Having had a 3 day trip to the Lakes ruined by Storm Eleanor, Davekermito and I were keen to attempt a day trip to the Fells, to try and salvage a few of the ideas that had been wrecked by the 100mph lethal gusts.
Luckily our Hewitt maps had 3 mutual reds in an exciting area of the Helvellyn range, an area that been left with good amounts of snow, but most importantly it had positive weather reports. A most welcome concept, in the wake of the storm which had robbed us of our traditional post-Christmas jolly.
A 5 a.m. start from the Midlands got us to Patterdale for 8.30, parking opposite the hotel on the A592 for £4.50 seemed like the safest bet, with very few roadside options available for free parking. The Fells covered in snow, partly obscured by the morning mist, a perfect start to the day.
Our aim, to gently ascend to Grisedale Tarn, before striking off for Dollywagon Pike, down and up to Seat Sandal and then contour round Fairfield to reach St Sunday Crag.
The walk along Grisedale was a good loosener, with Grisedale Beck crashing through the valley. The day’s Fells coming into view, towering above us. Massive Wellingtonia trees adding to the grandeur. Our spaniels George and Jake enjoying the freedom having been in the boot since 5.
The path was gently graded and well constructed. The snow level loomed ahead, somewhere roughly just higher than the tarn, which was nearly upon us. We reached Ruthwaite Lodge, seemingly locked and pretty well guarded against vandalism. We wandered on, guessing as to why it was like this. A pity to presume it had suffered from the worst sort of folk.
The path contours underneath the fearsome yet awe inspiring turrets of The Tongue and Falcon Crag. One follows this path to the tarn where it forks right to start the stepped ascent of Dollywagon Pike. This proves to be nothing more than a plod to the top, but the views that are gradually gained, most notably over to the Scafell range are brilliant. A cloud inversion from the commanding outlook of the summit cairn gave this hill a top spot in my memory.
Davekermito topping out on Dollywagon
From here, it’s a simple down and up along the old Parish boundary to Seat Sandal. At this point I noted that we were following the line of the Bob Graham Round. Great men such as Joss Naylor had thundered down this descent in the past, their levels of mental and physical stamina I simply can’t comprehend. With snow all the way down, we were far more reserved! Comedy slips fouled us both.
Davekermito taking 5 with Dollywagon descent behind
The boundary acts as your guide rail, and takes you to the summit. The sun and cloud now seemingly ideal for a Brocken Spectre, but alas no joy.
From the top, you swing East for a walk down to the tarn, avoiding the huge bulk of Fairfield. It’d be easy to include this on to the route if needed. From the tarn an obvious path heads diagonally up towards St Sunday Crag. This long broad ridge makes for an exhilarating march high above Grisedale. Ravens dive-bombing each other added to the feeling of airiness. The summit is a great vantage point for the day’s labours.
Back to the tarn with Dollywagon behind
For Wainwright baggers, this walk can now encompass Birks, an off-shoot of St Sunday Crag. It lies far below St Sunday Crag, so its inclusion feels easy and the natural route back to the car. The path off here is the steepest drop of the day, a good knee tester.
We cobbled this route together to hit 3 remaining Hewitts which had evaded our previous trips to the area, but inadvertently had ended up with a memorable trek. Thanks of course to Davekermito for the majority of the pictures.
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Warning Please note that hillwalking when there is snow lying requires an ice-axe, crampons and the knowledge, experience and skill to use them correctly. Summer routes may not be viable or appropriate in winter. See winter information on our skills and safety pages for more information.