The Grisedale Horseshoe

10th March 2012

Its only been a couple of weeks since I was last in Lakeland & non more in that time have I yearned for the fells. Last weekend saw me wave off not just my work colleague, but my best mate, the very person who over five years ago first got me hooked on Lakeland, times change & people move on but the work place just wont be the same without Ste Harrison.

Last weekend saw us all wave off Ste in a volley of lager, cider & a king kebab, it was a fitting send off for a bloody top bloke.

We ended the night with not flung arms around each other, not, I’m gonna miss you mate, but ‘training starts soon Sharkey’ in this, Ste means, the training for our annual Manchester to Blackpool bike ride, spring must almost be upon us…

And it is, I’m looking at daffodils out of my window that line my drive, the birds are starting to be my early morning alarm clock, birds please, another half hour, I don’t have to get up yet. I love spring, it means winter is almost out of the way & I can push that slight seasonal disorder thing that I have going on in my head, out. Don’t get me wrong, winter in Lakeland is a wonderful place, low sun, deep blue skies or moody grey, they are all lovely, but the dark evenings somewhat hinder time spent walking, especially as some of us know, its a five hour round trip we have to work around too.

Dropping off a fell at 8pm in the evening with the midges at your ankles is a special feeling, one that everyone must do in their life time, spending a night on the fells is just another.

Anyway, I’m going way off again, someone form an orderly queue & give me a slap!

Its unheard of that I struggle to choose which fells I’m going to walk on, being away for time only as much as a week could see me jump out of a moving car & rush for the fell side, but this week I have a guest, Daz, your not a guest, your my mate, an old mate at that, we go back as far as 1986, for Christ sake, I once bought a house next door to you.

Were good mates, & we always have been into the same outdoor pursuits, whereas I put the BMX down at 16 & pursued girls & alcohol, Darren didn’t

Wainwright Guidebook
The Eastern Fells

In the area of the Eastern Fells the greatest single mass of high ground in Lakeland is concentrated. It takes form of high a tremendous barrier running north and south, consistently high and steep ground throughout its length, mainly having an altitude between 2500’ – 3000’, in two places only falling below 2000’, and rising above 3000’ on Helvellyn. In general the western slopes are steep, smooth and grassy and eastern slopes are broken and craggy, but at the northern extremity the reverse obtains. The fells in this area may conveniently be classed in two groups divided by the Grisedale Pass: in the south is the Fairfield group, pleasingly arrayed and with deep valleys cutting into the moss on both flanks; north is the bigger but less interesting Helvellyn range, with no valleys in the western wall but several on the eastern side running down to Ullswater.


Ascent: 4,590 Feet, 1,400 Metres
Wainwrights: 5, Helvellyn, Nethermost Pike, Dollywagon Pike, Saint Sunday Crag & Birks
Weather: Bright & Sunny Start Turning To Low Blanketed Cloud & Strong Winds Once Above 700 Metres. Turning Bright Again For The Remainder Of The Walk. Highs Of 15° Lows Of 11°
Parking: White Lion Hotel, Patterdale
Area: Eastern
Miles: 11.5
Walking With: Darren Winstanley
Ordnance Survey: OL5
Time Taken:  
Route: Patterdale – Grisedale Bridge – Brownend Plantation – Hole-in-the-wall – Birkhouse Moor – Red Tarn (Helvellyn) – Swirral Edge – Helvellyn – Nethermost Pike – High Crag – Dollywagon Pike – Grisedale Tarn – Deepdale Hause – Saint Sunday Crag – Birks – Patterdale

Map and Photo Gallery



Darren also managed to fit in his love for the outdoors & did things like this…


Where do you take a bloke who likes to strap an ironing board to his feet?

You cant help but envy a bloke like Daz, at 39 he’s the fittest athlete I know, couple his hobby’s of Snow Boarding, Long Distance Road Bike Racing, Endurance Racing, Triathlons, Running & Mountain Biking, Darren’s equipment alone exceeds what I paid for both my cars currently sitting on my driveway.

Dedication is his middle name, oh and, he doesn’t like to lose at anything.

So where do you take a bloke like Darren?


11°, 8:00am The White Lion, Patterdale.

Its a tough one for yours truly, I had initially decided to walk the Dovedale Horseshoe, this owing to the fact that the weather forecast was pants for an ascent on the higher fells such as Helvellyn, not in as much as a safety aspect, but more of ‘what are you going to take away kind of approach’ with predicted limited views, lets leave the high fells for good visibility days.

The weather was forecast as dry, white cloud yet gusty on the summits, we got lots of white cloud above 700 metres, thick, rolling, swirling cloud, enough to make me think, winter is truly not letting go of the fells just yet.

Besides catching up on the drive up to Lakeland, we both agreed that if the cloud was high, an ascent on Helvellyn should be given thought to. Chinks of blue sky & promising rays of mild air greeted us, & it was while we drove the last mile along the Kirkstone Pass did we agree that Helvellyn would be our main summit for the day.


As we flank Birks, the views towards Ullswater & Silver Crag start to open up.

The air is a seasonal spring mild & I give second thought as to why am I wearing my jacket, Darren has opted for his Rab soft shell, it really is a mild morning in Lakeland.


After crossing Grisedale Bridge I took this photo of the Grisedale Fells, on the left we have Saint Sunday Crag with Nethermost Cove taking centre, over to the right is our route of Brownend Plantation & Hole-in-the-wall bound, we shall be up there soon.


Looking back down the steep path towards Place Fell & Boredale Hause, it was just before I took this photograph do I give in & de-layer…the jacket gets as usual, tucked in underneath my pack lid.


The Grisedale valley.

Grisedale is up there with the most beautiful valleys in Lakeland, besides Newlands, Grisedale is one of the more popular walked valleys in the whole of Lakeland, it cant help but capture your soul as it has mine.

Taking centre of the picture is Grisedale Hause & over to the left is the formidable Saint Sunday Crag, on the right we have Falcon Crag & Eagle Crag leading down to Grisedale Beck cutting through the valley bottom.


Hole-in-the-wall / Birkhouse Moor.

As we leave behind the steep approach like steeps to Hole-in-the-wall I am concerned by two things: one, my lack of breath & timing with my breathing, and two: today I am breaking in a pair of new boots, wow I hear you say, they are new – but they are also my third pair of the same boot & I have never had trouble in breaking in a pair of Salomon’s except for now, so before the blister does real damage, I take of my left boot & sock & place three plasters across my heel.

At this point we both put on our jackets, the sound of buffering howling over the stone wall is pretty deafening as we leave the spring like mild air of the Grisedale valley behind for some good old Red Tarn chill.


Darren heading for Red Tarn.

It starts to rain slightly as we make for Red Tarn & the wind gets deceivably more chilly, A decision on whether to summit Catstye Cam is yet to be made.


Looking back on Birkhouse Moor from Red Tarn Beck.

As we approach the path for Swirral Edge we pass a young couple taking down their tent, we both agree the location wasn’t the best, as we pass on our good mornings Darren asked, how was your night? bloody awful & darn right miserable was the answer!

Here we make the decision on not to summit Catstye Cam, I think once Darren saw the approach to Swirral Edge he could hardly contain himself.


Swirral Edge.

The wind has truly taken hold & thoughts of a safe crossing laid on my mind, thus no shots of Red Tarn nor Striding Edge which I only found out as I loaded the pictures when I got home.

Although at this point Darren has alpine experience (albeit on an ironing board!), it is here I give Darren some small advice on which way to tackle his ascent, I am at the back with an ever increasing blister pain, from my experience I can’t let Darren take the lead only he will know when to drop back & let some experience of Swirral Edge take over.

Darren does this duly.


The cloud moves back in hindering our views, its not the view at this point I am worried about, its the wind!


Darren lets me pass half way up the edge as I negotiate a path, leaning ones body into the fell side as we climbed was the safest option, the view down Swirral Edge from here looks near vertical but that’s only because you cant see through the clag, its a steep ascent but not as bad as it looks in this photo.


Rising from Swirral Edge leaves you within ears distance of the summit trig point.

Helvellyn’s summit plateau is almost free from snow with just a metre of cornice on the east face & sporadic patches on the exit from Striding Edge, this we could not see through the low cloud.


Darren hanging on for dear life at Helvellyn’s summit trig point.

We take a couple of pictures & head off in search of the summit cross shelter.


Helvellyn’s summit cross shelter.

We spend no more than just a few minutes in the shelter, time enough to collect ourselves & to adjust any gear. I wipe my camera lens & take out my Extremities Windstopper gloves, the next hour it seems, is going to be quite brutal.


Leaving the comfort of the summit shelter in search of Nethermost Pike.


Nethermost Pike summit cairn.

In all my four visits to Nethermost Pike this kind of visibility is fast becoming the norm, only once have I had the luxury of views.

Obtaining the summit was easy but finding the path again took a few more minutes than expected, you can’t blame a bloke for taking out his GPS at this point!


After re-joining with the path we head for Dollywagon Pike, not before passing the head of Ruthwaite Cove on Darren’s left, the path here is wide & easy to follow. Its such a shame we lack the views, Grisedale & Saint Sunday is a must see from this narrow ridge top.


In the thick of it on Dollywagon Pike’s summit.

I’m beginning to wonder just how much abuse my camera is going to take, the little blighter just keeps clicking away although in saying this, this was the last picture I was to take in between the summit & Grisedale Tarn, the rain came in thick & the wind came in fast.


Passing a large group of walkers just above Grisedale Tarn on the newly constructed zig zag path, we was asked by every walker on an ancent to Dollwagon ‘how was it up there’ grim was the answer!


Grisedale Tarn with a misty Seat Sandal lurking just behind.

While at the summit of Dollywagon we decided that Grisedale Tarn was the place to stop & eat, we find a spot out of the wind & take off our packs, Darren’s tucking into a full Soreen Loaf that he’s brought with him, me, I’m on ham & cheese spread, although made by yours truly I found the cheese dry & difficult to swallow, the bread sticks to the roof of my mouth & this makes me feel even more dehydrated. I have a wander around the out flow of the Tarn, I take around eight pictures & find this is the only one that turned out..

The camera needs a good drying out so I make my way back over to Darren & proceed to find anything that isn’t wet, nothing has escaped the rain so I use the front of my Rab soft shell, its damp with sweat but the driest thing I’ve got.

Darren offers me a slice of Sooren Loaf, its smeared with a layer of butter, just how I like it 

What happens next is pretty unpredictable even for my standards.


Saint Sunday Crag with lens smear.

As we pack away lunch & are just about to shoulder packs Darren ask are we heading down through the Grisedale Valley or over Saint Sunday Crag?

Without thought I say, were heading down the valley mate,..I take a look up at Saint Sunday…oh dear what was that… is that… is that butterflies in the belly I ask myself? It could be the cheese going down I’m not sure… my pack is on but not clipped in for you see I’m pondering at an ascent.

It looks positively blue up there, we spot – or we think we do, it looks like its starting to clear up the more east we looked, the summit of Saint Sunday for now looked inviting, too inviting to ignore. With this I ask Darren how’s his legs? good mate I’m fine, my legs are in good order too & do not feel spent, with this we head for Deepdale Hause & for me, the best part of the day.


Taking the narrow path that flanks Deepdale Hause.


Looking back on Grisedale Tarn.

At 21 Metres deep, Grisedale Tarn is Lakelands third deepest Tarn, the second being Levers Water at 37 Metres & the first is Blea Water (Mardale) at an impressive 63 Metres.


Looking towards a cloud swept Cofa Pike.

On reaching Deepdale Hause we find ourselves back in the cloud, our observatory from the Tarn below lays in tatters!


Back in the wind it seems as we make for the Saint Sunday’s summit, it is here I walk through some very painful muscle spasms in both my left calf’s & my upper right thigh, these at least take my mind of the blister on left heal.



Almost at the summit.


Saint Sunday Crag summit cairn with what looks to be blue sky behind…


We spend little time at the summit and soon find ourselves making our way down the broad rocky expanse summit plateau. To our left is Striding Edge & the Hellvellyn ridge, still engulfed in cloud as we left it this morning.


An RAF Sea King hovers over two walkers right at the start of the Brownend Plantation path we was on this morning before touching down in one fine movement at the far side of the wall, I’m not too sure what was going on here but the two walkers must of called for help at some point.

Over towards the Eastern fells the views were really starting to open up.


A whole host of Eastern fells in one shot.


The views towards Ullswater & Place Fell weren’t to bad either, spot the Sea King in the centre of the picture after loading up its patient.


A close up of Angle Tarn & Angle Tarn Pike’s as we descend, with The Nab behind on the left & Rest Dodd on the right – in the very background stands Wether Hill & High Raise.


A brief encounter with Nethermost Cove, Striding Edge & Catstye Cam.


Heading for Birks summit.

In all honesty our route this afternoon would of flanked Birks, but as tradition it would of been rude not to pay Birks a visit, it was a lovely walk across its grassy reaches giving some much needed cushioning for the aching knee caps.


Giving the limbs a rest as I take in the views.


What Kirk Fell is to Wasdale, Saint Sunday Crag is to Patterdale.

Saint Sunday Crag from the Birks summit.


Looking over Glenridding & Ullswater, the pointy fell in the background is that of Great Mell Fell, the small fell in the centre is that of Gowbarrow Fell & the little crest above Gowbarrow is Little Mell Fell.

Its been an exhilarating day, If I’d of known while on the summit of Helvellyn that I still had Saint Sunday Crag to climb I’d of told you where to go, a decision made at the Grisedale Tarn was all it took to get the wind back in my sails, this is what Lakeland does, its an unseen force until you see it before your eyes.


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