Monday, April 6, 2015

A Langdale Pikes Easter Bimble

Here are a few pictures from a day hike up the Langdale Pikes over the Easter weekend. I took the boy with me. It was to be his 4th and 5th Wainwright fells and a good deal more height than his previous forays. We set off into thick cloud but with hope that the forecast would be right and we would emerge above the cloud base into clear blue skies. Thankfully, they were spot on. 

The route is the classic tourist path from New Dungeon Ghyll up to Stickle Tarn and then up onto Pavey Ark and Harrison Stickle. 

Click here for the Social Hiking Map

Ascending into the cloud

Glimpses of blue sky

The boy 'Scrambling'

Getting up above the cloud: Views over to Lingmoor Fell & Wetherlam

Low cloud clearing but still evident over Windermere and beyond

Pavey Ark in warm sunshine

Harrison Stickle

Pavey Ark over Stickle Tarn

Jacks Rake climbing diagonally left on Pavey Ark

Stickle Tarn

Lots of folk climbing up Pavey Ark today. Note the snow at the top of the gully ...

... which the boy had great fun jumping into ...

... and then trying unsuccessfully to build a snowman

Views from Pavey Ark over to Fairfield

A busy Harrison Stickle summit

The triumphant duo

Views over to High Raise

Views down the Great Langdale valley towards Windermere

Views over towards Blea Tarn

A majestic panorama

Cooling off at the bottom of Dungeon Ghyll

Back at the Car Park surveying a good days work

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Helm Crag (the Lion and the Lamb) - A Walkers Guide

Start/Finish : Grasmere Village
Wainwrights : Helm Crag (1329 feet / 405 meters)
Distance : 3 miles
Time : 2-3 hours

The Route

I wrote this guide for a friend but thought it worth publishing on the blog as others may find it useful. This is the classic day hike up and down Helm Crag which, for good reason, is trodden by many thousands of people every year. It is particularly suited to those making their first foray into fell walking as it has all the virtues of a perfect Lakeland hike, but in miniature. Wainwright described it as "a brief essay in real mountaineering". 

   3D Fly-Through of the Route + 5 Descent Options

It is an easy climb which offers fantastic views over to neighbouring fells and down to the lake of Grasmere. It also has one of the best summits in all the Lake District with an abundance of interesting rocky scenery. My son managed it easily when aged 4 and I have seen folk in their 90's enjoying this climb. It really is a family fell and a great introduction to hiking. Cumbria Tourism produced an excellent free 'Wainwright Audio Guide' podcast intended to be used while on the walk and I have linked to this here (to download the free 15 minute mp3 file right click on the link and select 'save link as'), or you can listen via the embedded player below. Narrated by Wainwright impersonator Nik Wood-Jones, this is closest you can get to walking in the company of the great man himself. 

The walk starts in Grasmere village where there are numerous public car parks. Helm Crag is clearly visible from the Grasmere area and the 'lion & lamb' summit rock formations can be seen clearly from most vantage points. 

An autumnal Helm Crag over Grasmere
Helm Crag and Gibson Knott from the north - over the Greenburn valley
Helm Crag from the south in mid summer
Zoomed in on the 'Lion and the Lamb' summit profile from Grasmere

Head off up Easedale Road (opposite the famous Sam Read bookshop), walking towards Helm Crag which is visible for most of the way. After about 1/2 mile the road passes through a gate and enters a meadow in the grounds of Lancrigg. Continue along the road until it reaches the start of the footpath between some cottages. Take the right fork up a cobbled path through some woodland and then another right at the T-junction following signs for Helm Crag. After a short distance take the obvious leftwards path up to some wooden fencing and then follow the dry stone wall up a steepish section until the wall end. At this point the path turns leftwards (west) and continues to rise less steeply. Don't forget to glance backwards at Grasmere and over to the far left as Easedale Tarn comes into view. 

Looking down on a frozen Grasmere during a winter ascent ...

... and over to Easedale Tarn in the summer

The path soon climbs up onto a rocky outcrop (Jackdaw Crag) which is a great spot to sit and rest for 10 minutes while admiring lovely views over the Easedale valley. 

Having recharged the batteries, rejoin the path which soon turns eastwards onto more grassy terrain, eventually emerging onto a wide plateau where the view opens up to reveal much higher neighbouring mountains over Dunmail Raise. The large fells which dominate the scene are Seat Sandal, Fairfield & Great Rigg which should whet the appetite as objectives for another day. 

Views over to Seat Sandal and Fairfield

 From here the summit is just a short climb away and once there, a leisurely exploration is well worthwhile. The first set of rocky protuberances are the 'lion & lamb' formations seen from Grasmere. 

The 'Lion and the Lamb' from the other side

From here follow the wide summit plateau along to the other striking rocky feature, the 'Howitzer', at the northern end. So named as it appears as if a giant artillery gun is pointing skywards. The top of the Howitzer represents the true summit but does require some 'rock climbing' to get there. Those of a nervous disposition would be best avoiding this little challenge and be comforted in the knowledge that Alfred Wainwright himself never managed to reach the true top.

The 'Howitzer'

To get to the true summit requires some scrambling

Helm Crag summit plateau panorama looking north ...

... and south

         Fully Labelled Summit View Video

From here most folk will return to Grasmere via the same route and be content with their 2-3 hours effort. However, if you have surplus time and energy then a number of routes are available to extend the walk. An additional 2 hours will take you northwards along the ridge to Gibson Knott and Calf Crag from where you can return to Grasmere via the far Easedale valley. That route is described here

Alternatively, from Calf Crag you could return via the lovely & quiet Greenburn valley, or extend the walk over to Steel Fell (see the video at the top of the page for 3D Fly-Through route guides).

Fit and experienced walkers could go on up to High Raise and then return via Sergeant Man and Easedale Tarn, or via the Blea Rigg to Silver How ridge. There are many options, but while other nearby fells may offer better views and more challenging walking, none have a summit to compete with Helm Crag itself.    


Friday, January 30, 2015

A Winter Hike in the Coniston Fells

Date : 30th January 2015
Start/End : Coniston Village
Wainwrights : Dow Crag, Old Man of Coniston
Distance : 8.8 miles  (14.2km)
Height Gained : 2861 feet  (872 meters)
Time Taken : 6 and 1/2 hours

Map of the route. Click to zoom.

Due to a busy work schedule robbing me of all my free time over the past few months I have been frustratingly lacking fell time .... until now. Thankfully things are quietening down and I had a free Friday and a reasonably favourable forecast with the promise of some fresh snow on the ground. And so I headed off to the Coniston area where I had an appointment with Dow Crag, the only one of the Coniston Fells that I hadn't yet climbed. 

The forecast was for clear skies but a bitterly cold northerly gusting up to 40mph. So it turned out to be, but being on the sheltered side of the fells along the Walna Scar Road for the first few hours gave a bit of early respite. Only the racing clouds overhead gave any clue to the fierce winds yet to come. Sure enough, on gaining the ridge at Brown Pike the full force of the wind became evident, and it was indeed bitingly cold. It was an exhilarating hike though, along the ridge up to Dow Crag, following which I was positively blown up onto the summit of Coniston Old Man. I've never has such an, 'assisted' ascent.

A 5 minute video of the day

Sun rise from the walna scar road

Looking towards Wetherlam ....

... and the Old Man of Coniston under cloud

The onwards path: It's a shame to make foot prints in there - so I didn't !

The Brown Pike to Dow Crag ridge

The Old Man of Coniston

On the ascent of Brown Pike

Buck Pike and Coniston Old Man

Brown Pike summit

Looking along the ridge to Buck Pike

A 'glimpse' of Blind Tarn

Blind Tarn from Buck Pike
Dow Crag

A scary looking gulley

Dow Crag summit view over to the Old Man of Coniston

I got the Kestrel weather gizmo out on the summit of Dow Crag and measured -2 C, wind average 38mph and windchill -12.5 C. Brrrrrr !

Dow Crag summit panorama

Dow Crag summit panorama

My brew spot sheltered from the wind with views of Goats Water

Looking onwards to the 'Old Man' ...

... and back to Dow Crag

Views of the Scafells

Approaching the 'Old Man' summit with views down to Coniston Water

The Old Man of Coniston summit

Views north towards Swirl How

Wetherlam over Small Water
Levers Water creeping into view

The way down
It was great fun wading downhill through lovely deep powder snow. It made for a quick and easy descent.

Small Water

It was fun wading down through this stuff!

Going down the old quarry path

A last look back towards Wetherlam in the setting sunlight.

Kit Thoughts

Cold and windy with some deep powder snow was the order of the day today. I wore the Rab Vapour Rise jacket over a thin base layer and that was enough to keep out the cold - just! I had a down jacket & shell but didn't need them. A windstopper hat and gloves were a godsend. Kit of the day go's to the Mountain Laurel Designs light snow gaiters though. This was the first time ive used them and at 75g per pair I forgot I had them on! Made of single layer Event but with no side zip they are really light and unobtrusive. You have to take your boots off to get them on & off but that is the only down side. They were needed all day today due the deep powder snow, so that wasn't a problem. My old gaiters were 300g a pair and a pain to wear, being hot and sweaty. Not so with these. I was very impressed.