Sunday, 8 September 2013


GPS Track
Date: 08/09/2013
From: Grasmere

Parking: Layby opposite the Travellers Rest
Start Point: Grasmere village
Region: Central Fells

Route length: 10.3 miles (km)
Time taken: 04:16
Average speed: 2.4mph
Ascent: 809m
Descent: 812m

Wainwrights on this walk:
Tarn Crag (549m), Calf Crag (537m), Steel Fell (Dead Pike) (553m)

Additional summits: None

Other points of interest: Easedale Tarn, Belles Knott, Codale Tarn, Ferngill Crag

Route: Grasmere, Easedale Road, Soulmilk Gill, Easedale Tarn, Belles Knott, Codale Tarn, Tarn Crag, Ferngill Crag, Broadstone Head, Calf Crag, Rough Crag, Steel Fell (Dead Pike), Cotra Breast, Helmside, Travellers Rest

After a very wet day tramping all around Langdale, it was a welcome relief to have a day that was largely rain free. I had intended to visit High Tove and Ullscarf but the wet weather that preceded the weekend had made the crossing of High Tove unwise unless I had packed a pair of flippers. Which I hadn't.

Instead, I decided to conclude part of a walk that we had attempted back in April 2013 that would include the fells around Easedale. On a wet and cloudy day, we climbed Helm Crag and Gibson Knott under the impression that the lower fells might not be so miserable when the weather is set it. We were wrong.

This walk would take in the three additional summits of Tarn Crag, Calf Crag and Steel Fell that form part of this wonderful area. Starting from a familiar spot in the layby opposite the Travellers Rest, I made the mile or so walk into Grasmere and onto Easedale Lane to start the walk proper.
Crossing Easedale Beck
On the right track towards Easedale Tarn
Crossing the small bridge over Easedale Beck, the path runs parallel to river right into the heart of Easedale. The path is very easy to follow, though a bit difficult to walk on thanks to the uneven stones. After passing beneath Helm Crag, the path starts to climb up between Ecton Crag and Brinhowe Crag. In addition to these two fine rock faces is the 'impossible to ignore' Sourmilk Gill, so called due to the milky white colour of the water as it cascades down the valley.
The lesser seen side of Helm Crag
Sourmilk Gill tumbles out between Brinhowe Crag and Ecton Crag
Sourmilk Gill beneath Ecton Crag
Rounding Brimhowe Crag and climbing further, I was rewarded by reached Easedale Tarn, one of the larger tarns in the Lake District. It's an impressive sight, surrounded by the imposing crags of Tarn Crag, Blea Crag & Eagle Crag. As a geographer, there's also a feast of glaciological features such as erratics and moraines and, more importantly, and I had it all to myself. Following the path still, I made my way around the edge of the tarn, avoiding the odd boggy bit before headed towards Belles Knott, another impressive natural feature.
Easdale Tarn in all its glory with the prominent Tarn Crag
The crags of Blea Rigg to the south west
Tarn Crag overlooks from the north
Eagle Crag guards the head of the valley
From a specific angle, Belles Knott appears as a pyramid of rock, poking into the sky, guarding the only escape out of Easdale from the west and affectionately know as the 'Matterhorn of the Lake District' for obvious reasons. Belles Knott gets more and more impressive as you approach it and climbing up alongside involves a semi-scramble up some very wet, slippery rocks. Once around the side, the pyramidal shape disappears and the path towards Codale is revealed. Though not marked on the map, the path is fairly easy to follow and the objective of Tarn Crag is obvious. After rounding the very base of Belles Knott, I reached Codale Tarn.

Eagle Crag and Belles Knott
The Matterhorn of the Lake District - Belles Knott
A view back into Easedale
Codale Tarn
Codale Tarn sits in a pleasant, secluded location that is often bypassed by walkers heading either up or down Easedale. Generally, it seems to be only visited by people who actually intend to visit it, which is either a shame or a blessing. Either way, as with Easedale, I was completely alone alongside its quiet, still waters. The perfect spot for some rejuvenating Jelly Babies. Wainwright described a route up to Sergeant Man via Codale Tarn which looks like a nice way to climb the craggy rocks that stand over it. For me though, the faint on-off path would lead onwards, past an old sheep fold and up on to Tarn Crag. After a brief, steep climb and a quick stroll to the east, I reached the summit, and what a summit it is.
The uneven summit of Tarn Crag
The smaller cairn on the true summit of Tarn Crag
Me, with the whole world behind
Despite the clouds, that were still quite low, the panorama from Tarn Crag is spectacular, stretching all the way down Easedale and including the fells of Blea Rigg, Silver How, Loughrigg Fell, Helm Crag and Gibson Knott. Like a kid in a sweet shop I spent a few minutes wandering around on the summit to find the pièce de résistance, the view down Tarn Crag right into Easedale Tarn.
The more impressive cairn on the secondary summit
Easedale Tarn
With Tarn Crag ticked off, it was time to turn my attentions to reaching the head of Far Easedale Gill, the valley that separates Tarn Crag from the ridge of Gibson Knott and Helm Crag. This involved an unexpectedly challenging, off path route directly from Tarn Crag, around Ferngill Crag to reach the path at Broadstone Head. With a combination of bog hopping and climbing the steep, grassy mounds I eventually found my way to the path and started to follow the old boundary fence posts towards Brownrigg Moss and Calf Crag.
The grassy climb up behind Ferngill Crag
Brownrigg Moss
The slopes of Sergeant Man and High Raise
Calf Crag
Beyond Brownrigg Moss, the path is much easier to follow and a pleasant downhill stroll leads to the base of Calf Crag. Climbing to the summit, as with Tarn Crag, reveals some very nice views, particularly of Deer Bields and Tarn Crag itself. Stopping briefly on the summit, I had it in my mind to continue along the ridge before a quick check of the map revealed this would have been a mistake. The route I was about to set off on would have taken me down to Helm Crag whereas Steel Fell was the actual intended destination. That would have been a bit embarrassing, luckily I was on my own. A quick trip over to Rough Crag preceded another bog-hopping session to return to the path towards Steel Fell.
Tarn Crag and Deer Bields
The trusty pack at the summit of Calf Crag
Tarn Crag, Deer Bields and Calf Crag summit
With heavy feet now, thanks to a pretty long walk the day before, I slowly plodded up the mile or so of path between Rough Crag and Steel Fell. Fortunately, the incline is relatively shallow followed by a final, short steeper section to the summit. Also referred to as Dead Pike, Steel Fell forms the end of the eastern ridge of High Raise, the highest mountain in the Central Fells. Upon reaching the summit of Steel Fell, it appeared that the weather was about to take a turn for the worse as a large, angry looking shower approached. Not in the mood to sit in the car for a wet drive home, I quickly donned the waterproofs for the final two mile stretch down Cotra Breast and back to the waiting car.
Helvellyn makes an appearance
Steel Fell presents the final climb of the day
Appraoching the summit of Steel Fell
The large cairn on the summit of Steel Fell (Dead Pike)
Tired but happy to reach the top....
.... before the weather set in
The descent down Cotra Breast towards Grasmere
Fortunately, the deluge did not occur and once at the bottom of Cotra Breast, it was time for the waterproofs to come off again. Once done, it was a simple matter of following the road back to the Travellers Rest, via a couple of stepping stones to cross Green Burn.
The aforementioned stepping stones
A final goodbye to Helm Crag and Steel Fell
A very tempting looking Travellers Rest
This was a really enjoyable walk, and the first I've done on my own in the Lakes. Although I do enjoy company when I'm walking, it's nice sometimes not to have to worry about others and complete a walk in exactly the manner I want to, including getting lost and tramping through bogs. I do however, want to return to this walk with others as it's one that provides some of the best characteristics of the Lakes, without some of the challenging climbing involved with the higher fells. A perfect introduction to the Central Fells.

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