Sunday, 11 August 2013

The Coledale Round

GPS Track
Date: 11/08/2013
From: Braithwaite

Parking: Car Park at foot of Whinlatter Pass
Start Point: Car Park at foot of Whinlatter Pass
Region: North Western Fells

Route length: 13.5 miles (21.7km)
Time taken: 06:10
Average speed: 2.2mph
Ascent: 1,659m
Descent: 1,666m

Wainwrights on this walk:
Grisedale Pike (731m), Hopegill Head (770m), Grasmoor (852m), Wandope (772m), Crag Hill (839m), Sail (773m), Scar Crags (672m), Causey Pike (637m), Outerside (568m), Barrow (455m)

Additional summits: Kinn (374m), Hobcarton Crag (739m), Sand Hill (756m)

Other points of interest: Force Crag, Hobcarton Crag, Eel Crag

Route: Braithwaite, Kinn, Sleet How, Grisedale Pike, Hobcarton Crag, Hopegill Head, Sand Hill, Coledale Hause, Grasmoor, Wandope, Crag Hill, The Scar, Sail, Scar Crags, Causey Pike, High Moss, Outerside, Stile End, Barrow Door, Barrow, Braithwaite

My first visit the the north western fells, the compact region of fells to the west of Keswick. A free weekend and a new set of GPS way points quickly identified Coledale as an area rich in scenery, excitement, steep crags and, most importantly, several peaks to visit. Perhaps not as smooth a horseshoe as Fairfield or Kentmere, the Coledale round still manages cross seven Wainwrights including the mighty Grasmoor. The walk we did included two more, nestling on a secondary ridge below Causey Pike. Wainwright was certainly correct by stating that 'nothing goes to waste' in this small area of the District.

It was to be a difficult day weather-wise as the forecast was for wandering showers throughout the day and variable wind speeds. Indeed, as we set off from the small car park off the Whinlatter Pass, it started raining, so it was on with the waterproofs which remained in-situ for most of the day.
A heavy shower gives Keswick a good dousing
The walk started by climbing a set of steps to reach the ridge of Kinn which heads south west to a height of 374m before joining the steep, narrowing ridge up onto to Grisedale Pike. Despite what seemed like a fairly steady climb on the map, the path up Sleet How is very steep and made all the more challenging by a brief heavy shower, some intermittent low cloud and a blustery wind. After some puffing and panting, we were rewarded by reaching the summit of Grisedale Pike.
Kinn, the ridge leading to Grisedale Pike
The path up Sleet How onto Grisedale Pike
A heavy spell of rain made the going a bit more challenging, lubricating the slate beneath our feet
Grisedale Pike is one for the traditionalists, a triangular shaped mountain when viewed from most directions. Its name means 'peak above the valley of the pigs' with 'grise' being a reference to wild boar. Three ridges span out from the summit, the one we climbed from Braithwaite to the east, the one we were to cross towards Hopegill Head to the south west and an third spreading out to the north to a subsidiary summit often referred to as Hobcarton End. Unfortunately for us, the MWIS forecast for clouds at 750m was spot on and, with the summit being at 791m, there were no views to be seen.
The summit of Grisedale Pike
The path disappears into the clouds as it continues towards Hopegill Head
The next objective was to be Hopegill Head, a peak I had been looking forward to seeing thanks to its impressive profile. Unfortunately, the clouds were just a bit too low to see the entire mountain but were high enough not to be obscuring the stunning Hobcarton Crag, a huge 150m high wall of rock at the head of the valley of Hobcarton Gill. Following the path that skirts the top of the ridge above the crag, we made our way back into the clouds to the summit of Hopegill Head.
Hobcarton Crag forms the north eastern face of Hopegill Head
The summit was just visible in the clouds
Hopegill Head (also known as Hopegill Pike) is the middle fell of the three on the ridge between Braithwaite and Crummock Water. Having already crossed the first in Grisedale Pike, we had intended to continue on to visit the third, Whiteside but, as the weather was still poor and we were walking against the clock, we took a moment in the clouds on Hopegill Head before heading south to Sand Hill and descending onto Coledale Hause.
No views from the summit of Hopegill Head
Crag Hill and Coledale Hause await as we descend Sand Hill
The clouds lift momentarily and we caught a glimpse of the craggy Whiteside
Crossing Coledale Hause underneath the impressive face of Eel Crag, we followed the path to point that sites between the three peaks of Grasmoor, Wandope and Crag Hill. Which to do first? As the time was approaching midday, we made our way towards Grasmoor and made the steep climb up onto the summit in time for lunch. Back in the clouds, we were unable to see any views into Buttermere which was a shame, however, the large summit shelter provided the ideal place to stop for some dinner.
Climbing back into the clouds to reach the summit of Grasmoor
The sprawling cairn / shelter at the summit
Grasmoor is the highest point of the north western fells and, similarly to Grisedale Pike, Grasmoor also takes its name from the Old Norse word 'grise' or wild boar. The mountain is characterised by the impressive (and steep) western flanks that fall straight into Crummock Water and provide an exciting (and challenging) route to the summit. I intend to return to Grasmoor to climb that route as described by Wainwright in his book. After being rejuvenated by a sit down and a bite to eat, we retraced our steps back to down to the col before making the quick climb up to Wandope. It's not clear from Grasmoor why Wandope is distinguished as an individual peak however, upon reaching the rim of Addacombe Hole, all becomes apparent.
The unassuming Wandope from Grasmoor
Addacombe Hole is a symmetrical hanging valley perched between Wandope and Crag Hill. It provides a striking feature to gaze down into and provides Wandope with it's 200m high crags. The summit of Wandope also provides a great view of Crag Hill and Sail as well as a spectacular panorama of the Newlands Valley. Leaving Wandope, we followed a small traverse that's visible only from Wandope and it clings to the side of the steep slopes around Crag Hill. A short diversion off the traverse and a steep little climb places you on the summit.
Crag Hill and Sail from Wandope
The cairn on the summit of Wandope
The north western fells in all their glory
The traverse around the shoulder of Crag Hill
Wandope
Crag Hill (formerly Eel Crag) is the beginning of a ridge that descends to Rowling End and down to Derwent Water. It stands in a commanding position overlooking the Coledale Valley and Keskadale. The summit is marked by an OS trig pillar.
The triangulation pillar marking the summit of Crag Hill as the clouds begin to lift
From Crag Hill the path descends to 'The Scar' and then up Sail
With the weather improving, we left Crag Hill and began a 3km descent starting at that would cross another three peaks; the first being Sail. Despite being an outlier of Crag Hill, Sail has enough prominence to be classed as a Hewitt. The grassy summit is home to a small cairn that seemingly, from several photos I've seen, sits permanently in a small pond. From Sail, an obtrusive path zig zags down to an unnamed col between Sail and Scar Crags. The path is a result of a Fix the Fells project and while I agree with much of the work they do, I think they could have gone about this one in a more sympathetic manner. You'll see what I mean below.
The Scar provides a great view of Scott Crag, Hopegill Head and Grisedale Pike
The cairn on the summit of Sail
The raised path that snakes down the eastern side of Sail and back up Scar Crags at the far end
Climbing Scar Crags, the 7th Wainwright of the day, is an exhilarating experience as the path stays close to the steep sloping crags that tumble down towards Rigg Beck. Once crossed, Causey Pike sits a few hundred metres along the ridge and provides a spectacular location to take in the views of Derwent Water, Skiddaw and the ridge from Crag Hill. From here, Scar Crags is all the more impressive.
The steep drop from Scar Crags into Rigg Beck
The summit of Scar Crags looking towards Causey Pike
The four humps that make up Causey Pike

Scar Crags from Causey Pike
The panorama from Causey Pike
The rocky summit of Causey Pike
From Causey Pike we followed the ridge back to a path that leads down into Coledale and towards the final two peaks of the day; Outerside and Barrow. Outerside and Barrow occupy a subsidiary ridge to that that encircles Coledale. I'll admit that I climbed up Outerside simply because of its status as a Wainwright but the views of Coledale and of Grisedale Pike are particularly impressive. There is also a great view of the entire Skiddaw massif.
Outerside as seen from the ridge to Causey Pike
Grisedale Pike from Outerside
The summit of Outerside
Skiddaw momentarily appears out of the clouds
The final leg of the walk followed the path down the ridge over Barrow and back into Braithwaite. Crossing Barrow would make it 9 Wainwrights for the day, not bad going for a days work. The name for Barrow originates form the Anglo Saxon word meaning 'long ridge', a name that is shared with many Neolithic burial mounds.
Barrow presents the final obstacle of the day
Causey Pike catches the afternoon sunlight
The summit of Barrow
The descent is nice and steady down into Braithwaite
From Barrow, a sloping ridge lead us back into Braithwaite just as the heavens opened. Despite the weather during the initial ascent of Grisedale Pike, we had been lucky to dodge most of the showers. In fact, we observed a few passing over both the Scafells and Skiddaw but not us until the last moment. Donning just the waterproof jackets, we quickly covered the last couple of hundred metres back to the car to dry off and begin the long drive back to Wakefield.

Despite the disappointment of not seeing Hopegill Head or the views from Grasmoor, the final half of the walk more than made up for it. The views are simply staggering, thanks to the steep sided nature of the north western fells. The Coledale round was certainly a great way to kick off my exploration of this area of the Lakes and I'll definitely be back to investigate this area more thoroughly.