Sunday, 29 May 2016

A Combe Gill Round

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Route: Strands Bridge, Stonethwaite, Big Stanger Gill, Bessyboot, Tarn at Leaves, Dovenest Top, Combe Door, Glaramara, Combe Head, Raven Crag, Thornythwaite Fell, Combe Gill, Old Mill Cottage, Strands Bridge

Date: 29/05/2016
From: Seatoller

Parking: Seatoller
Start Point: Strands Bridge
Region: Southern Fells

Route length: 8.3 miles (13.3 km)
Time taken : 04:26
Average speed: 1.9 mph
Ascent: 893m
Descent: 933m

Wainwrights on this walk:
Bessyboot (550m), Glaramara (793m)

Additional summits: Dovenest Top (632m), Combe Head (735m), Thornythwaite Fell (574m)

Other points of interest: The Combe

A spell of warm sunny weather combined with a Bank Holiday made the Lake District "the place to be" this weekend - quite literally. It was as busy as I've seen it recently but I'm not one to complain as 'dry' and 'Bank Holiday' are a rare combination.

We were staying at the campsite in Seatoller which has the odd quirk of having a shower block located nearly half a kilometre from the campsite, ideal if you like an early morning sojourn - less so if you've just completed a sweaty round of Lakeland fells. We were aiming for Glaramara, a fell that I've visited before but under more challenging conditions and I was looking forward to seeing it without being thrashed by wind and snow.

Starting directly from the campsite, we followed the narrow Borrowdale road to Stonethwaite, heading towards the campsite at the end of the valley. Here, you can access the slopes of Rosthwaite Fell though the route isn't immediately obvious if you are consulting a map as the path is not marked, surprising given its deliberate construction. It can be found through a gate after crossing Big Stanger Gill.

Borrowdale on a fine sunny day
The nose of Rosthwaite Fell
Alisnongrass Crag and Hanging Haystack
Up it climbs, steeply through the woods following the line of the stream until it reaches a breach in the rocks above between Hanging Haystack and Alisongrass Crag. It was very warm along the stream without a breath of wind but fortunately we were sheltered from the strong sun though that changed as we reached the top of the crags.
Stonethwaite
Hanging Haystack
Alisongrass Crag
Sara emerges at the top of Big Stanger Gill
Big Stanger Gill
Big Stanger Gill
A very indistinct path heads over grass around the many rock outcrops that litter Rosthwaite Fell. The largest of these (excluding the summit) is Bessyboot - the summit Wainwright determined to be the top of the fell thanks to its proximity to Rosthwaite itself and its fine view of Borrowdale. A short, easy clamber reaches the summit.
Rosthwaite Fell
Racom Bands
Bessyboot
High Scawdel and High Spy
Fleetwith Pike
Looking along High Knotts
Bessyboot's summit
Bessyboot also has a great view of the delightfully named Tarn at Leaves, the origins of which eludes scholars and locals alike. After tackling Bessyboot, a path rounds said tarn before becoming rather indeterminate - from here it is best to make your own route. 
Tarn at Leaves and Rosthwaite Cam
Dale Head
Looking back to Rosthwaite Cam
We passed the base of Rosthwaite Cam before scrambling over the top of Dovenest Top, a minor summit along this long, rocky ridge. Combe Head rises in front, often mistaken for Glaramara itself such is its impressive stature. Again, the get around said obstacle is entirely up to you, we chose the route up Combe Door, an obvious and broad grassy gully that climbs up past the crags. It can be tempting to continue on once you emerge at the top but double back to and climb further still to reach a boggy area below the final push to Glaramara.
Thornythwaite Fell across The Combe
Approaching Combe Head
The Combe
Combe Head
Sara tackles Combe Door
Approaching Glaramara
Glaramara is defended from the north by a line of rocks and boulders - the path leads to an obvious breach in these where an easy and entertaining (though all too short) scramble brings you to the northern summit, complete with impressive wind shelter. The main summit stands a short distance further on over a shallow depression.
Rock bar the climb to the summit
Combe Head
Glaramara's second summit and wind shelter
Glaramara's true summit
The view from the top of the fell is very good. Glaramara’s position in the centre of the Lake District and its relative isolation from other fells by deep valleys gives a good all round panorama with the view north down Borrowdale towards Skiddaw being especially fine. Like many fells of the district the name comes from a series of Old Norse words which in this case is translated as “Hill with the mountain hut by a chasm” - assuming the chasm refers to Combe Gill.
Base Brown
The panorama from Glaramara
Lingmell, Seathwaite Fell and Great Gable
Bowfell
The Great Slab
We departed the fell for our return to Seatoller. If you are heading this way, make sure to visit the top of Combe Head which stands over Combe Gill; the most striking of glacial valleys. The view down the valley and Borrowdale is quite amazing.
The crossing to Combe Head
The Combe from Combe Head
The Combe and Borrowdale
Looking back to Glaramara
The summit of Combe Head
It was mid afternoon by now and the temperature had really soared - not something you often get to say in the Lake District and certainly not on a Bank Holiday. We started our descent from Combe Head along Glaramara's north ridge which falls gradually alongside Raven Crag before turning to cross the minor summit of Thornythwaite Crag. The views up Gombe Gill is just as impressive as those down it.
Heading down the north ridge
Castle Crag and Grange Fell in Borrowdale
The Combe
Sara leads the charge back to Borrowdale
The Combe
Approaching Borrowdale
Rosthwaite Fell
Great Crag
Eventually the route, still following its gentle gradient, reaches the valley bottom on Borrowdale and the lane back to Seatoller is reached by crossing Strands Bridge. It's an easy stroll back to the campsite from here, concluding another excellent day in the fells. I really enjoyed this walk and I can see why a lot of people like Glaramara.