A Coldedale Skyline

20th November 2016

They say things happen for a reason and had I not been caught in tailbacks after initially setting of to do a walk yesterday I wouldn't have been able to enjoy the snow scape as I did on todays walk. Aye I know it was a waste of fuel turning around halfway to Lakeland which the wife didn't thank me for but in my eyes, it was more than worth it.

I had set off on Saturday to walk the Greenburn Round or 'Helm Crag to Steel Fell' but my mood changed and I wanted a walk which involved a ridge with height and Grisedale Pike ticked all of the boxes so much so I may have underestimated my first proper winter walk as I had ambitions to complete the whole Coledale Horseshoe but fresh and sometimes energy sapping deep snow soon saw to that which saw me collect just Grisedale Pike and Hopegill Head in all their Winter glory.

Had I set off minutes later I wouldn't have bumped into Andrew Foster and his dog Billy who arrived moments before I was ready to lock the car, it was only after Andy got out of his car did we realise who each other was before shaking hands and agreeing to walk together which worked out well seeing as Andy is possibly the most 'bumped into but never walked with' person I know, well now we got the chance on what can only be described as a perfect Winter walk taking in the Coledale Skyline.

Wainwright Guide Book Six
The North Western Fells

-Grisedale Pike

All visitors to Lakeland who come to walk on the hills turn their footsteps in due course to Grisedale Pike. It is seldom a prime objective being a little out of the way but the graceful peak piercing the western sky is a nagger of conscience and cannot be ignored. Nor should it be.


Ascent: 2,700 Feet - 793 Meters
Wainwrights: 2, Grisedale Pike - Hopegill Head
Weather: High White Cloud With Long Spells Of Sunshine, Light Breeze Across The Summits Highs of 4°C Lows of -1°C
Parking: Car Park, Whinlatter Pass, Braithwaite
Area: North Western
Miles: 7.5
Walking With: Andrew Foster and Billy the Dog
Ordnance Survey: OL4
Time Taken: 5 Hours 45 Minutes
Route: Whinlatter Pass - Kin - Sleet How - Grisdedale Pike - Hobcarton Crag - Hopegill Head - Sand Hill - Coledale Hause - Force Crag Mine - Mine Track Back To Whinlatter Pass

Map and Photo Gallery


Looking over the tree tops towards the Skiddaw Fells from the ascent on Kin 08:57am -1°C

My Sunday drive was much less uneventful than the previous morning which saw me traveling along the A66 just as dawn broke with a weak sun still behind me. I was a little apprehensive how the roads might have faired after reading various road reports but I could quickly see that despite being surrounded by frost and snow from ground level upwards that the roads had been gritted which extended onto the Whinlatter Pass and beyond. From the A66 I was delighted to see that it wasn't just the higher summits which had a covering of snow but even the lower hills such as the Mells.

Blencathra just looked so magical in her Winter coat I almost stopped my car at Scales in favour of the Coledale Fells but decided to stick to my guns as it felt like it had been some time since I had climbed Grisedale Pike from Braithwaite.

I eased my car onto the car park at the bottom of the Whinlatter Pass and wasn't surprised to see that the car park was well over half full, perhaps only room for two or three well parked cars. At the side of my car a chap kits up in the passenger seat and although I didn't notice at first another chap is kitting up behind a Vauxhall Combo van which he had left the engine running on, an engine that's probably been around the clock a few times broke the silence which as I kitted up, I found a little annoying. I kit up for Winter first throwing on my Rab waterproof jacket before opting to change it for my Montane Softshell instead which is more than capable of seeing me through a shower or two should I get caught out. Gaiters are also added which are fast becoming a part of my Winter kit and I've finally got used to telling the difference between the right and left one seeing as the left, has developed a slight tear on the inside leg.

I'm just about ready to lock the car when a car slowly pulls onto the car park and reverses in next to mine below a canopy of trees, out of politeness I almost get back into my car so I can tuck it closer to the one I'm parked next to if only to give the driver enough room but there was no need. With my finger on the key fob I turn to lock my car as the driver who had just pulled up gets out of his car soon hearing Paul? bloody hell it's only fellow Facebook friend Andrew Foster with his dog Billy.

We greet with a handshake and pipe up "heading onto Grisedale Pike" aye, may as well go together, after all, I've bumped into many Facebook friends while out on the fells, but never as many times as I've bumped into Andy. Within minutes Andy is ready to leave and so too is Billy, an eight month old Collie who hasn't yet walked in snow.

Sunlit snow capped views of Stile End, Outerside, Causey Pike and Scar Crags.

After ascending steeply from the car park and once through the plantation our views widened over the Skiddaw Fells which had a light covering of cloud which was also advancing on Blencathra which only half an hour ago, was cloud free. Further east more cloud clung to Clough Head and continued all the way along the eastern ridge enveloping Helvellyn so tightly the cloud was difficult to define from the snow.

Gaining Kin from the car park always gets the lungs working and today was no different with the exception that we had snow underfoot almost from the start which had started to crust over which at least made the ascent that bit easier "we may need the spikes later said Andy" we'll just have to see how it progresses further up the ridge all the while watching the morning light develop over our surrounding summits.

Barrow, Barrow Door, Stile End and Causey Pike.

Grisedale Pike from Kin.

After gaining Kin we could also make out two separate solo walkers way ahead, one of which we could see also had a dog with them, it was enough for me to envy their loftier position which was enough to set the heart racing from where you don't feel the steepness of the climb, you just enjoy it.

Here I turn around to see the cloud epping away from Skiddaw before drifting Eastwards towards Clough Head and The Dodds.

Sleet How and Grisedale Pike from Kin.

We were well and truly within the snow line which maintained its crust not crushing under the weight of our boots often feeling sturdy enough to even turn an ankle.

My only wish from here is that we make it to the summit under the gaze of a bright blue sky because all around us the light is changing and high cloud is developing too, but for now, it would seem the north western fells are the place to be.

Crag Fell (Eel Crag) Coledale Hause, Grasmoor and Grisedale Pike from Sleet How.
For me If one image could tipify what fell walking in Winter is all about this would come very close.

"The last push"

Billy was in heaven ducking and diving in and out of the snow sometimes burying his whole head into the drifts followed by belly flops, I guess once he realised that the snow was no harm he just enjoyed it like a pup would. From our right we are joined by a elderly gent who appears to have made a pathless ascent from Whinlatter who also has a Collie with him and seeing as he is just yards behind us, we stop to have a chat.

It turns out the chap was just out for a walk through the Whinlatter Forest before he spotted "that" pointing towards the snow capped peak, I just couldn't resist" although after a lengthy chat the gent went onto say that he had been mountaineering all of his life which we could not dispute after he listed off the summits in the Highlands, the Pyrenees and even the Andes "you'll have to excuse me" he said, I had a stroke two years ago while up on Helvellyn and since then I have had trouble with my speech. This almost bowled me over as he went onto explain that he was taken from the mountain by Helicopter after being found unconscious.

I've only just completed my second year in First Aid which covered how to react with heart and stoke victims, It almost felt like I was looking at a ghost or something because this chap should not be here as those first few moments after suffering a stoke are the most vital, I could only look up to him in total awe "I'm not supposed to go out on my own the Doctor says" but I just couldn't resist.

This I guess is what climbing all your life can do to a man who told us he had just reached the grand age of 70 which he didn't look and probably had better legs than me and Andy put together.

Was he a little reckless for gaining the summit against his Doctors wishes, aye of course he was but I think I would have done exactly the same.

Grisedale Pike from Sleet How.

Force Crag, Crag Fell (Eel Crag) and Sail from Sleet How.
This image shows the path defined by snow running from right to left which we would use to descend back into Braithwaite by although we just didn't know it yet.

Views over Outerside towards Causey Pike and Cat Bells.

Snow capped views over Coledale Hause, Crag Fell (Eel Crag) Sand Hill, Grasmoor and Hopegill Head.

We didn't make the summit in any hurry instead stopping to chat or just soak up our views. Underfoot the snow had now turned to powder after leaving the firmer crustier snow lower down the ridge and we both agreed sometime during the early hours more snow mixed with hail would have fallen which meant that for now, the new snow on top of the old, was much easier to wade through.

We watched the gent we had been talking to just minutes earlier disappear over the shoulder of the fell and followed his footsteps almost print for print, below us and due to our recent stops a middle aged woman quickly gains ground on us and we almost all arrive at the summit at the same time to find the gent taking shelter from the wind drinking tea from a hot flask.

"I promise I'm heading back after I've had this he smiled"

Grasmoor, Sand Hill, Hopegill Head, and Whiteside from Grisedale Pike summit.
Once again we stop to chat to the gent who asked me was I a member of mountain rescue most possibly because of all the medical questions I was asking him earlier! He is in great spirits and so too is the woman who by now is also drinking from a flask. It was just the four of us at the summit and strangely a comaraderie was felt purely because of our common interest of the fells and just how perfect todays conditions were, everyone just seemed so upbeat, even if you didn't know that person you could see what it meant to be here etched across their faces.

A lone walker stands on the summit of Hopegill Head.

Views over the Hobcarton Valley towards Ladyside Pike with Greystones and Kirk Fell in the distance.
Further west we can see that the skies are much clearer with defining views towards the distant Scottish Hills.

Grasmoor and Sand Hill divided by Coledale Hause.

A close up of Coledale Hause seen over Grasmoor North Eastern Ridge.
Shortly before leaving Grisedale Pike adjustments were made and Andy drew out his Ice Axe in precaution as to what awaited us, I opted to keep with my walking poles, for now that is. We descended Grisedale Pike after wishing our fellow walkers to 'enjoy the rest of their walks' where we found that the snow had accumulated and drifted on the western flank of the summit much deeper than than on its eastern side, yet despite the snow depth, it was still fresh and an ease to push through.

The mighty Hopegill Head seen over Hobcarton Crag.

I guess it was around this point did the thought of completing the whole Coledale Round started to play on my mind after watching the solo woman walker who we later found out was from Keswick make her progress on Hopegill Head. Here we could see that one or possibly both the solo walkers we had seen earlier during the morning had blazed a path through the virgin snow which was making their progress slow.

I don't mention what I'm thinking to Andy just yet.

Scale is added by the solo walker as she crosses the top of Hobcarton Crag.

By now the snow depth varies between one and two feet and sometimes drifts over the tops of our Gaiters, even Billy the dog is finding it difficult as with each step he sinks up to his belly in the soft snow, he's a clever little rascal though and before long he's trailing behind me still wanting to play at times walking through my legs and clipping at my heels, his company here just made the experience that bit more enjoyable.

Below the solo walker adds scale to Hopegill Head snow capped summit and although you cant strictly see it demonstrates the tough time she is having wading through the fresh snow.

Her route sees her veer widely left when in fact the path cuts straight across the top of Hobcarton Crag towards the right, with this I cut a new path below the original from our ascent and soon fellow walkers who are making the same crossing follow.

Hopegill Head seen with Ladyside Pike.
The light is just incredible.

Crag Hill (Eel Crag) seen with Grasmoor over Coledale Hause.

Sand Hill seen with Hopegill Head.
We're just about to cross the top of Hobcarton Crag now as Andy gets his mobile phone out to record the event.

Ladyside Pike in her Winter coat.

Not far from Hopegill Head summit now.
Despite the snow and conditions it was actually quite warm with a mild wind chill of around -1°C. It was during the ascent after assessing the varying snow depth did we agree to shorten the walk and enjoy it rather than hurry our way around the whole Horseshoe, I'm sure if Billy could talk he would have agreed too.

Views over Sand Hill towards Crag Hill (Eel Crag) and Grasmoor.
It's starting to cloud over towards the south west which just added to the Winter dramatics as the sunlight is caught behind the cloud.

Early lunch on Whiteside which proved to be a very popular ridge route this morning.

Grisedale Pike and Hobcarton Crag from Hopegill Head summit.
By the time we had reached Hopegill Head summit a crowd had gathered which included the solo woman walker whose tracks through the deep snow we had partially followed, we smile and say hello again but what I really wanted to do was thank her with a high five for her pioneering drive to get to the summit only stoppong just the once, and just in case you are wondering myself and Andy stopped too.

Mountain man and boy.

Quite a few of the crowd left while we de-shoulded while some remained all trying to keep out of wind that bites at exposed skin. We secured a snow covered spot slightly out of the chill where I used my pack (outer side down) to sit on while Andy used his waterproofs to keep the chill out, here we broke out snacks, me with a trusty semi frozen sausage roll while Andy and Billy enjoy hot soup.

It was here we agreed our route back to Braithwaite via the Force Crag Mine path.

Ladyside Pike with the Lord's Seat Fells in the distance.

Views into Hopegill towards Dodd with Fellbarrow and Low Fell in the distance.

Looking back on ground covered.
It's starting to get quite busy now so we pack up and re-shoulder before heading off in the direction of Sand Hill which can be seen in the far right of the photograph.

Heading towards Coledale Hause via Sand Hill.
It wasn't so much the magnificent view unfolding in front of us but the contrast of the light when set against the snow.

Crag Hill (Eel Crag) seen emerging over Sand Hill with Wandope in the distance.

Descending Sand Hill with views over Coledale Hause, Crag Hill (Eel Crag) Grasmoor and Wandope.

Descending Sand Hill was such a pleasure with fresh soft snow underfoot sometimes blazing a new trail or following old ones. I've got to say that the temptation to continue onto Crag Hill nearly got the better of us but we both agreed to stick to our plans which left a very relaxed feel to the walk.

Snow and light.

Winter sun over Crag Hill (Eel Crag)

Crag Hill (Eel Crag) over the magnificent Coledale Hause.
Sadly all good things must come to an end as we slip into the shadow of the Coledale Valley by which time it was starting to get pretty busy with walkers heading towards Crag Hill and Grasmoor.


Descending into the cold light of Coledale.
We had left Coledale Hause bristling with walkers and soon pick up the Mine track which twists its way into the valley on the flank of the impressive Force Crag where for a few moments we could hear the waterfalls at Low Force. Below us and heading towards us more walkers ascend towards Coledale Hause three of whom carry skis on their backs who were in search of the soft snow, aye you'll not find any up there I joked.

Force Crag with Low Force seen centre.

Barrow seen over a coppice of trees still holding onto their Autumnal leaves.


With our backs to Coledale Hause we strike out along the Mine Track shadowed by Grisedale Pike to our immediate flank. Soon though the sunlight starts to peak through and for the last half mile we are blessed in Winter sun all the while the grandeur of Skiddaw reveals her ridges and peaks with each step taken. It's not long before we are back at the car park which by now is full to bursting with badly parked cars in every direction you look.

We kit down with tailgates open as Billy is eased back into the car and Andy holds out his hand to thank me for a great walk, no need to thank me mate it was my pleasure and with that I climb into the drivers seat and slip the car into gear before taking one long look at Skiddaw which is peaking out above the rooftops of Braithwaite while set against a cloudless Winter sky.


Back to top