Blue Sunday

Ullswater, the stillness disturbed by a steamer by Andy Wallace Andy FellwalkerToday is one of those days when you want to climb every mountain, bright blue sky but with a chill in the air and ideal to repeat a walk I did a while ago when the conditions were not quite as good. From the village of Patterdale I walked up the track that goes between the Post Office and the car park that belongs to the White Lion pub. You soon turn left along a usually muddy path but as you gain a little bit of height there are a couple of rock outcrops to clamber over before you arrive at a stone wall with a gate.

Don't go through the gate but follow the wall uphill to the left. Climbing not too steeply over grass there is a rapidly improving view of Ullswater if you look backwards as you gain height. There is a a mini rock face on the left that looks good enough to scramble up but by following the path I got to the top of the outcrop for a better view over Ullswater, the still water neatly disturbed by the wake of a steamer.

View of Place Fell from Arnison Crag by Andy Wallace Andy FellwalkerThe path fades and splits as you come to steeper ground, it carries on ahead clinging on to the steep slope but I chose to take the hairpin bend option round to the left where the path soon faded out completely. There is only one way up and that is directly up the steep green slope, not the most frequently used route I think but I was soon standing on the delightful little summit of Arnison Crag. A colourful summit with rocks and a couple of cairns and a splendid view along a very blue Ullswater as far as Little Mell Fell. Place Fell was well illuminated, Catstye Cam was peeping over Birkhouse Moor and a frosty looking St. Sunday Crag was beckoning beyond Birks which was also showing off in the sunshine.

Just below the summit it felt very warm, too warm to wear a big jacket but not quite warm enough for tee shirt only, is this really the middle of February? Down the steep grassy slope you make your way between the rocks trying to head for the obvious looking path directly in front and below but but you keep being diverted by the steepness of the ground. Once you get to the path it is not quite so obvious looking as it is from above, from here you head over easy ground in the direction of St. Sunday Crag.

View of Birks from Arnison Crag by Andy Wallace Andy FellwalkerThere is no direct route to Birks, Hag Beck is in the way and can't easily be crossed, so the path follows the watershed as far as Trough Head from where you can see the task ahead. There is no path at first, so it is simply a matter of climbing straight up, steeply over rough grass until you meet a faint path. Turn right and follow the path and you will come across a ruined wall that you follow, still climbing steeply over grass. When the wall ends there is a short walk up to a cairn on the ridge.

The view from Birks summit by Andy Wallace Andy FellwalkerTurn left along the ridge and St. Sunday Crag is an impressive looking objective but equally interesting is the panorama of steep fellsides on the other side of Grisedale. Nethermost Cove's many details are well illuminated and outlined, you can see just how big a bite has been taken out of the mountain.

Follow the obvious path along the ridge, the summit of Birks is not imposing and the small cairn is less than impressive but by now the view ahead is all of the imposing and impressive that you could ask for. The green ridge of Birks ends at a small col where it joins the main path from Patterdale to St. Sunday Crag, just before the start of the real climb to St. Sunday.

St Sunday Crag summit plateau by Andy Wallace Andy FellwalkerThe climb up the North East ridge is steep but with good rocky steps, the grass is soon left behind, it is surprising how much easier it seems climbing rock and not grass. The view ahead is just the path going steeply upwards, the view behind is lovely with Ullswater wrapping itself around Place Fell, so much detail on show in the bright sunshine.

At the top of the ridge a large cairn greets you at the start of St. Sunday Crag's tilted summit plateau. The closer to the summit I got there was a bit more snow on the ground but only just about enough to make a snowball. The view from the summit was extensive but a bit hazy, the view of Nethermost Pike and Dollywaggon Pike is compelling, from this direction they are fine craggy mountains.

View from Cofa Pike by Andy Wallace Andy FellwalkerWalking onwards along the fine summit ridge towards Fairfield I can't take my eyes off the view of the crags across Grisedale. The bright sunshine that makes the crags look so attractive also makes the next objective of Cofa Pike almost invisible. Fairfield beyond it is just a dark lump although the profile of its Greenhow End belies the popular view of a flat featureless summit.

Having descended to Deepdale Hause, Cofa Pike looks cold, grey and intimidating but the climb isn't difficult. This side of Cofa Pike is always in the shade so many of the rocks and parts of the path are covered in frost, a little bit of care is required not to slip, it would be an uncomfortable slide down the steep rocky slope. The summit of Cofa Pike accommodates a large cairn that takes up most of the floor space. The crest of the ridge is quite narrow and some handling of rock is required to go all of the way over the top.

Cofa Pike summit by Andy Wallace Andy FellwalkerFrom here onwards you can see the final climb up to Fairfield, the path is in shade and there is more snow and frost in evidence. Looking backwards St. Sunday Crag is illuminated and looks every inch the fine mountain that it is. The climb to Fairfield up the snow covered path isn't too awkward but I wouldn't want to take the direct route over the rocks today.

At the expansive flat summit my old friend Fairfield is not misty for a change, in fact the view is extensive but hazy all along the lengths of Windermere and Coniston Water. It wouldn't do for conditions on Fairfield to be benign and the cold wind bites your face, both hat and hood are required to keep your head warm. There are very many people at the summit today but it is no place to hang around so I set off towards Hart Crag and for once I can see where I am going and don't need to check my compass.

View from Fairfield summit by Andy Wallace Andy FellwalkerThe widest path in the Lake District gives way to an interesting little scramble down to Link Hause and there is an obvious path up to Hart Crag. The path is so good that it will take you right past the summit if you are not careful, the diversion to the summit on the right is even less obvious today with the covering of snow and frost. It is unusual for the summit of Hart Crag not to be misty and consequently finding the start of the path towards Hartsop Above How is much easier than usual.

Descent from Hart Crag by Andy Wallace Andy FellwalkerThe descent from Hart Crag is unexpectedly steep and awkward in places over rocks, in dry conditions it would be easier but still interesting, patches of frost and ice make it even more interesting. Having got to the bottom of the rocky section the going becomes much simpler, easy walking along a ridge that would be a lot airier if it wasn't for the high wall alongside the path that hides the view down to Dovedale.

The summit of Hartsop Above How could easily be missed as it is bypassed by the path and there are no obvious indications of a summit, it is just the highest point on the ridge. There is a long walk downwards back to the valley, you reach the road near to the phone box at Bridgend and then there is the final mile walk along the road back to Patterdale.

Andy Wallace 21st February 2004

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