Friday, March 14, 2014

A Helvellyn round from Glenridding

Date : 14th March 2014
Route : From Glenridding to Helvellyn via Striding Edge & back via Sticks Pass
Wainwrights : Birkhouse Moor, Helvellyn, White Side, Raise, Sheffield Pike, Glenridding Dodd.
Distance : 10.4 miles (16.7km)
Height Gained : 4009 feet (1222 meters)
Social Hiking Link : click here

The route starting from Glenridding

 The plan today was to climb Helvellyn via the classic striding edge & swirral edge route from Glenridding before the last of the snow disappeared. If the going was good I also intended to tag on Sheffield Pike & Glenridding Dodd at the end. The forecast suggested high winds but the possibility of a clear morning before cloud set in for the rest of the day. I set off at 7am keen to take advantage of the better morning weather and scurried up Birkhouse Moor from the Glenridding side. 

The path up to Birkhouse Moor

Views over to Sheffield Pike and Glenridding Dodd

Looking back to Ullswater & Glenridding

St Sunday Crag comes into view

 The going was easy along a good path which soon emerged onto the broad summit plateau of Birkhouse Moor. Helvellyn was encouragingly free of cloud but Fairfield, just 2 miles to the south west, was shrouded in mist and a strong wind was blowing from that direction. I pressed on past the 'Hole in the Wall' towards the start of striding edge.

Birkhouse Moor summit looking west towards Helvellyn

Birkhouse Moor summit video

St Sunday Crag (left) and Fairfield under cloud

The route ahead; Helvellyn centre

The 'Hole in the Wall'

Helvellyn in its winter coat

 Video - view from Bleaberry Crags

 For those who have never ventured to Helvellyn, striding edge is a classic rocky arete radiating southwards from Helvellyn, which along with a parallel arete 1/2 km to the north, encloses an impressive glacial corrie into which sits Red Tarn. It is a classic lakeland scene with breathtaking views in all directions and a knack of making you feel tiny and insignificant next to seemingly huge exposed ridges and the bulky mass of Helvellyn itself. 

The Red Tarn Corrie looking over to Swirral Edge & Catstye Cam

Striding Edge leading to Helvellyn

 Striding edge looks imposing but is actually a fairly simple simple stroll for most of the way with some 'easy-ish' down-scrambling towards the end. Today it was mostly free of snow except for some sheets clinging to north slope which were easily avoided. Shortly after starting on the ridge wisps of low cloud appeared and then gradually thickened, eventually obscuring Helvellyn.

The start of Striding Edge as the mist rolled in

Striding Edge

 It was best to walk on the very top of the ridge today. There is a less exposed path lower on the right but it was impeded by snow.

An icy Red Tarn with Catstye Cam beyond

Dollywagon Pike

Half way along and the cloud momentarily lifts from Helvellyn. A tiny hiker visible at the far end of the ridge

Looking back along Striding Edge

Looking back after down-climbing the last obstacle of Striding Edge

The scramble up onto the summit

 After crossing striding edge a steepish scramble is required before emerging onto the broad summit plateau of Helvellyn. The usual route is on the right side of the main ridge but the presence of snow forced the route up the steeper left side.  

Looking back along the route taken
 As I got to the summit shelter the last glimpses of surrounding fells faded away and a thick mist filled the red tarn corrie. 

Helvellyn summit shelter

Helvellyn summit trig as the cloud descended

Dangerous looking cornices near the summit trig

 Visibility steadily decreased. Large & dangerous looking cornices clung to the steep eastern edge extending up to 5 meters back. I wandered up and down the edge of the stable snow line looking for the exit route onto swirral edge but the mist was lapping up over the edge and visibility was very poor. There were no obvious foot prints showing the way and I decided that it was too dangerous to wander any closer to the edge. 

A brief gap in the cloud shows the cornice fracture line 5 meters from the edge

 Having convinced myself that discretion is the greatest part of valour I quickly adopted a 'plan B' and headed along the main path towards Sticks Pass via White Side and Raise. This would mean Sheffield Pike and Glenridding Dodd were still accessible but Catstye Cam would have to wait for another day. Mind made up, I headed along the main path north towards Helvellyn Lower Man, keeping well back from the snow line !

White Side summit

Raise summit

 Visibility was still poor on reaching Sticks Pass and I set off down the old quarry path expecting to soon pass through the cloud base. At the point where a rough track (not on the OS map) leaves the main path to head up to Sheffield Pike it was clear that there would be no summit view today. I trudged through peat hags to emerge onto the rocky summit where a  fierce south westerly made the simple act of standing still to take a photo surprisingly difficult.

Sheffield Pike summit - imagination required for the views to Ullswater

 I headed off on a meandering path through more heavy peat hags (I suspect this would be a fell better suited to a summer ascent) towards the rocky crags of Heron Pike where I finally broke under the cloud base. The lovely views down to Ullswater and Glenridding Dodd breathed some much needed life into the weary legs for this steep descent.

The view from Heron Pike

Glenridding Dodd amd Ullswater from just below the cloud level

Glenridding Dodd

 It was then a simple climb up onto Glenridding Dodd summit where the views down to Ullswater and Glenridding itself were a welcome relief from the previous 3 hours of clag. A great spot to enjoy the last of the coffee and a snack. 

Glenridding Dodd summit

Glenridding Dodd panorama east

Glenridding Dodd panorama west back towards Heron Pike

Ullswater from Glenridding Dodd

Glenridding village

 There being no paths on the OS map from Glenridding summit I headed down towards the direction of Ullswater along a path of sorts which then quickly faded away. It was too steep and craggy to continue this way so I veered off left down a steep verge of trees at the bottom of which is an old dry stone wall which I followed down eventually finding a track which lead to the road.

 And so that somewhat unplanned route added 3, rather than the intended 4 new Wainwright's to the count which now stands at 121.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Gowbarrow Fell & the Mells

Date: 17th January 2014
Wainwright's: Gowbarrow Fell (1579ft), Great Mell Fell (1762ft), Little Mell Fell (1657ft).
Route: Clockwise from Ullswater
Distance: 13.5 miles (21.7km)
Height Gained: 3821 feet (1165)
Time Taken: 8 hours 50 mins
Social Hiking Link: click here

The Route: Anticlockwise from Ullswater

 I had planned a high walk today from Patterdale to St Sundays Crag and then along to Helvellyn, but alas the weather didn't comply. Spending the day in rain, clag & zero visibility didn't appeal so I decided that plan B was in order. I really want to get the eastern fells ticked off and the only remaining areas left unclimbed are the fells around Red Screes and then Gowbarrow Fell & the 2 Mells. I thought these latter 3 fells at least stood a chance of remaining below the cloud so I cobbled a vaguely circular route together and set off in the early hours of Friday morning. The obvious and most popular way to climb them is from Dockray or Matterdale End but I really want to climb all the Wainwrights from 'Lakes Level' and these starting points, being already at an altitude of over 900 feet would have meant climbing less than half the height of each fell. That just didn't seem right & proper and so I parked by Ullswater just to the south of Gowbarrow Fell to tackle them the long way round. My chosen path started along the popular waterfalls walk taking in the impressive Aria Force and High Force before I ventured off steeply right onto Gowbarrow Park.

A misty Ullswater

Aria Force

High Force

                      Video of Aria Force & High Force

Ullswater from Gowbarrow Fell just before passing through the cloud level

 Gowbarrow Park is mainly a high plateau of grassy tussocks which, with all the recent rain, made for squelchy progress. A few craggy mounds rise above the plateau, the highest of which is Gowbarrow Fell summit which is easily identified by its trig point.

Gowbarrow Fell summit

 Unfortunately the summit was just above the cloud level so views were very limited. I therefore headed northwards and dropped down to the road by Greenbank. The next target was Great Mell Fell and there being little other choice route wise, I trod the quiet roads towards this rounded fell which Wainwright describes as being like an "inverted pudding basin".

Great Mell Fell (left) & Little Mell Fell (right)

A typical lakeland cottage en route to Great Mell Fell

 A muddy path seems to wind its way around the lower perimeter of Great Mell Fell but with no obvious tangent routes up the summit (either on the map or the fell). I therefore took a pathless route sharply upwards through the forested lower flanks towards the higher ground. Signs suggested that this is red squirrel territory but they must have been hiding today. Eventually the trees dissipate and the summit is visible as a grassy plateau with a small cairn to mark the highest point.

Nearing the top of Great Mell Fell

A Haunting scene on Great Mell Fell

Great Mell Fell summit

 Low cloud still obscured the view but every now and then a gap would appear giving brief glimpses towards Great Dodd, Clough Head and the lower slopes of Blencathra. This seemed like a good spot for lunch but despite the 30 minute break, views remained limited so I headed back down eastwards eventually joining the same muddy perimeter path. No squirrels seen but I managed to surprise 3 deer which bolted off at an impressive pace.

? Gaiters next time

Colourful Fungi

Gowbarrow Fell now free from cloud

Little Mell Fell

looking back to Great Mell Fell

 The route ahead went through Brownrigg farm, across very boggy fields & a small beck before zigzagging its way onto Little Mell Fell whose grassy summit is adorned with a trig point. By this time the cloud had lifted and I enjoyed clear views towards Gowbarrow Fell, Great Mell Fell and glimpses of Ullswater.

Little Mell Fell summit trig

        Little Mell Fell summit panorama video

Glimpses of Ullswater from Little Mell Fell

An unusual & un-named cairn overlooking Hag Wood

Not likely to need these today

Hallin Fell over Ullswater

Memorial Seat overlooking Ullswater

The impressive panorama of Ullswater from Memorial Seat

Panorama video over Ullswater from Memorial Seat

The view south towards Patterdale from Memorial Seat

Place Fell

 At this point the rain, which had been intermittently drizzly so far, became more heavy and persistent. I battened down the hatches and descended south before crossing the road onto a path which eventually joined the forest track through Swinburn's Park. Beyond these densely forested conifers the track emerges onto a craggy path which looks down steeply onto Ullswater and the high fells beyond. The views here were magnificent and at one point in particular, a spot called Memorial Seat, nearly the whole length of Ullswater is in view. From this point I had intended to descend the steep path to Yew Crag but the rain was getting heavier and the path looked in poor condition so I opted for the more cautious route which continued westwards on a gradual descent back down to Ullswater. By the time I got back to car it was nearly dark. This walk had taken far longer than expected. Another 30 mins and I would have been delving the lower crevices of the rucksack for the head torch.

 So that 118 Wainwrights completed and just 11 eastern fells left which are next on the radar. These being; Arnison Crag, Birks, Catstye Cam, Birkhouse Moor, Sheffield Pike & Glenridding Dodd (one long walk or a 2 day wild camp); High Hartsop Dodd, Little Hart Crag, Middle Dodd & Red Screes (a day walk from Ambleside or Hartsop); and Steel Knotts which is the awkward outlier.