Climbing Nethermost Pike

Looking up the valley Grisedale by Andy Wallace Andy FellwalkerIt was a grey November morning when I arrived at the National Park car park at Glenridding. I was always happy to pay £2.20 to leave the car there while I walked but £5.00 to stay more than 4 hours feels a bit excessive so I found somewhere else to park.

Nethermost Pike is traversed by many on the way between Helvellyn and Dollywagon Pike, few people bother to visit the summit. Even fewer people will have climbed it on purpose, but that is what I intend to do today using a route from Grisedale that Wainwright says should not be attempted in bad weather. The clouds look very angry over Helvellyn as I set off down the road towards Grisedale Bridge and turned right into the road leading not surprisingly to Grisedale. After the tarmac ends a good track continues, at a junction turn right to cross Grisedale Beck and then follow an obvious path up the valley.

Waterfall on Nethermostcove Beck by Andy Wallace Andy FellwalkerAfter a couple of miles the Ordnance Survey map shows a smaller path that goes of to the right towards Nethermostcove Beck. I didn't see any evidence of a path as I set off across the wet grassy ground heading towards the white water coming down the beck. I came to a wall that I could see on the map and a path of sorts takes you downwards alongside the wall until you reach a stile built into it. I crossed the wall but the path quickly disappears into the dying bracken so I decided to walk down to the beck and follow it up the valley.

The going is hard, no path up the steep wet ground and sometimes through the fallen bracken. It keeps threatening to rain and where the ground is not swampy the grass and the stones are slippery with being wet. The beck looks impressive with many falls and water slides overflowing with white water. It looks like the path crosses the beck at some stage but I am not attempting to cross the deep fast flowing water.

View of Striding Edge from Nethermost Cove by Andy Wallace Andy FellwalkerEventually I arrived at Nethermost Cove full of glacial moraines where you would really expect to find a tarn in this natural corrie. This is a wild and remote place you wouldn't expect to find anybody else here except for the constant stream of people crossing Striding Edge high above.

All I have to do now is to work out how to get to the summit of Nethermost Pike, I can see the steep East ridge ahead but there is very steep ground between me and it. I climbed directly up to the ridge between Eagle Crag and the East ridge where I found a faint but obvious path heading in the right direction. The East ridge looks very steep and intimidating and there is no obvious looking way upwards once the path fades so I headed straight upwards.

View of the East ridge of Nethermost Pike from Nethermost Cove by Andy Wallace Andy FellwalkerThe way is steep and slippery, short grass and and rock outcrops where the hand holds come away in your hands and sometimes a clump of grass is all that keeps you on the hill. So the last thing I needed was for my phone holder to come off my belt and fall twenty feet back downhill. Going down was even more awkward than climbing, slithering down the steep slippery slope and more by chance than anything I found my phone.

On the ascent of the East ridge of Nethermost Pike by Andy Wallace Andy Fellwalker
The ground was too steep to go further down and too awkward to go up so I hung on to anything I could as I moved sideways to the left trying to find a safe way to go up or down. Then I found the path, a steep but straightforward way up to the top of the ridge where I was startled by the sudden appearance of the arete. I was even more startled to see another walker climbing up the ridge, I didn't expect to see anybody else here.

Its only similarity to Striding Edge was the steepness of the ground falling away on either side of the narrow crest. I was relieved that there were patches of grass offering footholds between the greasy rock. The arete is quite short and soon Nethermost Pike takes on its more familiar appearance of a broad grassy plateau completely covered in mist.

The way over the arete on the East ridge of Nethermost Pike by Andy Wallace Andy FellwalkerCrossing over to the main path and there are suddenly dozens of people including the obligatory lost walker who has missed the way to Striding Edge. Walking along the broad top of Helvellyn the wind is very strong and no place to hang around. Just below the crest at the start of the descent of Swirral Edge the wind subsided a little before it resumed again feeling much colder as I walked down the crest of the ridge.

Descending the crest of the ridge of Swirral Edge by Andy Wallace Andy FellwalkerAt the bottom of Swirral Edge I climbed up towards Catstycam and soon left the crowd behind. The summit of Catstycam is a splendid place, a real mountain top with super views all around. I have climbed the steep North West ridge several times but this is the first time I have descended that way. You can see all the way down to the old dam, it seems to be quite a long time before the dam seems to get any nearer. The going is very steep and the path is becoming eroded and could be very awkward in the future, the steepness of the slope means that as soon as the top layer of vegetation is removed the shale starts to slide downwards.

View of Keppel Cove and its breached dam from the descent of Catstycam North West ridge by Andy Wallace Andy FellwalkerI have never managed to find the start of the path when climbing and it is no surprise really, the obvious path fans out into a mess of grass and loose rocks before suddenly ending at plain grass. So, how do I get down, I could walk across the dam or walk up the valley again to cross to the the good path on other side of the dam. Neither of those options were very appealing so I made a precarious crossing of the stream just below the dam. There is a lot of water in the stream today but I managed to hop across using the clumps of grass in the middle of it.

An easy walk then on a good track eventually passing the Green Side mine workings and back to Glenridding.

Andy Wallace 15th November 2003

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