After work, Wetherlam via Steel Edge

31st May 2014

It’s only been two short weeks since I was last in Lakeland but it felt like much more as last weekend I celebrated my 40th Birthday in Cork Ireland where I boozed until the early hours for two consecutive days, the lasting affect scuppered my mid life working week leaving me feeling more lethargic than a sloth on a two week holiday.

I needed fell time & quickly.

Todays walk began in Salford Greater Manchester as I had a morning shift in work to cover, it’s the end of the month in the motor industry which means targets & deadlines had to be met so there was no getting out of it. I calculated leaving Manchester for Tilberthwaite to take me two hours, in fact it only took me just over an hour & a half to arrive at Tilberthwaite…the contrast between both city & hamlet was so over whelming it almost felt, that I needed a little time to adjust.


Wainwright Guidebook Four

The Southern Fells

-Wetherlam, the most industrialised of Lakeland mountains

This fine hill, however, is too vast and sturdy to be disfigured and weakened by mans feeble scratching’s of its surface, and remains today, as of old, a compelling presence to which walkers in Brathay will off turn their eager steps.


Ascent: 2,126 Feet – 648 Meters
Wainwrights: Wetherlam
Weather: Warm & Sunny, Highs Of 19°C Lows Of 19°C
Parking:  Car Park, Tilberthwaite
Area: Southern
Miles: 5.9
Walking With: On My Own
Ordnance Survey: OL6
Time Taken: 3 Hours 50 Minutes
Route: Tilberthwaite – Tilberthwaite Gill – Dry Cove Bottom – Steel Edge – Lad Stones – Wetherlam – Wetherlam Edge – Birk Fell Hawse – Slater Bridge (Little Langdale) – Cathedral Cave – Moss Rigg Wood – Pierce How Beck – Tilberthwaite

Map and Photo Gallery


Tilberthwaite 14:32 19°C

It was warm & humid as predicted by the forecasters by the time I arrived in Tilberthwaite. The car park was generously full but not in a way that I would struggle to park. I was still wearing my shirt & trousers which meant a quick change by the side of the car, my work gear was scattered across the back seat as I quickly changed into shorts & my trusty Craghoppers Noselife shirt which after a couple years, is starting to get a bit bobbly.

I sat on the car sill as I pulled up my walking socks taking note just how warm & inviting the grass felt under bare foot, next came the boots which looked spanking new again after giving them a good wash & dubbing the previous week. With the car locked I shouldered pack & headed up the steep embankment feeling the heat almost instantly as I drew in a mouthful of Robinsons.

Passing the disused quarries above Tilberthwaite.
Not long after leaving the car workings from the old Slate & Copper quarries are passed which litter the whole area around Tilberthwaite Gill & Wetherlam, mining only ceased here around the mid 1940’s.

Yewdale Beck/Tilberthwaite Gill.
There are two routes that navigate Tilberthwaite Gill, today I shall be using the footpath that descends in & out of the Gill itself which is a path that I have never used before, the other route flanks high above the gill out of sight to the left of the photo, part of which can be seen in the centre just above the tree line.

Crossing Yewdale Beck.
With the sun for now hiding behind cloud I descend sharply into Tilberthwaite Gill, despite the sun being partially hidden the humidity is still very high as no sooner than I knew it, I was wiping the sweat away from my forehead.

Crossing the Wooden footbridge over Yewdale Beck.
I spend a few moments taking in Tilberthwaite Gill from the footbridge looking both up & down stream. Rocks & boulders line the river bed from bank to bank in both directions with Yewdale Beck resembling a trickle more than anything else which was such a pity, although going by the size of some of those boulders only a large quantity of water could have carried them there during heavier periods of rain.  

Above Tilberthwaite Gill.

After a very steep ascent out of Tilberthwaite Gill I pick up a faint path through young bracken which at this time of the year is only boot high. Once off my short cut I find myself back on the main footpath that flanks the steep sided gill, every now & again I would peer down through the trees to see the faintest of water flowing down below.

It’s a little after 3pm & as you can see the sun is back providing some very warm walking conditions indeed, not to mention a distant haze.

Wetherlam & Steel Edge seen with Lad Stones.
From the footpath my objective suddenly appeared between a clearing in the trees. my first initial thought was it’s just too warm to be climbing things like that today! But were soon forgotten once I crested the ridge.

Here, looking back on Tilberthwaite Gill seen with Holme Fell in the background.

Steel Edge ascent.

After crossing Yewdale Beck once more I downed pack to take out my walking poles, from where my view of the ridge was practically non-existent owing to the fact that the Steel Ridge itself has many ‘grassy crags’ to first ascend before taking on the main ridge itself.

Once the crags are behind you do get this wonderful ridge affect as the mini scramble ahead looms ever closer.

Steel Edge under brilliant afternoon sun.
Steel Edge incorporates a natural wonderful grassy ridge that will allow the legs to unwind before a little scrambling up ahead.

Living on the edge.
Here I look down the ridge after leaving the grassy ridge behind for the more hands on ascent. Mental notes are logged to ascend this route under full winter conditions.

Looking back down Steel Edge.
The final section of Steel Edge is by far the most enjoyable as you work your way through the crags which isn’t too difficult at all. Here the path is of steep ascent should you want to ascend using both your hands, alternatively a narrow path flanks these little scrambles to the left of the ridge (right of the photo)


Wetherlam Edge.

Wetherlam Edge looks equally inviting, in fact a little miss-conceiving from this point of view (anyone who has ascended/descend Wetherlam Edge will know exactly what I mean)

But more on that later as I will be using Wetherlam Edge myself in just over an hours time.

From the top of Steel Edge Lower Hows & Wetherlam summit comes into view.
From the top of Steel Edge it’s very easy to connect with the Lad Stones ridge path, just follow your nose & it is soon stumbled upon.

Wetherlam from the top of Lad Stones.
I could have easily made a bee-line for the main summit path but I wanted to pay a visit to the small Tarns at the top of Lad Stones. Here I pass four walkers & a very hot dog who waded into the Tarn shortly after taking this photo…I couldn’t blame the dog for one minute, in fact, I could have easily joined him!

The summit looks busy as I crest its final shoulder.
I’m going to have to get used to saying Afternoon instead of my usual greeting of ‘morning’ I think I’ll stick to a simple  ‘How do’ as ‘afternoon’ never sounds right.

A little hazy over the Coniston Fells.
Distant views over the Black Sails Ridge towards Coniston Old Man seen with Brim Fell, Swirl How & Great Cars as I approach Wetherlam summit.

Wetherlam summit cairn.
The guys I had spotted earlier still remained firmly lodged at the summit cairn as I gave it a tap from my walking pole, after a few aye aye’s & how do’s I leave them to it as I make my way over to the north west ridge otherwise know as Wetherlam Edge.

Wetherlam Edge.

The afternoon sun scorches down on my ascent as I pick my way over rough & awkward boulder, the path here is scattered but best to stick to as it is the best way down, trailing away can lead you into some pretty uncompromising situation’s where you may wish you’d stuck to the path.

Much more appreciated in ascent rather than descent & not a place to find yourself under winter conditions if you aren’t fully prepared, never the less, a walkers route. 


The craggy point at the bottom of Wetherlam Edge is Birk Fell Man & my next destination, keeping right with the path there will head you back into Tilberthwaite, left is for Little Langdale, all of which are very good paths to follow.

As the haze lifted a little I had grand views over…
Crinkle Crags, Bowfell, Cold Pike & Pike O’ Blisco commanding views south west.

Here, looking back up to Wetherlam from Wetherlam Edge.
Time to re-lace the boots!

Wetherlam incorporating Steel Edge seen from Wetherlam Edge.

Grand views over Steel Edge from Wetherlam Edge.
Possibly one of the best perspective’s of Steel Edge can be seen from its sister edge (and visa versa) With this evenings added bonus, of clear weather & brilliant evening sunshine.

Descending Birk Fell with views of Lingmoor Fell.

The eastern flanks of Birk Fell compromise of impenetrable wild bushes (don’t ask how I know) which left me no option other than to rough it down a steep scree slope, so steep I found myself switching my side steps like a downhill skier would which soon became very tiring, awkward & questionable.


Here looking back on my rather steep descent from Birk Fell.

Great Carrs, Wet Side Edge & Greenburn.
From the path you get terrific views into Greenburn flanked by Wet Side Edge & Great Carrs.

Big views towards the Langdale Pikes over Little Langdale.

Lingmoor Fell seen with Little Langdale Tarn.
I was now on the footpath heading through Little Langdale & my next destination of Slater Bridge, here I follow out three walkers, a couple & a woman walking on her own who converge & stop to chat & admire the views as I pass on my ‘how do’ for the evening.

The Langdale Pikes seen beyond Blake Rigg & Wrynose Fell.

Low Hallgarth.

Sun sparkling on Little Langdale Tarn outflow.
If time would allow I could have sat down here until sunset, it was just me, an ancient packhorse bridge & the shimmering sun as it sparkled across the water.

Slater Bridge, Little Langdale.

Perfect conditions at Slater Bridge.
It was no use, time wouldn’t stand still for me despite my tranquil conditions it was now time to grab the walking poles & head out to my final destination of the day…

Cathedral Cave, Little Langdale.

I picked up a slight march after leaving Slater Bridge & headed along the pathway ignoring several ‘spill off tracks’ to my right that seamlessly head off onto the quarries & Moss Rigg Wood. After a short while I came across two footholds edged into the stone wall, this was my time to leave the path & head into the old disused quarries known as Cathedral Cave.

The evening light lit up the cavern magically along with the the droplets of water falling from the cave ceiling which altogether made my presence a little eerie, non the less I again was alone, this time within a magnificent piece of Lakelands industrial past.

Passing through High Tilberthwaite.

After leaving Cathedral Cave behind I pick up the track that passes through Moss Rigg Wood not before making a right turn at the Ford.

Here I spy a wild camp, but not so much wild as the one man tent is set up neatly besides a parked car, a little odd given the foot traffic that passes through here I thought, my path is dimly lit as the tree cover prevents the sun shining through, but when the sun does get through a picture worthy of a photo passes through my mind, instead I leave the camera fixed & take it all in by foot.

More quarries are passed on both my flanks, I stop a while & stare at the old machinery that somehow managed to tangle itself within the spoil, a hint of yellow steel stands out against the backdrop of grey slate & pulverised boulder.

The sun glares down as I make my way through High Tilberthwaite Farm, so much so I again am forced to leave the camera in its case. Farm dogs bark leaving me hurryingly along not wanting to disturb the peace any further.

The farm gate is closed behind me, as I now take in the last few hundred yards before reaching the car.

To my right the sun dazzles my eye as it illuminates every leaf within a circumference of its tree trunk.

I stop to take a photo.

High Tilberthwaite Farm.

The old miners cottages are passed, one of which billows white smoke from its chimney, a charming scene if there ever was one of rural Lakeland, but, a little odd given the outside temperature is touching 20°C

The car park is almost deserted besides two VW campers of whom look like they may be taking up residence for the night. My car is unlocked & my gear is placed on the grass ready to be lifted into the boot when I spot a woman, small in stature leaning against the stone wall smiling.

Where did she come from?

She turns around as if to say just look at that? the woman is staring right at the Farm as the sheep graze in the shade of the early evening light. I smile back & for just one moment I get the feeling I’ve seen this woman before.

She turns & makes her way back towards the old miners cottages, I smell a BBQ on the burn as I pluck a warm Diet Coke that’s been sitting in the boot of my car all day & think.

Lucky buggers


Back to top