The Coledale Horseshoe

6th November 2011

Ok, I broke a few promises to myself this week, the main one being I was having a week off from the fells, the second one being that when I do get my boots back on, it would be somewhere around the Howgills. In saying all this, I remembered a promise I made to myself after the first time I did The Coledale Horseshoe back in July 2010, Paul I said, after you have completed your Wainwright’s you have got to make the Coledale Fells the first ones you come back & do.

In all the time since July 2010 I have done alot of walking & taken in some great fells, none more so while on the subject of Horseshoes or Rounds than the Fairfield Horseshoe, only as late as May this year, I remember walking the ridge in between Rydal Fell & Great Rigg thinking to myself, nothing can top this classic Lakeland ridge walk… that was until I remembered about Coledale, Coledale beyond Braithwaite is a special place, & none more so than Coledale Hause & the once bustling Force Crag Mine that lies directly beneath it, top all this off with some of Lakelands finest fells & classic ridges, I guess for now at least, The Howgills can wait a while longer.

In keeping an eye on the weather (which of course has a lot to do with the reason I walked today in the first place) while reading Lakelands Weatherline online forecast the Saturday evening just to double check one final forecast I read that the north & north western fells may experience wide spreads low fog up until lunch time, this to me & you is cloud inversion, a phenomenon that I was yet to experience in all my times I have visited Lakeland.


Wainwright Guidebook

The North Western Fells

It is generally more satisfying to climb a mountain from base to top than to hop on the summit by a connecting ridge from another fell, and certainly by doing a more detailed knowledge of its structure is gained. But the finest walking on the fells (a distinct from wandering and exploration which give greater interest) is obtained by following linking ridges, even though the visits to the various summits en route are brief and superficial: one keeps high above the world, the views are extensive and ever changing, and distances are quickly covered.

An excellent ridge walk.


Ascent: 4,200 Feet, 1,280 Meters
Wainwrights: 8, Grisedale Pike, Hopegill Head, Grasmore, Wandope, Eel Crag (Crag Hill) Sail, Scar Crags, Causey Pike
Weather: Beautiful Clear Blue Skies, No Wind, Cloud Inversion am, Highs Of 10° Lows Of 2°
Parking: Car Park, Whinlatter Pass (FOC)
Area: North Western
Miles: 11.5
Walking With: On my own
Ordnance Survey: OL4
Time Taken:  
Route: Braithwaite, Kin, Sleet How, Grisedale Pike, Hopegill Head, Coledale Hause, Grasmore, Wandope, Eel Cragl (Crag Hill), Sail, Scar Crags, Causey Pike, Rowling End, Uzzicar, Braithwaite

Map and Photo Gallery



Autumn in Lakeland.

It had been a eventful drive up to say the least, this owing to the fact that  the M6 had closed at Junction 26 (Standish) through to Junction 28 (Leyland) in comparison only about 4 miles as the crow flies, yet the detour took me; a National Express twin axle coach & a couple of Arctic trucks through some of Lancashire’s finest A & B roads, this as you can imagine put time & patience on my journey.

I arrived in a blanket of thick low lying fog as I drove along the A66 towards Braithwaite, time was getting on towards 8:30 & I feared I may have missed a parking space due to the already filling up lay-bys along the A66. I was lucky enough to grab the third but last space & even as I kitted up the other two were quickly taken, I take up conversation with two blokes kitting up at the side of my car & we exchange comments on the weather & of course…


The Cloud Inversion.

Currently engulfing the whole of Northern Lakeland, this awe inspiring phenomenon is a first for me, in all the years I have spent walking the fells I have only ever seen cloud inversion in photographs. For the first twenty minutes of my walk after just leaving the car & gaining little height, all I can do is click away & gaze & not just awe, but just how lucky I feel to be viewing this rare spectacle.


The mass of Skiddaw, almost looks Island like.


A close up of an eerie latrigg.


It was so difficult not to keep turning around to take more & more shots of the inversion. Here I turn once more, take a shot & upload it to my Facebook page before I take in the frosty slopes of Kin.


The northern fells under siege.


My first glimpse of Grisedale Pike from Kin, to the left of the picture is Eel Crag (Crag Hill) & Sail. The two walkers who set off before me are way ahead & seem out of sight, but I do see movement every now & again.


Looking back over Kin as the inversion slowly starts to disband.


Views towards three of the eight fells I will climb today. The Coledale Valley really has a specialness that I cant quite put a finger on, its just something that I feel.


The steep ascent up Sleet How is a lot more enjoyable than it seems, the two walkers you see are the ones who set up at the side of me in the car park, & by the looks of things I’ll soon be catching them up.


Looking back over Kin towards the Skiddaw Massif from Sleet How.


Commanding views all the way over to the eastern & central fells. It really doesn’t get any better than this.


Hopegill Head from the summit of Grisedale Pike, note all that remains of the Trig Point.

While at the summit I am joined by the two walkers I passed on Sleet How, we make comment again on the glorious weather & our routes ahead, we were both on the same route except today,  I would be including Grasmore & Wandope in my route, he tells me he is on his hundredth Wainwright & that today he was just simply bagging fell tops, I congratulate him & I ponder on whether to tell him I finished my Wainwright’s only last weekend, It almost feels like I’m showing off as I say ‘believe it or not, I finished my Wainwright’s last weekend’ oh really? fantastic he replies well done, are you tying up for winter he ask? no I reply, I try to get up on the fells 12 months a year as safely as I can, I feel now, although I am telling the truth in my humbleness I am showing off, I bid the pair a safe trip & leave for Hopegill Head.

(Big grin on face)


I push on towards Hopegill head taking in this fine semi-ridge section with great views & a fine spring in my step.


I leave the main path a little to get this picture of Eel Crag, Coledale Hause & Grasmore-for reasons I will explain later on in the walk.


Again, I leave the main path & get as close to the edge as my nerves will allow & take this shot of Hopegill Head & Ladyside Pike, the small ridge in between Hopegill Head & Ladyside Pike is a lot more testing than it looks in the photo, for instance, to reach Ladyside Pike from Hopegill Head you have to endure a tough & steep scree slope & then back again, it added me a total of about an hours walking time in doing this, it was only until I got home & realised LSP wasn’t a Wainwright did I then let out an almighty D’OH!


Grisedale Pike from Hopegill Head summit.

It was here I take off my pack & eat away at a breakfast bar, the wind freezes the sweat on my back & causes a slight chill. Two couples arrive at the summit who had been on my tail since Kin, this was my exit, with a hearty Hi’ I head for Coledale Hause.


Coledale Hause & Eel Crag (Crag Hill)

I pick my way down the scree path from Sand Hill, it really does have an excellent pitch & all the while I am taking shots of my favourite Hause, it was only up until right at this point did the sun disappear around the back of Eel Crag (Crag Hill) this I could foresee way back four pictures ago. The sun & a deep blue sky is a wonderful thing, yet it does have one disadvantage, Sun Glare, thirty shots I kid you not it took me to get this one decent shot of Coledale Hause, the answer? A filter for my camera!


On route to Grasmore after leaving the top of Coledale Hause.

There is a crossroads at the bottom of this path & again, it was the suns glare was the reason I couldn’t include the one shot I took of the crossroads, it was a shame really because it is a significant part of the walk & I do apologise for my clumsiness!

After leaving the top of Coledale Hause while in between popping a full Satsuma in my mouth, I now take on the steep path & Grasmore bound, this gave my legs as thighs a hiding & felt brutal all the way, I wondered if I had taken on to much with Grasmore as it isn’t necessarily included in The Coledale Horseshoe.


Looking over the Lad Hows towards the western fells together with a glimpse of Buttermere.


The spectacular table top summit of Grasmore.

The heavy slog was worth it as I gained a more gentler approach to the summit shelter. The last time I, or we was here was in February 2010 in much different conditions, an ascent from Buttermere that day in zero visibility & snow drift saw me & Tim turn heels as we got to the summit, today however I may still have the aching limbs but can smile at the fact I have absolute perfect walking conditions.

I take a small rest stop at the shelter, if only to take my sandwiches out of my pack & head back the same way eating my sandwiches as I walked & marvelled the views & my route ahead.


Eel Crag (Crag Hill) from Grasmore.

I intended to take both Grasmore & Wandope as two extra additions to my walk today, twenty minutes ago I would have settled for just Grasmore, but after my brief rest I find my way over to…




Eel Crag (Crag Hill) & Sail from Wandope summit.


Ard Crags, Knott Rigg & the north western fells from the summit of Wandope.


Looking back on Wandope & the hugely impressive Addacomb Hole.


Instead of keeping to the main path I follow this narrow ledge for about 200 yards, this lead me to believe that I had out-flanked the summit which indeed you will if you decide not to turn left & up a grassy slope popping out right at the side of the main path.


Out standing views towards Skiddaw & Blecathra from the summit of Eal Crag (Crag Hill)

The name of the fell is unfortunate and inaccurate. Eel Crag is probably the rocky buttress above Coledale Hause, but for a century or more the whole fell has been popularly known by this name. The Ordnance maps, in all series use Crag Hill, and, if adopted generally, this name would avoid the confusion that has arisen due to the recent development of Eel Crags in nearby Newlands as a climbing ground. But walkers are conservative folk; they do not like change in old favourites, and Eel Crag it will remain.

Explained so much better than I ever could.


The Clough Head/Helvellyn Range & Great Mell Fell from the summit of Eel Crag (Crag Hill)

1 Great Mell Fell, 2 Clough Head, 3 Great Dodd, 4 Watsons Dodd, 5 Stybarrow Dodd, 6 Raise, 7 White Side, 8 Catstycam, 9 Helvellyn, 10 Nethermost Pike, 11 Dollywagon Pike, 12 Fairfield.


My ridge route from Eel Crag (Crag Hill) ahead keeping with the ridge line I have my final four fells, there’s a little scramble to be had as I make my way on to Sail, then I take on the newly contracted much hyped about zig-zag path & a little depression that will lead me on to Scar Crags, then its a classic ridge walk all the way over to Causey Pike, this is all a good couple of hours away so I best get a move on!

Outerside & Barrow (both Wainwright’s) centre left can also be included in The Coledale Horseshoe, the middle out of the three fells is Stile End which isn’t a Wainwright. In my first attempt I went for the Wainwright’s & not this classic  Lakeland ridge walk, today is different.


Looking back at Eel Crag (Crag Hill) from the distinctive Sail summit cairn, blink & you’ll miss it.


Leaving Sail behind along this newly constructed zig-zag path (Sail Pass) as I now head for Scar Crags. The new path is steep in pitch in places & I seemed to have developed a jog-on, especially around the curves!


Causey Pike from Scar Crags summit.

Sorry but no summit cairn shot, it was full of walkers so I decided on this one instead.


The classic ridge in between Scar Crags & Causey Pike.

It was here I was joined by a fellow walker as we walked this section together, a gent who had started over in Newlands & taken on Cat Bells & Robinson, Crossed the Newlands Pass onto Knott Rigg & Ard Crags, then up onto Scar Crags were we met (I think I got that right)

We chatted about most things fell related which included the tech side of fell walking, cameras & GPS Mapping & so on, while in conversation as we approached a puddle something very strange happened, as I will do my best to explain next.

Conditions hadn’t changed much since this morning, which can be significant in Lakeland, a gentle breeze maybe & by now, as the temperature had warmed a few degrees the Cloud Inversion had long gone. As we approached a puddle of water consisting of no more than 2” in depth something un-natural happened before both our eyes. I am especially keen to know if this as ever happened to anyone reading this.

I know I’m sauntering of track a little & I do apologise, ok, going back to the puddle, as we approached we saw in this puddle a vortex of water turning in a clockwise motion extremely ferociously so much so that only after a matter of seconds it had disappeared into what looked like a tiny explosion of water, covering me with a little splash back. We both were taken a gasp & walked through the puddle to where this had occurred, this section of water was no less than 1” in depth, we both had never seen anything like this before & If anyone has or knows what this could be, please drop me an email.


Causey Pike summit looking quite busy.


Looking towards Rowling End, Dewent Water & Cat Bells & a whole host of north eastern fells. My ridge walk was almost over as I scramble down the crags & bid a farewell to my accomplice over my last two ridges, I head down the left flank of Rowling End deep in the shadows of Coledale.


Cat Bells from Uzzicar.

Possibly & undoubtedly the most climbed fell in Lakeland, nevertheless, she is lit up by an early evening sun & looking as majestic as ever.


The village store, Braithwaite.

I have trampled many a fell today, not because I had to, but because I wanted to, it brings a whole new light, & I guess, today was just the start of new things for me. Lakeland is a fresh to me right now as it was nearly five years ago. I cant help but think, that with all the sights I have seen today, been blessed with perfect weather that someone up there is saying, I owe you for last weekend Paul


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