Great Crag to Eagle Crag via Watendlath

8th June 2024

To end my week's leave I thought I'd continue the theme of visiting fells that I haven't been to in a while. I can't help but feel like I'm missing out, and to this day, I'm not sure why I've left it so long to visit Ullscarth, Sergeant's Crag, and Eagle Crag. I may have an excuse with Ullscarf, which I'd normally ascend from the Thirlmere side, but that was made difficult due to United Utilities closing the road west of Thirlmere in 2021, which only reopened last month.

My initial plan was to walk from Dob Gill, ascend past Harrup Tarn, which I miss so much due to the road closure, and ascend Ullscarf via Standing Crags and return above the Wythburn valley. Realising that I could link Ullscarf with Sergeant's Crag and Eagle Crag, I planned the route around another area of Lakeland that I'd never visited, Bleatarn Gill. Bleatarn Gill links Blea Tarn with Watendlath, and with Standing Crags overlooking Blea Tarn, the route naturally fell into place.

I put as much planning into a walk as I can, especially in areas I haven't walked before, but there's not much out there regarding Bleatarn Gill, so armed with limited information, the best way to find out was to explore it myself while collecting three more summits that I hadn't visited in eight years. 

 
Wainwright Guide Book Three
The Central Fells
Ullscarf If only the crags extended a thousand feet higher, and if only the summit took the shape of the Matterhorn! Instead of which, the top of the fell is the dullest imaginable. The most central, perhaps, but not, alas, a very distinguished pivot!
 

Overview
Ascent: 3,156 Feet - 962 Metres
Wainwrights: 4, Great Crag - Ullscarf - Sergeant's Crag - Eagle Crag
Visiting: Standing Crag
Weather: A Wet Start, Turning Brighter By Midday. Windy Across The Summits. Highs of 16°C Lows of 9°C Feels Like 5°C
Parking: Stonethwaite Village
Area: Central
Miles: 12.2
Walking With: On My Own
Ordnance Survey: OL4 - OL6 - OL7
Time Taken: 6 Hours 30 Minutes
Route: Stonethwaite - Lingy End - Dock Tarn - Great Crag - Watendlath - Above Bleatarn Gill - Blea Tarn - Standing Crag - Ullscarf - Greenup Gill Head - Sergeant's Crag - Eagle Crag - Greenup Gill - Stonethwaite
 

Parking Details and Map
Nearest Post Code: CA12 5XG
Grid Reference: NY 260513 (Stonthwaite School) - NY 262 513 (Next to Phonebox)
Notes: There are two places to park in the village of Stonethwaite the first one being as you head into the village itself just after the school with parking for up to three cars, further into the village next to the red phone box there is a small parking area with room for up to half a dozen cars. Both sites are ideal if heading into the beautiful Langstrath valley, Eagle Crag or Sergeants Crag. My advice is to arrive early to secure parking places and you wont be disappointed. Parking is free,


 

Map and Photo Gallery

 
 

Greenup Edge and Eagle Crag from Stonethwaite 7:20am 9°C

The forecast had taken a turn for the worse overnight with rain continuing to pour during my drive to Stonethwaite. The good news was it was due to brighten up from mid morning but given how dark the skies were I remained skeptical. There was only two other cars parked opposite the phone box in the middle of Stonethwaite mine made it three and no one else arrived as I laced up adding waterproof over trousers and jacket ready for whatever the weather would throw at me.

With the car locked I left Stonethwaite and from nowhere an elderly lady kitted out in waterproofs joined me on the track as we both walked towards the footbridge over Greenup Gill. The lady continued when I stopped to take a photo of Eagle Crag which was surrounded by grey cloud as it raced across the greyest of skies. Motivation didn't come easy this morning. By the time I crossed the footbridge the lady was a good fifty feet ahead but stopped at the point where the path splits left for woodland which would be the route I was taking "hopefully it clears up for us" she chirped "aye, I was just thinking the same thing" I replied.


Steep woodland as I head towards Lingy End.

The rain faded as I joined the steep stone staircase towards Lingy End, but that wasn't to say I wasn't taking a soaking from the dripping tree branches above, so on went my baseball cap and up went my hood to stop the drips dripping down the back of my neck.

The staircase zigzagged its way through the woodland, at times in earshot of Willygrass Gill, and by the time I could see daylight again, the combination of mild temperatures and my waterproofs were making me overheat.


Looking back on Rosthwaite Fell (Bessyboot) towards Glaramara from the top of Willygrass Gill.
While it started to rain again here, just across the Stonethwaite valley sunlight was breaking through the cloud over Rosthwaite Fell.

High Saddle and Ullscarf from Dock Tarn.
It had taken me about fifty five minutes to reach Dock Tarn and while I was lost in thought a couple appeared from nowhere both wearing shorts and waterproof jackets. It was still raining and their legs were covered in mud as we passed negotiating the swollen ground underfoot.

More sunshine on its way.
Here as I look across to Castle Crag and High Spy.

Views towards Grange Fell, High Seat and High Tove from Great Crag summit.
The rain eased but the wind had increased but not as low as it had on Thursday during our Loweswater walk. Sunlight was fleeting in and out of the clouds by now and I hoped that this was the forecasted sunshine arriving early.

Heading towards Watendlath.
I descended Great Crag taking care on the wet, soiled covered rock which I felt was holding me up. The great news was that in the time it had taken me to make the descent the rain had cleared leaving wonderful blue skies and sunshine in its wake. Time to take off the waterproof over trousers.

The view from Watendlath Tarn into Bleatarn Gill with Low Saddle on the skyline.
By the time I reached Watendlath Tarn it started to feel like a different day and with the over trousers removed I was motoring again. What a view!

Watendlath.
After passing through the hamlet of Watendlath I will gain the upper wall (seen clearer from the far left) before making my way towards Blea Tarn.

Views over Watendlath towards Fleetwith Pike, High Spy, Maiden Moor, Grange Fell and Watendlath Tarn.

After passing through a sleepy Watendlath I gained the path and began my ascent towards the wall. The path is steep and during my ascent I was caught in another shower, thankfully it was just passing and there was no need to add the over trousers.

With the wall gained I was met by a lad who had descended from High Tove wearing shorts and T-shirt, remarkably, he looked as dry as a bone. I head right and pick up a grassy trod while keeping the wall (seen foreground) in view.


Low Saddle, High Raise (Langdale) from Bleatarn Gill.
I had the choice of following two narrow paths set about a 100 yards apart, I was convinced the higher of the two paths would lead onto Shivery Knott on the ridge proper so I stuck with the lower path which kept me within earshot of Bleatarn Gill. My path steers below and beyond the grassy crag seen in the left of the photo.

My last view of Watendlath as the path gains in height.
The good news was I was sticking to my intended route, the bad news was it was incredibly wet underfoot.

Standing Crags comes into view over on the left and Low Saddle on the right.
Despite height gained it was just as wet underfoot as it had been since gaining the wall, if anything the bogs were getting worse and it sprang to mind if the bogs were the reason why so few visit the area.

Bell Crags come into view on the left with Standing Crags now on the right.
That's Bleatarn Gill seen in the centre but judging by how wet it was underfoot the whole area was boot lace deep in bog water.

Miles of it.
I made a deal with my boots "keep my feet dry and I promise when I get home I'll waterproof you" Both deals were met, but only just.

The stunning Blea Tarn.
I may have caught the odd glimpse of Blea Tarn when descending between High Saddle to Low Saddle a couple of years ago but this is the first 'proper view' I've had of Blea Tarn since 2012! Amazing stuff.

The fabulous Standing Crag.
The bogs eased as I left Blea Tarn behind for higher ground and I thanked my boots again for keeping my feet dry. Ahead is Standing Crag which look pretty formidable from here. The summit can be gained quite easily via a grassy path to the left.

A glimpse of Thirlmere below.
With Helvellyn directly beyond.

Grand views of the south western high fells seen as I approach Ullscarf.
One of my main memories from my first ascent of Ullscarf was this ruined fence line which stretches from Standing Crag, over Ullscarf and all the way to High Raise.

Ullscarf summit.
With the sun behind the clouds I was exposed to the wind and once again the temperature plummeted but this time I was too stubborn to stop. Soon after leaving the summit I made my way towards Greenup Edge where I passed a solo chap wearing hat and gloves and after a quick chat I left thinking 'there was only one fool here' and it wasn't him. Jeez my hands and ears were on the brink!

Low White Stones and High Raise (Langdale) seen over Greenup Edge.
High Raise was a fell too far today but just to be sure I'd ask myself again the nearer I got, I replied the same answer. Over to the right is the head of Greenup Gill which is where I'm heading next.

Ullscarf from the head of Greenup Gill.
I crossed the Greenup Gill path where a family of four had just ascended, ahead a trio of walkers were joining Greenup Edge having just descended High Raise who were too far away for a chat or wave for that matter. I joined a grassy trod that maintained a constant height passing over grass and scree before emerging on the other side.

Greenup Edge from Greenup Gill.
I'm starting to feel the miles now especially on the pathless sections and with lunchtime been and gone it's best I refuel at Sergeant's Crag.

Sergeant's Crag from Greenup Gill.
From the head of the valley the trod continues before linking up with the path between High Raise and Sergeant's Crag.

Sunshine and showers over the Langstrath Valley.
After linking up with the path all that was left was to summit Sergeant's Crag and look forward to something to eat but on arrival I found the summit too busy, and not to mention too windy so with Eagle Crag close by I thought I'd try my luck there instead.

Rosthwaite Fell (Bessyboot) from Sergeant's Crag summit.
 

Glaramara from Sergeant's Crag.
Despite the sunshine it was incredibly wet between Sergeant's Crag and Eagle Crag but the views more than made up for it.

Sergeant's Crag, the Langstrath Valley and Glaramara from Eagle Crag.
The shower had left near perfect visibility in its wake.

High Raise (Langdale) Sergeant's Crag, Crinkle Crags, Bow Fell, Rossett Pike and Esk Pike from Eagle Crag.
It's looking like I might get the summit to myself.

High Raise (Langdale) and Sergeant's Crag from Eagle Crag summit.

By the time I had reached Eagle Crag summit my stomach was growling and my body was ready for the extra boost my late lunch would provide. On arrival I found a young girl and her dog leaving so I downed my pack and stuffed half a chicken salad sandwich in my mouth polishing it off in three bites, followed by a Mars bar. Despite how busy Sergeant's Crag was I couldn't believe I had Eagle Crag summit to myself albeit accompanied by the wind. I was almost ready to leave when two fell runners approached from the nose of the fell both looking a tad disheveled, their kit looked like it had taken a battering too. "OK lads" I asked?" As it turned out their ascent was going OK until they reached the rock slabs just below the summit.

They went on to say that the slabs were still wet not helped by the muddy nature of the purchases between the slabs. "We were literally scrambling over rock tree roots that gave way and mud" the other runner chipped in. Well, that's made my mind up as I was just about to descend that way. I thanked the two runners for their great timing before they descended the summit, Sergeant's Crag bound.


Great Crag seen beyond Stonethwaite.
Time to head back towards Greenup Gill from where I'll start my descent back to Stonethwaite.

Lining Crag and Long Band above Greenup Gill.
I left the summit pretty much the same way I arrived but used the wooden sty to cross the stone wall. It's been a few years since I was last here where I found a narrow trod linking the sty all the way down to the gill below. Notice the Greenup Gill moraines nearing the head of the valley left here by glacial retreat over 18,000 years ago.

Crossing Greenup Gill.

I followed the trod sometimes picking up my pace into a slow jog, my walking poles taking the weight off my knees. On the other side of the gill I could see many walkers in decent, some solo, some paired and at the rear, a walking group split into four sections of three.

My boots had been in and out of bog water for almost 11 miles and weighed a ton but that didn't stop me from giving them a swilling as I crossed the gill emerging the other side looking like new, still weighing a ton though.


The view back to Stonethwaite.
 

Crossing Greenup Gill close to Smithymire Island.
 

Eagle Crag from Stonethwaite.

After crossing Greenup Gill I emerged onto the rocky path behind all the walkers I'd seen during my descent of Eagle Crag. High on Fruit Pastels and gulps of Summer Fruits I began my descent under the warm sunshine and at pace. My feet were aching now and so too was the inside of my right knee brought on by drudging in and out of bog water by Bleatarn Gill but it did me no harm and soon I was catching up the rear of the large group. Three, then another three were passed with hi's and hellos' but the walkers, who appeared to be foreign students lead by a mountain leader at the front of the pack said nothing back. I felt sorry for one particular teenager who was struggling in descent, making mistakes going over on his ankle more than once when I finally passed the leader I advised he may want to check on the lads at the back, during an obvious descent, I can't understand how anyone can lead from the front. He had no idea about the struggling lad behind him.

The whole group stopped where a stone wall crosses the path horizontally, the same wall then ascends up the side of Pounsey Crag towards Eagle Crag generous in bracken. Legs and feet aching now but the sunshine was strong and wind confined to the summits. I still had my waterproof jacket on while folks ascending pass me in shorts and flip-flops. I crossed Greenup Gill for the last time passing more day trippers all friendly before crossing Langstrath Beck at the second footbridge beyond the rock falls. I can't remember where I'd read about the lone Langstrath Tree which I tried to spot but the strong sunshine directly above the valley forced my eyes downward. Mountain bikers came and went, most on E-bikes which I'd love a crack on up here. Views into Stonethwaite Campsite now which was three quarters full, its residents sat in conversation or paddled in the beck. Closer to Stonethwaite I don't know what I wanted to remove first my boots or my jacket, definitely the jacket. Dust settled after cars passed on-route to the campsite and soon I passed The Langstrath Inn where I appeared to be the only walker within a beer garden of folk enjoying the afternoon sunshine.


 

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