Saturday, 9 December 2017

The Greenburn Round

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Route: Grasmere, Easedale Road, White Crag, High Raven Crag, Helm Crag, Bracken Hause, Gibson Knott, Moment Crag, Calf Crag, Shoots, Steel Fell, Cotra Breast, Helmside, Ghyll Foot, Grasmere

Date: 09/12/2017
From: Grasmere

Parking: A591 Layby
Start Point: Grasmere
Region: Central Fells

Route length: 7.8 miles (12.55 km)
Time taken: 03:58
Average speed: 1.97 mph
Ascent: 743m
Descent: 752m

Wainwrights on this walk:
Helm Crag (405m), Gibson Knott (422m), Calf Crag (537m), Steel Fell (553m)

Other Summits: None

Other Points of Interest: Far Easedale, Greenburn

Despite the modest height of the surrounding fells, a circuit of the Greenburn valley as so far defeated me on three previous occasions; wind, rain and wind-blown snow being the main culprits. This time, however, there was nothing standing in the way of finally joining up the route between Helm Crag and Steel Fell.

It was a promising forecast, sun for much of the day but cold with a significant dusting of snow. It had all the hallmarks of a great day out.

The starting point I've used many times is the long layby along the A591 as it leaves Grasmere to the north, heading for Dunmail Raise. Arriving here early is the key as, even on quiet days, it can quickly fill up. A short stroll through the village is required to reach Easdale Road which begins the route towards Far Easedale.
Helm Crag basking in the morning sun
The fells above Far Easedale
Silver How
Prior to reaching Brimmer Head Farm, a narrow walled lane leaves the road to begin climbing Helm Crag. Despite the huge rocks on the ground, it's helpfully signed posted 'no cars' - I'd be surprised if anything could actually drive up it, even the venerable Land Rover Defender. A well-laid path zigzags up the southern slopes of the fell giving tremendous views of Easedale and Far Easedale beyond. Though the path had a considerable covering of ice, all of it was avoidable for now.
The way is pretty clear
Easedale Beck
Easdale Beck and Easedale
Brimmer Head Farm
Tarn Crag
'NOT FOR CARS'
The lower part of Helm Crag's path
Sun over Loughrigg Fell
Easedale
I 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 straightforward as it initially appears.
Blea Rigg
Far Easedale
The icy path on Helm Crag
Grasmere
Stone Arthur
Seat Sandal, Fairfield, Great Rigg, Stone Arthur and Heron Pike
The Langdale Pikes
Helm Crag's 'Lion'
Looking through Dunmail Raise towards Thirlmere
Helm Crag's summit with Dunmail Raise in the background
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.
Bracken Hause, Gibson Knott, Greenburn Bottom and Steel Fell
Steel Fell, Dunmail Raise and the Helvellyn range
Helm Crag from Bracken Hause
Easedale and Silver How
Far Easedale
Gibson Knott's summit looking towards Steel Fell
The path continues on crossing lumps and knolls as it does until it reaches the prominent Calf Crag, standing proud above the empty  Brownrigg Moss though surrounded by higher fells on almost all sides.
Steel Fell
Tarn Crag anfdBlea Rigg
The ridge route towards Calf Crag
Seat Sandal with Fairfield behind
Blakerigg Crag on Steel Fell
Far Easedale
A brief break in the clouds
The imposing Deer Bields
Far Easedale panorama
Pike of Carrs
Loking back along Far Easedale
Deer Bields, Blea Rigg and a distant Wetherlam
Approaching Calf Crag
The final plod to the summit
Calf Crag's summit cairn
High Raise
High Raise panorama from Calf Crag
From Calf Crag the route is easy enough, following an old boundary fence (marked by the iron posts that remain). It swings close to the edge above Greenburn at Shoots, giving a superb view into the valley. An easy climb follows to reach the summit of Steel Fell.
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Now, a brief lesson. As I began to make my descent, I happen upon a steep, fairly icy section of Contra Breast. Given the experience of the day, I decided that by the time I had wrestled my crampons out of the bag and lashed them to my boots I could have negotiated the steep bit and be happily on my way. I had also passed fell-runner coming in the other direction making light work of the area.
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No sooner had I clambered down the rocks, I stood on a small patch of sheet ice, sending me down hard on my shoulder before sliding on my back a short distance. Swearing, I sat up, thankful that I had indeed come to a stop though with a bruised arm and ego. Fortunately, I was never at risk of being thrown off an edge and it was just a minor scare and a valuable lesson learnt.
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The rest of the descent passed without incident though my shoulder was causing some discomfort. As I sit writing this a month later, it's only just feeling truly back to normal. At the bottom of the slope is Helmside Cottage and a stretch of roading walking back to the layby.
The view along Grasmere
Gibson Knott over Greenburn
Helm Crag's summit features
Steel Fell
Greenburn
Below Helm Crag
Cotra Breast leading to Steel Fell
Seat Sandal
So, after numerous attempts to complete the Greenburn Round I had finally done it. It goes to show that even the more modest peaks can get some gnarly weather. I'll remember this walk for the tumble on Steel Fell but rather it happen here than on something like the Corridor Route. It's all experience in the end.