Saturday, 10 November 2012

A walk to Grasmoor from Buttermere

On Thursday 8th November we were a group of three, and were determined for a decent walk. Ruth having joined the two of us has recently, has decided to work her way through the Wainwright Peaks and with 140 for her still to go at we were spoilt for choice. We decided to head for Buttermere with the intention of going up Whiteless Pike, onto Wandope, Grasmoor then perhaps aim for Hopegill Head, the goal being Whiteside and then Rannerdale Knotts. We parked on the Newlands Valley Road, just above the church, a favourite 'free' park unleashed the dogs and headed for the Mill Beck track to Whiteless Breast.

Whiteless Breast leading onto it's Pike.

'The Beast' awaits uncaging. Dylan is already on his wanders.

Looking back as we make our way up Mill Beck.
Above are two photographs from car park area and this is a Godsend in Buttermere, a reason we walk there often. The third photograph is the oak coppice and the autumn colours were beautiful. The calmness here was to be in contrast for the weather yet to come, although it was clear the weekend snow had disappeared from the fells, which was at least far better than Mondays outing on Helvellyn. For those that don't know the area you are rewarded very early into this walk with a beautiful view toward Squat Beck and to Rannerdale itself as you just pass Low Bank.

Crummock Water with Lowswater beyond, looking down Squat Beck.

 It was here that the wind began to bite and the fine drizzle turned to cold biting rain that did not relent for three hours. I know this route well and you can't go wrong following the well worn path for Whiteless Pike.
A change in the weather.

Ruth sitting on the summit of Whiteless Pike, to stand she would have been blown off.

 We had the 'I was here' photo of Ruth on the summit and headed further on for Wandope. Here the paths begin to multiply but even in cloud and rain it is easy to find bearing to the right to keep the edge in sight. It really was bitter cold and we carried on for Grasmoor though if you just hold the edge you will eventually reach Crag Hill, which was not our destination. We branched off to the left and quickly hit the path realising we were part up the Crag Hill path leading from Grasmoor and needed to drop a little for the hause between the two fells. The push up Grasmoor is a warming climb, not too steep and good underfoot, but at a decent pace it gets the heart pumping. Don't be fooled to think you are at the summit when you reach the first cairn as the high point is still some 800m ahead and be careful, this fell is barren on top, a moonscape, but wander aimlessly and you will reach corries and steep screes. The Lad Hows path is difficult to find if you are returning to Crummock down it, but once on it you can't really go wrong. We had decided to eat our bait on Grasmoor as the summit cairn is like a spiral, swirls leading off and you can find some arm that affords protection from the wind. This fell is the highest one on the whole group and is open to The Irish Sea wind, fed from The Atlantic wind. There was nothing one could describe as pleasant about this outing and after our food and hot drink we decided that the next fell of Whiteside was too much pain for little gain and plumbed for the Lad Hows route. We still had Rannerdale Knotts to climb so there was walking still to do and didn't feel guilty about the shorter route.

Ruth and Steve, well wrapped at the cairn. A rare appearance by Holly as there is food out.
We headed down the Lad Hows, quickly losing height and it was noticeable that the temperature picked up and the wind abated as we began to be sheltered by the more western fells. It seemed no time at all before we were on the valley floor, walking nondescript low fell bracken which in spring changes to one of the Lake districts best displays these being The Rannerdale Bluebells, a perfectly blue carpet in open valley terrain. We moved through the bracken and over the wooden bridge that straddles Squat Beck. We had picked our route to the summit of Rannerdale Knotts as we had descended Lad Hows. Rather than return to the road and go up the tourist path, we decided to head for the OS marked Right of Way route that skirts the Dale How rock projection and denoted by a substantial dry stone wall. This was steep and we found no actual path, though by turning I made a mental note regarding where I was going to view 2013's blue display in the valley floor and it would be from here. We clambered on, walking as a description doesn't suit the terrain we covered as it was 'three points of contact' for a good part of it.

Three points of contact route, well it was different.
Crummock with the Mosser(pronounced Mozzer) Fells of Fellbarrow and Low Fell in the distance, The Solway Firth and Scotland beyond.
We finally reached the top of this small but tough fell and it was commented that it was the most difficult part of the walk. It was worth the effort though, to learn something new about an area that we know very well and in high season I will use this instead of the worn tourist routes to the top.
Once at the cairn the views deep into Butteremere open up to you and you have to stop and soak up the beauty of it. I believe this valley was the last place in what is England to be finally conquered after The Norman Conquest, through it's inaccessibility in both geography, terrain and the wild locals of course. Now it is a serene location to rest a troubled mind and soul, as tourists do.
 It was time for three local dwellers to rest their souls and that had been decided to be in The Fish Hotel, Buttermere, a parking place for the soul of old but we had recently defaulted to The Kirkstyle Inn, still a change is as good as a rest. I had a pint of Marstons Armistice( it's 11th of 11th tomorrow) and a pint of Snecklifter. Both well kept, though they knocked the lights out on us at their afternoon closing time, I hate that. A good outing in the cold wind and rain of 13kms with 1300m ascent.
 My next outing is tomorrow, 11th day of 11th month and will be on Great Gable. To be anywhere else as a fell walker on this day would be wrong, excluding other points of tribute, but this fell is the one for me to pay my respects.

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