Friday, March 28, 2014

High Raise et al from Grasmere

Date : 27th March 2013
Route : From Grasmere to High Raise; anticlockwise via Steel Fell & back over Tarn Crag
Wainwright's : Steel Fell, Calf Crag, High Raise (2500 feet), Sergeant Man, Tarn Crag
Distance : 12.7 miles (20.4 km)
Height Gained : 3658 feet (1115 m)
Time Taken : 7 1/2 hours
Social Hiking Map : click here

I have also done a very basic video of the summit views, more for my own amusement then anything else but the link is here if anyone wants a look

The route; Anticlockwise from Grasmere

 I am very familiar with this region of the central fells and have climbed most of them many times before but somehow Steel Fell and Tarn Crag have managed to escape my wanderings. I have often looked curiously over at them but never set foot on their summits, so this route intended to make amends. According to Wainwright the best way up (and down) Steel Fell is via the eastern ridge from Dunmail Raise and so, having parked in Grasmere, I set off at 7am along the road past Helm Crag towards the foot of Steel Fell.

A snow covered Seat Sandal  from Helm Close

Helm Crag's eastern side

Looking up the Greenburn valley

 The path up to Steel Fell is mostly grassy and easy going except for a small craggy outcrop near the top. At this point, a light sleet shower temporarily obscured the views over to Helvellyn but thankfully it soon blew over and views were clear and unobscured for the rest of the day.

The grassy route up to Steel Fell 

A panorama of the Helm Crag to Gibson Knott ridge

Looking across Dunmail Raise to the Helvellyn Fells

Looking back

Steel Fell summit view towards Thirlmere

Looking over to the Fairfield horseshoe. Sun shining down towards Stone Arthur. 

Steel Fell view eastwards

Steel Fell view of Blencathra, over Thirlmere

Nethermost & Dollywagon Pikes from Steel Fell summit

 The route along the ridge to Calf Crag is mainly an exercise in avoiding wet feet. The terrain is wet moss, peat hags and a few small tarns.

The marshy 'path' to Calf Crag (left foreground). Ullscarf over the valley ahead

The Greenburn valley

From Calf Crag; Steel Fell, Seat Sandal and Fairfield

 Calf Crag is the highest part of a long ridge from Helm Crag up to Calf Crag itself. It stands opposite Tarn Crag occupying opposing sides at the head of the Far Easedale valley.

Calf Crag summit view back to Steel Fell

Calf Crag summit looking over the valley to Tarn Crag

High Raise from Calf Crag

The Far Easedale valley from its head. Helm Crag centre.

 From Calf Crag I joined the 'coast to coast path' which comes up from the Easedale valley, traverses the head of the Whythburn valley and emerges onto Greenup Edge. My route then turned southwards to follow this broad ridge in a gradual ascent towards High Raise. At this point the smattering of snow became more widespread with occasional drifts up to shin deep. The main path was covered and the snow must have been recent as there were no footprints to follow. There was a hard crust which sometimes collapsed under foot and sometimes did not. It made for tiring but invigorating upwards progress.

Ullscarf at the head of the Whythburn valley

Looking back over Calf Crag and the ridge to Helm Crag

On Greenup Edge looking over to Dale Head & High Spy

The 'path' upwards to High Raise

Looking back northwards to Ullscarf

Low White Stones summit looking towards High Raise

Panorama west from Low White Stones

 The High Raise summit shelter made for a convenient lunch spot with views over towards Bow Fell and the Scafells providing ample distraction from the biting easterly wind.

High Raise summit panorama east

High Raise summit panorama west

High Raise view towards the Scafells

High Raise summit shelter view over the Langdale Pikes towards the Coniston Fells

Bow Fell and the Scafells from High Raise

High Raise view over Eagle Crag towards Bassenthwaite Lake in the far distance

 From the summit of High Raise it is a simple 1/2 mile stroll to Sergeant man which is nothing more than an abrupt rocky terminus before the land falls sharply down towards Stickle tarn. 

A Frozen tarn on the High Raise summit plateau looking towards Bow Fell

Sergeant Man with Windermere beyond

Looking over to Pavey Ark from Sergeant Man. Glimpses of Stickle Tarn.

Sergeant Man summit panorama west

Sergeant Man summit panorama east

Looking back to Sergeant Man from the downwards path

 From here on the terrain was unfamiliar to me and largely pathless on the OS map. I headed off eastwards in the direction of Tarn Crag and soon emerged at the top of a steep crag looking down onto Codale Tarn. Having never visited the tarn, or Belles Knot which overlooks its southern flank, I scrambled down for a closer look. Wainright describes Belles Knot as 'the Matterhorn of the Lake District' due to the sharp and pointy profile it presents to walkers on the path above Easedale Tarn. It must be said that it is not nearly so impressive from the other side but was worth a visit not least for the views down to to Easedale Tarn and beyond.

Looking down to Codale Tarn and Belles Knot (the pimple centre right)

Tarn Crag & Codale Tarn

Belles Knot

For comparison; Belles Knot from the other side taken March 2010 - much more 'Matterhorn like'

Belles Knot view down to Easedale Tarn

Looking back over Codale Tarn to the Crag I descended 

 Having previously thought that my upwards labouring was done & dusted for the day, this deviation to Codale Tarn and Belles Knot required a bit more 'up climbing' in order to get onto Tarn Crag. Once on the summit plateau it is not immediately clear which of the many rocky bumps is the actual summit. After visiting the main summit candidates I headed eastwards along a track which followed the main ridge downwards to eventually join Far Easedale Gill and the 'coast to coast' route back to Grasmere.    

Easedale Tarn from Tarn Crag

Tarn Crag summit view towards Grasmere

Looking back up to Tarn Crag from the descent track

Easedale Tarn with Blea Rigg beyond

Back down to Far Easedale Gill

Looking back towards Tarn Crag from the Easedale Road
 So despite the long route today only 2 new Wainwright's were added to the tally which now stands at 125. Not sure where I'm heading next but weather permitting its likely to be a wild camp somewhere in either the western or northern fells.  

I have also done a very basic video of the summit views, more for my own amusement then anything else but the link is here if anyone wants a look

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.