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Green Crag 'ridge'.
by trailmasher » Fri Oct 14, 2016 12:00 pm
Wainwrights included on this walk: Green Crag
Date walked: 14/09/2016
Time taken: 4.49
Distance: 17 km
Ascent: 767m1 person thinks this report is great. Register or Login free to be able to rate and comment on reports (as well as access 1:25000 mapping).
As I was having my early morning coffee I was pondering on my choice of routes on this my last day in Eskdale for a while. Having had to complete Monday's route on Tuesday I was a day behind with my plans and it's a toss up whether I get myself up onto the hills that sort of form a ridge between Ulpha Fell on its east side and Birker Fell on its west side, its highest peak being Green Crag, or into Wasdale and claim three more Birkett's as well as making a return visit to Whin Rigg and Illgill Head.
As I sat on a bench outside of the hostel it was warm and the sky was clearing from the thin cloud that had occupied it for most of the night and a good day was promised by the MWIF. As I looked across the valley I could see the zig zag path making its way up the steep valley side, so near and enticing, and only a short walk from the hostel to just past the Woolpack would get me to the lane leading to Doctor Bridge and the path up the fellside.
My mind was made up so after breakfast and checking with the hostel staff if it was alright to leave my car there for the day I set off along the tarmac and within just a few minutes I was walking along the narrow tarmac tree lined lane in glorious sunshine that promised a hot day. I passed over the old stone arched Doctor Bridge that straddles the River Esk and then a way marked cattle crossing moving from tarmac to a well stoned up lane leading to Penny Hill Farm on the left and then Low Birker to which I will make my way before starting the climb up the face of the hill.
Low Birker is a large house which is having - or was - a major makeover and upon arriving at it I was a bit perplexed as to which way to go as the wide and new drive along and up the front and right hand side looked very private indeed, whilst to the left there is a newly cobbled lane reaching around the back of the house, it is to this that I made my first attempt at getting unobtrusively passed the house without upsetting anyone. Alas, I was stopped by a barbed wire fence spanning the lane whilst on the other side of it the lane was still under construction. I returned to the main driveway and headed off up past the house whereupon I was met by two workmen who was building a wall. Seeing as they were two friendly chaps I had a chat to them and got some history of the house and its new start in life before continuing on past the house to swing around the back of it to gain the hillside track proper.
A nice green lane bounded on one side with the open bracken covered fellside with trees on the other soon had me at a height where some decent views were appearing over the top of the valley bottom trees. The lower ones opposite were the first to come into view, Great Barrow, Goat Crag, Hare Crag, Whin Rigg, Dawsonground Crags, and the top of Whinscales in the background. As I climbed higher the woodland trees thinned out to be replaced by the smaller and much hardier juniper trees with the path now getting squeezed in between them. Looking back I could now see west down into Eskdale.
I soon arrived at a wooden gate stile set in a dry stone wall with a long rocky crag and screes looking down on me. Turning right onto the wide track once again there was more stones about littering the grass and they can only have rolled off the scree during bouts of wind and rain with maybe a few sheep kicking a few down on one of their many rambles up the fellside in search of better grazing. The top of Hard Knott was now in view along with the top of Scafell Pike far in the distance, Harter Fell is more to the right of the scene. The higher that I climbed the better the views got especially now as the sun has cleared the low clouds and is shining gloriously, warm and golden.
The track soon reduces to a river of small stones as it once again passes through juniper and bracken but nowhere is it as steep as it looks from down below and I was pleasantly surprised at how easy it has been to ascend as quickly as I had done. Once at the top of the initial zig zags the path once again became a green lane and was now almost level, or felt that way after the climb up to this point. I came upon an old stone and roofless building that I can only presume was used by either peat cutters or quarrymen for shelter or storage and once past that the path gradient steepened slightly as it passed over a hump in the fellside and then within minutes I rounded the corner to find myself above Birker Force to follow the undulating path on towards Low Tarn and Tarn Crag.
The path skirts the edges of the area around Low Birker Pool a lovely shining patch of blue and silver amongst a sea of brown and green and also Foxbield Moss…
and is thankfully about 4 to 10 metres above both, although at one point as I arrived at the mid-point between Low Tarn and the foot of Great Whinscales I had to tuck into the face of a small crag and scramble over rocks to maintain dry boots.
From that point on the going was over pathless grass that was either the tussocky variety or short green type - more the former than the latter - and was uneventful as I passed by Silver How until I arrived at the head of Smallstone Beck of which I thought that I had passed sufficiently by to miss the wet ground. I hadn't, as under the tussocks of grass there lay the real head of the beck hidden away to catch out the unwary who dare to pass this way, so it was with words the colour of blue that I sank in to my ankles and as I dragged myself out of the sodden mass of grass and underlying moss I thought of the day before when I crossed the River Esk with nary a splash on my trousers. There was no point in stopping here to repair the damage as I was nearly at higher ground and my first bag of the day, Broad Crag, and at 372 metres is a small hump of grass and rock with a crown of grey rock with two stones for a cairn.
Since leaving the Eskdale Valley behind I had been walking roughly south with the Green Crag 'ridge' to my left showing up grey and craggy…
but now that I had arrived at Broad Crag the views have opened up quite a lot. Looking north over Foxbield Moss there stands quite a large island of rock that goes by the name of Fox Bield. Over to the southwest Devoke Water is poking out from behind Seat How whilst to the right the two large bumps of Rough Crag and Water Crag are to be seen. Further south is Yoadcastle and Hesk Fell with Great Worm Crag blocking the view into Dunnerdale and just in front and below is my next stopping place, Great Crag, but first of all I had to attend to the wet feet by wringing out the socks and letting my feet dry in the sun whilst taking in some fluid as it's got quite warm by now. I always carry spare socks but don't want to use them just yet as other accidents may happen before the day is out.
Boots on and marching west along a narrow path through the grass passing over Rowantree Beck I reached Great Crag within 20 minutes to climb over the tumbledown perimeter dry stone wall and climb the easy grassy slope to find a number of rock outcrops with grassy lanes leading between them. Although there is a cairn on one of the high crags it is not on the highest one as when climbing all of them I was actually looking down on the cairn from the central pillar. The views from here were similar to the previous ones from Broad Crag although there is a better perspective of Green Crag and its surrounding fells.
From Broad Crag I dropped about 70 metres and then climbed back 38 metres to the top of Great Crag, now I have to repeat this operation although on a larger scale as I leave to descend a mere 28 metres and then climb another 117 metres southeast to reach the top of Great Worm Crag.
I left Great Crag to walk southeast along a narrow path that ran into nothing as I reached the lowest part of the slight col between the two crags just before and around Highford Beck before starting the pathless climb only to stop on top of Long Hill a long outcrop of rock that has a fairly flat top to it. This is a good place for a breather and a drink as the temperature has stepped up a gear, as well as it being a good viewpoint.
The only hard thing about this climb is the rough grass and the heat of the day, but apart from that life's good. Although Great Worm Crag appears to be a pointed peak from afar it is fairly level on top where it carries not one, but two cairns, the main one of them being a fairly large affair whilst the other is much smaller and tries to hide behind a clump of rushes. I can now see the Scafell group of hills and Wasdale over to the north, albeit it is a little hazy, whilst to the east the Coniston Fells can be seen.
Next on is White How over to the northeast, and from where I am just now it looks like a nice steady walk with very little climbing involved, just a slight fall towards a small hump called Far Hill and then a short climb onto White How. I set out on an unexpected narrow path through the grass to soon arrive at Far Hill that is just a grassy dome with a scattering of small rocks on it but I decided to give it a go as it was there and inviting. From the small height above the surrounding ground I could now see an area of wetness in front of me that goes by the name of White Moss and unfortunately it extends to where my chosen path was going to be, so instead of continuing on a north easterly heading I now had to turn southeast for a good few metres to avoid the worst of it before I could swing around back northeast as I neared higher ground.
Once on the base of White How I simply picked my way up the easiest way through the many small crags that adorn its sides to find a large flat boulder supporting a small cairn. This is where I decided to take a break and have a bite to eat and a drink before starting out to climb the next four crags and the more undulating ground that lies between them…
Once again there is a path leading off White How towards Green Crag…
and another more than damp col before the gentle climb up the grassy flank towards the rocks of Green Crags summit and with no more ado I set off now to the north to finally swing over to the left to follow the well beaten path through the rocks to the summit. It's damned hot as I sit on the top taking in the views with the only thing directly blocking the view to the northeast is Harter Fell but otherwise all can be seen from here. I took another drink and will have to go steady now as that is one bottle of water nearly empty, I have a way to go yet and the day seems to be getting hotter.
Leaving Green Crag by its northern flank I walked on from the base of it for a few metres before passing along a grass shelf to arrive at a wide grassy col where I turned right still following a narrow path. To my left there was a rocky dome shaped hill that goes by the name of The Pike with what looked like a tumbledown dry stone wall around its perimeter and then in between me and the hill there was an old marker stone, presumably a now redundant Parish Boundary stone.
Continuing on I came to a junction of paths with the one I was on - going east - went on to join up with the path below Harter Fell whilst I needed to turn to the one going north again to pass below the foot of The Pike and on to Crook Crag.
On passing The Pike I noticed that what I thought was a dry stone wall was in fact a ring of stones that must have broken away from the main crag over the years forming this wall like appearance.
Now, when I had reached Crook Crag my first thoughts was how am I going to get up that but on looking around I soon spotted a way up the initial slopes until I arrived at the base of the main rock tower and then I had to search for a way upwards. There is no path to the summit so one has to find a way up scrambling amongst the many cracks and ledges, sometimes having to stretch an arm and a leg this way and that to achieve a good hold until finally climbing onto the top to find quite a large grass and rock area.
I exited by the same route that seemed easier going down than it did on the way up and began to make my way to Great Whinscale.
I was now starting to lose altitude as I made my way northwest still following a faint path that led me along undulating ground to Great Whinscale whose name over rates this fell as it's nothing but a small lump of rock poking out of the grass but at 425 metres counts as a Birkett.
From the top I could see my way forward and it looks like I still have some work to do before reaching the final summit and then dropping off onto the old quarry track that would take me back to the valley bottom.
Yet another faint path is followed but only for a short distance when I left it to drop down some rough heather and bilberry laden slope and thinking that it was a fair walk around to Great Whinscales when I suddenly spotted a long and steep grassy rake on my left passing between two large outcrops of rock that would save me quite some time and distance so that is the way I went. My way was still to the north as best I could wending my way up and down, in and out of the many small hills and rocky outcrops that lay between me and Kepple Crag.
It was really hot by this time and I'm on water rations as I went on my way when suddenly it went dark and rain began to fall. I quickly donned my wet gear and carried on walking but within just a few minutes the rain stopped falling and I was under hot sunshine once again. Wet gear stowed away again I continued on the route march to Kepple Crag with its long flattish top nearly always in view with it taking me roughly half an hour to walk between the last summit done and this one to come. There is one decent stretch of walking as the small hills are left behind and before the ones around Kepple Crag and it is across a fairly wide area passing the head of an unnamed watercourse and although the ground wasn't wet where I was walking I suspect it could be so more to the northeast.
Once again climbing grassy slopes to reach the top of Kepple Crag I found a wide and long undulating top with the highest point being at the west end of it holding a cairn on one of its long rocky spines with a good view west and south - apart from the haze - whilst over to the north Scafell Pike is ever present from these small fells.
I need to leave this fell by its steep south side so I worked my way down through the crags keeping to grass and having to move to my right at one point as I came across an impassable sloping crag. My aim is to pick up the old quarry track that serviced the old quarry that is immediately in front of me with Great Whinscales sat way behind it.
I must apologise to Great Whinscale for my disparaging remarks regarding its size earlier in the report as from here it has quite an imposing front to it. I soon reached the old track that winds its way beneath the west side of Kepple Crag as it makes its wide way down through the bracken as I spot the hostel and more importantly, the Woolpack. I am now down to less than a quarter of a bottle of water and it's still raging hot. I allow myself a few sips now and again but remind myself that I need to be thirsty when I reach the Woolpack to be able to enjoy its inner delights to the full.
On the way down I passed a couple of small worked out quarries and the remains of the odd building and I also came across an old fingerpost pointing the way to Harter Fell though whether this route is used much, or indeed anymore, I'm not sure but it looked as though it had been a while since it was last used. The path soon changed from easy green to rough stones as I got lower down and once reaching an old cairn I was at the bottom of the fell and walking back through the fields to find the tree lined lane that services Penny Hill Farm.
Within not many minutes I was walking across the car park to the Woolpack's front door and bar where a pint of the Blonde stuff went down a treat.
It was one of those days when a man could get stabled in the bar, but I was driving so sense must prevail and I left for the short walk back to the hostel where I found the temperature to be 29°c. As I have a long drive home I'm glad that I have plenty of bottles of water in the car to keep the thirst at bay.
Another good day on the fells, easy enough but hot, very hot and I should have taken an extra bottle of water with me but thought that two would have been enough for today. Sunday was a good weather day and although Monday was dire the weather conditions had improved day by day since then. Eskdale is a great place to be with so many of the classic walks all within easy reach in all directions. I achieved most of what I came here for so I leave a happy man.
by ChrisW » Fri Oct 14, 2016 6:55 pm
Lovely pics even with that damn heat haze, I think the shot of the old quarry below Kepple Crag would be my favourite of the bunch but it's a tough choice
by trailmasher » Sat Oct 15, 2016 2:26 pm
ChrisW wrote:You've had some incredible mix of weather while in Eskdale TM, I'm not sure if I'd prefer the clag or 29 degrees, I think it would have to be clag as I hate being too hot.
Lovely pics even with that damn heat haze, I think the shot of the old quarry below Kepple Crag would be my favourite of the bunch but it's a tough choice
Yes Chris I nearly had all 4 seasons in 4 days and the haze is nowt but a damn nuisance I much prefer the winter sunny days when all is clear as a bell
Thanks for your comments once again, much appreciated
by simon-b » Sun Oct 16, 2016 4:34 pm
by trailmasher » Mon Oct 17, 2016 7:48 pm
simon-b wrote:Nice route and photos, TM.
But I've yet to traverse Crook Crag; a good reason for another visit.
Yes simon-b a good enough reason indeed and any excuse to get up in the fells will suffice also many thanks for your comments
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