Grasmoor to Grisedale
I had planned a walk that required some reasonable visibility but it was cloudy at ground level and misty on the tops so I was considering an alternative route. As I drove through Keswick it started raining heavily so I decided to go somewhere I knew well but I hadn't visited this year. Near the top end of Crummock Water is a parking area by the phone box at Lanthwaite Green and just across the road you can see Grasmoor rising steeply and impressively straight ahead. It had stopped raining and it looked as though the mist might clear from the tops by the time I got there.
There is a green path leading to the light coloured scree that shows you the start of the real climb but when looking at the hill you don't realise that the green path is quite steep. You shouldn't underestimate these green paths, I have climbed and walked many rough and steep places and stayed on my feet but I have frequently fallen on easy grass slopes and today was another one of those occasions. It was a relief to reach the scree so that I had something awkward and familiar to climb.
If you like walking up scree at an angle of forty degrees then there is plenty of that here, I would prefer to keep my eyes open and walk up the path through the heather. The path is obvious and although the steep eroded slope can be slippery and awkward at times it has to be better than struggling up the scree. The path crosses scree at least three times, it is worth spending a minute or two finding the path again because there is only discomfort to be found elsewhere on this steep slope.
It is a strenuous climb, the steepness and erosion make it a slippery process at times, I try to manage without grabbing hold of the heather but sometimes it's all there is. Finally the path turns left to follow the contours but it is only a brief respite before long you are going up again, slightly steeper still and slightly more eroded and slippery. After a final struggle over loose stones and the odd boulder the path becomes greener although just as steep, you turn half right and you can see the rock gateway above you. It is actually more of a rocky hallway than a gateway but steep anyway; when you reach the top you get to a wide ledge and the start of the really interesting part of this route.
The steepness of this route is unrelenting, all the way to the summit you can see the car park showing just how quickly the ground falls away very. So to say that the scramble up the rocks is easy only tells half the story, you still have to keep hold even though there is nothing technically difficult, you are never far away from a long way down. The first rocks are quite dry with plenty of hand and foot holds, the rock is also very attractive with copper hues complemented by colourful lichen. At the top of the first scramble you get to a point where you can see a rock pinnacle ahead and a definite path goes around to the left but I know I should be able to scramble up from here.
The initial rock step is very greasy, too slippery for me to get up the four feet of dull, dark grey rock; I had to find a way round to the right over wet heather and through a drier gap in the rocks. I managed to get part way up but I got to a rock step that I recognised, on a dry day I could climb this but the rock is just too slippery today. Once again I had to make an awkward and inelegant traverse to the gully that runs by the side of the ridge, the gully itself isn't easy but you can't fall off it if you lose a foot hold.
At the top of the gully is another ledge and another easy scramble on drier copper-hued rock to reach another ridge, there is a path running alongside but the rock is dry enough and good enough to keep to the crest. Sadly this ridge comes to an end but the climb still has a way to go, a path bears left but a more direct but less well defined path takes you up over a rough mix of rock and vegetation and eventually to the cairn at Grasmoor End. If this was your first time you be disappointed to see how much further you had to go to the summit of Grasmoor after having worked so hard already.
Another path comes up to the cairn from a seemingly impossible direction, I walked a little way down it along a small ridge in the direction of Rannerdale until the ground fell away dramatically, a route to be investigated in the future. Back at to the cairn you have quite a long slog over grass up towards the summit and even then there is a false summit to get past before you reach the cairn, a four-berth summit shelter that is hardly ever occupied. The mist is hovering a short way above the summit and drifting past in the valleys but Grasmoor is as free of mist as I have seen it.
There is only one obvious path on the broad plateau of Grasmoor, not surprisingly it is the easiest and least interesting way off but it suits me to go that way today. From the path you can see Crummock Water below if you remember to look, there was a reasonable breeze on this exposed path which made it feel quite cold. You walk past the top of the tortuous looking Lad Hows ascent, which is another route I will have to investigate some time, the route over Whiteless Pike looks much more friendly.
The path gets even wider as you descend to the depression between Grasmoor and Eel Crag although it is broad enough to be called a hause if the place had a name. It has turned into quite a sunny day and it is warm out of the breeze, the path up to Eel Crag is a lot more obvious these days, although it is usually misty here so it might have always been like that. At the junction with the Coledale Hause to Buttermere path I followed a faint path, I would have made a bee line without the path, across the gentle ascent over lush grass to the summit of Wandope. From this direction Wandope is an unassuming and unremarkable hill but another couple of interesting routes from Sail Beck have to be investigated one day.
As you walk around the edge of Addacombe Hole towards Eel Crag, keeping as close to the edge as possible, looking back to Wandope you can see it deserves much more attention than it gets. The path carries on past Addacombe Hole and rather than find out where it leads I just head uphill over grass, easy on a day like today when you don't need to navigate, until you reach the triangulation column on the broad summit of Eel Crag. For once there is a view so all I have to do is look northwards towards Hopegill Head and follow the cairns towards Coledale Hause.
As you start to descend a stony path goes off to the left, in the past I have carried on along the ridge to a cairn and down the nose of Eel Crag for an interesting if slightly awkward descent. On this occasion I decided to follow the path and it was pretty much as I remembered it, loose eroded scree descending to Gasgale Gill just as it turns left to avoid Coledale Hause, I still think I prefer the other route. From Coledale Hause, instead of going straight up over Sand Hill (a misnomer if ever there was one) I took the good path on the right heading towards Grisedale Pike.
The easy path goes above the holes in the ground associated with Force Crag Mine and then less easily and more steeply to a unnamed subsidiary summit before following the rocky path and occasional ruined wall to the summit of Grisedale Pike. The view is extensive if hazy in all directions; there is some weather coming in from Crummock Water, hopefully just a shower and hopefully missing the ridge I have to walk on back to Lanthwaite Green. I retraced my steps over the subsidiary summit and then took the path towards Hopegill Head. This is another walk close to the edge of another craggy corrie, Hobcarton Crags naming the walls of the corrie whereas Addacome Hole apparently names the basin.
The small summit crown of rocks at the summit of Hopegill Head has standing room only if more than six people are there at the same time. There are obvious paths in several directions, the most inviting one is that heading towards Whiteside, unfortunately that shower is coming in the opposite direction. I usually like to keep to the crest of the rocky ridge descending from Hopegill Head and the lovely rocky ridge of Whiteside Edge but when the rocks are wet I find it less enjoyable.
The shower hit me just before I got to the col and stayed with me until I got to the summit cairn of Whiteside. I could tell it was a shower because the valleys and adjacent hills were still in the sun. The descent from Whiteside is in my opinion the most strenuous in the Lake District, it is a long steep descent over loose scree and eroded rocks until you get to the nice level path through the heather taking you to the pleasant green summit of Whin Ben. It's a lovely little summit with a super view of Crummock Water and Mellbreak but the descent is horrible.
A steep eroded path through the heather with many exposed rocks and boulders is hard work and it seems to go on for ever. There are bags of boulders on the path, looks like the path fairy is about to try and fix this particular fell, I just hope they make a better job than some of the more recent reconstructed footpaths. Footpaths up a hill should be more like a stairway with level stones big enough to take a walking boot and with gaps for the water to run away. If a footpath is sloped, the stones are too small or they get too wet the path becomes awkward or dangerous to descend. Walkers will make another path parallel to the new one if it isn't safe to walk on, causing more erosion than ever and clearly defeating the object.
The final horrible shortcut to the footbridge over Liza Beck has thankfully been closed off, the National Trust are trying to regenerate the vegetation; the nice green path through the bracken is much nicer if a bit further. Once across the bridge it is a short walk over grass back to the car, Grasmoor is now out of the mist and it looks as impossible as ever to climb it from this direction.
Andy Wallace 27th August 2005
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