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Western Fells round of 11 Hewitts in dramatic weather

Western Fells round of 11 Hewitts in dramatic weather


Postby Alteknacker » Mon Mar 12, 2018 1:19 pm

Wainwrights included on this walk: Causey Pike, Dale Head, Eel Crag, Grasmoor, High Spy, Hindscarth, Maiden Moor, Robinson, Sail, Scar Crags, Wandope, Whiteless Pike

Hewitts included on this walk: Causey Pike, Crag Hill (Eel Crag), Dale Head, Grasmoor, High Spy, Hindscarth, Robinson, Sail, Scar Crags, Wandope, Whiteless Pike

Date walked: 08/03/2018

Time taken: 13

Distance: 36.1 km

Ascent: 3097m

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The Forecast and the Plan

Sustained (= 2 days plus) of good weather in the Highlands did not seem to be on the meteorological menu. So, restlessness increasing exponentially as I saw WHR after WHR full of the most enticing pix of mountains cloaked in white, and so feeling increasingly stir-crazy, my attention turned to Snowdonia and the Lake District.

Following some very interesting reports over the past couple of years or so, from, amongst others, Dav2930, malky_c, baja, and trailmasher, I'd picked up something of the attractions of the Western Fells area, and I'd gradually been working out a few possible routes .

The forecast at the weekend suggested that Thursday would be the day; and after poring over the map a bit and scanning the various routes I'd plotted, I plumped for the following ...


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... with the thought that if conditions were particularly favourable, I might be able to get to Grizedale Pike. The link between start and finish would be effected by bike.

It turned out to be quite a special day - as in fact have most of my recent excursions into the Lake District.

The weather conditions – and hence the light - varied enormously on this walk, and as such made it one of the most memorable for a long time.

The forecast didn’t give much clue as to what to expect: moderate risk of snow showers, some periods of reasonable visibility, patchy sun …. in other words: take your pick!
Image

In fact what fortunate folk out in the hills that day got was a stunningly varied kaleidoscope of visual impressions: dull wintery grey initially, but with tantalising lighter whiter hints, glistening through the veil of morning haze, of snow capped hills in the distance; and then, as the morning developed, the landscape gradually suffused by a silver grey light that emerged in localised patches, catching hills and clouds both, so that there was no easily discernible border between the two - a light effect that one imagines is more typical of the icy tundra of Lapland or Siberia; then later the sky quite unexpectedly and rapidly cleared to a perfect clear blue, with the sun reflecting brilliantly off the snow - picture postcard mountain weather. And then towards late afternoon, cloud came in, though not so low that there weren't still great views to be enjoyed.

I hope just that my pics have captured even something of what was truly an exceptional day. If any of the panos catch your fancy, it's worth clicking on them to get a full screen rendering of them.


The Walk

I have driven up to Braithwaite the previous night (having worked out that I would need to be up at 02.00 am if I was to do the route I had in mind in a single day expedition - a bit too extreme :roll:), and parked up in a forestry car park a mile or so above Braithwaite. The alarm wakes me at 05.15, and after a lot of unnecessary faff, I've struck camp, and am on my bike on the way to Little Town by about 06.30 (why, oh why, does it take so long to get going in the small hours ...??? :( ).

ImageThis pic (taken a few hours later) shows the early part of the walk. No official path, but a sharp climb, and some circulation-inducing scrambles among the cliffs on the way... a perfect start!

Image20180308_071037. Looking back north down the valley towards Skiddaw from the ascent to Knot End and High Crags.

Image20180308_071053. Same view as a pano, with Causey Pike - where I hope to be around midday - the pimple just left of centre.

Image20180308_072312. Ahead, due south, Maiden Moor, and High Spy (with my little eye...??!!??).

Image20180308_073759. Looking back north towards Skiddaw and Derwent Water, the light is eerie and awe-inspiring. I'm only sorry that brother Frank hasn't been able to make it today and experience this. Well beyond the power of words to capture...

Image20180308_074657. On the left the Causey Pike to Grasmoor Ridge - the target for the afternoon (with Skiddaw & blencathra behind it in the background); and, in the background to the right, Helvellyn.

Image20180308_075119. I can't stop snapping this view. And the going is easy, so no reason not to embrace fully such hedonistic pleasures :D .

Image20180308_075724. Looking ahead to High Spy - a bit of a Lake District motorway here, but no other folk, so not really off-putting.

Image20180308_080021

Image20180308_080916 20180308_080916. Looking east towards Helvellyn, in this most ethereal light.

Image20180308_080927. And the view back the way I've just come along Maiden Moor, north towards Skiddaw (left) and Blencathra (right).

Image20180308_081356. Towards the Helvellyn range again. The light is simply sensational.

Image20180308_081630.

Image20180308_081652. It's easy and most pleasant upland walking here towards High Spy, with Dale Head and Hindscarth showing to great effect in the background. It's quite cold, so the ground is beautifully hard (= not boggy) underfoot, but there's very little wind, so it doesn't feel too chilly. The so far grey and white sky is rapidly turning blue in the west.

Image20180308_082720. High Spy.

Image20180308_083537. Having consumed a marmelade croissant - breakfast 2 - I swiftly continue towards Dale Head: it soon feels cold enough when I'm not moving,

Image20180308_090550.

Image20180308_090604. Looking back north east towards High Spy on the ascent to Dale Head, Dale Head Tarn glistening in the increasing sun.

Image20180308_091351.

Image20180308_092333. Miners, Red and Eel Crags to the west of the High Spy ridge showing to awe-inspiringly dramatic effect - impressively steep cliffs. The cornice immediately in front of me also looks like it could be pretty dramatic if I get any closer to it ... :roll: .

Image20180308_092358. The rather splendidly solid cairn at Dale Head - there are quite a few of this form of construction on the walk.

Image20180308_093542. The top of the next target, Hindscarth, is swathed in mist for the moment. But it is looking as if it could clear any moment.

Image20180308_094321. And sure enough, it does, at least for a few minutes - this shot looking towards Hindscarth summit...

Image20180308_095127. ... which by the time I get there is again swathed in mist.

Image20180308_102822. And mist characterises the walk to Robinson, though a fence along the approach shoulder and plain topography means that navigation is not difficult.

Image20180308_103302. The mist is still down on Robinson itself. I don't mind too much: the contrast just serves to heighten the pleasure in the views when it clears...

Image20180308_104547. ... which it does a hundred metres or so below the summit, revealing the whole length of Blea Crags and High Snab Bank. I should have paid more attention here to the appearance of the Causey Pike slopes - in hindsight it's clear that the top half is covered in heather, and it proves to be quite hard work and time-consuming to flog through it. If I were to do it again, I think I'd walk the extra kilometre, and take the path...

ImageCausey Pike routes.

Image20180308_104547 labelled.

Image20180308_104608. To the south east, Hindscarth is looking rather fine.

Image20180308_110000. .... with the whole of this morning's first ridge, from Knott End and High Crags to High Spy, showing in the background.

Image20180308_110000 labelled.

Image20180308_110833. Looking back, Robinson is still clag-bound (beclug??).

Image20180308_110839. This is a beautiful ridge walk - nearly all downhill :D . In the background, Skiddaw in cloud, and Derwent Water. Eventually the ridge path descends to a vehicle track, which I follow for about a kilometre before hitting a minor road. Another kilometre on this gets me to the bridge over Rigg Beck, which is where I've planned to cut off up to Causey Pike.

Image20180308_114352. Looking back towards the hills I've just been on, shortly before Rigg Beck.

Image20180308_114352 labelled (2).

Image20180308_115400. Causey Pike viewed from Rigg Beck - looks quite a long way up!!! The hillside is convex, so the heather jungle that starts about half-way up is only just visible as a purple tint almost on the skyline. Looking at the lower part of the slope I am very glad to be doing it in winter: it's apparent that in summer there would be very thick bracken extending right from the start of slope to the start of the heather, making an ascent via this route a real trial from start to finish!

Image20180308_122140. Just into the heather, I stop to take a pic (= rest my weary limbs!). Last version of this view - promise! (but I hope readers can see why it was hard to resist snapping...).

As can be seen from the last pic but one, the last 170m ascent of Causey Pike is much steeper than the main shoulder approach, and I meet the first fellow walkers of the day at the point at which the going becomes steep, where they are taking a breather and enjoying the views. The sky is now largely clear, and we briefly reflect on the unreliability of weather forecasts!

Image20180308_131035. Causey Pike summit - time to sit down, chew a sandwich, and luxuriate in the vistas that spread in all directions. Here are Skiddaw and Blencathra in the background left, and the Helvellyn group background right; and Derwent Water centre pic, with Bassenthwaite just visible on the extreme left.

Image20180308_131136. Looking ahead, this is clearly going to be another superb ridge walk, ascents not so taxing as to distract from the enjoyment of the landscape - pure pleasure.

Image20180308_131136 labelled.

Image20180308_133406. First to Scar Crags...

Image20180308_133442. Grizedale Pike over to the north - I might just get there today.... Then again, I might not...

Image20180308_134400. Somewhat odd-looking raised path for the ascent of Sail... Doing a little reading about this, it seems it was a tad controversial when it was first built a few years ago - unsurprising given the very dramatic (and quite honestly rather detrimental) effect it has on the appearance of Sail's east shoulder. But I guess this form of construction helps prevent accelerating path erosion, so perhaps it's the lesser of two weavils... (pace P O'Brien :D ).

Image20180308_135723. Looking back down the said path as the summit of Sail is neared. Blencathra in the distance to the left, and the northern part of the Helvellyn group to the right.

Image20180308_140239. The less than wholly stunning summit cairn of Sail ...

Image20180308_142224. ...from whence it's but a short hop and 60m of easy ascent to Crag Hill. Where I meet the last fellow walker of the day, who kindly takes a someoneelsie as my record for posterity :wtf: . He tells me he'd originally planned to go on to Grasmoor, but we can both see that cloud is closing in fast from the west, and he's decided to head down as quickly as he can to avoid getting caught in it.

For my part, I follow a route south west to take in ...

Image20180308_142856. Wandope (left hand side) and Whiteless (behind the pimple in the distance, but too low to be visible on this picture).

Image20180308_143914. Another underwhelming summit marker, this time Wandope...

Image20180308_144101. ... but the lack of immediately local drama is more than compensated for by the stunning striated cliffs of Scar Crag that form the south side of Crag Hill - just a pity that the light ain't as good as it could be.

I take a bearing, and head off SSW in the clag towards Whiteless Pike - gentle downhill walking.

Image20180308_150706. As I start to descend the path on to Whiteless Edge, just after the part-cairn at 184196, I drop below the mist and Whiteless Pike and Crummock Water come into view. It's a smashing little walk down the Edge path and up to the Pike - superb views.

Image20180308_151725. Looking back from the summit of Whiteless Pike, along Whiteless Edge the way I have just come, and now have to return.

In the meantime the clag has lifted to about 750m, so I've got reasonable visibility on the walk to the col between Crag Hill and Grasmoor. But above 750m, it's pretty thick mist, and it begins to snow lightly.
Image20180308_160639. Grasmoor summit. The clag isn't showing any signs of dissipating, and I am beginning to recall that the contours for the descent to the north are both closely spaced, and interspersed with "rock/crag" symbols. Looking again at the map, I see that the entire north face is essentially craggy, and slopes down pretty steeply. I take a careful bearing and set off. In short order I come to the top of slope; and it really is quite steep, with every surface less than about 25 degrees slope covered in rather mushy snow. I guess the overall slope is about 45 degrees - which doesn't sound that much when I write it, but in the flesh is quite intimidating when it's covered with slippery snow.

Image20180308_164303.

After the accident on my last outing due to not donning crampons early enough, I make an easy decision.

What a difference!

One feels so much more secure. And I get down the tough old slope easily enough. The crampons also help a lot in the wet turf below the snow line. I take them off about 200m from the bottom, after which point it's possible to scree run right to the bottom (though I'm so out of practice in this arcane skill that I end up travelling the last 50m or so on my bottom :wtf: ).

Image20180308_172648. Looking back up the slope just descended.

Once down in the valley I have to decide whether to go for the ridge that includes Grizedale Pike, or to take the easy route through Gasgale Gill. Surprise, surprise - optimism trumps common sense. After all, it's only just after 5 o'clock - I should be able to get up on to the next ridge and do most of it in daylight. The only issue is, that the route I'd planned on the map is not reasonably doable: straight up the very steep opposite side of the valley, and on top of that: through thick heather :( . I figure that the most time-efficient way of getting up the ridge will be via a path, without a heather battle like that of earlier in the afternoon. So I head west down the valley towards Crummock Water so as to pick up the path up to Whiteside. I get to the point where I need to turn sharp right; and look at my watch. Oh dear! Realistically, it's going to be more or less dark by the time I get to the summit of Whiteside - which means a pretty pointless traverse of the ridge to Grizedale Pike in the dark. The only purpose served would be gaining of a few Hewitt ticks. No, it would be a real pity - and somehow disrespectful towards the majesty of the hills - to walk this ridge with no view; so, reluctantly, I turn round and retrace my way back up the Gasgale Gill - ie parallel to the ridge - towards the watershed.

It's a very straightforward path from thence back to Braithwaite: firstly about 5 km of path alongside the beck...

Image20180308_180133.

... followed by a further 5 km along a vehicular track, back to the car park in the woods above Braithwaite. The only issue is the random presence of icy areas on the path, especially on the steepish descent from the watershed. It's absolutely pitch black now, so the head torch is essential here.


Rehydration

From the car park, I drive back to Little Town to pick up my bike, then - preceded by a short sojourn at an establishment of cultural, historical and architectural distinction...
Image
... I take the 3.5 hour journey home, very very satisfied after a superb day in the hills.

Image3D view of the route. It's perhaps a bit confusing because north is on the right hand side of the image, rather than the top, because the valleys generally run north east/south west.
Last edited by Alteknacker on Wed Feb 06, 2019 3:36 pm, edited 4 times in total.
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Alteknacker
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Re: Western Fells round of 11 Hewitts in dramatic weather

Postby EmmaKTunskeen » Mon Mar 12, 2018 5:23 pm

Epic as usual, AK, and what stunning shots in th'ethereal light! :D
Did they take the Sail cairn stones and tuirn them into the path? :? :lol:
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Re: Western Fells round of 11 Hewitts in dramatic weather

Postby malky_c » Mon Mar 12, 2018 9:58 pm

A typically Alteknackerian route :wink: . Certainly better weather than a few days earlier. Less snow overall, but most of it in the right places (ie on the summits :roll: ), which makes for some good photos :D .

Much as I dislike retracing my steps on a route, I think I would've settled for dropping off Grasmoor to Coledale Hause, then a traverse of the Grisedale/Whiteside ridge from there. Dropping all of that height to Gasgale Gill just looks like punishment for the sake of it :lol: .

I enjoyed a pint or two in your establishment of cultural, historical and architectural distinction before Christmas, on my way back from half of this walk...
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Re: Western Fells round of 11 Hewitts in dramatic weather

Postby Mal Grey » Mon Mar 12, 2018 10:51 pm

Blimey, do you never just go for a nice short amble? :wink:

Superb round to take in all those tops. :clap: :clap: :clap:

That path on Sail is horrible, and I don't quite get why its all raised so much, but I do get that the Lakes is too busy not to do path work to prevent further erosion.
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Re: Western Fells round of 11 Hewitts in dramatic weather

Postby dav2930 » Tue Mar 13, 2018 7:46 pm

Another impressive tour-de-force AK! :clap: Superb photos and panos and some strikingly atmospheric conditions early on. I do love that group of fells.

Have to agree with Malky that dropping down to Coledale Hause from Grasmoor (good path along the rim of Dove Crags) would probably have given you a better chance of including Hopegill Head, Hobcarton Crag and Grisedale Pike, with a possible out-and-back to Whiteside. That descent to Gasgale Gill looked brutal! :shock: :lol:
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Re: Western Fells round of 11 Hewitts in dramatic weather

Postby trailmasher » Wed Mar 14, 2018 8:41 pm

A fine and fantastic epic of a walk along some very fine ridges :clap: :clap: and some great photos :clap: of your 'stroll' out in the hills. I would agree with the others sentiments re dropping off to Coledale Hause that would have given you a good chance of getting in what you missed out on :( Although it is a toil climbing up Sand Hill after a long day at least it's better than the struggle up through the rough to Causey Pike :?

Again, well done on a very fine day out :clap:
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Re: Western Fells round of 11 Hewitts in dramatic weather

Postby Alteknacker » Wed Mar 14, 2018 11:58 pm

EmmaKTunskeen wrote:Epic as usual, AK, and what stunning shots in th'ethereal light! :D
Did they take the Sail cairn stones and tuirn them into the path? :? :lol:


The light really was indescribable - if the pics give even half an idea of how amazing it was, I'm please.

As for the modern sculpture that is the path to Sail... :roll: :shock: :sick: :wtf:

malky_c wrote:A typically Alteknackerian route :wink: . Certainly better weather than a few days earlier. Less snow overall, but most of it in the right places (ie on the summits :roll: ), which makes for some good photos :D .

Much as I dislike retracing my steps on a route, I think I would've settled for dropping off Grasmoor to Coledale Hause, then a traverse of the Grisedale/Whiteside ridge from there. Dropping all of that height to Gasgale Gill just looks like punishment for the sake of it :lol: .

I enjoyed a pint or two in your establishment of cultural, historical and architectural distinction before Christmas, on my way back from half of this walk...


Yes, I agree that dropping only down to Coledale Hause would have been a better strategy - not even a third of the ascent to get on to the next ridge. I did actually realise this when I got to Coledale Hause, because it was still just light, and I could see how little ascent extra was needed to get on to the ridge. I did curse a little :roll: :wtf: . I was put off when planning by the fact that I'd need to do an out and back to Whiteside. But that would have been much preferable to an ascent from Gasgale Gill. That's my pretty feeble excuse....

Mal Grey wrote:Blimey, do you never just go for a nice short amble? :wink:

Superb round to take in all those tops. :clap: :clap: :clap:

That path on Sail is horrible, and I don't quite get why its all raised so much, but I do get that the Lakes is too busy not to do path work to prevent further erosion.


Thanks Mal. The Sail path is indeed a bit of an aesthetic abomination. My probably imperfect understanding of the rationale is that this form of constuction is less prone to erosion (some naughty folk find the path so disturbing that they just take a straight line to the top :oops: :oops: ).

dav2930 wrote:Another impressive tour-de-force AK! :clap: Superb photos and panos and some strikingly atmospheric conditions early on. I do love that group of fells.

Have to agree with Malky that dropping down to Coledale Hause from Grasmoor (good path along the rim of Dove Crags) would probably have given you a better chance of including Hopegill Head, Hobcarton Crag and Grisedale Pike, with a possible out-and-back to Whiteside. That descent to Gasgale Gill looked brutal! :shock: :lol:


Yes, it's a fine group of fells, and the first catalyst to my starting to think about them was your report of a long walk you did a couple of years ago that took in some of them!

And yes, Malky and you are absolutely right - I resurrected a plan I'd done shortly after reading your report without really reexamining it critically. I have to work at repositioning my brain for out-and-backs, and I just saw what looked like a reasonable rationale on paper... :( .
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Re: Western Fells round of 11 Hewitts in dramatic weather

Postby Alteknacker » Thu Mar 15, 2018 1:55 pm

trailmasher wrote:A fine and fantastic epic of a walk along some very fine ridges :clap: :clap: and some great photos :clap: of your 'stroll' out in the hills. I would agree with the others sentiments re dropping off to Coledale Hause that would have given you a good chance of getting in what you missed out on :( Although it is a toil climbing up Sand Hill after a long day at least it's better than the struggle up through the rough to Causey Pike :?

Again, well done on a very fine day out :clap:


Thanks for the kind words, TM. These are indeed some very fine ridges, and I was so lucky with the weather/light.

As regards the idiocy of dropping straight off Grasmoor into Gasgale Gill, I can in retrospect only agree with the others' and your sentiments.... :roll:
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Re: Western Fells round of 11 Hewitts in dramatic weather

Postby dooterbang » Thu Mar 22, 2018 2:18 pm

After reading your last report of only 23k I thought you'd semi - retired :lol:

Nice big route that - well done :clap:

Done a few of these, and from an equally early start. It was summer though and wanted to avoid the crowds.
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Re: Western Fells round of 11 Hewitts in dramatic weather

Postby past my sell by date » Thu Mar 29, 2018 3:19 pm

Another of your cracking strolls AK. I do really hate The Lake's eroded paths :( - Prefer the howgills) - but I guess the snow covers them to an extent. I remember the climb up Causey from Stoneycroft, gave me a knackering start first thing one morning :lol: We went over to Buttermere for a pub lunch and came back over Grisedale Pike. Anyone done Lorton gully ? a good scrambly way up Grassmoor
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Re: Western Fells round of 11 Hewitts in dramatic weather

Postby davekermito » Thu Mar 29, 2018 9:44 pm

Decent old route that - just the standard Coledale Round was enough for me! Fair play to you sir.

The path on Sail is 'interesting'. No place on a hill side but equally quite sculptural though :lol: I hate it so much I quite like it perversely. I reckon with a few years erosion and soil creep the path will be level again sadly/fortunately (depending on how you look at it). Dues to the popularity of the route, I think it would be a lesser of many evils in the long run.

For those who haven't seen the new zigzags in all their 'glory'!

Image

Image
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