Wetherlam by the Edges

10th December 2022

Snow has arrived in Lakeland capping the highest summits non more so than Helvellyn which always draws in the crowds. I was hugely tempted to join them today but myself, David and Rod have our own plans for Helvellyn in a few weeks so I'll have to ignore the temptation no matter how hard.

Adding to the snow the Lakeland fells have seen a run a good weather which has brought cold temperatures, bright sunshine and even cloud inversions and some of my friends are enjoying the fells in their winter prime whilst I watch on from behind my desk, not jealous honest.

Resisting the urge to drive to Swirls I was reminded of a walk which Rod had suggested back in Autumn as a plan B to climb Wetherlam via Wetherlam Edge then return descending Steel Edge. As soon as I heard it I thought 'I'm having that for another day' Today is that day.

Wainwright Guide Book Four
The Southern Fells
Wetherlam features prominently in Brathay views like a giant whale surfacing above waves of lesser hills.

Ascent: 2,472 Feet - 753 Metres
Wainwrights: Wetherlam
Weather: Winter Sunshsine Throughout With A Hard Frost Underfoot. Highs of 1°C Lows of -3°C Feels Like -9.7°C
Parking: Car Park, Tilberthwaite
Area: Southern
Miles: 4.7
Walking With: On My Own
Ordnance Survey: OL6
Time Taken: 3 Hours 20 Minutes
Route: Tilberthwaite - Tilberthwaite Gill - Dry Cove Bottom - Birk Fell Man - Birk Fell Hawse - Wetherlam Edge - Wetherlam - Steel Edge - Tilberthwaite Gill - Tilberthwaite

Parking Details and Map
Nearest Post Code: LA21 8DG
Grid Reference: NY 306 100
Notes: Nestled within the Yewdale fells Tilberthwaite car park is perfect for taking on Wetherlam and the Yewdale Fells. The car park is spacious but during peak season can fill up quite quickly, late arrivals maybe disappointed. Parking is free.


Map and Photo Gallery


Great Intake from the Slate Quarries, Tilberthwaite 09:00am

It was -3°C when I left home and -5°C by the time I arrived in Tilberthwaite where morning sunlight had just broke into the valley. I set about kitting up opting for my fleece lined windproof walking trousers topped off with my trusty Montane stretchy hoodie, Alpkit soft-shell, beanie and gloves. During the week I'd turned my pack into full Winter mode packing extra layers, more gloves than you can shake a stick at and a pair of Grivel spikes that I'm yet to use in anger.

Adding that extra weight was a flask full of piping hot vimto along with a couple of litres of Summer fruit juice. On the opposite side of the car park a Landrover Discovery appeared to have been parked overnight its bodywork layered with a coating of ice, its owner nowhere to be seen. For some reason I choose to ignore todays full forecast no doubt too excited about the wall to wall sunshine which was when the windchill hit me right besides the car, I'd totally forgot to read about the wind which by all accounts wasn't a game changer, but bloody freezing.

Steel Edge appears as I drop into Tilberthwaite Gill.

I'd passed over the top of the quarry and with the sunrise over my shoulder I began my descent into Tilberthwaite Gill not before passing a small sign which I ignored. Had I not ignored it I'd have known the footbridge over the Gill had been damaged during a recent storm and there was no way to cross Yewdale Beck below.

By the time I'd realised what the sign must of meant I was already plotting my way across the beck where previous walkers had fashioned stepping stones which I crossed without getting my boots wet. Had Tilberthwaite Beck been in spate I'd have returned to where this picture was taken and took the higher footpath, no biggie.

Flanking Tilberthwaite Gill with views of Steel Edge.
After crossing Yewdale Beck I climbed my way out of the Gill using the familiar footpath to be bathed in Winter sunshine where I set my solar panels to charge!

Steel Edge from Tilberthwaite Gill.

Sun rising over South Lakeland.
I left Tilberthwaite Gill behind and took in the view of Steel Edge which I was tempted to climb first rather than t'other way around. The path rose steadily flanked by Blake Rigg before levelling out somewhat as Dry Cove Bottom was reached before the path begins to rise again. I took this photo looking back from Dry Bottom Cove looking directly into the Winter sunshine.

Looking back on Steel Edge from Dry Cove Bottom.
The bright sunshine reveals glints of ice on Steel Edge which appears to be concentrated away from the path.

Wetherlam Edge above Dry Cove Bottom.
The flatish section towards the right is Birk Fell Hawse which is where I'm heading next.

Silver Birch sunrise.
The pitch path contined to rise flanked by the stumps of pine trees which were thought to have been cut down and used as firewood by miners back in the day.

Wetherlam Edge and Birk Fell Hawse.
With Glassy Crag seen to the left of Wetherlam Edge and Hen Tor above.

Views over Little Langdale Tarn towards Lingmoor Fell from Birk Fell Man.
With Birk Hawse reached I doubled back and with little effort, summited Birk Fell Man taking in the view over Little Langdale towards a distant Fairfield Horseshoe, Grisedale Hause, Dollywagon Pike, Nethermost Pike and a snow capped Helvellyn.

From Birk Fell Hawse...
,..Pike O'Blisco, Cold Pike, Little Stand, Great Knott, Crinkle Crags and Bow Fell all looked a stones throw away.

Wetherlam Edge and a distant Great Carrs from Birk Fell Hawse.
I was making great time but it was the windchill that almost stopped me in my tracks as I crossed Birk Fell Hawse so I decided to record the temperature and took a reading of -9.7°C in the windchill. It's the type of chill that when I swallowed the air remained in the pits of my lungs freezing my core from the inside out.

Wet Side Edge.
Seen over the Greenburn valley not to be confused with the Greenburn valley of the same name local to Grasmere.

Looking back on Birk Fell Hawse and Birk Fell Man.
Back in the shade now as the windchill takes another dive...runny nose anyone!

Impossible to ignore.
The air clarity was so clear this morning.

Birk Fell Hawse and Birk Fell Man from Wetherlam Edge.
Every time I climb Wetherlam by Wetherlam Edge I always feel how under rated it is and that I should return much more than I do. The edge can be as precarious as you make it by sticking to the path or by ascending a series of slabs, stone rakes and notches, all of which are very much enjoyable with only the minimum of rim ice this morning most of which was avoidable.

Snow capped Eastern Fells from Wetherlam summit cairn.
I'd worked up a sweat by the time I shouldered the top of the edge confirmed by a square foot of grass in bright sunshine. The summit still lay a good one hundred feet further where I found myself wheezing which I put down to the cold air in my lungs.

Hot vimto with a view.
I don't normally stop at summits but I really had a hankering for the hot drink in my flask so I found a nice flat stone within a cluster of rock and filled the lid of flask with hot vimto and took in the long distance coastal view of Morecambe Bay. From the right out of nowhere two walkers approached the first of whom ignored me probably because it was tucked into the rock but I got a friendly wave from the second walker.

The view over Red Dell Head Moss towards Black Sails, Swirl How and Great Carrs.
With Slight Side, IIIgill Head and Whin Rigg seen in the distance.

Crossing Red Gill Head Moss.
Looking straight into the Winter sunshine, perfect.

Wetherlam Edge, Birk Fell Man and Great Intake from Lower Hows.

Brim Fell, Swirl How, Black Sails and Red Dell Head from Lower Hows.
It's not uncommon whilst taking this route for me to criss/cross the ridge as I take on the views from both sides of the ridge.

Un-named Tarn, Lad Stones.
I hadn't confirmed fully that I'd be descending via Steel Edge, first of all I wanted to evaluate the ice situation from the top so I take the path leading off left for a better view.

Dry Cove Bottom and Steel Edge.
I pass the tarn and continue towards a small stone cairn which marks the top of the ridge. Not only could I see no real threat of ice but I could also see two people making their ascent.

Wetherlam Edge from Steel Edge.

Steel Edge.
I'd made it down the first gully by the time the first walker had reached me and we stopped for a quick chat although that ended the moment he criticised me for using walking poles in descent to which I replied "they are perfect for balance" a skill taught to me by David Hall back in the day. This from a guy wearing corduroys.

I look back on the upper tier of the ridge.
Next I passed the second guy who got straight to the point "good job we haven't had much rain or we wouldn't be here" I instantly agreed mentioning that there was hardly any ice on Wetherlam Edge just in case he was heading down that way.

Steel Edge from Yewdale Beck.
Rock gave way for frost layered grass which was a pleasure to descend although right now, and as forecasted it was starting to cloud over but at least the temperature had risen to a tropical 1°C

Descending back into Tilberthwaite.

Low Tilberthwaite Cottage.

Despite the low temperature it was actually pleasant to descend back to Tilberthwaite where I watched high grey cloud move across the Helvellyn range which was still well above the summits for now but closing in as forecasted. I'm greeted by the smell of wood smoke coming from a nearby cottage which for me is one of those smells that finalises a walk and always stirs the butterflies in my stomach. Boots grace tarmac and all that's left is for me to cross the parking spaces where I noticed the owner of the frozen Landrover had returned who appeared to be warming up the engine before he left.

The car park is much busier now mostly cars and the odd camper van. Before I unlocked my car I take a look over the opposite field where sheep grazed under the long shadows of over hanging trees. there's not a breath of wind as I absorb the quietness of the valley before I reluctantly return to my car which I unlock, turn the engine over and switch the heaters to full. Kiting down as the engine warmed up I'd remembered I still had half a flask of hot vimto left which I finished off looking into a frozen field of grazing sheep eyes slightly tinged by the smell of wood smoke.

Frozen Yew Tree Tarn.


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