Sunday, 27 September 2015

Whiteless Pike, Grasmoor, Hopegill Head & Whiteside

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Route: Rannerdale, Rannerdale Knotts, Low Bank, Whiteless Breast, Whiteless Pike, Saddle Gate, Whiteless Edge, Thirdgill Head Man, Wandope, Grasmoor, Dove Crags, Coledale Hause, Sand Hill, Hopegill Head, Whiteside, Whin Benn, Lanthwaite Green Farm, Crummock Water, High Wood, Cinderdale Common, Rannerdale

Date: 27/09/2015
From: Rannerdale

Parking: Rannerdale Car Park
Start Point: Rannerdale Knotts
Region: North Western Fells

Route length: 10.4 miles (16.7 km)
Time taken: 04:58
Average speed: 2.1 mph
Ascent: 1,245m
Descent: 1,250m

Wainwrights on this walk:
Rannerdale Knotts (355m), Whiteless Pike (660m), Wandope (772m), Grasmoor (852m), Hopegill Head (770m), Whiteside (707m)

Other Summits: Thirdgill Head Man (734m), Sand Hill (756m), Gasgale Crags (702m), Whiteside East Top (719m)

Other points of interest: Whiteless Edge, Coledale Hause, Crummock Water

If pressed to do so, I think I'd have to say the North Western fells are my favourites. Two of the best days walks in the Lake can be found in this area; Newlands and Coledale and I enjoyed both of those immensely. I've even had some punishing days on the so-called 'lower' fells which, in hindsight, were certainly memorable. With a free day and some fine weather, I set off to Buttermere to complete a walk I've had in mind for a while now, a circuit of Grasmoor and its satellites and the chance to visit Whiteless Pike and Whiteside which, for me, would complete another area of Wainwrights.
A splendid morning warranted a quick stop off at Friar's Crag
The bench at Friar's Crag
The Jaws of Borrowdale
Having now crossed the Newlands Pass, I parked in the small Rannerdale car park at the foot of Rannerdale Knotts, a small but charming fell between Buttermere and Crummock Water. Rannerdale Knotts was actually my 100th Wainwright so it holds a special place in my mind and was definitely worth another visit. This meant climbing the steep western face which is immediately above the car park. No warm up today, though there was little need given the superb warm weather.
Mellbreak on the shores of Crummock Water
Grasmoor catches the sun. The car park I used can be seen part way along the road
Mellbreak once more
Looking to the mighty fells of Buttermere
Low Fell
After much huffing and puffing the summit of Rannerdale Knotts is reached - the next objective can be seen looming up across the valley; the pyramidal Whiteless Pike. A bit more on that later. The views from Rannerdale Knotts are, generally, excellent for such as small fell though the highlight - the view up Buttermere, was slightly spoiled by the dazzling sunlight. Not often you get to say that and one for another time of day it would seem. A long, easy ridge sweeps down to a miniature col, the source of Rowantree Beck and marks the beginning of the first significant challenge of the day.
Looking down Rannerdale Knotts towards Gale Fell
Rannerdale Knotts summit cairn
Whiteless Pike
Looking down Buttermere
Whiteless Pike is an impressive peak, a fell with real character and one of few that has a distinctive mountain profile - mainly viewed from Rannerdale. That also means that most approaches are very steep and the route up Whiteless Breast is no exception, at least to begin with. There are three distinct sections - a steep bit, a largely flat bit and an even steeper bit. I bet you can guess which was the most arduous.
Looking along Low Bank to Whiteless Breast
Rannerdale and Rannerdale Knotts
Whiteless Pike looms ahead
An unusual view along Sail Beck
The reward is Whiteless Pike's small summit and its grand view of Grasmoor and Whiteless Edge. The edge, while nowhere near the grandeur of Striding or Sharp Edge is magnificent all the same as it leads up the the high plateau between Grasmoor and Crag Hill. The indistinct peak of Wandope forms a worthwhile place to spend a few minutes but there's still a long climb up to Grasmoor ahead.
Whiteless Pike's summit
Grasmoor
Whiteless Edge leads up to Thirdgill Head Man
Crummock Water from Whiteless Pike
Looking back along Whiteless Edge
Wandope and its expansive view
Scar Crag on Crag Hill
Grasmoor is fairly isolated, with the summit thrust out towards Crummock Water, some 1km west of the Crag Hill col. It's both a tiring climb and a surprisingly long walk to the shelter cairn on the summit. Grasmoor is a huge lump of a hill and commands expansive views, especially as you move towards the steeper north and western slopes. It was here I chose to take a break in the sunshine, have a bite to eat and contemplate the next leg of the walk.
Crag Hill from the climb up Grasmoor
Grisedale Pike in the distance
Grasmoor's summit
Summit shelter
Grasmoor's summit once again
Buttermere
Low Fell and Fellbarrow
To reach Whiteside requires the crossing of Coledale Hause and a climb up to Hopegill Head. In my mind this was one of the easy parts as I had no recollection of the descent from Hopegill Head when completed the Coledale Round a couple of years ago. It was obvious from where I was sat that it wasn't as easy as my mind's eye had led me to believe.
The route ahead leads down to Coledale Hause
The route to Coledale Hause passes high above Dove Crags, an enormous gouge taken out of the side of Grasmoor that forms a dry cove ringed by tall cliffs. They look equally menacing and enticing in equal measure, a number of the gullies look fairly accessible. Some additional research and one to investigate in the future perhaps.
Dove Crags
Whiteside
Grisedale Pike over Coledale Hause
I took the opportunity to refill my water bottle in Liza Beck before crossing Coledale Hause and starting the climb up Sand Hill, Hopegill Head's subsidiary top. Being a bit out of practice and following an exciting day on Helvellyn are my excuses for making a hard work of the climb. It was also very warm so I'll add that to the list as well.
Coledale
Sand Hill up ahead
Grisedale Pike
Eel Crag
The reward is arriving on the rim of Hobcarton Crag, arguably one of the finest valley headwalls anywhere in the National Park. The crags fall some 150m down to the valley forming a near vertical wall at the head of Hobcarton, a modest valley by Lakeland standards. Perched atop the western end of the crags is Hopegill Head, another superb mountain within the North Western Fells.
Hobcarton Crag
Hopegill Head
Hopegill Head
The summit of Hopegill Head
Ladyside Pike
Hope Gill and Whiteside from the summit
Stretching west from Hopegill Head's precipitous summit is the airy ridge leading to Whiteside, a ridge that ranks among the very best in the Lake District and I can see the reason why. It's an action-packed but straight forward walk along the ridge which towers high above Gasgale Gill courtesy of Gasgale Crags, the wall of rock the forms the southern flanks. There are three summits along the ridge; Gasgale Crags, the true Whiteside summit and Wainwright's nominated top at the far western end. From here the fellside plunges some 2,000ft down to the Vale of Lorton below, taking the path and myself with it.
Whiteside's superb ridge
The hills of Scotland
Looking back to Hopegill Head
Hopegill Head
Dove Crags on Grasmoor
Whiteside
The Wainwright summit on Whiteside
Panorama of Liza Beck with Whiteside, Hopegill Head, Eel Crag and Grasmoor visible
Mellbreak 
The Vale of Lorton
Liza Beck as it emerges from the shadows of Grasmoor
As with any steep descent, it takes its toll on the knees and I was glad to eventually reach the bottom before contemplating the final leg of the walk; a mile long stroll alongside Crummock Water to Rannerdale. A flat path was welcome after a rollercoaster few days in the Lakes and it wasn't long before I was back at the starting point; sweaty and hot-of-foot but pleased, all the same, having completed a fantastic walk and ticking off another couple of Wainwrights in the process. That does leave me tantalising perched on 199 - a mere 15 away from completing though I think a busy autumn may push the final few fells into next year. I turn 29 soon and; as I mentioned many many posts ago I always harboured the ambition to finish them before I turned 30. 15 in one year seems entirely achievable to me.
High Wood on the banks of Crummock Water
Rannerdale Knotts and Red Pike
Rannerdale Knotts
A famous Lakeland sign
Whiteless Pike