Pinnacle Ridge and Striding Edge
by dav2930 » Thu Oct 01, 2015 8:48 pm
Wainwrights included on this walk: Dollywaggon Pike, Helvellyn, Nethermost Pike, St Sunday Crag
Hewitts included on this walk: Dollywaggon Pike, Helvellyn, St Sunday Crag
Date walked: 27/09/2015
Time taken: 8
Distance: 20 km
Ascent: 1190m4 people think this report is great. Register or Login free to be able to rate and comment on reports (as well as access 1:25000 mapping).
Set off from Patterdale at 8.00am. It was chilly but dead still and the sky was cloudless. The path towards Grisedale immediately enters some beautiful native woodland - birch, oak, hazel... I hadn't gone far before I encountered two roe deer standing nonchalantly on the path. I stopped in my tracks, barely twenty yards from them. They stared straight at me as I slowly got my camera out, trying not to scare them away. The light was dim in the trees so it meant a slow shutter speed and in my haste I didn't keep the camera steady enough to get a reasonably clear shot. My second snap was slightly better but by then the deer had started to move off, more out of boredom than fear it seemed.
The path fords Hag Beck in a lovely sylvan corner. A bit further on a cairn by a big oak marks the path up Thornhow End on the left. This is the usual way up St Sunday Crag. On the right is a gate through which another path drops to the metalled lane up Grisedale. My route went this way and followed the lane, which soon becomes a stony track, as far as the Elmhow plantation. At the far end of this a wall contains the plantation and a faint path follows it up then left, crossing a beck, to the start of the Elmhow zig-zags. This is a relatively painless way up a steep hillside and height is gained rapidly. Where the gradient begins to ease back the path continues straight on to an indistinct bifurcation. Going right here across marshy ground, the narrow path becomes firmer and clearer, traversing the fellside under the broken crags of St Sunday Crag. From a scree slope beneath and slightly to its right, Pinnacle Ridge is identifiable by a sort of coxcomb of spiky rocks high up. A mish-mash of semi-paths lead directly up to the start.
Facing nor'-nor' west, it's a cold fellside in the morning shadows. The best time of day for taking photos here is late afternoon, when the sun creeps round to touch the pinnacles; but Pinnacle Ridge works best as an exciting start to a day on the tops above, so photographic ideals are usually sacrificed for the sake of the fellwalking agenda.
Reached the little cairn which marks the approximate start of the scramble at exactly 10.00am. The precise start is 10 or 15 metres to the left of the cairn on a distinct grassy ledge. The scrambling is very easy to begin and allows you to gain a lot of height very quickly. The scrambling gets more interesting at an area of massive, slabby blocks known as 'the Cannon'. Some awkward clambering here, but nothing very exposed.
Lots of interest above here but all easy stuff.
But then a big, vertical block stands before you. The way goes easily round its left side and up behind it. It's here you are confronted by the crux of the scramble - a steep, corner crack and wall. You could escape into the gully on the left at this point, but that really wouldn't be playing the game, would it? There used to be a big, wobbly splinter of rock wedged in the corner crack, which served as a useful if dodgy foothold. I noticed this has finally gone - probably just as well. Even without it there's a plentiful supply of positive holds and a crack just the right width for a boot-jamb where it's needed. Step left out of the corner onto the wall with the aid of some lovely big holds and you're up.
A bit of easier stuff and then a steep bulge leads up to the top of the pinnacles. Tip - the key to the steep bulge, which can be tricky (I've seen people struggle here) is to resist the temptation to step with your right foot onto the obvious footledge. You need your foot higher, so jamb your right boot into the crack just above it. This enables you to step up and get your left foot on the higher ledge on the left. You can then reach some nice big holds on the left, stand up and you're there.
The pinnacles themselves are exposed, but easy to traverse. At the far end is a tricky little down-climb, requiring care, to the gap.
The scramble continues above the gap, easily until a big block right at the top is reached - the final obstacle. This is actually quite awkward ( though not exposed). I find the easiest way to surmount it is to stand as high as possible right underneath the block, facing right, then swing the right leg over the top of the block and push up into a sitting position, as if riding a horse! Easy enough to get stood up from there and continue on your way, all difficulties behind you. The whole scramble took about 40 minutes, including photo-faffs.
A short, steep walk leads to the ridge of St Sunday Crag, just north-east of the summit. Nice to emerge from the shadows into the sunshine.
A nice stroll to the summit and a sit down for elevenses.
Fine walking with great views down the ridge to Deepdale Hause, then off to the right on the direct path to Grisedale Tarn.
Now comes the long slog up Dollywaggon Pike. Not as far as it looks though; head down, a zig here and a zag there and hey presto, the slope levels off before you know it. Leave the motorway and head up the gentle grassy slope to bag the summit of DP. Great views!
Might as well visit the summit of Nethermost Pike to bag the Wainwright (even if you've bagged it before), as it's no extra effort, the walking is nicer underfoot and you get the best views from the edge of the cove.
Not far from here to the top of Helvellyn. Time for a lunch break, 1.30pm.
Back along the edge of the escarpment to Gough's Memorial then down the steep, eroded path to the start of Striding Edge. People were descending the chimney so I took a direct line up the front of the buttress to its left - looks steep but easier than it appears.
Nice, airy walking along the crest.
From the hole in the wall you can either continue along the ridge to the summit of Birkhouse Moor (another Wainwright) or take the more direct path heading diagonally down the Grisedale slope back to Patterdale. I opted for the latter on this occasion. Got back to the car, which was parked at the White Lion, at 4.00pm. Thought I'd better pop in for a half pint to meet my parking requirement of being a 'patron'. Any excuse for a beer. It had been a really enjoyable day in the sort of weather one seems to remember from the summers of childhood. Living in the Lake District, it's easy to become a little dismissive of these fells; but each time I get round to reacquainting myself with them, I am struck anew by their fascinating character and sheer beauty.
by ChrisW » Thu Oct 01, 2015 9:01 pm
by Mal Grey » Fri Oct 02, 2015 3:47 pm
by mamoset » Fri Oct 02, 2015 4:36 pm
by dav2930 » Fri Oct 02, 2015 7:38 pm
ChrisW - it certainly made a change to be on the hills in such fine weather! I was trying out a new camera - a Fuji XP80 tough camera, which I thought would be suitable for scrambles. The results are ok but not as good as I get with my Lumix TZ27. You're right about the difficulty of getting good scrambling shots - hard to get good views of the route from it.
Mal - I think a lot of walkers/scramblers just don't get round to doing PR; you have to make a deliberate effort to get to it and locating the start isn't always easy. It's well worth doing though Mal - one of the best scrambles in the Lakes imho and just up your street I reckon!
Mamoset - cheers! The theme was definitely ridges that day.
by trailmasher » Fri Oct 02, 2015 9:14 pm
by dav2930 » Sat Oct 03, 2015 10:01 am
trailmasher wrote:What a great walk and informative report and photos Pinnacle Ridge has been in my radar for a while now so you have just worked up the inspiration in me to 'get it done' Thanks for the tips on the route
Thanks TM. Go for it! PR is such an enjoyable scramble, with clean rock that dries very quickly (despite its northerly aspect). And you can escape before the crux section if need be, so it's not too committing. It's a pity that spell of superb weather seems to be coming to an end!
by Guinessman » Sat Oct 03, 2015 10:23 am
by dav2930 » Sat Oct 03, 2015 1:46 pm
Guinessman wrote:Great report. As someone who also likes to seek out a scramble I somehow seemed to have avoided Pinnacle ridge all these years, think I'll give a crack now.
Good for you Guinessman - I'm sure you'll love it. Cheers
by Yorjick » Mon Jan 04, 2016 1:34 am
by dav2930 » Mon Jan 04, 2016 7:32 pm
Yorjick wrote:Great combination! I remember doing Pinnacle ridge in full winter conditions. we passed the rope around the top of the last pinnacle so the last man was effectively top-roped. Great collection of photographs that document the day very well.
Thanks Yorjick. I should imagine PR in full winter nick is quite interesting! I wouldn't mind giving that a go this winter if we ever get decent conditions (possibly not solo though!).