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Around Thirlmere / 3 days / 31 miles (50km)

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Date: 03 Oct 2005
Start / Finish: Grasmere.
Maps: Outdoor Leisure 5,4,7: English Lakes North East / North West / South East.

Day 1High Raise & Ullscarf7.7 miles / 2940 feet (12.4km / 896m)
Day 2High Tove & Clough Head11.8 miles / 2840 feet (19.0km / 865m)
Day 3The Helvellyn Ridge11.8 miles / 2990 feet (19.0km / 911m)

A circuit of the mountains around Thirlmere, ascending via Tarn Crag to High Raise and the Ullscarf ridge and returning via the Helvellyn ridge. The Ullscarf ridge is wet and relatively little visited, a stark contrast to the popular Helvellyn ridge which is very easy walking throughout.

Day 1 - High Raise & Ullscarf

Taking the Easedale road out of Grasmere, a bridleway branches off along Easedale Beck to New Bridge where a footpath crosses the valley to the road end. Another footpath heads up the valley to Stythwaite Steps and crosses a footbridge to ascend below Stenners Crag in the direction of Easedale Tarn. Where it levels out, a thin path branches R to climb high above the tarn to Greathead Crag. It was very warm and calm on this climb and despite being October, the midges were worse than we had seen all summer. Approaching Tarn Crag, a cool light breeze developed which was enough to eliminate the problem. The views were very muted today by the legacy of a dank weather stream and veils of mist lingered on the slopes, though the tops on our route were clear.

Easedale Tarn from approach to Tarn Crag
Easedale Tarn from approach to Tarn Crag (03 Oct 2005__10:33:28)

Continuing W, Codale Tarn came into view as we joined the stream and climbed past some unnamed tarns to the cairn on Codale Head. As usually happens, a group of figures were congregated on Sergeant Man, an insignificant little hump that seems to attract more people than most mountain summits. Passing more small tarns below, a thin path heads directly for the trig point on High Raise the highest mountain of the group. The western views were muted but we could see and hear two huge skeins of geese flying up Langstrathdale. The mist was closing in as we descended to Greenup Edge and it was briefly thick enough to drizzle, but it passed quickly as we climbed the wet ridge to Ullscarf, the central summit of the Lake District mountains but with no distant all round views today. Just after the summit cairn, we descended L to the head of a small stream to collect good water. Ahead was the last mountain of the day Low Saddle, seldom visited and commanding a view over Blea Tarn and the broad ridge that leads to High Seat. The grass by the cairn made a very good pitch.

Codale Tarn
Codale Tarn (03 Oct 2005__11:21:18)
Mist rising below Codale Head
Mist rising below Codale Head (03 Oct 2005__12:08:38)
Tarn on the Ullscarf ridge
Tarn on the Ullscarf ridge (03 Oct 2005__13:53:54)
Low Saddle and Blea Tarn from High Saddle
Low Saddle and Blea Tarn from High Saddle (03 Oct 2005__15:16:52)
Pitch on Low Saddle
Pitch on Low Saddle (03 Oct 2005__15:43:04)
Blea Tarn with Blencathra & the Dodds
Blea Tarn with Blencathra & the Dodds (03 Oct 2005__17:26:16)

Day 2 - High Tove & Clough Head

At dawn the area was clear of mist but dull and hazy as we set off on a gradually descending line that curved round beneath the rocky face of Standing Crag. The ridge fence northwards crosses much wet and boggy ground, with oases of rock and grass at Shivery Knott and Middle Crag, and reaches High Tove. A wet path descends E towards Fisher Gill, and approaching the forest we left it to traverse northwards to the head of Middlesteads Gill (an enjoyable scramble up when ascending from Armboth). Following the outside of the forest deer fence, a gate at the head of Shoulthwaite Gill (another good route up) gives access to the forest track that winds past the Raven Crag path and below Sippling Crag, giving good intermittent views across to the crags below Bleaberry Fell, to arrive at Shoulthwaite Farm and the A591.

Standing Crag
Standing Crag (04 Oct 2005__07:49:44)

We followed the footpath and lane N below High Rigg to the byway that leads E to St. John's in the Vale church, then took the lane to Wanthwaite bridge, with Clough Head looking a long way up. A good track ascends gently around the slopes, passing the old quarry and giving good views across to Blencathra, and climbs to Hause Well spring which at the source was flowing just enough to collect very good water by the track. Where the track levels out just before a hut, there is a stile in the fence and a thin path climbs steeply up to the R of White Pike and the summit trig point of Clough Head. The flat grassy top made a good pitch.

Pitch on Clough Head
Pitch on Clough Head (04 Oct 2005__16:45:58)

Day 3 - The Helvellyn Ridge

The tops were again free of mist at dawn and the whole ridge would remain clear all day, though rather thick and hazy. What a difference from the opposite ridge yesterday - the extremely easy paths over this ridge reinforce the fact that terrain is everything in the prediction of route timings and the summits seem to fly by in no time. In the case of Stybarrow Dodd the summit may be missed altogether as the main path bypasses it and heads directly for a lower cairn. The only irritation on this fine walk is the profusion of stupid unnecessary cairns that litter these eastern fells, sometimes placed every few yards, and a priority target for the Gardarene Club!.

The ridge was deserted at this early hour as far as the approach to Lower Man, where we heard loud calls and thought someone might be in trouble but it turned out to be a farmer marshalling his dogs at 3000 feet. At Dollywaggon Pike we walked down to the fancy post marked on the map and descended very steeply directly towards Seat Sandal, a better alternative to the eroded main path. A stiff pull up alongside the wall leads to the last summit of the day and a well earned rest. The descent E to Grisedale Hause is also steep and eroded near the bottom, but not too bad. The sun finally broke through as we started our return route down the valley. This is a partly pitched path below Gavel Crag and above Tongue Gill, passing attractive waterfalls and cascades. Near the end the path crosses a footbridge and descends to the A591 opposite the lane to Low Mill Bridge (reference note: the verge on the far side used to be available for parking, but a police notice now prohibits it). A short walk along the verge is the lane leading in to Grasmere.

Red Tarn & Striding Edge
Red Tarn & Striding Edge (05 Oct 2005__10:49:24)
Striding Edge
Striding Edge (05 Oct 2005__11:13:56)
Grisedale Tarn
Grisedale Tarn (05 Oct 2005__14:04:08)
Gavel Crag and Tongue Gill
Gavel Crag and Tongue Gill (05 Oct 2005__14:55:36)