Walking the Wainwrights in 30 Walks Walk 18 - A milestone on the Glaramara Circuit

18th June 2016

When I actually think about it the friends that I sometimes share my walks with were complete strangers to me before I started fell walking, it's funny how the fells can forge friendships but that is exactly what happened when I met Father Shaun Church, It was whilst climbing Lingmell back in September 2011 did Shaun and I first meet and since then when Shaun would come back to Lakeland we would always try to meet up for a walk.

I didn't mention it at first as I didn't want to take anything away from Shaun's big day, but maybe, just maybe we could coincide Shaun's final Wainwright with one of my Wainwright project walks, all it took was a cheeky e-mail from myself and Shaun's reply was yes, infact I think Shaun used the word 'epic'

When I first penned the route the walk actually started in the hamlet of Seatoller before remembering about the convenient parking spaces close to Seathwaite Bridge, this meant the walk back to the cars was almost cut in half which worked out well. From Seathwaite Bridge we would double back towards Strands Bridge before flanking Combe Gill ascending steeply towards our first summit of the day in Rosthwaite Fell (Bessyboot) from where we would negotiate around the top of Combe Head to collect our second summit in Glaramara.

After summiting Glaramara we would traverse the ridge passing High House Tarn then taking the steady ascent towards Allen Crags from where views over Great End and Esk Hause would open our before us. It was agreed that Shaun would lead this section of the route ascending Calf Cove before taking on his final Wainwright. After celebrations and bumping into friends we would double back to Esk Hause via Calf Cove and collect the final summit of the walk in Seathwaite Fell before descending steeply back into the Seathwaite Valley under a hot afternoon sun.

Wainwright Guide Book Four
The Southern Fells

-Great End

This is the true Lakeland of the fell walker, the sort of terrain that calls him back time after time, the sort of memory that haunts his long winter exile.

Ascent: 3,645 Feet - 1,112 Meters
Wainwrights: 5, Rosthwaite Fell (Bessyboot) - Glaramara - Allen Crags - Great End - Seathwaite Fell
Weather: Overcast For Much Of The Duration With Some Sunny Spells, Highs of 20°C Lows of 10°C
Parking: Roadside Parking, Seathwaite Bridge
Area: Southern
Miles: 12.2
Walking With: Father Shaun Church
Ordnance Survey: OL4
Time Taken: 8 Hours 30 Minutes 08:00am to 16:30pm
Route: Seathwaite Bridge - Strands Bridge - Combe Gill - Tarn at Leaves - Rosthwaite Fell (Bessyboot) - Combe Head - Glaramara - High House Tarn - Allen Crags - Esk Hause - Calf Cove - Great End - Calf Cove - Sprinkling Tarn - Seathwaite Fell - Stockley Bridge - Seathwaite Farm - Seathwaite - Seathwaite Bridge

Map and Photo Gallery


Heading towards Strands Bridge, Borrowdale 08:33am 10°C

Shaun and I had agreed to meet at Seathwaite Bridge at 08:00am and I was ahead of schedule had it not have been for the bin lorry that I got caught behind between Keswick and Rosthwaite, it was no matter and I arrived at Seathwaite Bridge to find Shaun already there around ten to eight. It's been well over six months since we last did a walk and we greet with a firm handshake and a smile before catching up on Shaun's remaining Wainwrights that he had collected during his week long stay in Seascale last week.

The morning air is mild and a tad muggy and I was pleased to see that the cloud over the Borrowdale Fells was starting to lift as the sunshine started to burn through. Deep in conversation we double back along the road and head towards Seatoller before turning right at the junction. Ahead at the end of the steel fence is Strands Bridge cleverly disguised by tarmac but I guess it hasn't always looked that way, only a few cars pass between here and the coppice of trees all the while ears are filled with the sound of children playing from a nearby campsite.

Thornythwaite Fell with Combe Head and Combe Door in the distance.

Combe Head and Combe Door from Combe Gill.

We turn right after crossing Strands Bridge at a sign posted Thornythwaite Farm which doubles up as a B&B and a Campsite. Still deep in conversation we at first miss the track which would lead us towards Combe Gill, it was only after realising that we were heading back towards Seathwaite did we re-trace the forty yards or so and pass through a metal gate which had a large wooden signposted Glaramara right next to it.


We leave the comfort of tarmac behind climbing steadily over rough track which is flanked on both sides by thick braken and wood. My last memory of Combe Gill was from last May when after a week of climbing two thousand footers for my H.Griffin project I capped the week off by a similar route as today as I tried to talk my legs into the steep climb ahead, there was no need for any of that today although I must mention that my right ankle is not fully fell confident just yet, something of which will come naturally over the next few weeks/walks.

We climb steadily rising above the tree canopy as outstanding views back into the Borrowdale valley open up behind us, which, was always a good reason to stop for a while.

Views over the Borrowdale Valley towards a cloud topped Skiddaw in the distance.

Rosthwaite Fell (Bessyboot) summit cairn.
We ascend steeply with views of Combe Head and Combe Door to our immediate right where it didn't go unnoticed that the sun was now hidden behind a mass of white cloud, despite this it was still warm and humid but nothing compared to the stiffling humidity that we had to put up with last weekend for which, I was thankful for.

The steep track comes to an abrupt end in favour of a grassy trod as we pick our way through boulders just below a craggy outcrop, just yonder of the crag is a grassy terrace which marks the shoulder of the fell side and our path, from where Tarn at Leaves is a stroll away over soft grass as views open out over Rosthwaite Cam to our right.

Tarn at Leaves is soon reached with the summit of Rosthwaite Fell (Bessyboot) just behind. A large cairn on the summit directs us around Tarn at Leaves as we pick our way the last few yards towards the summit cairn, a young chap appears and 'mornings' are shared, it wasn't the last time we would bump into the chap but more on that a little later.

Looking back on Rosthwaite Fell (Bessyboot) over Tarn at Leaves.

Passing the top of Combe Door.

The sun remained behind the cloud as we left Rosthwaite Fell (Bessyboot) behind and with it came a notable drop in temperature but not enough to add more layers or even roll sleeves down. The area between Rosthwaite Fell and Combe Head is at times pathless and a eye for the lay of the land can be of some use as it can be quite up and down between the many grassy outcrops which I remembered summiting last year during my two thousanders in cloud, I find it odd how at times I can't remember what I was doing yesterday but I can distinctly remember the shape and form of a nameless two thousand foot summit from twelve months ago!

We follow a faint path flanking Rosthwaite Cam slightly before crossing Great Hollow, an area of the ridge which at times can be pathless, ahead between the unnamed tarns and pools of water as we pick out outcrops of boulders to steer by sometimes picking up on a faint trod before arriving at Combe Door from which a steady grassy ascent is required to reach Combe Head.

Glaramara from Combe Head.
We were met by the summit of Glaramara from Combe Head, our route would see us follow a faint path around the tarns before arriving at a craggy outcrop below the summit which we ascend via a slight scramble.

Shaun ascending the scrambly bit below the summit.
There was a short pull in order to reach the scrambly bit below the summit where we each packed away our walking poles on one anothers packs, the rock was completely dry and with more hand holes than you could shake a stick at which made the short, but steep scramble quite good fun.

Glaramara summit cairn and shelter.

Views over Borrowdale towards Derwent Water.

The low light and general mugginess continued as we hung around Glaramara summit for a few moments leaving distant views difficult to take in, the guy you see sat down in the photo is the same guy we had seen back on Rosthwaite Fell (Bessyboot) I just couldn't understand how we all arrived at the same time without seeing each other.

From Glaramara summit we strike out along the ridge first descending slightly then only to re-ascend as we cross an area of the ridge known as Looking Steads. I remember once being told by David Hall that the ridge between Glaramara and Allen Crags is a slow one mainly because of how the ridge ascends and descends across whole sections of the ridge, despite the crossing being just over a mile and a half it can get to feel much longer due to the terrain underfoot.

The first sighting of Great End with III Crag and Lingell in the distance.

The Langdale Pike from Lincomb Tarns.

We had started to pass fellow walkers heading for Glaramara summit some of whom we stopped to chat too, after 'mornings' are shared he went on to say that he had just come from Great End and Allen Crags and described how busy the summit of Great End was due to a fell running event being held which Great End had a check in point at its summit, to add to this there's also a Macmillan Charity walk heading to Scafell in two large groups, it's pretty busy up there at the moment he went on to say.

I felt a little deflated for Shaun who said that he didn't mind as it's what you might expect anyway when walking here in the middle of summer on a Saturday, who knows I'm sure Shaun will get some personal time by the time we arrive.

We press on.

Looking back on Glaramara from the start of our ascent on Allen Crags.

Great End from Allen Crags.

Bow Fell, Hanging Knotts and Esk Pike from Allen Crags summit cairn.

A large group occupied an area below Allen Crags summit who had stopped to eat lunch after realising that it was 12:30pm as I glanced down at my watch. From Allen Crags summit we had a good view over Esk Hause and we could confirm what the fellow who we had spoken to earlier was right as we spotted one of two of the Macmillan Charity groups who had stopped to rest at the cairn on Esk Hause, further into Calf Cove we could see the second group who were also resting, couple this with the already busy Saturday traffic towards Scafell Pike, Esk Hause was quite a busy place to be.

Well, Shaun, Great End is next it's only your right to lead the way from now on.

III Crag and Great End over Esk Hause.
The excitement is starting to build not just for Shaun but for me too..., it sure feels like it's been some time since I was last here.

Looking back over Esk Hause and the cross shelter towards Allen Crags.

Esk Pike and the distant Langdale Pikes from Esk Hause.

Views towards a distant Harter Fell and upper Eskdale with Cockly Pike and Ill Crag seen on the right.

Looking from the top of Calf Cove towards Esk Hause, Esk Pike, Bow Fell and the Langdale Pikes.

By the time we reached the large group they were almost ready for the off with the exception of a few stragglers who were eating crisp so loudly I could hear them over twenty yards. They soon started their ascent on Calf Cove as we caught up with another group along the footpath before we broke away along the track seen in the right of the photo.

The majority of the group continued their journey towards Scafell Pike as I dropped back a few paces if only to let Shaun enjoy the last hundred yards or so towards his final Wainwright on his own,

Shaun marches to Great End summit.

The light would sometimes increase and then decrease as a covering of cloud slowly passed over Great End summit from the direction of Broad Crag and the Scafells creating a rather moody atmosphere.

Just perfect for the occasion.

Shaun claims his final Wainwright on Great End.

There was no hiding how pleased Shaun was to have reached his final Wainwright as he knelt down and gave the summit cairn a kiss, his delight etched across his face with a broad smile. I made my way towards the cairn and shook Shaun's hand and congratulated him on his success.

Well done that man.

Shaun's face says it all as we celebrate his final Wainwright with a small bottle of Prosecco.

We venture away from the summit and find a place to celebrate as Shaun pulls out a small bottle of Prosecco from his pack along with two plastic cups which are filled followed by a toast. I could only mirror my own feelings when on completing my final Wainwright which left me feeling overwhelmed and speechless, followed by hypothermia as it had rained for the duration that cold October day!

It felt great to be sat along Shaun knowing what he had achieved, whats next Shaun? the Outliers, the Birketts, the Howgills?

I think it's dinner time Paul !!

Broad Crag between the fleeting cloud.

We tucked into lunch and watched the cloud slowly pass overhead sometimes revealing Broad Crag and Lingmell which were often lost in cloud during our summit time. A few meters away a group of walkers are close to the summit and I'm sure I recognise one of them as Andrew Foster, a fellow walker who I had met briefly on Arthurs Pike back in 2013 and longtime Facebook friend.

I noted this to Shaun but still wasn't quite sure until Andrew stood up about to leave, we pointed towards one another smiling as Andrew made his way over followed by the group. We shook hands and shared our routes, Andrew and his friends had ascended Great End via The Band, a route that I had penned from the start but later altered due to my ankle injury at the beginning of the month, the special thing that we learned next was a member of the group was also celebrating her final Wainwright on Great End too.

How's that for a coincidence.

Seen in the centre of the photo in the light blue top, congratulations Viki Fraser!

Besides today I've only ever been at the summit maybe once or twice whilst people were celebrating their final Wainwright, but to be here on the same day and the same time was something special.

We all had a good chat and Andrew (seen in black top and shorts on the left) I introduced myself and Shaun to his friends, we had a great crack before realising that time was pressing on and all made our separate ways, the group would continue towards Scafell Pike while Andrew cut his walk short and descended back to Seathwaite (I think)

We hung around the summit a few moments longer before re-shouldering packs and retracing our route over Calf Cove.

Broad Crag as we descend over the top of Calf Cove.
With Viki and the gang just ahead.

Descending Esk Hause towards the top of Ruddy Gill with views of our final summit, Seathwaite Fell.

We soon found ourselves bearing down on Seathwaite Fell and although the photo doesn't suggest, it was an extremely busy area with walkers making their way back to Seathwaite and Wasdale Head. We had just passed a group of guys carrying mountain bikes on their shoulders as they ascended Calf Cove coming prepared as they had each wrapped the top cross bar on their bikes in bubble wrap, we could only look on and think that they're going to be carrying those bikes all the way to Scafell Pike...

I just couldn't see why they would do that.

Esk Hause was much less busy by now, occupied by mostly walkers all heading down after a day on the fells although we did capture the odd few still making their ascents towards the Pike. There was no need to go all the way back to Esk Hause instead, opting to take this path which is kind of a short cut for those heading back to Sprinkling Tarn or Styhead Tarn.

Great Gable, Green Gable, Base Brown and Seathwaite Fell from the top of Ruddy Gill.
Quite a few of the walkers seen in the photo take the path to the right back to Seathwaite via Ruddy Gill/Grains Gill, we, however continue towards Sprinkling Tarn seen further ahead.

Sprinkling Crags and Glaramara from Sprinkling Tarn.

Great End from Sprinkling Tarn.
I guess the photo doesn't do the moment any justice as we stopped to look back on Great End at what I consider to be one of its best vantage points here at Sprinkling Tarn, a few atmospheric moments indeed.

Ahead, Seathwaite Fell.

Seathwaite Fell summit.
We followed a worn grassy path singular in width towards the summit which is seated at the highest point overlooking the Seathwaite valley and Derwent Water beyond, our views were still limited due to low light mixed with a slight haze and after a tap from my walking pole and a few moments spent studying our descent route we doubled back towards the western shoulder of the summit and began our steep descent towards the path that flanks Styhead Gill.

The Seathwaite Valley taken during our descent.

I had at times made the mistake of descending Seathwaite Fell via a rough gully and today I didn't want to make the same mistake, instead as previously mentioned we track back along the fell side making sure that the head of the gully is passed, we both agreed a descent via a steep grassy route which at times showed signs that it had been used before often coming across areas of ground were the grass hadn't grown.

All the while we could see walkers heading back to Seathwaite as we made our descent, we soon reached the path close to where the familiar pines grow which line part of the path during descent.

Two fell runners quickly run past at good pace and they stop further up ahead to delayer, Shaun and I could only look on and wonder how they seem to effortlessly glaze over the path without so much as a thought to how rough it is underfoot.

Looking into Grains Gill as the blue skies start to appear overhead.

Seathwaite Fell from Stockley Bridge.

Seathwaite Farm.

The line of cars that line the lane all the way back to where we had left our own cars at Seathwaite Bridge reflected just how busy the fells had been today, we follow groups and couples back into Seathwaite and pass through Seathwaite Farm which I don't quite know how, had a tranquilness about it. Up ahead the lane is clogged on both sides not by badly parked cars, just sheer numbers of people who steadily trail away as we leave the Farm behind and take the last mile towards Seathwaite Bridge.

Under a hot afternoon sun a herd of Bulls graze while one young Calf looks on while following its mother hoof for hoof and somehow manages to trip up, it was quite comical to see the young un 'getting udder feet' (sorry) while in the opposite field sheep await a quad bike which is loaded with bags of feed and despite the traffic and lines of cars these typical Lakeland scenes bring an end to a monumental day for Shaun and myself.

With the cars reached we wind down the windows if only to let the hot air escape, de-shoulder and start to throw our gear into the boots of the cars, I have a wander over to Shaun and thank him for lettimg me join him on his final Wainwright whilst shaking hands, a walk is planned for September and with that, another fine day on the fells draws to a end.


A few words from Shaun...

Paul, thank you for planning this truly great walk and for joining me as I completed the Wainwrights. As I told you on the day, I can think of no-one I would rather have shared this experience with. A great report and brilliant photos, as always.

Your knowledge and love of the fells is always as inspiration. I look forward to joining you for more classic walks in the years to come.


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