Thursday, 31 December 2015

Helm Crag, Gibson Knott & Calf Crag

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Route: Grasmere, Easedale Road, White Crag, High Raven Crag, Helm Crag, Bracken Hause, Gibson Knott, Moment Crag, Pike of Carrs, Calf Crag, Moor Moss, Far Easedale, Stythwaite Steps, Jackdaw Crag, Easedale Road, Grasmere

Date: 31/12/2015
From: Grasmere

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

Route length: 7.1 miles (11.4 km)
Time taken: 03:41
Average speed: 1.9 mph
Ascent: 686m
Descent: 676m

Wainwrights on this walk:
Helm Crag (405m), Gibson Knott (420m), Calf Crag (537m)

Additional summits: None

Other points of interest: The Lion and The Lamb

It's been a challenge this winter to find a decent day to go walking. I've been very much limited to rainy days with the only exception being a stunning day out on the Fairfield Horseshoe. We spent the New Year with friends in a rented cottage in the delightful small town of Sedbergh - the perfect springboard for walks in the Lakes or the Yorkshire Dales.

We plumped for the Lake District this time to tackle a walk that has beaten us in the past - the Greenburn Round. While not one of the more challenging walks, it is perhaps one of the most popular and the modest height of the fells makes it an attractive proposition for when the weather is none-too pleasant; hence why we've not managed to complete it previously. The forecast was positive, especially compared to last few weeks, with sunshine and showers forecast for the day. The sun was even shining as we arrived in Grasmere.
Sunlight on Helm Crag
After parking in the deserted layby we made our way through the village and along the Far Easedale road, spying the raging Sour Milk Gill in the distance. There was a tremendous amount of water flowing down it, the result of the warmest and wettest December month on record. Since my last post the north of the country has been battered by storms bringing damaging floods to great swathes of Yorkshire, Lancashire and Cumbria; even as close to home as my office which, at the time of writing, is closed for business.
Far Easedale Lane with Helm Crag ahead
Looking down the slopes of Helm Crag
Loughrigg Fell through the trees
Tarn Crag
Sour Milk Gill raging down the hillside
Storms aside, this day was still looking good as we started climbing Helm Crag, the popular fell that overlooks Grasmere. The distinctive rocks on the top give the fells a more romantic name; The Lion and The Lamb. A well laid path zig zags up the southern slopes of the fell giving tremendous views of Easedale and Far Easedale beyond. Despite the sun, a brisk wind added a chill to the air but prevented us from working up too much a sweat on our ascent.
Panorama of Far Easedale
Looking down the path up Helm Crag
Dunmail and Seat Sandal
Stone Arthur
Looking towards the top of Helm Crag
We paused overlooking Dunmail Raise before pressing on towards the top. The fell turns more rocky and mountainous as you reach the top and it's an interesting place for a look around. The rocks that create The Lion and The Lamb loom ahead and appear to be the highest at first glance. However, along the ridge is an equally prominent rock, The Howitzer, that forms the true summit of the fell. It's climbable but not as straight forward as it initially appears.
The Lion
Looking along the crest of the summit towards The Howitzer
Seat Sandal and Dunmail Raise
The Howitzer - Helm Crag's summit
Gibson Knott and Steel Fell
Bracken Hause separates Helm Crag from the neighbouring Gibson Knott and provides a quick way back down to the valley below if required. Up ahead is a short climb up onto Gibson Knott, a knobbly section of the ridge that is classed as a fell in its own right. During this time, clouds had shuffled across the sun, casting a familiar dull grey light across the fells and the odd speckle of water threatened rain. A passing shower perhaps? That assumption would turn out to be wrong.
Bracken Hause
Codale with the Langdale Pikes above
Far Easedale
Sara negotiates a small bog
Looking back towards Helm Crag
Gibson Knott's summit
Above Moment Crag the rain started to fall. Lightly at first before becoming heavier and more persistent. With the forecast in mind we lived in hope that it was just as passing shower but the evidence in front of us suggested differently. With the wind picking up and things quickly becoming more miserable, we took the decision to press on to Calf Crag and make a decision from there.
Far Easedale

Sara at Pike of Carrs
Calf Crag's summit
The path rises over Pike of Carrs to reach the top of Calf Crag, the highest point on the Helm Crag ridge. Sadly it hadn't stopped raining and things only seemed to be getting worse so we abandoned any hopes of reaching Steel Fell, instead setting our sights on the sanctuary of Far Easedale below.
Cutting off a large corner, we made a pathless descent down the fellside to Moor Moss, picking our way across large expanses of saturated ground. I've rarely seen anywhere as wet as the Lake District is at the minute, there was water everywhere, including inside supposedly waterproof boots.
Broadstone Head at the head of Far Easedale
Looking down Far Easedaled
We found the path within the valley, the path the carries the Coast to Coast route through into Grasmere. Ahead was a long, sodden trudge all the way back to the village. Did I say that it was wet? Gentle streams had become raging rivers and the paths had taken up the mantle of being the streams. There was a remarkable amount of water flowing down from the fells above and the rain showed no sign of stopping. So much for passing showers.
Sara cuts a lonely figure in the depths of Far Easedale
We crossed Far Easedale Gill using the footbridge at Stythwaite Steps, luckily it hadn't been affected by the damaging floods earlier in the month. Though the path became wider, it didn't become any drier and a number of large puddles, more akin to ponds, had to be negotiated before we eventually reached the road back towards Grasmere.
Water everywhere......
Crossing one of the many flooded paths
One of the larger puddles we had to negotiate
Typically, it had stopped raining by the time we reached the village but that didn't make us any drier - a coffee and a cake in a local cafĂ© was more than welcome given the dousing we'd received. Though enjoyable to begin with this walk turned into a bit of a miserable slog in the end, it's a shame the weather was so different to the forecast. It's further proof that you should be prepared for anything when venturing out into the mountains.