Walking the Wainwrights in 30 Walks Walk 25 - A Grisedale Horseshoe

30th July 2016

Walk twenty five of my Wainwright project takes in Helvellyn and its satellite summits collectively known as the the Grisedale Horseshoe with the exception that todays route is slightly extended which will also see me summit Arnison Crag and Seat Sandal if I'm being picky. This is a walk much like last weeks where I could have comfortably ended the project on but I was tempted away by another route that I had put together which will soon become apparent now that the project is drawing to towards its final stages.

Todays walk starts and ends from Glenridding where I deliberately chose to summit Birkhouse Moor via Mire Beck, a route that I'm very fond of before collecting my first summit then continuing along towards Hole-in-the-Wall from where I'll head towards Red Tarn flanked by both Striding Edge and Swirral Edge. It's a steep sharp pull in order to gain Catstye Cam before doubling back slightly to traverse Swirral Edge and onto a long awaited Helvellyn summit.

From Helvellyn summit I track southwards collecting Nethermost Pike and Dollywagon Pike before descending steeply as views open out over Grisedale Tarn, Fairfield and my next summit of Seat Sandal. After a rather punishing ascent of Seat Sandal I descend over Grisedale Hause and traverse the narrow track alongside Grisedale Tarn which ascends towards Deepdale Hause before I gain ground on St Sunday Crag from where my final two summits of Birks and Arnison Crag roll out below along a carpet of soft grass before arriving back to a bustling Glenridding and back in time for drinks later this evening with Mrs S

I only hope we drink in the kind of places that has plenty chairs.

Wainwright Guide Book One
The Eastern Fells

-St Sunday Crag

Every walker who aspires to high places and looks up at the remote summit of St Sunday Crag will experience an urge to go forth and climb up to it, for its challenge is very strong. Its rewards are equally generous, and altogether this is a noble fell. Saint Sunday must surely look down on memorial with profound gratification.


Ascent: 4,879 Feet - 1,488 Meters
Wainwrights: 9, Birkhouse Moor - Catstye Cam - Helvellyn - Nethermost Pike - Dollywagon Pike - Seat Sandal - St Sunday Crag - Birks - Arnison Crag
Weather: Bright Start Turning Overcast, Some Light Showers With a Fresh Breeze Across The Summits. Highs of 18°C Lows of 13°C
Parking: Car Park, Glenridding
Area: Eastern
Miles: 13.1
Walking With: On My Own
Ordnance Survey: OL5
Time Taken: 7 Hours
Route: Glenridding – Mires Beck - Birkhouse Moor – Red Tarn - Catstye Cam - Swirral Edge – Helvellyn - Nethermost Pike - High Crag - Dollywagon Pike - Seat Sandal - Grisedale Hause - Deepdale Hause - St Sunday Crag - Birks - Trough Head - Arnison Crag - Grisedale Bridge – Glenridding

Map and Photo Gallery


Birkhouse Moor from Glenridding 07:20am 13°C

I arrived in Glenrididng after travelling along a deserted Kirkstone Pass where the only company I had were the wandering sheep with the odd sighting of a Raven or even a Red Squirrel which I saw close to the Troutbeck side of the Pass. I didn't pass another car all the way through to Patterdale and into Glenridding where I parked easily on the carpark which has now been downsized as a base for contractors who are still hard at work rebuilding the banks of Glenridding Beck which flooded the village devastating local businesses up to four times during last Decembers storms.

I had a pocketful of pound coins ready for the parking machine which would usually cost around £7.00 to park all day but I was pleasantly surprised to read that today it would only cost me £4.00, an effort by Cumbria Council no doubt to encourage visitors back to Glenridding although I could later confirm they needn't have dropped the charges considering how busy the village was when I would arrive back some seven hours later.

I've treated myself to a brand new pair of Meindl Bhutan walking boots as by now my regular Meindl's are starting to show the abuse I put them through and due to just how great the Meindl's are I don't really need to wear them in although I think given todays route It'll be best if I wear my old boots out some more, a decision I'm likely to continue to make no doubt until my Wainwright project is complete.

There's a slight nip in the morning air and because of this I add my Montane windproof jacket although I knew some half hour later I'd be taking it off again. With the car locked I head out towards Glenridding Hotel and peer down at the improvements on the river bank which of course burst its banks and flooded the hotel on no more than four separate occasions, it's so quiet at the moment I can walk alongside the white lines in the middle of the road towards Sharmans Stores before heading out past the Cafe's who are preparing for early morning customers.

I continue along the track leaving Glenridding behind as views of Birkhouse Moor north east ridge opens out in front of me accompanied by the sound of Glenridding Beck which falls away steeply to my right, up ahead and for the second weekend running I can smell the Bacon being cooked which is coming from the direction of Gillside Campsite which is where I'm heading next.

Birkhouse Moor North East ridge from Gillside Campsite.

Gillside is soon reached, although it may not look it the campsite is nearing full with tents pitched as far up to Glenridding Beck as possible, up ahead I can see a sandwich van which has a long line of early morning campers waiting in a orderly queue when I remembered that I still have a few quid from the car park knocking about in my pocket, I was almost tempted and had the queue had not been so long I almost certainly would be holding a Bacon butty right now but somehow I resist.

The smell of Bacon is left behind as I arrive at a junction sign posted Helvellyn via Mires Beck keep left, and for Greenside keep right, I of course head left and start to climb a concrete path which ends at a gate. I'm still wearing my jacket which by now is causing me to sweat, told you I'd be taking it off again!

A young chap who I would later meet again passes by and it looks like he's just come from the Campsite, he gets a good gain on me on the Mires Beck path, one that I'm unable to regain, I'd forgotten how steep the path can feel as I start to control my breathing almost from the start.

Views back over Glenridding towards Ullswater and Birk Fell from Little Cove/Mires Beck.

A ray of sunlight over Boredale Hause.
With more height gained I am met by a welcome breeze which has a cold feel to it causing me to roll down my sleeves. I continue to follow the steep path flanked by bracken on both sides up until I arrive at the head of Little Cove where the path is a little less steep, by which time I can see the familiar stone wall just yonder which ascends right over the top of Birkhouse Moor all the way to Hole-in-the-Wall but that is still some ascent away just yet.

Striding Edge, Helvellyn, Swirral Edge and Catstye Cam from Birkshouse Moor.

From the head of Little Cove I leave Mires Beck behind and continue to climb steadily towards the shoulder of Birkhouse Moor before the path takes the ease out of the steep gradient via a series of zig-zags. Soon the ground eases underfoot with the prominent summits of Helvellyn and Catstye Cam command my view ahead right about the same time the sun came out revealing Helvellyn, Striding Edge, Swirral Edge and Catstye Cam in all their glory.

Despite the sunshine the summit breeze is starting to feel a little more than just fresh which prompts me to de-shoulder and add my jacket back on, I was even tempted to add gloves such was the chill but I resist and billow warm air into cupped fists instead.

Helvellyn, Striding Edge, Swirral Edge and Catstye Cam from Birkhouse Moor summit cairn.

Helvellyn seen with Striding Edge.
I continue to follow the stone wall before turning right towards Red Tarn using the path seen in the centre of the photo.

Helvellyn, Swirral Edge and Catstye Cam.
Despite a traverse of Striding Edge looking hugely tempting today I am visiting Catstye Cam which will see me join the path close to Red Tarn just up ahead from where I will ascend towards Swirral Edge before ascending Catstye Cam pathless only to rejoin the path just below the summit.

Helvellyn, Striding Edge, Swirral Edge and Catstye Cam as I now head towards Hole-in-the-Wall.

My queue to head right towards Red Tarn now.

Swirral Edge.

I could see movement at Red Tarn and on arrival around four tents had been pitched who's occupants are milling around, I ponder on a visit to the Tarn but opt otherwise as by now the bright morning sunshine had given way for passing cloud which had started to envelope the summit of Helvellyn before slowly making its way over Swirral Edge.

As I reached Red Tarn Beck four girls from the tents are filling water bottles who I pass with a Hi before making the steady ascent towards Swirral Edge soon leaving the path for my ascent on Catstye Cam as it appears back into view in the photo.

Helvellyn, Red Tarn and Swirral Edge from my ascent on Catstye Cam.
Having left the Swirral Edge path behind I start to ascend Catstye Cam pathless before arriving on the path just below the summit. It would seem that the cloud is starting to clear just nicely now as people the size of small dots start to appear on Helvellyn summit.

Helvellyn from Catstye Cam.

Sheffield Pike and Ullswater from Catstye Cam summit cairn.

After a short but steep pull I soon arrived at Catstye Cam summit by which time the sun was out in all its glory yet despite this those summit winds were brisk to say the least, is this the smallest hint that Autumn is only a matter of months away?

It's pretty cold but such the temptation to take in the views from the summit I spend quite a lot of time looking down the north ridge which extend into Kepple Cove and its famous zig-zag path ascent onto White Side. I could have swore that earlier during my own ascent on the summit I could see a fellow making his way up via the north east ridge and I had estimated we would arrive around the same time yet despite this, he was no where to be seen.

I pop my sunglasses on if only to shield my eyes from the wind which usually stream in the lightest of breezes, something that never affected me until I caught an eye infection in both pupils some eight years ago which saw me add twenty eight drops of antibiotics and steroids to each eye per day which is why I'm never far away from a pair of sunglasses these days especially if its forecasted to be windy.

Anyway, moving on...

Swirral Edge.

I retraced my route as I descended Catstye Cam and took in the views over Red Tarn towards Striding Edge which by now had three or four people making a traverse across it, I wondered about the wind and its affect on them.

I soon reach the base of Swirral Edge and decide to de-shoulder to allow myself to strap in my walking poles, from Swirral Edge a solo walker in his mid fifties passes by and a smile and 'morning' are exchanged. I re-shoulder instantly feeling the cold sweat across my back as my pack rest against it.

I didn't realise it when I took this photo but just out of view towards the left two walkers are making a pathless ascent on Helvellyn via the head wall avoiding the crags and scree, at this point they appeared fine but I couldn't help but think what made them ascend this way, I would later find out.

Red Tarn and Striding Edge from Swirral Edge.

Catstye Cam from Swirral Edge.

Swirral tastic!
I always enjoy a good scramble over Swirral Edge and todays was no different, shielded from the winds by Brown Cove I actually started to work up a sweat again as I eased myself over dry polished rock while observing the scratch marks left behind by crampons during winter climbs, for those few minutes it took me to climb Swirral Edge, I was lost in my own moment.

Hevellyn summit.
And if things couldn't get any better it appears that I have Helvellyn summit all to myself, such a rarity for a Saturday morning.

Peering down over the edge.
With views over Swirral Edge, Catstye Cam, Keppel Cove, Raise and Stybarrow Dodd.

The lure of a wildcamp on Helvellyn has always appealed to me and although this might seem the normal to many a walker spending as much time as I do in Lakeland while away from my family has mean't that wild camping has never been on my bucket list, but to wild camp here on Helvellyn summit on a beautiful summers evening surely is the exception.

Descending Helvellyn towards Nethermost Pike.

I soon caught up with the fellow from Gillside Campsite who had just made his first crossing of Striding Edge "it was exhilarating to say the least" How was the wind I asked? it was fine he replied, I just kept to the lower path, well done that man.

We spoke of where I was heading next and after informing him of my route he replied with blimey, your going to sleep tonight! If only he knew that this walk was the easiest of the five walks that I have left which I keep to myself before bidding him a safe journey back to Gillside.

Walkers on High Spying How over Nethermost Cove.

Hevellyn, Striding Edge and Catstye Cam from Nethermost Pike summit.

With good stead I descend over the top of Nethermost Cove passing two walkers seen in the previous photo, I crested over Nethermost Pike stony summit plateau finding it a little odd that the couple who gained ground on the summit didn't actually visit the summit cairn but seeing as there's no rules I guess it's not all about getting to the top.

A fellow walking heads towards the summit from the direction of High Crag and 'nods' are exchanged from afar. High Crag is easily gained from Nethermost Pike as I remember feeling totally isolated between both summits when the cloud is down, which thankfully, isn't the case today.

High Crag seen with Dollywagon Pike with Fairfield in the distance.

St Sunday Crag and Birks from the top of Ruthwaite Cove pronounced 'Ruthet' with The Tongue in the foreground.

High Crag, Nethermost Pike, Helvellyn, Striding Edge and Catstye Cam from Dollywagon Pike summit.

I had been making good ground since leaving Helvellyn summit and felt pleased with my pace (which will also please the wife if I'm home on time!) I stop to read the card left on the cuddly toy which had something to do with a charity although which I couldn't tell due to the writing rubbing away. I peer down briefly down The Tongue ridge with murky views into the Grisedale Valley and beyond which prompted me to access the weather situation as I'm sure I could feel water droplets in the air.

After all, the forecasters did say not to rule any light showers out.

Peering into Ruthwaite Cove with views towards Hard Tarn perched 'shelf like' below Nethermost Pike East Ridge.

Seat Sandal and Grisedale Tarn during the ascent of Dollywagon Pike.
I left the summit of Dollywagon and tracked south passing all that remains of the Victorian gate post which lines my descent via a ruined stone wall on the southern flank of Dollywagon Pike. It's a very steep descent as the fell side drops away suddenly by which time those droplets of water I spoke about are getting more frequent, but it holds for now.

Fairfield, Great Rigg, Seat Sandal, Grisedale Hause and Grisedale Tarn.

St Sunday Crag, Cofa Pike and Grisedale Tarn from my ascent on Seat Sandal.

After descending Dollywagon Pike I had just enough time to kick my feet into the back of my boots before launching myself into the steep and steady ascent on Seat Sandal by which time it had started to rain. It wasn't a time to look up in fact as I recall the rain was welcomed as it helped to cool me down.

I might have lifted one eye in the direction of Great Rigg, then maybe west over Dunmail Raise and beyond Steel Fell which appeared to show no let up with the showers.

After the rain, Seat Sandal summit.

I crested the shoulder of Seat Sandal and followed the stone wall which brought back memories from the time I ate lunch here during my two thousand footers challenge which left me feeling like the summit was just an old friend. With walking poles braced behind I head towards the summit right about the same time these two fellows arrived from the direction of Grisedale Hause.

I take a wee wander taking in the now clearing views over Grasmere and its inky black lake. Further south the Coniston Fells, especially Wetherlam are under cloud but there's promising skies above. The two guys (who looked like twins to me) have now left the summit as I de-shoulder where despite it still being mid morning I treat myself to a early snack in the form of a mini pork pie if only to tide me over until lunchtime.

The cloud is still down on Dollywagon and extends across the Helvellyn group but it's only low enough to hide its summits, there is a lack of colour in the fell side by now due to low light as the cloud slowly makes it way across the peaks helped along by summit wind. I could be mistaken for describing such a bleak outlook during Autumn time but these are the Lakeland fells in Summer, and it's totally captivating.

Extended views over Grisedale Tarn towards St Sunday Crag, The Grisedale Valley and Ullswater.
It's now time to descend Seat Sandal towards Grisedale Hause which is situated in the lower right of the photo from where i'lll pick up the faint path (seen above the prominent path next to Grisedale Tarn) which ascends steadily towards Deepdale Hause (seen as the lowest point in the right of the photo)

Views over the head of the Grisedale Valley towards Seat Sandal, Grisedale Tarn and Grisedale Beck.

I follow the path which rises steadily towards Deepdale Hause and only pass one other person who interestingly made a direct pathless ascent on Cofa Pike. By now it had stopped raining but that wasn't to say it left the fells feeling somewhat fresh again as thoughts of threading gloves over chilled hands were never far from mind but I stubbornly give in despite passing numerous walkers who by now are kitted up in hats and gloves based purely on the reason that this is Summer...

...and because I'm a stubborn monkey when I want to be.

Here, looking back on Fairfield and Cofa Pike with Seat Sandale and Grisedale Tarn in the distance.

St Sunday Crag summit cairn.

When viewing St Sunday Crag from afar it does appear that once Deepdale Hause is reached the summit is just a stones throw away which is anything but the truth, what is required here is a fresh pair of legs and powerful lungs, OK, I might be exaggerating but it's always much further than it looks as I begin to dig deep on todays seventh summit.

The gradient soon eases and I can see a host of walkers occupying the summit area as my stride backs off a little as I lift my walking poles and stretch them out behind me. At the summit the two walkers who I had seen on Nethermost Pike had just arrived as we notice one another and strike up conversation "didn't we see you on Nethermost Pike" yeah that was me I replied, so was it you on Swirral Edge who saw us ascending Helvellyn via the Head Wall? blimey I said was that you! What made you ascend that way I asked? oh we often go 'off path' well, well done it looked mighty steep I replied.

Where are you heading next they asked? well I'm going to descend towards Gavel Pike then pick up the grassy track left just below its summit which will see me traverse above Gavel Moss, it's a route that I usually use when descending St Sunday Crag and it's got the added bonus of being easier underfoot too.

Descending St Sunday Crag with views over Birks, Place Fell, Ullswater, Gowborrow Fell and the Mell Fells.
You may just be able to spot Arnison Crag which appears below Boredale Hause in the middle right of the photo, in terms of distance it's a little over a mile and a half away.

A close up of Ullswater with Birk Fell, Gowbarrow Fell and Great Mell Fell in the Distance.

St Sunday Crag, Dollywagon Pike, Nethermost Pike, and Helvellyn from Birks summit.
After descending St Sunday Crag I crossed the grassy col which separates its summit with Birks and began the grassy ascent on Birks by which time the sun had returned which saw me de-shoulder once again and delayer if only to enjoy the last hour or so in wonderful afternoon sunshine.

Clear views over Trough Head towards Arnison Crag, Place Fell, Boredale Hause, Angletarn Pikes and Beda Fell.

Trough Head.
I follow the grassy path from Birks summit until two large boulders are reached, I'm not sure if these boulders were placed here as markers but they are situated at a point where I pick up a faint grassy trod east which eventually leads (or thereabouts) towards the top of this stone wall as views over Trough Head open out below, it's a steep descent and once again heels are kicked back into boots once the bottom was reached!

Ullswater and Great Mell Fell from Trough Head.

Sheffield Pike, Ullswater, Great Mell Fell and Birk Fell from Arnison Crag summit.

After crossing Trough Head I track between grassy outcrops which required a little effort sometimes breaking through bracken until I found myself looking up on Arnison Crag, I had options to go around to the northern flank of the summit where I knew a path awaited but that path was a little distance away, instead I opt to wade through a small patch of bracken from where I pick out a short scramble over rock which spat me out just yards from the summit cairn only to find the summit area fully exposed to the wind which at times could have knocked me off my feet!

I didn't get it, just where did this wind come from? Nevertheless I take a seat and snapped this photo before descending via the prominent path all the while views over Ullswater and its sail boats opened out before me.

It was time to head back to Glenridding.

Sheffield Pike, Ullswater, Great Mell Fell and Birk Fell taken during the descent of Arnison Crag.

I used my fingers to count the hours it had taken me to collect the round of nine summits as views stretched out over Ullswater by which time my ears were slowly getting used to the sound of cars and motorbikes as they travelled along the lake road. Groups of youngsters were by now making an ascent on Arnison Crag and we pass with hello's.

Below I can just about make out the Cricketers who are practising over on Patterdale Cricket Ground as the sound of the ball hitting the Cricket bat travels the distance with each strike. I meet a young couple who hold the gate open for me as I prepare for the last mile back to Glenridding via Grisedale Road which is where I stop to strap in my walking poles before emerging in traffic at the junction from where it's a half a miles walk back to Glenridding where I think I'll eat lunch before heading home.

I arrive in Glenridding and I'm pleased to see I can't cross the road without fear of being run over, or I can't buy a can of pop without queing out onto the pavement can only be a sign that the village despite its troubles, is returning back to normal.

I'm lucky enough to grab a table where I people watch whilst eating lunch, in just a few hours time I'm going to be stood in a trendy bar with a cold pint in one hand whilst I bore Mrs S of todays adventure where the topic of conversation will come from views like this.


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