it’s ok I reply.

‘Let me guess’ your from Settle or somewhere close aren’t you? erh no I’m from Wigan, oh she replied you really sound like your from Yorkshire, my sisters from Settle & you really have the same lingo.

No I smirked, definitely Wigan.

Despite her lingo guessing game the young girl was really nice & friendly as we picked up conversation on our routes, it was here I learned just how similar they would be. My heart sank a little with the news that I would be sharing my walk today with…wait for it.

Nineteen teams of endurance walkers.

I split off from the track & descended onto the tarmac lane seen in the photo, again trying to gain as much ground as I could, thankfully however, our routes were differed after crossing Kennels Bridge where I picked up the path for Hole-in-the Wall.

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Angels torches over Lower Grisedale.

After crossing Kennels Bridge I picked up the steep grassy path towards a stone wall, again I was on the tail end of yet another large group, their voices loud enough to set the dogs barking below at the Kennels, the whoop whoop’s certainly didn’t help matters, had I caught up with the group my voice would have been known.

This is where their route differed from mine as strange as it may seem they headed right towards Lanty’s Tarn from which I can only guess they would then pick up the path for Birkhouse Moor. I had my wish as by now I had the whole path to myself at times blessed with very atmospheric views towards Patterdale & the far eastern fells. 

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Atmospheric eastern fells as the sun struggles to breach through the cloud.

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Views over towards St Sunday Crag, Fairfield, Dollywagon Pike & Nethermost Cove. 

Despite the lingering cloud behind me the humidity was very high & with no wind conditions were extremely muggy to say the least.

The early morning haze didn’t look like it was going anywhere soon which kinda laid down any plans for clear shots which will go on to last throughout the whole duration of the day, but today isn’t all about the photos.

Further up the path I caught up with two women who were from Dorset heading for Striding Edge, they too complained just how still & muggy the morning was, it wasn’t our last meeting as I met back up with them on Striding Edge a little later on.

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Hole-in-the-Wall.

The terrace like path soon gave way for a stone staircase which lead all the final steep ascent to Hole-in-the-Wall.

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Here, looking back on Birkhouse Moor from Hole-in-the-Wall.

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Helvellyn, Striding Edge & Swirral Edge from Whole-in-the-Wall.

After crossing the sty at Whole-in-the-Wall Helvellyn opened out before me, it’s a view as I’m sure many would agree is enough to make the hairs on the back of your neck stand on end, adding to this the anticipation of both Striding & Swirral Edge for which ever route you choose, it’s sure to get the heart racing.

Ahead, besides the path I notice a tent & what I thought was three wild campers, one of whom was walking a young Collie who barked at me from afar, the walker lead the dog away from the path so as not to bother me, but, I know coming from a family who has owned Collies that this dog was merely saying hello.

As I got closer to the tent I instantly recognised one of the men as Mark Richards, the famous outdoor writer who had walked with Wainwright personally, with him it had to be outdoor film maker Terry Abraham who’s fantastic film Life Of A Mountain Scafell Pike was a huge global success for Terry, to shake both these men’s hands left me in a bit of a quiver.

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Terry Abraham, myself & Mark Richards.

Both Terry & Mark were here on Marks new project and were filming aerial shots from a Quadcopter seen in the foreground of the photo. Tony, the guy who was kind enough to take this picture was the operator of the Quadcopter.

‘It totally eradicates the use of expensive helicopters Mark laughs’

Terry introduced me in detail to the kit they were using to film & how the camera worked beneath the Quadcopter, without wanting to outstay my welcome I bid Terry, Mark & Tony farewell with a firm handshake before heading for High Spying How.

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Red Tarn, Helvellyn, Striding Edge & Swirral Edge seen from Low Spying How.

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Striding Edge & Helvellyn from Low Spying How.

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Living on the Edge.

In the time I took to talk to Terry & Mark a number of walkers had now passed me, so too had the two women I met briefly at Hole-in-the-Wall, I soon caught them up again as one asked had I just been talking to friends of mine, when I explained that one was a famous film maker & the other a famous outdoor writer they were quite made up for me which lead them to ask about how I started my fell walking career in the first place.

This is the kind of question you ask when you’re tired or sleepy, because this subject is really close to my heart & I will go on a bit!

I asked them had they done Striding Edge before & they replied they sort of had only having to turn back as a friend who was with them didn’t have it in them to carry on, the reason for them being here today was to complete what they started to do last year.

I gave them a little advice about the various paths with switch over the ridge & also the option to avoid the chimney route if they didn’t feel comfortable with that sort of thing.

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Striding Edge.

In times gone by I had mostly used the path that flanks the ridge traverse to the right, it’s only up until recently have I gained the confidence to use the ‘over the top route’ I still get that leg ‘wobble’ especially when  I’m holding a camera up to my eye as doubt overcomes balance momentarily.

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The Dixon Monument, often missed whilst traversing Striding Edge & this includes myself, it reads…

IN MEMORY OF ROBERT DIXON OF ROOKINGS PATTERDALE WHO WAS KILLED ON THIS PLACE ON THE 27 DAY OF NOV 1858 WHEN FOLLOWING THE PATTERDALE FOXHOUNDS.

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Helvellyn & Striding Edge from High Spying How.

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Looking back along the Striding Edge.

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The Chimney (foreground) Striding Edge & High Spying How.

Descending The Chimney can be a little tricky which is why I always flank it via a narrow path which when viewed (from this angle) is to the right of The Chimney, those of you who wish to go over the top can do so & descend down the face of the crag with no more than a steep scramble, for the masochist inside you descend by the left (from this angle) where you are presented with a descent via The Chimney itself, I’ve only descended The Chimney once & it nearly killed me!

After the exhilarating traverse next is a steep push up towards the summit, here the path has been eradicated & right now, is under repair. The ascent is loose in places & all hands can be required to propel yourself over the larger boulders, the path(s) are never out of sight.

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Here, looking down on Striding Edge & Red Tarn taken just below the summit.

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The Gough memorial found at the top of Striding Edge.

The final push towards the summit for me is equal to Striding Edge itself as the route can be as diverse as you choose it to be either by following the path or by picking your way over boulder, the path however as already mentioned is under repair & very loose, the dry conditions only adding to this, after an easy scramble I top out at the Charles Gough Memorial before making my way to the summit shelter & cairn.

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Helvellyn summit plateau.

Here, looking much less busy in my photo than it actually was. I have a wander over to the trig point & de-shoulder pack where I take out my walking poles in earnest for my route ahead. Views from the summit were interrupted by haze which wasn’t good news for any long distant photos, from here Swirral Edge also looks a little gloomy as does Catstye Cam, the pictures that I did take knowingly, didn’t turn out as I wanted them too.

With this I turn heel & head back towards the summit shelter which by now is getting busier by the minute as more & more walkers from all directions arrive at the same time, so do a large group of endurance walkers who pass the summit & head for Nethermost Pike, with this I don’t fancy getting caught up walking with them so I give them a healthy lead before I set off, before which, I help myself to a mouth watering Satsuma which after peeling, went down in just two bites.

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Nethermost Pike & a distant Dollywagon Pike, beyond the haze, Fairfield from the summit shelter.

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Helvellyn, Catstye Cam & Striding Edge as seen from Nethermost Pike summit.

Nethermost Pike was quickly gained once Helvellyn had been left behind, the group who had left before me had long gone which left the summit just to myself & an elderly gent who was approaching from the Birk Side direction.

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High Crag, Dollywagon Pike & Fairfield seen over Nethermost Cove taken shortly after leaving Nethermost Pike summit.  

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High Crag & Dollywagon Pike over Nethermost Cove.

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Here, looking back towards High Crag & Nethermost Cove.

High Crag was quickly gained with hazy views down into Grisedale & St Sunday Crag. I was now walking with my back towards the Central Fells who through the haze somehow looked to all congeal into one.

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St Sunday Crag, Place Fell & Grisedale seen from Dollywagon Pike summit.

It was mid morning by the time I had reached Dollywagon Pike & hopes were dashed of the haze clearing. Behind me a woman Marshall sat on top of the second summit cairn & we got chatting about the weather (glorious) the haze, not so.

She went onto say that this time next week she would be in her final exam to be a Lake District Guide & she hoped for much of the same conditions, she asked me of my own route & she was pretty surprised instead of heading down to Grisedale that I would be ascending Seat Sandal instead, our parting words were I think you’d better get on, you’ve got a long day ahead of you! I wished her well for next weeks exam before descending Dollywagon Pike via the old fence on the south west side of the fell.

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Fairfield, & Great Rigg seen over Grisedale Tarn & Grisedale Hause.

My ascent was steep, steep enough to lose the view as the fells kind of drop away before you, it’s a route I haven’t used before yet going of the path on south east side of the fell I already had an incline on what to expect.

I choose to blaze my own descent by zig-zaging my way down which I found much easier than using the path cut with ascent in mind.

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Seat Sandal & Grisedale Tarn from my steep descent from Dollywagon Pike.

I spot four people ascending via Raise Beck/Dunmail Raise, two of which stop at the wall that continues over Seat Sandal, the other two start to make their way up in my direction.

Despite having already summited Helvellyn, Nethermost Pike, High Crag & Dollywagon Pike this was the spot I prepared my head that the true walk began. Ahead of me was a short but steep ascent to gain Seat Sandal, from which a very steep descent to Grisedale Hause then another steep ascent to gain Fairfield, if ever I didn’t want my reserves to fail me, now was that time.

I press on.

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Fairfield & St Sunday Crag seen over Grisedale Tarn from the start of the steep ascent.

My reserves didn’t let me down even stopping to chat with the couple who I had seen from my Dollywagon Pike descent who were climbing Seat Sandal for the first time.

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Fairfield & St Sunday Crag seen from Seat Sandal summit.

After passing the couple I soon arrived at the summit with aching thighs to boot, the summit was busy with the organised endurance walkers who largely arrived then descended. In the photo ahead is the girl I spoke with earlier who thought I was from Yorkshire who seems to have lost some team members after overhearing her conversation.

It’s now midday as I find myself a spot by the summit cairn & break open my lunch box, in there were two ham & cheese sandwiches & a bag of Malteasers, I saw no option to eat the Malteasers first through fear of them melting.

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Views over Grisedale Hause towards Fairfield & St Sunday Crag.

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This time on the other side of Grisedale Hause now looking back on Seat Sandal.

I gained my ascent of Fairfield in good stead which sadly did not last as more & more endurance walkers started to pass me which did nothing for confidence as often I would have to break momentum to let them pass, it was here my reserves started to flag a little also combined with a midday heat sapped energy levels, between here & the summit I don’t think I took my eye of my boots for the rest of the ascent.

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Grisedale Tarn looked pretty inviting from where I was stood!

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A rather crowded Fairfield summit.

I soon found looking toward the summit cairn from the shoulder of the fell as I gazed towards the summit which was heavily crowded by fellow walkers & visitors, the stone shelter also had a gathering crowd of endurance walkers who were checking in with the Marshalls.

After moments sat amongst a few scattered boulders I picked my walking poles up & followed the cairns towards my next descent over Cofa Pike.

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Cofa Pike & St Sunday Crag with the valley of Deepdale over towards the right.

After a careful descent to the col between Fairfield & Cofa Pike I started to make the short ascent on Cofa Pike which is a wonderful summit that over looks both the Grisedale & Dovedale valleys.

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Looking back on Fairfield from Cofa Pike.

From the Col I started to make the short ascent on Cofa Pike which is a wonderful summit that over looks both the Grisedale & Dovedale valleys, it was here I met a rather comical father & son who were old school Lancastrians, even myself who comes from Lancashire had a job keeping up with the ascent, as the son made his own descent he left his dad to his own devices who had the walkers making their own ascents/descents in fits of laughter with their bar gags & self mocking talent.

His only fit fot kanckers yard the son would shout, he’s reet tha knows, If I weret an horse thee’d shoot me.

The father & son comical combination sure lightened things up during the descent from Cofa Pike.

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The haze starts to lift as I enter early afternoon.

This is a classical view of the Helvellyn range seen with Nethermost Pike along with the Nethermost Pike east ridge, in the centre of the photo High Crag & to the left Dollywagon Pike can be seen with The Tongue ridge descending into the Grisedale valley.

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St Sunday Crag seen over Deepdale Hause.

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Here, looking back on Cofa Pike & Fairfield from Deepdale Hause.

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The Deepdale valley with Hartsop above How & a host of hazy far eastern fells.

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St Sunday Crag summit with Fairfield in the distance.

During the last push towards the summit I got talking to a couple from Cockermouth who had with them a Collie named Guinness (very fitting & a great name for a black & white dog) We spoke of our routes & the days events before passing on our good wishes for the rest of the day.

Shortly afterwards I had a crack with three Scottish guys also making an ascent on St Sunday Crag from Grisedale Tarn, they joked about what would happen should Scotland go independent with the likes of armed guards at the borders & alike, one of the guys quips up, you know we’ll have to re-build Hadrian’s Wall which lies sixty miles south of the actual Scottish Border, with my most patriotic voice I reply.

That’s English land.

Oh dear, I fear I’m about to start world war three as the patriot in me starts to come out, all in good fun I might add though.

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Place Fell, Ullswater & Birks seen from my St Sunday Crag descent.

By now I had the rough ascents & descents behind me & to be honest the soles of my feet were starting to yearn for what only Birks could provide, the soft cushioning of grass.

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St Sunday Crag from Birks summit cairn.

I took so much away from todays walk with a lot yet to sink in, yet when I look back the crossing from the depression between St Sunday Crag & Birks summit was a real highlight on what had already turned out to be a great day on the fells.

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Arnison Crag shortly after leaving the summit of Birks.

After leaving the summit of Birks behind I continued for a short while before leaving the main path where two large boulders stood, this marks the point where I would descend Birks by its grassy east ridge, keeping to the wall or using it as a guide (seen far left in the photo) would be of great advantage should the weather turn bad, I however didn’t have that problem as I picked my way down the fell forming zig zags along the way until I reached Trough Head.

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Place Fell & Ullswater seen over Trough Head.

My descent via Birks east ridge wasn’t without it steepness which my legs although ached at, were well accustomed by the time I reached Trough Head. Arnison Crag lay north east by means of a narrow grassy path sadly out of shot in this photo.

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Ullswater & Place Fell from Arnison Crag summit.

The last push on my last summit was met by me poking my poles hard in the ground at the same time as taking wide strides to reach the summit, by now my exposed skin had turned a toasty brown, my forehead was rough through the dried out sweat that had formed over it, my lips had that sticky goo as I had already finished the remains of my Camel Bak shortly before arriving at Birks summit.

My only salvation was the last Satsuma I had which I peeled as I took in the fabulous views over Ullswater & surrounding fells.

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Sheffield Pike & Ullswater from my Arnison Crag descent.

My descent was steep & at times rough underfoot as I made my descent via the stone wall back to the path where my walk began over eight hours earlier. Once down I curled my toes around inside my boots at the same time kicking my feet back to make the last hundred yards or so as comfortable as possible, to my left an open field where people sunbathed not even noticing myself walk by.

I was getting thirsty again as I knew that my car was parked close to the Public Toilets I thought it would be a good idea to turn those taps on & drink cold water from cupped hands.

It wasn’t a good idea, it was a great idea.

After feeling positively refreshed I emerged from the toilets not bothering to dry my face properly -less the one sweep from my sleeve, Patterdale is alive with visitors so much so they occupy the overspill car park sat at tables drinking wine & cold beers.

Me, I’ve got a bottle of warm Diet Pepsi in the boot of my car & a soggy ham & cheese sandwich, I smell far worse than I probably look & my feet throb to buggery.

Yet another fine day on the fells then.

Raven Crag & Castlerigg Stone Circle

09.07.14

Posted by paul  |  5 Comments »

Today’s walk saw me team up with Shaun Church on a pre-arranged walk whilst Shaun is holidaying in Lakeland this week, I say holidaying, what I actually mean is Shaun will be spending every minute of his spare time narrowing the gap on his last remaining Wainwrights.

We arranged to first meet at the Little Chef situated on the A66 which was convenient for the both of us as Shaun was traveling from Carlisle & me, the south. We arranged to meet at around 07:45am thus giving us ample time to take the twenty or so minute journey to Castlerigg Stone Circle where we would leave our cars before taking time out to explore the stone ring, because let’s face it, no matter how many times you may or may not have visited Castlerigg, one thing for certain is you will never tire of it, nor the secluded valley of Shoulthwaite which still remains & will always be, a personal favourite valley of mine.

This is Raven Crag from Castlerigg Stone Circle.

 

ASCENT: 2,215 Feet – 675 Metres

WAINWRIGHTS: 2,  Raven Crag – High Rigg

SUMMITS VISITED: 3, Castle Crag (Fort) – Raven Crag – High Rigg

WEATHER : Warm & Sunny Highs Of 19°C, Lows Of 7°C

PARKING: Car Parking Spaces, Castlerigg Stone Circle

AREA: Central

MILES: 9.7

WALKING WITH: Shaun Church

ORDNANCE SURVEY: OL4

TIME TAKEN: 7 Hours

ROUTE: Castlerigg Stone Circle – Castle Lane – A591 – Nest Brow – Brackenrigg – Shoulthwaite – Shoulthwaite Gill – Castle Crag (fort) – Raven Crag – Thirlmere Dam – A591 – St Johns Beck – High Rigg – St Johns-in-the-Vale Church – Low Rigg – Tewit Tarn – Naddle Bridge – Goosewell Farm – Castlerigg Stone Circle

Wainwright Book Three

Book 3

The Central Fells

 

-Raven Crag

One of the many dozens of Raven Crags, best known of all, and the subject of this chapter, is the mighty buttress of grey rock towering above the Thirlmere Dam. The vertical face of the crag, now receiving the attention of expert rock-climbers, is a truly formidable object, standing out starkly from the dense surround of plantations.

Alfred Wainwright

Map 1Map 2Map 3

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Blencathra from Castlerigg 08:14am 7°C

After a firm handshake Shaun & I were soon on our way to Castlerigg taking note of just how well that early morning light was developing along with pocketed banks of temperature inversions that  lingered around the Park.

It wasn’t long before we found ourselves at Castlerigg taking care to park the cars both facing back towards the A66 ready for the great escape later once the narrow lanes here at the Castlerigg soon start to resemble Asda on Christmas Eve, yes, it really does get that busy here!

I was already wearing my boots as I kitted up back at the Little Chef given my early arrival, Shaun didn’t take long to lace up as we both locked the cars before taking a brief look at my jacket in the boot before closing it…safe in my wisdom that I needn’t pack it today such the confidence in the sky’s above.

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Castlerigg Stone Circle.

It seemed such a shame to disturb the morning dew but it couldn’t be helped as we made our way to the Stone Circle, it was only after taking this photo did I realise that a woman was standing in it, well at least we thought it was a woman, it could of been President Obama.

See if you can spot her…

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Autumn Equinox.

Or just playing about with the camera.

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Blencathra from Castlerigg Stone Circle.

It’s hard to imagine that Castlerigg Stone Circle pre-dates Stonehenge by about 1,000 years making Castlerigg one of the oldest Stone Circles in Europe.

Although its origins are unknown Castlerigg was probably used for trading, religious ceremonies, and tribal gathering, one of the most fascinating facts about Castlerigg however concerns the largest of the stones which creates a shadow nearly a half-mile long at sunset on midsummer’s day.

By now the woman who Shaun thought was ‘possibly meditating’ had left the Stone Circle & was making her way to the step stile situated out of shot to the left of the circle, she gave us a brief wave before coming to a halt by sitting half on – half off the stone wall as if to say goodbye to the Stone Circle.

There were many moments that I took away from todays walk, being here at Castlerigg under such fantastic conditions was just one of them.

We also make our way to the stone step stile.

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The Coledale & Lord Seat fells taken from Castle Lane.

We hopped over the wall to find another cloud inversion running parallel with Bassenthwaite Lake & the north western fells which was steadily starting to lift as the morning temperature began to rise.

Behind our position, the sun was still low & struggling to penetrate the low bank of cloud that hung over the Dodd & Helvellyn range making the landscape seem more surreal & extremely atmospheric.

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Here, looking back on Blencathra from Castle Lane.

Blencathra stole the show this morning, indeed for much of the walk as we took in Castle Lane towards the A591.

With memories of Walla Crag just the week earlier, now set aback a perfect blue sky it was difficult not to imagine the huge contrast between my last walk & todays, there’s plenty of talk of an Indian Summer let’s hope today is the shape of better things to come before we finally bow out to Autumn.

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A591 at Nest Brow.

At the end of Castle Lane we crossed the A591 & headed for Nest Brow as the road winded its way down towards Stanah & Thirlmere, here our path is narrow so we walk & talk in single file.

As the morning progressed the A591 understandably was getting busier which meant ‘Dad Runs’ across the busy road as often the path would run out only to restart on the other side of the road where more single file natter ensued.

Much of our path was grass underfoot which meant our boot toe gaps received a generous soaking as we walked over the morning dew. Still in conversation in the back of my mind I was looking out for the wooden Sty & gate that would lead us eventually through to what I consider to be one of Lakelands hidden gems.

Best not miss that Sty then eh.

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Time to leave the A591 & hop over the wooden Sty.

The Sty was soon reached cloaked heavily in stinging nettles at the base so as you can imagine alot of care was taken crossing the Sty as both Shaun & myself were both in shorts.

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Heading for Shoulthwaite.

Once over the Sty we followed the path that lent its way past a pasture before heading through a gate, it was here our views opened up into a distant Shoulthwaite valley & not to mention, some of the highest & wettest bracken I have had to contend with.

‘Bigging’ Shoulthwaite up was my job as I hadn’t stopped talking about it since the day we planned the walk a couple of weeks ago, ‘you’ll love Shoulthwaite I would say to Shaun’ & indeed he would have hadn’t he found the need to completely dry out first.

I couldn’t help feel a sense of guilt after leading Shaun through the sometimes shoulder high bracken with a generous mix of brambles that snagged at our wet clothing & left blood dripping down bare legs, to keep momentum up Shaun would often here me say ‘not far now’ without any incline nor sighting that the bracken was coming to an end, here Shaun accidently dropped his camera which meant a gut wrenching search until Shaun finally found it again, then back into the abyss of the bracken, long trousers were a must, so was a raincoat, non of which we had with us.

The bracken continued for approximately one mile, still, I felt the need to keep momentum, which I did.

‘Not far now’

I think in the end Shaun wanted to stick his walking pole where the sun didn’t shine!

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High Rigg from Brackenrigg.

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Looking along Shoulthwaite Gill from the bridge with Iron Crag on the right and Castle Crag on the left. 

The path finally started to climb coinciding with the sound from Shoulthwaite Gill, weren’t ‘literally’ out of the woods yet as the bracken was starting to test ones patience.

Slowly but surely the bracken gave way for a single track that ran high along the gill, after a little height gained wide vistas into Shoulthwaite valley suddenly opened up, the scenery was fantastic but it was time to take a look at the battle scars that the brambles had left behind & maybe let the sun dry out the shorts, base layers & underwear.

Welcome to Shoulthwaite!

Large Pine trees scatters the east escarpment of the valley with only Castle Crag Fort seen at the valley head, to our right flank Goat & Iron crag dominate the shoulders of the fell side, ahead, a single track that ran besides a sparkling Shoulthwaite Gill almost welcomes the walker to take in the valley and take out, one of the best of the not so known Lakeland valleys.

By now, the bracken & brambles were almost a distant memory, however the wet boxer shorts still remain.

I did say almost…

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Iron Crag.

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Here, looking back on Lonscale Fell & Great Calva as we start to climb.

We were to soon leave Shoulthwaite Gill behind by the gentlest of inclines where the valley became much narrower, here the pathway ahead winds its way around large static boulders before emerging by an ruined stone sheepfold, our options remained fixed on making our way to the valley head where we would cross Shoulthwaite Gill by a stone wall which ran east to west via Mere Gill.

To our left a tall wooden Sty cut through the high deer fences which was also an option, both routes I had previously used to gain Castle Crag Fort.

What do you think Shaun? shall we cross the Gill here & follow the deer fence where eventually it would meet up with our optional stone wall route, yeah it cuts the last section out, and a nasty steep climb too from the Gill.

With this we cross Shoulthwaite Beck via placed stepping stones & made our way towards the Sty where we opt out of crossing due to a lack of path on the other side (although on closer inspection I think it was more high wet bracken that saw us not to cross) We’ll stick to ‘this side O’ fence eh’

It was a steep last pitch but manageable as we made our ascent via the ‘wrong side of the fence’ of which I wholly take the blame. By the time we could walk no further without fear of descending back down towards the Gill it was now time to cross the deer fence which by luck had a cross section of sturdy wooden stakes making up part of the structure.

We had no option other than to scale the fence at its strongest point.

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A quick ascent on Castle Crag Fort.

After crossing the deer fence we made our way over a recent felled area of Castle Crag, here we stuck to the highest ground if only to avoid walking through the deadwood that scattered the ground underfoot.

Within moments we soon came across the wooden sign at the foot of Castle Crag Fort there after picking up the footpath that lead towards the summit.

We opted for a small break but we didn’t down packs or even sit down for that matter, our views extended in a panoramic fashion but gaze was surely fixed over Shoulthwaite with the mass of the northern fells just beyond.

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Views back along the valley from Castle Crag Fort with Sippling Crag (The Benn) over on the right of the photo.

It was great to see that uninterrupted line or ‘The Trough’ that runs from Great Calva through to Dunmail Raise sadly though, our views didn’t extend that far, for now anyway.

We speak about a possible summit on Sippling Crag seen as the tree covered summit in the foreground of the photo, Sippling Crag extends as a subsidiary summit north of Raven Crag as the views over Thirlmere more than equal those of Raven Crag.

Before we leave Castle Crag we spot numerous walkers all heading for Raven Crag summit emerge from the forestry track below, one half of me tells me they’re just like myself & Shaun, the other, my selfish half tells me the large group is about to hog Raven Crag summit just before we were due to arrive.

I keep quiet as we press on.

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Taking on the forest track towards Raven Crag.

I note to Shaun that just over a year ago this side of the fell was inaccessible due to the large amount of trees that had blown over during a storm, today now that the debris have been cleared all that is left are the tree stumps once marking where tall Pines once stood.

Just below the summit we hear voices, then from around a corner emerges the gang of walkers we saw heading for the summit from our perch upon Castle Crag, we pass on our pleasantries & get them back in return.

With the summit in sight beyond through a batch of trees Shaun’s left foot takes a dive up to a beyond the heel, we could her the slurp as Shaun pulled his boot out, not to mention the smell that came with it.

Shaun heads for the long grass.

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All the seats were taken!

After passing the summit cairn we dropped down below to gain the best vantage point only to realise that it, had already been taken by two very polite women who offered their view so I could take some photos, I declined, not because I didn’t want to but because it was so nice of them to offer.

Besides, there’s an equally better viewing area a little lower down.

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Thirlmere seen with Raise & Brown Cove Crags above Thirlspot.

I made my way over to a small outcrop of rock close to the edge of the summit to take a few photos, it was only after realising just how close I was did I get a little wobble fully knowing that I was stood a little too close for comfort to a vertical drop.

Shaun soon joins me as I inch my way to a safer point where we decide, even though it’s only mid morning that…

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It’s time for brunch.

Thirlmere Dam & Great How from our brunch spot high above Thirlmere.

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Clough Head, Calfhow Pike & Great Dodd from Raven Crag summit.

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A close up of Dunmail Raise over Thirlmere from Raven Crag.

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The scarred trees found on Raven Crag.

I’m not exactly sure what happened to a number of trees that are found below & to the side of Raven Crag summit which on first inspection look like they show the scars of fire but are more than likely the results of yet another bad storm that seems to devastate the open fell side more often than any other summit as I can think of.

After saying goodbye to the two women we pick our way back up to the summit & head across the summit shoulder (Shaun giving the boggy section an extra wide berth) before taking on the path down to Thirlmere Dam.

It was here we passed more & more walkers all heading for the summit as more pleasantries are passed. During our descent we pause to look back at the impressive outcrop of crags that makes the summit of Raven Crag so imposing, enough to put the hardened rock climber off maybe…

Through the trees sunburst illuminate the forest with paths of light when suddenly we heard a roar of engines before the sight of six Red Arrows all flying in V Formation passed over our heads, within seconds they were gone, the memory of which however, stayed much longer.

Shaun’s only words as we witnessed a supersonic streak of red white & blue was… can you imagine what the sight must have been like from the summit as they flew above Thirlmere.

It felt like a sucker punch as we had only left the summit not five minutes earlier.

We press on towards the Dam road.

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The vertical east face of Raven Crag from Thirlmere Dam, Autumn seems just around the corner.

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Raven Crag seen from the Draw Off Tower & the Manchester Corporation monument.

Shaun hadn’t crossed the Dam before so alot of time was spent exploring the structure noting the steep walls of the Dam as they disappear below the waterline on one side & vertically into the wooded area seen in the right of the photo which host the Valve Houses.

Before we had managed to cross the Dam we had the chance to witness a Vintage Triumph Car Rally which crossed Dam road one by one, it was great to see old classics like the TR5’s, TR6’s & TR7’s all of which were in concourse condition with the exception of a few valve stem oil seals that needed replacing going off the amount of blue fumes that trailed behind.

On a whole within the last half hour we had just witnessed British Engineering at its best which was just another great highlight of the day.

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I’m not sure if that’s legal in a reservoir…

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Raven Crag & a rather low Thirlmere water line.

In this photo of Raven Crag you can see the waterline against the Dam wall & just how far it has dropped during 2013/14

I’m sure the winter rains will help to top up not just Thirlmere but alot of the other lakes which are all looking incredibly low this time of year.

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Crossing the A591 close to Bridge End Farm.

Shortly after leaving the Reservoir road behind we soon caught up with the A591 once again where we crossed the road & made for a large wooden sty situated just over a youthful St Johns Beck.

After hopping over the Sty it was time to take on High Rigg via a winding path which is largely covered by trees. It is almost midday & the sun is starting to get very hot leading us to believe that we are walking through a summer heat wave & not at the start of September, pretty unseasonable but all together perfect for the time of year.

Incidentally, that’s Raise, White Side, Helvellyn Lower Man & Helvellyn you can see in the left of the photo with Sticks Pass in the foreground.

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High Rigg & the High Rigg ridge.

Once the height was gained we crest the ridge shoulder we soon had the summit ridge before us. High Rigg can be a little deceivable in appearance as end to end the whole ridge measures almost two miles in length.

Best get cracking then.

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Here, looking back over Bridge End, Great How, Thirlmere & Raven Crag from the Wren Crag/High Rigg.

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Bram Crag (Clough Head)  St Johns-in-the-Vale & Blencathra as we take in Long Band/High Rigg.

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Passing by this un-named idyllic tarn, not to far from the summit now.

At almost half way across the ridge we passed the small un-named tarn, in winter a sure place to avoid owing to just how wet & boggy this area can get, today however, we didn’t have that problem.

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Shaun admires the Skiddaw fells from High Rigg summit cairn.

The summit crossing isn’t without its crest that are un-avoidable & not really too tiring even after a long walk such as ours. By the time we reached the summit we joined a large group of walkers who were sat down admiring the views. Shaun & I had already spoke about our next stop which was going to be close to Tewit Tarn a little under a mile ahead.

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Distant views over Latrigg, Skiddaw & Lonscale Fell as we make our descent.

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Blencathra taken during our steep descent from High Rigg.

We took in the descent overlooking St Johns-in-the-Vale Church while superb views over Blencathra took the mind of the steep path.

After leaving our descent behind we momentarily passed the old Church where Shaun reminded me of how one Christmas Day he spent midnight mass there, I guess for us ordinary folk that would have been a spectacular event, but for a Priest such as Shaun it must have felt like all you love about life, was just under one roof.

We press on over the stone stile to take on Low Rigg.

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St Johns-in-the-Vale Church.

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Latrigg, Skiddaw & Lonscale Fell.

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Blencathra from Tewit Tarn.

Tewit Tarn was soon reached where an outcrop of rocks seemed to have our names on them, it was here we sat down if only to take in the views over Blencathra in almost silence.

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Lonscale Fell, Skiddaw & Latrigg from Tewit Tarn.

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Following the footpath towards Goosewell Farm.

Our walk was almost coming to an end after leaving Tewit Tarn before taking on the quiet lanes & crossing Naddle Bridge. It was shortly afterwards did we take a left through a wooden gate through the open fields towards Goosewell Farm, it seemed the word spectacular had one last treat in store for us as we again heard the roar from not jet, but propelled aircraft engines.

From the north flew two WW2 Avro Lancaster Bombers each boasting four Rolls Royce engines producing 1,750 horse power each. In vain I reached for my camera but such was the angle from the sun all I managed was distant silhouettes as the Bombers glided effortlessly towards Thirlmere, another treat for anyone on its satellite fells.

It’s difficult to conclude just how well todays walk went from the dew covered grass, the clear clarity of the skies or the British Engineering that shone through on what would have already been a great walk taking in all that Lakeland has to offer.

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Casting shadows with views towards Blencathra from Castlerigg Stone Circle.

You can catch The Summiteer versions of account’s from same day including the Bombers as we only missed each other that morning by a whisker, you can follow Richard’s post here…