Westmorland Heritage Walk 2004

Author: George Tod

This walk is illustrated with photographs. Click on small photo to enlarge in situ, or click caption to enlarge into new window.
Part 6 - Days 9 & 10 - Patterdale to Elterwater

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Day 9 - Sunday 18th July - 8.3 miles - 3,130 ft ascent

Patterdale to Grasmere via St Sunday Crag and Fairfield

I had breakfast with the same group of people I had dinner with last night. There were four teenage girls from Bedfordshire who were doing some walking, Malcolm who was sharing my dormitory and doing the Coast to Coast, and a teacher from Liverpool who had come over Fairfield, Coffa Pike and St Sunday Crag with his son yesterday. He was talking about a scree slope that I would have to climb up and saying how glad that they were to have been coming down it and not going up, as I would be doing. His son didn't make it for breakfast and was still in bed as we were leaving.

There were not many miles to do today, although there was quite a bit of climbing, so I set off to a leisurely start. The forecast was pretty good, especially for later in the day, and it was already looking good as I left the youth hostel at 9.45. Malcolm was not sure whether he could make it to Shap today, and he wasn't really sure what route he was taking or how much ascent was involved, as his map reading skills left a lot to be desired. I pointed him in the right direction on the way to my own route, wished him well, and hoped that he would manage to find his way.

My route ran through Glemara Park, offering lovely views over the head of Ullswater. I was careful not to miss the path up to Harrison Crag, as last time I went past it and had to climb up the steep grassy hillside further along. It was quite a steep path, but I just kept up a steady plod, trying to be as gentle as possible on my feet. The views opened up more and more as I climbed upwards, with Helvellyn and Striding Edge prominent to my right. From Harrison Crag there was about a mile of quite gentle ascent followed by a steep climb up to the summit. There were a few people about - I passed a group of three walkers, and met a couple of chaps who were coming down, having spent the night up on top. The cloud kept coming and going, but from time to time the whole area was bathed in sunshine, making a glorious sight. At the summit of St Sunday Crag, Cofa Pike and Fairfield lay ahead, and Crinkle Crags, Bowfell and the western fells could clearly be seen, though there was a little cloud on the highest peaks.

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Ullswater from St Sunday Crag
Fairfield and Grisedale Tarn from St Sunday Crag
Fairfield and Grisedale Tarn

I reached the summit at 11.45 and stopped for a drink and a snack before making my way up to Fairfield. Quite a few more walkers had come by but then departed and I had the summit to myself for a while. There was a very cool wind so, although it was quite sunny at times, it soon became too cold to stay around and I made my way onwards. At times, when I was sheltered from the wind, the sun would give pleasant warmth, but where I was exposed, the cold wind won the day, and even the steep climb up Cofa Pike didn't do a lot to warm me up. The nearest thing I could see to the scree slope that the Liverpudlians had talked about was on the last little climb from Cofa Pike to Fairfield, and even then there was an easier route available. I took the steeper route which was not particularly difficult, as there were not too many loose stones on which to slide, unlike real scree slopes where for every two steps forward one step is lost sliding back.

At the top of Fairfield is a large wind shelter which provided welcome relief from the biting wind, so I was able to have my lunch and sit looking at the view without shivering to death. I could see the route of the Coast to Coast walk going past Angle Tarn and up to Kidsty Pike, which made me wonder how Malcolm was coping. The descent of Fairfield via Great Rigg brings into view Lake Windermere, Esthwaite Water, Coniston Water and Grasmere, as well as Morecambe Bay and other parts of the coast. I could also see Easedale Tarn near the start of tomorrow's walk as well as most of the route to Grasmere. Further west, Great Gable was very prominent, and to the east Cross Fell could be seen.

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Grisedale Tarn from Fairfield with Great Gable in far centre
Grisedale Tarn
Lake Windermere, Esthwaite Water and Coniston Water from Fairfield
Lake Windermere
Looking back to Greatrigg Man and Fairfield

It seemed a pity to drop straight down to Grasmere so early in the day (2.30 pm), so I was tempted to continue along the ridge to Heron Pike, taking a longer route down. Below Heron Pike the wind was neither so strong nor so cold, so I stopped to take off my fleece to enjoy the warmth of the sunshine. There was a lovely view over Windermere in particular, with all its sailing boats. The steep path down led me to Rydal and I then took the bridleway that runs along the bottom of the hillside to Grasmere. From the map this looks as if it should offer good views, but this is only the case for small sections of the way, and it also went up and down quite a bit making it not so easy. The path that runs around the south of Rydal Water and Grasmere might have proved to be a more rewarding route.

I reached Butterlip How youth hostel, which is a fine country house in extensive grounds, by 5.45 pm. They have flexible eating times and also a table licence to serve alcohol. There was a Geordie in my dormitory who was walking the Coast to Coast in ten days. He had walked from Low Gillerthwaite in Ennerdale today and was walking 25 miles to Shap tomorrow. I went down to dinner at 6.45, but met with a school party who were just going in, so I waited until 7.15 and ate with the Geordie, having a very good meal of soup, braised steak and sticky toffee pudding.

Later I walked down into Grasmere village to have a drink. Most places are big hotels, but I found a place I had been to before, though it had changed quite a lot from what I remembered. It was now called Tweedies Bar and I stayed there for a couple of pints of Criffel before heading back to the hostel and to bed.

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Day 10 - Monday 19th July - 16.5 miles - 5,610 ft ascent

Grasmere to Elterwater via Langdale Horseshoe

Breakfast started from 7.45, so I got there at the start along with the Geordie. It was a good breakfast by youth hostel standards and I was able to get myself ready and off by 8.50 with a hard day's walking ahead of me, not so much for the distance as for the amount of climbing and difficult terrain. The weather was quite promising with a mixture of sunshine and dark clouds as I made my way on the steady ascent past waterfalls towards Easdale Tarn, punctuated with a couple of steep climbs on the way. By the tarn it was very peaceful; the only sounds being from the birds, the occasional bleating sheep and trickling of small becks.

On my climb from the tarn towards Sergeant Man, I was passed by a lone walker who was just out for the day. There were lovely views back down to Easedale Tarn, then to Stickle Tarn and across Great Langdale. As I drew towards the summit, I could see the man who had passed me sitting there, so I stopped for a chat. He was a chef in the R.A.F. and was just about to retire to Llanrwst, where he was going to buy a house. We parted company, as I headed for Harrison Stickle, whilst he headed for High Raise. The path was not all that easy in places, as it was not very well trodden, but there were some lovely views along the way, albeit with dark clouds lingering round the higher mountains. The next port of call was Pike O'Stickle where I met a couple of people. This is quite a popular walking area, but by 12.15 I had only met four people, though there would probably be more later in the afternoon. A gradual descent on a fairly good path, apart from a few boggy patches, led me to Stake Pass. In one boggy place I managed to sink my foot in up to my ankle but, fortunately, not very much mud or water got into my boot.

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Easedale Tarn from Sergeant Man
Easedale Tarn
Stickle Tarn from Harrison Stickle
Stickle Tarn

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Great Langdale, Blea Tarn and Wetherlam from Harrison Stickle
Great Langdale
Pike O'Stickle and Bow Fell from Harrison Stickle
Pike O'Stickle

After a steady climb up to Littlegill Head, I stopped for a short lunch break with marvellous views down Great Langdale. There was still quite a bit of sunshine but a few evil looking black clouds came across Bow Fell and it looked as black as night for a while with a few spots of rain falling where I was. This didn't last long as the clouds soon dispersed making everything look a lot better. I pressed on past Angle Tarn (one of many of the same name) and up towards Bow Fell on a path that was rather stony in places but not too difficult, and it didn't seem long before I reached the ridge leading to the summit. However, there was still quite a way to go from there over a lot of stones to the summit itself which, at 2960 ft, was the highest point of the day. After passing a few 'false summits', I eventually reached the real one at 3 pm. Most of the cloud had dispersed by now giving beautiful views down Eskdale, over to the Scafell Pikes, Coniston Old Man and the coast. Several people were at the top including one group with a few youngsters including a toddler who was fast asleep, presumably having been carried most of the way.

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Great Langdale from Black Crags
Great Langdale
Scafell Pikes from Bowfell
Scafell Pikes
Crinkle Crags from Bowfell
Crinkle Crags

I pressed on along Crinkle Crags. Although the views were great from there, it was difficult and slow going, clambering over stones much of the way with a few steep scrambles thrown in for good measure, so it was quite a relief when I eventually dropped down from the crags on a much easier path towards towards Red Tarn and Pike O'Blisco. It was already 5 pm when I reached Red Tarn, still with 5 miles to go and the several hundred-foot climb of Pike O'Blisco, so I would be quite late arriving at the youth hostel. For this reason, I had not booked an evening meal, so it didn't matter too much what time I arrived, apart from the fact that I wanted to report back home and also needed to find a meal somewhere. It took me about 20 minutes to climb Pike O'Blisco, and then I started the descent. I remembered from last time having to take a very long, steep route with no path to Wrynose Bridge, whereas there was a good path down towards Great Langdale with an offshoot to meet the little road going past Blea Tarn to Little Langdale. The latter looked like the better option at the time because of the easier walking, but it did add considerably to the distance, so it was perhaps not such a good move when I was short of time.

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Bowfell from Crinkle Crags
Oxendale and Great Langdale from Crinkle Crags
Great Langdale, Stickle Pike and Harrison Stickle from Pike O'Blisco
Stickle Pike and Harrison Stickle

Although the path was good, it was also very steep in places, so it was still wearing, and I was glad when I reached the offshoot which levelled out along the hillside to join the road. Rather than trying to follow the route along footpaths taking a more roundabout way, I decided to follow the road route to save time and effort, as it was a little more direct. It seemed to take a very long time of treading tarmac before I reached a little road marked 'Unsuitable for motor vehicles', which led me over to Elterwater youth hostel where I arrived at 7.30 pm. After a hard but enjoyable day it was a great relief to be able to take off my boots and then have a shower. As anticipated, I was too late for a meal at the hostel, but the Britannia Inn not very far away were still serving food. I had been warned that it was expensive by a chap in the hostel and I found this to be the case with most main courses costing more that 9, even for fairly basic meals such as steak pie. My choice was Cumberland Pie with dauphinoise potatoes at 9.25 and it came with quite a few accompaniments and was delicious, so I could appreciate that it was worth the price for the quality and standard of the meal. However, on a walking holiday I am generally trying to keep down the costs, so am not as worried about top quality if I can get a filling meal for a lower price. The real ales were all 2.45 a pint, which is not uncommon around the Lake District, so I just had a couple of pints of Timothy Taylor's Landlord before returning to the hostel. By now it was raining steadily, having just started gently when I first arrived at the hostel, but at least it had been fine for the main part of the day.

I could have washed a few things to put in the drying room, but I was feeling very weary and couldn't raise the energy to do so, so I went straight to bed instead.

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