Friday, 23 March 2012

My Top Six Ridge Routes: Part One


One of the wonderful things about walking in the Lake District is once you have climbed one fell you can usually walk for miles and miles across the ridges to other fells and see a myriad of other views.  It feels like you are on top of the world and it is just wonderful.  On these routes you often find silent pretty tarns, rocky ridges, grassy paths and imposing crags.  You can see the sea from some fells and as far as Scotland and the Isle of Man.  Or you can be looking towards beautiful blue lakes with striking mountains behind in one direction and rolling grassy hills the other.  It can take your breath away.
The Skiddaw Range - Ridge Route Example

I have walked many ridge routes but there are a few that really captured my imagination for the beautiful views, the type of terrain, how I was feeling at the time or a combination of all of these.  Here are the first three of my top six in no particular order and bearing in mind I still have five Wainwright fells to complete....

The first one has to be the High Crag, High Stile and Red Pike ridge from Buttermere.  This was one of the first ridge routes I did as an adult (so through choice rather than as a child complaining the whole way....I must have been a nightmare!)  I walked along the shore of Buttermere lake and through the woods with a gentle breeze rustling the tree tops, the lake glistening in the sun and the bluebells just coming to life in the warm spring air.  I took the path up towards Scarth Gap but then took a “short-cut” that went across the hypotenuse rather than the right angle (if my Mathematics teacher ever reads this he will be shocked I can remember anything given I spent most of my time daydreaming and looking out the window....it was a mystery to both of us why I was in the top Maths class).  This was a mistake as I could not find the proper path and it was really steep and grassy.  It probably took me twice as long as the normal route!  As I rejoined the main path, I was exhausted from the climb and not yet at the top and then a swarm of fell-runners on a “fun-run” came pelting down a scree section barely out of breath!  I have such admiration for them as it would be utterly beyond me to run anywhere on fells let alone on scree.

Red Pike, Bleaberry Tarn & Crummock Water
As I reached the summit of High Crag, the views opened out to see Buttermere, Crummock Water and the Grasmoor Fells in front, with Haystacks and Fleetwith Pike behind.  It was beautiful.  All the hard work had been done by then and the walk to High Stile and Red Pike was just a gentle stroll with ever more beautiful views, including Mellbreak (one of my favourite mountains) coming into view and the striking sight of Bleaberry Tarn with the red soil of the appropriately named Red Pike behind.  The route down took me passed the Tarn and it was so very pretty I could have stayed and watched the water lap the side for hours.  A great introduction to ridge walking.

Ennerdale Water with moody skies
The second one is the Mosedale Horseshoe from Wasdale Head, mainly because Wasdale is probably my favourite valley.  On this route I began at the pub at Wasdale Head and climbed Pillar via the Black Sail Pass, Scoat Fell, Steeple, Red Pike (not to be confused with the Buttermere Red Pike mentioned above!) and then back down the Dore Head Screes.  In future, I would add Yewbarrow to the ending, which would make it perfect!  The weather was less promising for the first part of the walk but cheered up later on with sunshine.  On the way up Pillar, I met a guy who extolled the virtues of GPS and it was because of his recommendation that I purchased my own system.  This man climbs all the Wainwright’s over 2,500 feet every year and after Pillar was off towards Haycock (a fell I have yet to do).  The third fell on the list, Steeple, became one of my favourite fells – the views down towards Ennerdale Water were superb and I had the fell top all to myself.  It is rarely appropriate to describe a fell as “sweet” but Steeple was a sweet fell.  Sitting on top of Steeple all my worries and problems just melted away – it felt like I could conquer the world.  However, I decided to delay my bid for world domination and finish the walk.

Kirk Fell & Great Gable
The path between Steeple and Red Pike (via Scoat Fell again) was a lovely high level walk with the views of Great Gable, Kirk Fell and the Scafells becoming increasingly spectacular.  I decided to end at the Dore Head scree because I thought it would be too much to take in Yewbarrow at that point as I was feeling tired.  However, given I could not find the nice grassy path and therefore had to battle scree the whole way down, I am not sure it was the easier option!  But then I have a natural affinity with screes as regular readers will know!  It did mean I had the absolute pleasure of climbing Yewbarrow separately another time and that was heavenly.

View from Silver How
Third is the conclusion of my Langdale Pikes Saga in June 2011, which was a stunning walk.  From Grasmere I went up Silver How, Blea Rigg, Sergeant Man, Thurnacar Knott, High Raise and Tarn Crag, returning via Easedale Tarn.  This was a simply lovely ridge walk from start to finish.  Climbing Silver How was I think one of the only fells where the top really is where you think it is (not hiding further and higher away) and is quite quick to get to.  The views opening up behind to Grasmere are wonderful and with each fell summit reached, they get better.  The route from Silver How to Blea Rigg was a series of little grassy ups and downs and there was not another soul around.  Blea Rigg and Sergeant Man gave way to rockier and more rugged summits with superb views of the other Langdale Pikes.  

Easedale Tarn
Thurnacar Knott and High Raise, whilst not particularly interesting terrain (they are rather flat and a bit marshy) were still great as you felt on top of the world and I confess that given the whole saga of climbing the Langdale Pikes I was feeling euphoric!  My favourite of the day however has to be Tarn Crag, which is probably the least frequented of that group of fells, which is a shame as it was really pretty.  A cairn or two would have been helpful as without GPS I am not sure I would have found the summit as paths do not exist but unlike most other mountains I have climbed, there was a lot of moss and some of the tiny flowers you usually see in rockeries (if I were writing a food blog they would be “micro flowers” reflecting the term “micro salads”).  This was really unusual and made the walk fascinating even though I am hardly a budding botanist!  The route down via Tarn Crag was beautiful and I confess at this point I sat in the sunshine paddling my feet for a while.  Wonderful.

The next three routes will be in the Part Two...

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25 comments:

  1. Sorry to hear about your Aunt Tanya Lots of lovely ridges to choose from in the Lakes :o) Avery nice blog post about your personal favourites Hoping to visit the Ashdown Forest on Sunday Can't believe we have never been there before now Hope you have a good weekend too Take care now

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  2. Thanks Jill...I love ridge walks and would be interested to hear what favourites other people have.
    You will love Ashdown! And it will be gloriously sunny so enjoy it...if you try Pooh Sticks I hope you win!
    :-)

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  3. A lovely read and the richness and variety of these walks and your different emotional reactions to them comes through so well.

    The photograph of Red Pike, Bleaberry Tarn and Crummock Water is stunning.

    A paddling world-dominator hmmm...

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    1. A paddling world-dominator in high heels! Think of that and tremble! Thanks for the comment Chloe :-)

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  4. Another excellent and well written post Tanya. Your photo of Crummock Water is brilliant. Wondering if you'll feature St Sunday Crag in Part 2 :-)

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    1. I had a lovely walk from Patterdale up Arnison, St Sunday Crag and Birks but will leave you guessing on what's in part 2...
      Believe it or not, the Crummock photo was taken on a battered Samsung mobile phone held together by sellotape as I had forgotten my camera! When I changed the phone to a Blackberry, I saved my old photos on my computer. There are several I think stand the test of good photos which is amazing given the age of the phone!
      Thanks for the comment :)

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  5. A great post. I love the Buttermere range. Excellent blog. Thankyou for sharing :)

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    1. Thanks Jenny... I was so lucky with the weather that day on the buttermere range. It is one I will definitely do again :)

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  6. I love ridges Tanya - doesn't matter if they're big and broad or small and narrow. Nice pics too. Will look forward to part II :)

    PS I'm not into blogging so didn't really know which title in the drop down 'comment as' menu to use!

    Paul (Barry_the_Cat)

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    1. Thanks Paul :)
      I don't mind how people choose to comment as long as comments are broadly polite! Have been given advice on ways to make it easier to comment but haven't got round to that yet...!
      So many ridges to choose from that picking 6 was tricky as I agree that whatever they are like they are great!
      Thanks for commenting :)

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  7. I did the Mosedale Horseshoe in the rain so cannot comment on that one but loved the High Crag, High Stile and Red Pike route although did it the other way. Great choice. I also love the Hellvelyn range.
    David

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    1. Thanks David... I want to extend the route next time and take in Haystacks or in the other direction Starling Dodd...
      I did the Hellvelyn range from Dollywagon Pike to clough Head..it may feature in Part 2... :)

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  8. great blog up in the lakes during the next month I will do a ridge walk thankyou

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    1. Thanks Peter - so many to choose from...

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  9. Gerry StevensMarch 23, 2012

    You have reminded me how great ridge walking is and in the summer we will defo be there.

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    1. Enjoy your time there Gerry! :)

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  10. ..."I think one of the only fells where the top really is where you think it is (not hiding further and higher away) ... giggle... You inspire me. I'm going to go walk the flat land of the inner coastal today.

    Bless you.

    ~ Aithne

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    1. Thanks Aithne - it is true though on the Lakeland fells...so often you think what you are looking at is the top but when you get there you see another higher bit further on!
      Enjoy your coastal walk :-)

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  11. My favourite ridge walk in Lakeland follows Dow Crag (ignoring Coniston Old Man; lovely fell but oh, so crowded), up onto Swirl How and over the Carrs. And a choice of return too!

    Again, a great post and a reminder that I'm missing the Lake District...

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    1. Thanks Nick - I did Dow Crag on its own but weather appalling so not the best experience! Want to do that one again.
      I did the Coniston range from Wrynose - up Great Carrs then Grey Friar, Swirl How, Brim Fell and Old Man but then had to walk all the way back again! A long but great day. Grey Friar was my favourite of those ones :)

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  12. Rather than retrace your route, if you want to make it a round of all the Conny group (you say you want to revisit Dow Crag anyway) you could start from High Tilberthwaite (NY305010 - free parking, just before the cottages).

    From the car park go up Steel Edge to Wetherlam, then via Prison Band to Swirl How, Great Carrs and Little Carrs. From there, go out-and-back to Greyfriar. Next, the ridge past Brim Fell then out-and-back to Dow Crag. Finish by walking over Old Man then down to Conniston. From the village (nice cup of tea first) return to Tilberthwaite by the low level footpath along Yewdale (or the slightly higher footpath along Yewdale Fell) or, if you are feeling lazy, get the bus from Conniston to the turning to Tilbertwaite.

    Is the ridge walk from Esk Pike over Bowfell and Crinkle Crags in part two? If so I look forward to reading it and seeing the photos.

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    1. Hi - good advice about the Coniston route. I will try that way. I did Wetherlam from Tilberthwaite but it was such a windy day I turned back from the summit.
      Bowfell and Crinkle Crags together is something I want to do. It was too misty for photos when I was last on Crinkle Crags and with the hail following me after Climbers' Traverse I gave Crinkle Crags a miss a few weeks ago. I have heard such positive things about that ridge route though that it is one I really want to do.

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    2. Wainwright reckoned it was the best ridge walk in all Lakeland so who am I to argue? It is certainly my favourite.

      The 'long' route (best done north to south IMO) is to start from Esk Hause and go up over Esk Pike. Then instead of following the well-worn lower path to Bowfell, go to the east of the ridge to Bowfell North Top then follow the top of the crags (passing right above Bowfell Buttress) and skip Bowfell summit. Either follow the eroded path down to Three Tarns or avoid by keeping on the rocks to the east. From Three Tarns, keep to the edge of the ridge over all the summits (including Shelter Crags and Gunson Knott). After the southrnmost Crinkle, it's easy to take in Cold Pike and/or Pike O Blisco depending where you're headed next.

      The Crinkles ridge is a superb route in clear weather. If time is short, or your knees are about to fall off, the 'short' traverse (from Three Shires Stone to Three Tarns and return) is a very fine walk in its own right.

      Re Wetherlam, I suugest the direct approach up Steel edge to Lad Stones because it's a time-saver if you are doing the whole Conniston round. For Wetherlam alone, its much more fun to go up from Tilberthwaite via Wetherlam Edge.

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  13. Oh, very nice blog BTW

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    1. Thanks :-)
      And thanks for the route advice. Always nice to get other opinions and try them out.

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