High Raise from Grasmere via Helm Crag

7th January 2012

Being back on the fells within one week is an achievement in itself, that’s if you’re not local that is. With the un-steady, unsettled weather continuing throughout Lakeland the Fell choice lay towards the southern or central fells, in hind-sight I guess, the southern higher peaks that I had planned was a no-goer from the start, so I planned around the central fells & what better route could I have come up with than the Greenburn Horseshoe (Helm Crag to Steel Fell)

This, a favourite among fell walkers & also a personal favourite of mine, was to be executed from the quaint postcard village of Grasmere. The weather forecast suggested a dry day with high gust along exposed routes, which is exactly what we got & a few pro-longed wintery showers thrown in too.

I guess there’s nothing right now you or I can do about the weather, we sit it out or we knuckle down & take the dive, today, for the second week in succession, I’m in my speedos, on the top stage of the swimming baths looking like Mr Bean.

This for me was one of those walks when you ask yourself why?  when you wipe your nose with your glove & the machine guns are going of in your hood-while the wind batters you, & your morale goes to bits & pieces, when your surroundings are nothing more than a battlefield of elements bearing down & waiting for you to give in & dream of warmer times, you dare take off your rain soaked gloves because you know full well, they will not go back on again over raw skin.

Today was one of those days, we all have them. Lakeland in January can be a desolate place.


Wainwright Guidebook

The Central Fells

-Sergeant Man:

Sergeant Man is merely a rocky excrescence at the edge of the broad expanse forming the top of High Raise, but is so prominent an object offers so compelling a challenge (in these aspects being far superior to the summit of High Raise itself) that it is often given preference over the main fell as the target of a days outing, and for that reason it is deserving of a separate chapter. Behind the abrupt peak, which rises steeply from the basin containing Stickle Tarn, is a hinterland of craggy outcrops and ravines that are rarely visited although yielding, in fact, more interest than the environs of the summit; in particular the area of Fern Gill and Broadstone Head, descending with the county boundary to the valley heads of Wythburn and Far Easedale is fruitful ground for the explorer.


Ascent: 2,800 Feet, 854 Meters
Wainwrights: 5, Helm Crag, Gibson Knott, Calf Crag, High Raise, Sergeant Man

Overcast & Blustery am, Showers Turning To Hail & High Gust Of 60mph plus – On Exposed Ridges. Prolonged Wintery Showers pm, Highs Of 8° Lows Of 7°


Grasmere C E Primary School, (£3 Minimum Donation Goes To The School)

Area: Central
Miles: 9.6
Walking With: tim Oxburgh
Ordnance Survey: OL7
Time Taken:  

Grasmere – Easedale Road – Helm Crag – Gibson Knott – Calf Crag – Brownrigg Moss – Mere Beck – High Raise – Sergeant Man – Easedale Tarn – Easedale – Grasmere


Map and Photo Gallery



Grasmere C E Primary School.

We arrive in Lakeland under a mist of dull & grey almost everywhere Lakeland looks bleak this morning, on a good note & although we have just drove through a shower on the way in, the clouds remain high above.

Today I am joined by Tim, my solo career this year is nil existent, & I am getting slightly accustomed to walking in a pair, we kit up alone at the School were I hear chimes coming from the school playground trees, these aren’t no ordinary chimes, for these sound more Edwardian & I’m putting this down to a rather ambitious school teacher – we are in Grasmere after all, the place where the poet William Wordsworth is laid to rest.

Today I have a new piece of kit on board, this comes in the form of a Samsung WB690 Digital compact camera, so with the weather being as it was today I was a little apprehensive in taking shots in the rain, I still haven’t got around to reading the user manual (it’s a bloke thing) needless to say I really do need to have a fiddle with the ISO & the different light aspects this camera can change, but there’s plenty of time for that, today I was happy to have my little compact camera attached to my waist strap & never even notice It was there, a far cry from my Panasonic FZ38 which at times can be cumbersome.


St Oswalds Church, Grasmere.

Grasmere was quiet & looked deserted as we walked its narrow lanes towards Easedale Road, only interrupted by a National Park’s transit van collecting recycled rubbish – which in fact kinda took the ambiance away with Radio 1 blaring out its speakers, the driver unbeknown as he roars the engine & leaves the doors open in between stops, well, there goes the tranquillity


Helm Crag from Goody Bridge/Easedale Road.

The rain stays well away as we walk up Easedale Road, we pass a couple of solitary dog walkers but no fell walkers as yet.


Passing through Brimmer Head Farm towards the fell side.

I think we’ve just had our two minutes of fame, as we headed towards the farm along the end of the Easedale Road we pass four walkers, one clutching a camcorder, he’s ahead of his fellow walkers giving him time to “catch the guys” instead he got me & Tim looking at our boots!


Views towards Blindtarn Cottage & Raw Pike continuing right along towards Blea Rigg.

Now a guest house, Blindtarn cottage holds a haunting past, during 1808 proprietors George & Sarah Green both died  during a blizzard leaving there six children alone for days. The Wordsworth’s had recently taken up residence in Allen Bank. Agnes, the eldest child of the Greens spent time in their service.


Sour Milk Gill & Tarn Crags from our ascent.

It was getting more & more clear that we wasn’t going to gain the summit of Helm Crag without taking a soaking, here comes the first of the mornings showers-shown not so clearly coming in from the direction of Easedale Tarn, hoods up folks!


Here looking south between brief spells of respite from the showers as Wetherlam comes into view.


The southern flanks of Seat Sandal, Great Rigg & Fairfield, from just below the summit of Helm Crag.


Looking back on Grasmere & Grasmere village, over to the left we have the lower flanks of Stone Arthur.


Views opening up towards Pavey Ark & Harrison Stickle, over o the far left the small peak you see is that of Sergeant Man, not on the list of todays fells (up to now that is)


And in the other direction we have Steel Fell & the Helvellyn range.


The Lion & the Lamb.


The Howitzer (The true summit of Helm Crag)

They say, to really claim the summit of Helm Crag you must climb the Howitzer, this I tired on an unrecorded visit to Helm Crag back in 2007 – I made a mess of it then, so dare I say four years on I will only do the same if not worse!

We passed two guys on there way upto the summit, as we ditch our packs for more winter gear one of the guys makes an attempt on The Howitzer, I spot his route up this steep mass of rock & think aye aye, he’s going for it, one hand hole & one spread-leg too many &  just like I did, retreats back down to safety.

You can’t knock a bloke for trying!


The Howitzer.


Gibson Knott & a Green Up Edge Skyline from Helm Crag summit.

Gaining the ridge from Helm Crag is a short walk over a grassy path that will lead you to this cairn & down a tricky steep path, well, tricky in the wet I might add, with Far Easedale over to the left & the Gibson Knott ridge centre, over towards the right of the picture is the Greenburn Valley & Steel Fell. Taking centre at the top of both valleys is Green Up Edge.

Our plan from here was to walk the ridge & follow the contour of the head of the valley on the right over numerous boggy sections & eventually take in Steel Fell, but our plans changed as we walked the ridge towards Calf Crag.


Continuing toward Gibson Knot which is only a short distance away.


Angel’s Torches over central Lakeland.

As we reached Gibson Knot summit we noticed the wind getting noticeably stronger with a distinct winters edge to it, of course we are accustomed to rapidly changing weather, but on a day when it is not forecast & on one of your most favourite walks, it makes it that bit harder to swallow.



Pike of Carrs as we descend Gibson Knot.

The terrain along the ridge is very up & down & even in summer can be boggy. You can see another, & one of many, of the boggy sections just below the crags, incidentally, here the crags can be avoided by flanking Pike Of Carrs using the path over towards the right.


Deer Bield Crags, Far Easedale.

I noticed this rock fall as I walked along the ridge & instantly knew I’d seen it before, not from the ridge, but from a book I own named Lake District Mountain Landforms, I have quoted the author (Peter Wilson) on a numerous occasions, but have never physically seen the Crags & Landforms  that he writes about-up until now, here today is one of them, taken from page nine of said book.

I discussed with Tim about this rock fall & that I have a picture of it at home, we estimated on how old the rock fall was & both came up with the idea-of within the last fifty years or so.

The rock fall at Deer Bield Crags occurred only as far back as 1997, as was caused by the rocky Buttress simply breaking away.


Taking it all in as we rest at Pike Of Carrs.

Here we are over taken by the two walkers we saw on Helm Crag, we pass on the pleasantries & both ask of our routes, us? we are heading towards Steel Fell I say, they go onto say they are heading for High Raise & a return down towards Easedale Tarn.

This sets Tim’s mind ticking…


Tim heading for more peat bogs as Calf Crag’s summit looms ever closer.


Sometimes there’s a little help along the way…

If they create an event for hop-skip & a jump at this years Olympics, I am sure to nail it.


Looking back at a section of Brownrigg Moss & Steel Fell from just below the summit of Calf Crag.


Calf Crag summit cairn.

It was here the weather changed considerably, un-able to hold the camera in any type of up-right position I settle for this one shot & quickly put my compact into my jacket pocket.


Brownrigg Moss is a place I have only read about, much of the reading owes to the fact that a winters walk across here: is very time consuming, exhausting & mind testing – couple this with driving, freezing hail, rain & exceptionally high wind speeds. I can safely say that gaining High Raise & trying to follow the path that flanks Mere Beck is one route I wont be forgetting in a hurry.

We both agree that if we are to make an ascent on High Raise, we should forget about returning to complete our originally intended horseshoe, this amongst the elements causes me to re-think our route, I have no time or indeed space to pull out my map & remap our new route, Tim notes we gain both High Raise then Sergeants Crag then return the same way, this I don’t think we will have the daylight for, so instead I hastily conjure up a return via Easedeale Tarn & we both agree our newly formed plans.


Mere Beck.

We follow the path here & make for the natural Col seen top centre, it is a laborious climb coupled with the elements & possibly the least enjoyed climb of the whole day.


High Raise summit.

This, the only picture I take of the summit, I have not eaten yet & I’m feeling the lack of energy in my stride, the winds are fierce as we make no haste in heading straight for the shelter & not giving the Trig Point a solitary hand tap as one would.

As we enter the shelter there is a young lad, I could even say boy, sat deep within the walls making sure his head is way below the shelters stone walls, his pack lays at the side of him as we swap pleasantries, as I take out my sandwiches the young lad ask where have we come from? I reply Calf Crag & he says “oh that’s were I’m now heading, I’ve come via Easedale Tarn & Sergeant Man, well I say, its bloody fierce out there so take care, with this he shoulders his pack & pats it at the same time, In a manner of what I can only think he was trying to impress, he then goes on to say, should hope to find a spot to pitch the tent. as he leaves I pick up on his matching waterproofs & the hoodie he has under them.

Good luck with that I say.

Inside I know this lad is neither kitted out nor wise enough to put up a tent in these conditions, A Nepalese Sherpa would have to think twice on a day like today.

Lets get out of here, I by now am kneeling down at ground level as I re-shoulder & we both make of for Sergeant Man, with the wind & hail at our backs helping our stride no matter how wet it was.


Heading towards Sergeant Man on a very bleak winters day, we both add that at least we have the wind & rain behind us. God help anyone coming in the opposite direction.


The Langdale Fells as we ascend Sergeant Man, here we have Pavey Ark & Stickle Tarn, the fell in the background is that of Lingmoor Fell.


Sergeant Man summit cairn.

Hastily taken I might add, footing was scarce around the fierce gust, I took this one shot &  descended rapidly.


Blea Rigg taken from the descent from Sergeant Man.

Our path is just off to the left of the photo, this we would use to get down to Easedale & maybe an ascent on Tarn Crags but we are a little while off yet, it was just nice to be descending with the wind on our backs for a change.


Two tarns in one shot, up there with one of my favourites is Coledale Tarn on the left, the Tarn towards the right is Easedale Tarn.


A very wet looking Easedale as the water cascades from Coledale Tarn perched shelf like above Easedale Tarn.

A conscious decision has just been made as you may tell from the photo, we have just passed the path behind us & over to our left that will lead us towards Tarn Crags, I think its fair to say that we have both had enough of the Elements today, we are soaked through to the bones, equipment wet, we decide on a a five minute break at Easedale Tarn, somewhere near the outflow where we can re-coup & maybe finish off the sandwiches.

Anyone familiar with this route may well know that there’s a couple of scrambles to be had, we took this in good stead & eyes were on the outflow & shelter-out the wind behind some of the huge boulders that scatter the natural bowl of Easedale Tarn.


Looking back up at our descent from Coledale Beck.

This route is tricky at anytime of the season & today’s descent made no exception, Tim noted I wouldn’t like to come down here with ice underfoot, I did I said, the first time I summated Sergeant Man those were exactly my conditions… I’m not sure Tim heard or believed me, but care is to be taken while descending this path & its little scrambles.


Easedale Tarn.

We squelch our way past the Tarn & make for a huge boulder at the Tarns outflow – by now avoiding the bogs & deep pools just wasn’t worth it, we were soaked, so kid like we just walked or sunk our way straight through them.

I am thinking of the two Chicken Mayo sandwiches I have left in my pack, my belly feels empty & I’m touching reserves again, that boulder cannot come soon enough, we leave the path & head for this colossal dinner table, only there is a problem… a group of four walkers are approaching from the stone path, it looks as though they have come from Grasmere, we are on collision course, who will get there first?

They do.

It starts to rain as I look at my now taken dinner table, four people inc. two adults & children have beat me, I & we are up to our b#####ks in peat & mud, ground sweat & raw skin. I look on in dismay & say leave it mate, we’ll wait until Grasmere.


Low light as I look back on Sour Milk Gill.


Sam Read’s book store, Grasmere.

Grasmere looks almost as deserted as we left it this morning, which is just as well as we make our way back to the Primary school, looking like nobody owns us, I have only one thing on my mind.

Chicken Mayo


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