Saturday, 2 April 2016

A Grasmoor Wild Camp

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Route: Crag Houses, Grassgarth Coppice, Whiteless Breast, Whiteless Pike, Saddle Gate, Whiteless Edge, Thirdgill Head Man, Wandope (Camp), Wandope Moss, Grasmoor, Wandope Moss, Whiteless Edge, Whiteless Pike, Whiteless Breast, Buttermere

Date: 02/04/2016
From: Buttermere

Parking: Parking along the foot of Newlands Pass
Start Point: Buttermere
Region: North Western Fells

Route length: 8.2 miles (13.1 km)
Time taken (moving): 04:04
Camp: Thirdgill Head Man
Average speed: 1.68 mph
Ascent: 910m
Descent: 917m

Wainwrights on this walk:
Whiteless Pike (660m), Wandope (772m), Grasmoor (852m)

Additional summits: Thirdgill Head Man (734m)

Other points of interest: Rannerdale

It was only a matter of time before I slung all of my camping gear into a pack and set off to camp up in the mountains somewhere - a popular pastime for many and one that I had yet to try. It was actually a friend who first proposed the idea and I doubt I would have gone on my own otherwise. And so it was we had to odd pleasure of waiting in the pub until 5pm before even considering our climb.

Grasmoor had been identified as our fell of choice for no particular reason other than it is one of those large, grass clad fells that provide ample opportunity to pitch a tent. Now, I must point out, this being a first attempt I haven't even begun to whittle down the weight of my gear but the large pack I used coped no problem. So, for all you weight-watchers, here's what went in the pack:

Pack - Deuter Guide 55+10 - 2.6kg
Tent - Wild Country Coshee 3 - 2.6kg
Sleeping Bag - ME Titan 550 - 1.2kg
Sleeping Mat - Alpkit Numo - 0.4kg
Pillow - Thermarest Compressible - 0.2kg
Stove - MSR Reactor 1.0l - 0.4kg
Gas - MSR IsoPro - 0.1g
Food - ~0.3kg
Clothes - ~1.2kg
Torch - BD ReVolt - 0.1kg
Water - 3l (2l in Platypus BigZip and 1l in collapsible bottle) - 3.5kg
Camera - Canon SX700 - 0.3kg
Extras (lighter, penknife, spoon, compass etc.) - ~1kg

I'm sure there are other things I've forgotten but the total weight was probably around 12 or 13kg - not exactly lightweight but everything required for comfortable night on the fells and, more importantly, it all fitted in the pack that I already owned. Not owning a water filter meant carrying all the water that I needed for a the trip, some for the hike up and and a litre dedicated for food and hot drinks.

The weather was appalling when we arrived in Buttermere in the afternoon but, not to worry, it was forecast to clear as the afternoon and evening progressed. It wasn't until it had reached around 5.30pm that we decided we could no longer wait for the rain to clear and we moved the cars to the row of free spaces close to the Church of St James - the small picturesque church constructed in 1840.
Clouds and rain in Buttermere
Loaded up with the pack for the first time was a bit of a shock to the system, so much so that my first action was to promptly slip on a wet rock and fall on my arse less than 10m from the car. Not the most auspicious start but luckily not a sign of things to come.

We had chosen one of the steeper routes up to Grasmoor, following the path from Buttermere up Grassgarth Coppice to Whiteless Breast and on to Whiteless Pike. Slowly and steadily we plodded up the first of the steep sections at the head of the small Rannerdale Valley, a fine path with a great view along the Rannerdale Knotts ridge to Crummcok Water.
Robinson over Mill Beck
Looking towards the Newlands Pass
Rannerdale Knotts
Rannerdale as the weather begins to clear
Whiteless Pike marks the first objective
The further we climbed the more familiar the weight of the pack became and, with all the straps and adjusters working hard, the pack almost seemed to be lighter as we continued on. From the head of Rannerdale, a largely flat section leads to the footings of Whiteless Pike, a Wainwright I had visited for the first time a few months earlier on the finest of Autumn days. You can read about that one here.
The climb up towards Whiteless Pike
The last 150m up to the summit is quite a challenge thanks to its steepness - its a gift that keeps on giving with a number of false summits along the way. Fortunately much of it has pitched steps which always make a steep climb that much easier and we reached the summit in the early evening. As we had delayed our start, camping on Grasmoor was looking unlikely unless we were to pitch tents in the dark, which neither of really wanted to do. The joy of carrying your overnight hear is that you can camp wherever you please so we decided to make new arrangements once we'd reached the top of Whiteless Edge.
A rare view of Sail Beck and Ard Crags
Looking back down to Robinson and High Snockrigg
Clouds begin to clear High Stile and Red Pike
Lad Hows sweeps up to Grasmoor
Looking along Whiteless Edge
The summit of Whiteless Pike
Whiteless Edge is a superb ridge that joins Whiteless Pike to the high land at the head of Coledale. To the west is the immense bulk of Grasmoor while the crags at Saddle Gate, to the east fall, sharply down into the depths of Third Gill below. We climbed Whiteless Edge to reach the grassy plains behind Wandope and Crag Hill; it was here that we decided to down tools and set up camp with a fine view across to the Scafells.
Whiteless Pike from Saddle Gate
Mellbreak and Crummock water
Distant Scafells in the early evening
After ejecting everything from the pack and setting up the tents it had become dark leaving us to dine in the blackness of the night. A moonless night meant that little in the way of a view was on offer but didn't stop a quick night time recce of Wandope which stands only a few metres away. Nothing to be seen there either. We turned in and, for me at least, settled in to my first night out on the fells.
Our camping spot on Thirdgill Head Man
The view across to the Scafells
Time for bed...
I'd like to say I slept soundly through the night but that was, unfortunately, not the case. While it normally takes me longer than usual to drift off while camping, a strong wind had picked up, bending and flapping the tent for a number of hours. I was convinced that one of the guy-lines had come out but, after an encouraging check, everything was in order.

Around 1am, the wind eventually died down and I awoke early to a calm, quiet morning. After a hot drink and some quick breakfast, we were packed and ready for some more exploration - finally making our way up to the summit of Grasmoor to claim it as ours for the day, beating an early morning fell runner to the prize of first atop the mountain (probably).
The morning view
The tents on our fine pitch
Thirdgill Head Man
Layers of fells
The long walk to Grasmoor
Whiteless Edge and Buttermere beyond
Pillar makes an appearance
Grasmoor's summit
With a busy afternoon planned at home, we had little time to remain in the Lake District and retraced our steps back to where we had camped at Thirdgill Head Man, inspecting our site for any evidence of our stay. Satisfied that we had indeed left no trace, we descended Whiteless Edge for another visit to Whiteless Pike. The weather today was much cheerier than the evening before and it was a shame to be ending our adventure just as the day was getting started.
Clouds swirl around Grisedale Pike
The sun eventually makes an appearance
Looking across Crummock Water
Thirdgill Head Man and the crags of Third Gill
Looking to Buttermere
A long, steep descent from Whiteless Pike was made a bit awkward by the slightly more cumbersome large pack but I managed not to repeat the theatrics of the day before. With the morning drawing on we passed the first few groups of walkers head up for the day, wishing them well as we passed. We made it down safely and returned to the cars which were, thankfully, exactly where we left them with all the windows intact - always a relief.
The Church of St James
I thoroughly enjoyed my first wild camp up in the fells, there's a certain excitement and satisfaction about being out and about when most have returned to the comforts of pubs and B&Bs. Luckliy, I have not been put off by a windy night on the fells and look forward to the next time I can bury the tent in a pack and get back out into the wilds.