Cinderdale to Rannerdale

Footpath in Gasgale Gill by Andy Wallace Andy FellwalkerIt was a much cooler morning than it had been recently, the sun was struggling to break through the clouds but failing. It was still hazy when I parked at Cinderdale Common and it was cool enough to wear my winter jacket as I walked along the road to Lanthwaite Green. I think the path that I wanted, on the right hand side of Gasgale Gill, starts as a branch off the direct route up the western ridge of Grasmoor, but I decided to explore the gill a little bit first. There is a vague path on the right hand side of the beck but the bank gets very narrow in places where there are rock outcrops. After stepping over one rock onto a small grassy bank, my foot slipped and my left leg went into the water up to my knee so I decided to find the proper path.

Ascent of Grasmoor from Gasgale Gill by Andy Wallace Andy FellwalkerI had to retrace my steps a little to get back to a place where I could cross the beck; I then had to find a place higher upstream where I could cross back again, having got past the rocks on the other side. I crossed the beck where a rock outcrop on the left hand bank comes down to the water and there boulders to step across. There is a way over the outcrop to join the usual path by the left hand side of Gasgale Gill to Coledale Hause but there was no short cut for me here. Having crossed back to the right hand side of the beck, I had to make a steep climb up the bilberry covered slopes, hoping to find evidence of a walker-sized footpath on the forty degree slope.

View of Gasgale Gill from the ascent of Grasmoor by Andy Wallace Andy FellwalkerI found a faint path that could easily have been a sheep trod but I was sure I could see a pale line across the scree higher up. I kept going upwards and I was surprised to find a much better path than I had expected; it was wide enough to walk on and probably still used on a regular basis. The path was quite a way above the beck, but the steepness of the slopes meant I could still see it, and the obvious routes on the other side of it. I was pleased that the path was also gaining height given the steepness of the slope I would have to eventually climb. After crossing a couple of scree runs I was deep into Gasgale Gill; all around the dull brown colour of heather-covered slopes was only occasionally broken by grey scree and bright green patches of new bilberry growth.

View from Eel Crag by Andy Wallace Andy FellwalkerI felt as though I had been walking for a while and I didn't want to just get to Coledale Hause by this route; I was looking for a way to climb Grasmoor by the ridge at the side of Dove Crags but not really sure if it would be obvious. Shortly after passing a small stone bield I arrived at a likely looking place; the gradient uphill looked not as steep and there seemed to be a natural way upwards. There was a line of loose stones and bilberry up a shallow gully where the heather didn't grow; I couldn't tell if this was a trodden path or simply a winter rain channel.

I headed up the steep slopes towards the skyline; it was not as steep as I had feared and the stony, bilberry route through the heather wasn't difficult to walk on. I carried on upwards towards a rocky outcrop on the horizon; as I got closer I could what looked like trodden routes either side of the rocks. I was feeling a bit more confident about my progress and decided to walk up to the rocks to see if I could scramble over them. As I reached a crag I could see there was a ten feet high rock face with a mossy channel that I could probably have scrambled up if necessary. I decided to bypass the rocks, following what looked like an eroded path; it is unlikely however that the two feet wide gap through the heather has been visited by many walkers.

Looking back to Eel Crag by Andy Wallace Andy FellwalkerIt was obvious to me by now that I had not found the ascent route I was looking for; there had been a bilberry route through the heather up to a ridge on the left but I decided to carry on upwards, I was intrigued to see where I would end up. It was rugged, with slabs and boulders rising steeply up to the horizon; there always seemed to be a grassy route or a simple step upwards, I didn't feel exposed but I knew it would not be a good idea to fall over. Finally the steepness eased as I reached the edge of the Grasmoor summit plateau; it was difficult to walk across the ocean of loose stones as they gave way and moved under my feet.

I eventually saw a couple of cairns on high points either side of me; I walked over to the larger of them and realised I was at the summit of Grasmoor, it was not where I had expected to be. The strong breeze was cold enough to have to put gloves on and the haziness had increased enough for me to suspect it might rain soon. At least I knew where I was and it was a straightforward walk over to Eel Crag; the reconstructed paths down to the col and upwards again are much better for walking on than they used to be and far less likely to become more eroded.

Wandope and Addacombe Beck by Andy Wallace Andy FellwalkerThe view from Eel Crag's summit is extensive but it was very hazy; from the triangulation point at the summit I walked in the direction of Causey Pike, passing a shelter cairn before finding an eroded path. The path to Sail is rugged and interesting, taking you across an airy ridge called The Scar; there is rock to be handled in places but the ridge is too wide to feel exposed. As I was descending I felt rain in the air, I thought it had gone beyond hazy; as it happened the haziness dissipated a little after that. There is a good view of Force Crag from the ridge and also a good view of the route I had planned for later, I saw that there was a better path than I had expected.

After climbing up to the summit of Sail, the cairn is a short way off the path but is obvious from that direction; then you make the long descent to Sail Pass. The path down to the pass is one of the widest and straightest I have come across and you can see from the pass several broad paths on their way up to towards Scar Crags and Causey Pike. From Sail Pass, I started the descent towards Buttermere, it's an obvious path; the generally good path, through heather, is eroded and a little awkward in places. I kept losing height until I reached Addacombe Beck; Wandope looks a big hill from this direction.

Addacombe Hole seen from the ascent of Wandope by Andy Wallace Andy FellwalkerI swapped my winter jacket for a pertec windshirt, it had become quite warm; I started to walk up by the side of Addacombe Beck but it didn't look like there was a way out of it higher upstream. I decided to make the steep climb up to the ridge straight away rather than risk having to climb up wet rock higher up the beck. There was not much evidence of a path and the grassy ridge is as steep as any that I have climbed; if the bracken was fully grown it would be an even more exhausting climb. Eventually, the broad ridge narrowed; it was still mainly grass with a couple of rock steps to clamber up, still steep but nowhere near as bad.

View of Wandope from Whiteless Pike by Andy Wallace Andy FellwalkerIt turned into a fine, airy ridge; there was very little exposure, and the steepness isn't as difficult when you know there is a long drop down on either side. The final section of the climb is on a less obvious path as the ridge broadens out to blend back into the rest of the hill; it's harder again on the steep grass but is does lead directly to the summit cairn. I had finally climbed Wandope, rather than just saunter over to it; I had to change back into my jacket, after getting warm on the climb the breeze was uncomfortably cool.

I sauntered over to the cairn on Third Gill Head Man; I carried on past it and soon found an eroded path down to the airy ridge, across Saddle Gate before climbing to the summit of Whiteless Pike. I carried on walking and descended the eroded, partly reconstructed steep path down to Whiteless Breast; it got warm again out of the breeze so I walked for the rest of the day with just my teeshirt on. At the bottom of the descent from Whiteless Pike I turned right to get onto Rannerdale Knotts; it was just a stroll at first, and then it was an easy, undulating ridge.

View of Crummock Water from the ridge of Rannerdale Knotts by Andy Wallace Andy FellwalkerThere is a path that avoids the rocky crest but I quite like clambering over the boulders on the ridge. I wonder how many people realise there are so many cairns on Rannerdale Knotts, and in fact I wonder how many realise what an impressively rugged little hill it is. After reaching the summit cairn, almost at the far northern end of the ridge, I made the steep descent to the car park at the foot of Rannerdale Knotts. I walked along the path to Rannerdale, the bluebells were just about starting to flower; I followed the path as far as the bridge where I crossed over and followed the good path back to Cinderdale.

Andy Wallace 21st April 2007

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