Walking the Wainwrights in 30 Walks Walk 11 - Caw Fell to Grike from Monks Bridge

30th April 2016

It would seem that winter still hasn't finished with not just Lakeland but pretty much the whole of the UK after what can only be described as a barmy unsettled week were most of the country has seen snow which is pretty much unheard of as we approach the first Bank Holiday in May.

Because of this it was eyes down on the forecast for much of the week and the planned walk of the whole High Stile ridge was shelved in favour of this route that I had planned way before this years Wainwright project had even been thought of. It was February 2015 during my last visit to Lank Rigg did I spot Caw Fell north ridge and how appetising it looked, it was there and then I promised that one day I would gain the summit by the north ridge, there was no doubt that during this years Wainwright project the ridge would undoubtably have to be included so much so it kinda created a rather wacky route on Wasdale fells from where, Caw Fell would usually be summited alongside Haycock, but that's for another day and another route.

Todays walk collects four Wainwright summits from the Cold Fell Road first taking in the delightful Worm Gill on the flank of Lank Rigg. Thereafter Caw Fell north ridge eventually comes into view but there's plenty of miles to trod before we found ourselves at the foot of the ridge. Once Caw Fell had been collected we trot easily descending towards the col between Caw Fell and Iron Crag where we encountered deep snow which took time and energy to wade through, Whoap was never far away but it certainly felt it which was gained steadily before collecting Lank Rigg before doubling back retracing our footsteps in the direction of Crag Fell which was gained after picking our way through the felled plantation. From Crag Fell Grike was easily gained ending the day in excellent clarity and a warm sun on our backs.

Wainwright Guide Book Seven
The Western Fells

-Caw Fell

Mountain gives way to moorland, and the slow in descent from the tops and therefore more amiable in gradient; the streams follow long and gentle courses but thread their way through gathering grounds so vast that they quickly assume the proportions of rivers.


Ascent: 3,200 Feet - 975 Meters
Wainwrights: 4, Caw Fell - Lank Rigg - Crag Fell - Grike
Weather: Showers to Start Remaining Overcast With Some Sunny Spells, Brisk Across the Summits, Highs of 13°C Lows of 9°C
Parking using x2 cars Kinniside Stone Circle, Cold Fell Road - Monks Bridge, Cold Fell Road
Area: Western
Miles: 14.7
Walking With: David Hall
Ordnance Survey: OL4
Time Taken: 7 Hours 10 Minutes
Route: Monks Bridge - Tongue How - Worm Gill - Caw Fell - Iron Crag - Whoap - Lank Rigg - Whoap - Crag Fell - Grike - Blakeley Moss - Kinniside Stone Circle

Map and Photo Gallery


Tongue How from Friar Gill with a snow capped Seatallan in the distance 08:20am 9°C

Due to the long drive to reach Ennerdale Bridge and thereafter, Cold Fell Road it was arranged that we would meet at 08:15am at Kinniside Stone Circle which is about two miles back in the direction of Ennerdale Bridge from Monks Bridge, as it turned out I arrived just gone 08:00am and studied a herd of wild horses who were grazing close to the Stone Circle. David arrived shortly afterwards and after a handshake and a brief chat about the forecast it was agreed that David would leave his car at the Stone Circle and I would drive the two miles towards Monks Bridge. The forecast was sketchy having driven through Lakeland witnessing almost every summit including the Mell Fells under a good coating of snow. Another reason why we had chosen this walk was that these collection of fells are on the west Cumbrian coast and my way of thinking was they wouldn't have seen as much snow as lets say the Coniston Fells where it was reported that up to four feet had fallen on the Old Man.

It would seem that for now putting our heads together worked well with no snow on the ground at valley level and only a dusting with height gained, this wasn't strictly true for the whole duration but I can get to that later. The parking spaces were soon reached and it looked like we might be in for a dry and clear day with chinks of blue emerging through the overcast skies. It was agreed that Gaiters would be added despite the lack of snow here in the valleys, a wise choice we would find out later. With my car locked we headed out in conversation alongside Friar Gill in the direction of the oldest packhorse bridge in Cumbria.

Monks Bridge.
Built from sandstone Monks Bridge is a Grade II listed Packhorse Bridge which is thought to date back to Medieval times, it's unclear it the Bridge was built by, or for the Monks from nearby Calder Abbey.

Cold Fell from the ancient stone cairn on Tingue How.
After detouring towards Monks Bridge we back track and cross the River Calder before gaining gradual height onto Tongue How where an ancient settlement together with this Stone Cairn once stood. Here the ground despite being wet underfoot is easily passable despite the huge amounts of rain that had fallen the night before, we trod on passing what appeared to be another burial mound sparing a thought on what it must have been like to live off the land over a thousand years ago.

Seatallan seen over Stockdale Moor.
Worm Gill now drops away to our right as we continue our way into the valley which is still yet to be seen. Ahead views of Seatallan come into view right about the time we are treated to what started off as a few light drops but progressed into steady shower which accompanied us right into the valley, up ahead the path is sodden and much of it lies under deep puddles which required detours at times, however, in those puddles we couldn't but help notice the thousands of 'taddies' or Tadpoles, sometime soon this whole area is going to be overrun with frogs.

Thats more like it...Swainson Knott from Worm Gill.

The amount of time we had been walking wasn't spoke about just yet but it had well passed the hour mark and we had yet to set foot onto fell side properly, this maybe due to the pure isolation felt in the valley between Lank Rigg and Caw Fell, either way our views back up Worm Gill kept us occupied as did the warm sun and clearing skies.

With the second hour approaching we head deep into Worm Gill coming to an almost stop at the abandoned Intake Works, up ahead we spot a walker descending Lank Rigg into Worm Gill, it looked an odd way to come down until the guy stopped at a boulder before starting a re-ascent back towards the summit. Meanwhile David and I had a choice on which was the best way to gain Caw Fell north ridge due to what we described as a few 'upperty bits' which had to be gained first, in order to take best advantage we studied the lay of the land both agreeing to follow a faint path before descending to cross Bleaberry Gill, then to re-ascend steeply on the right side of the ridge, thereafter, it was just a short steady plod to the base of the ridge.

Swainson Knott seen with Ponsonby Fell from the base of the ridge.

We'll be over there soon, although not as soon as we first thought.

Lank Rigg, Whoap and in the distance, Crag Fell.

We soon found ourselves ascending through scatterings of snow which after more height gained soon became the norm under foot, the snow here was wet and slushy and in places up to a foot in depth but all avoidable during the ascent due to the boulder field that we had reached just beyond the half way mark.

Deep in conversation we pick our way through drift and over boulder, more the latter when I suddenly heard David shout out in pain, at which point I was just a few steps ahead and for that first second before turning around to see what had happened I instantly thought he'd fell or worse, the following seconds saw me visualise me carrying David off the fell side as I screamed whats wrong, whats happened!! David's body is folded forward, he in on his knees and his right arm is in between two boulders, David is by now holding his face as I panickly ask David what the hell has happened, are you ok mate!

I'm in pain Paul give me a minute, after a few moments David takes his hands from his face and reveals to me that he's just be laid out by his own walking pole...what! It would seem that David's walking pole jammed between two boulders sending David lurching forward in which time he slips and managed to force his right hand on the walking pole handle to a point where it almost snaps in half, but the pole didn't snap, it comes back with such force it almost knocks him out sending his glasses flying leaving David feeling like he's just been been laid out by Mike Tyson.

David getting whacked in the face was a good excuse to stop and add more layers as by now, it had started to snow and the wind had started to pick up too, I knew how much David must have been hurting and I was half expecting him to look at me with blackened eyes which thankfully never materialised, the next hour was mainly spent asking David was he ok, then the laughter came.

You couldn't have made it up if we tried.

Views over Potts of Ashness towards Seatallan accompanies our steep ascent.

Caw Fell summit.

We soon crested the shoulder and were met with the long broad walk towards the summit cairn, by which time it had stopped snowing but the chill remained. David de shoulders and adds gloves, maybe I should have used the same time to add my own but I progress with cold fingers a little further.

Caw Fell is an isolated fell and always feels that way which for me, is one of its main attractions, but today, the summit felt more isolated than usual, through the cloud Little Gowder Crag appears as does a faint outline of Haycock behind it, but there is no movement, there's not a soul around for miles.

We visualise a bearing for the col between Caw Fell and Iron Crag and leave the summit by an escarpment of stone making note to head for the stone wall which accompanies the descent and our re-ascent onto Iron Crag first.

Snow showers over Ennerdale with the High Stile ridge and the Grasmoor Fells in the distance.

Iron Crag from our Caw Fell descent.
The depth of snow varied from hardly anything on the summit of Caw Fell to drifts up to two feet towards the stone wall, up ahead the path over Iron Crag is under a foot of heavy wet snow, we just didn't know it yet.

Sun lit views over Lank Rigg and Whoap.

Starling Dodd and Whiteside and Grasmoor.
Within moments the snow showers had passed leaving excellent views over the Ennerdale Valley.

Dramatic skies over Caw Fell and beyond.
The cloud dramatics over head sure took the mind off the deep snow that we now found ourselves plodding through.

Looking back on Caw Fell as we start our ascent on Iron Crag.
There's Plenty of snow showers in them there clouds...

Whoap and Lank Rigg from Iron Crag.
It seemed much slower than it probably was but we soon reached the summit plateau of Iron Crag. The first part of ascent was kept close to the stone wall before we drifted away onto the western shoulder of the fell side, up ahead is Whoap and on the left is Lank Rigg our next summit. Had the weather have been dry this march wouldn't have turned out to be the plod it actually turned in to, which sapped atg both energy and time due to just how wet and slippery it was across here.

But the views over the Cumbrian Coast more than made up for this.

A broad view of Caw Fell north ridge from Iron Crag.
We had both agreed on two possibilities on reaching Lank Rigg one of which was to flank beneath the summit of Whoap maintaining a parallel contour but from closer inspection this looked like creating hard work, especially in the snow, it was then agreed we would make for the main path and flank the summit before descending Whoap for Lank Rigg.

Lank Rigg from Whoap.
Deep in conversation we hadn't realised that we were in fact heading for Whoap summit rather than just flanking it, it was only the sight of the summit cairn which triggered this and our location, with this we back track a few meters towards the col between both summits, it was here we would pass the first person of the day with 'aye aye'

It really is starting to brighten up as we crossed the col.
Still a cold wind though.

Whoap, Great Borne and Grasmoor from Lank Rigg summit.
Time for summat eat?

Iron Crag and Caw Fell from our lunch spot.

We left the summit cairn in favour of a spot out of the wind from where we could eat lunch, but no spot out of the wind was found, instead a solitary large boulder semi-submerged in the fell kept the backsides from getting wet.

I guess there's no point complaining about how cold it is when you've got your boots buried in the snow.

Caw Fell.

It is only when viewed from a distance were we able to view our ascent on the north ridge, I look back with great fondness while I'm not so sure about David.

How's the nose pal?

Joking apart, a truly recommended and long awaited ascent by both sides.

Descending Lank Rigg for Whoap.
With bellies fed we re-shouldered and headed out back into the wind passing a couple at the same time making their own ascent. It didn't go unnoticed that it had taken us the best part of five hours to reach our second summit, two of which were taken up before we hit fell side, if you like isolated long walks, this walk ticks all the boxes.

Descending Whoap for Crag Fell.
We had spotted the familiar stone wall which straddles Iron Crag, this base of which forms the path for our Crag Fell ascent, we agreed to make our way over but this never materialised, instead opting for a pathless descent all the while aiming for the path which can be seen running up the centre of Crag Fell.

A close up of Pillar, Wind Gap, Black Crag and Steeple.
For those un aware, I'll be making a guided ascent on Pillar Rock with Rod Helpewhite on Friday 7th May, there isn't two people alive right now who wants this snow to melt more than myself and Rod.

Ennerdale, Bowness Knott, Great Borne, Starling Dodd and Red Pike (Buttermere) from Crag Fell summit.

Despite time pressing on by the time we reached Crag Fell summit the sun had come out and generally stayed out for the duration of the rest of the walk, we take advantage of this by taking in, undoubtedly, one of the finest views in Lakeland.

Leaving Crag Fell for our final summit, Grike.
We strike out leaving Crag Fell behind thereafter negotiating the boggy bits found between both summits, it's only a short walk with a steady plod towards our final summit, by which time the hours spent walking are starting to show.

Views over Knock Murton, Gavel Fell and Blake Fell seen in the shade.

The air clarity is really starting to show as we draw an end to the walk.

The Cumbrian Coast from Grike summit.
We both found it incredible that after almost six and a half hours only four summits were collected today which just goes to show how diverse todays route was. I guess then it's fair to say that we had earned the views over the Cumbrian Coast and back over trodden ground, a few silent moments were spent on Grike that afternoon.


Descending Grike with views over Blackley Rise and Dent.

Taking the track back to Kinniside Stone Circle.

It was mid afternoon by the time we made our way along side Blakeley Rise back down towards Cold Fell Road were the windows of Davids car glistened under a strong afternoon sun, layers were loosened as the views beyond the Cumbrian Coast towards the Scottish Hill opened up in superb clarity, further south along the coast Black Combe strikes out into a blue deep blue Irish Sea and I for one is left memorised by the beauty of it all especially after how the afternoon has unfolded.

Back at Davids car gear is packed and we drive out to collect my own car back at Monks Bridge, it's a part silent journey as I look through the windows over ground covered still not quite believing how well todays walk turned out, back at my car gear is swapped over and we bid farewell until next time just double checking before hand that Davids nose is still in the centre of his face and his eyes are the same colour as he left them this morning. I'm sure this walk will be remembered for a lot of things but for me, four summits in seven hours, now that's what I call a good day out on the fells.


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