|Outline Map →||Route file →|
Date: 22 Jan 2007
Start / Finish: Grasmere.
Maps: Explorer OL6: English Lakes South West & OL7 South East.
|Day 1||Steel Fell & Codale Head||5.9 miles / 2730 feet (9.5km / 832m)|
|Day 2||Pavey Ark & High Raise||3.6 miles / 700 feet (5.8km / 213m)|
|Day 3||Easedale||4.4 miles / 140 feet (7.1km / 42m)|
A winter circuit of the fells and tarns to the West of Grasmere, culminating at High Raise. The snow was deeper than we anticipated and the strong northerly wind made for an arduous expedition with an arctic feel to it, but the scenery and views in the clear air were superb.
Our approach for this trip was along the narrow lane that branches N off the Easedale road to Ghyll Foot. The farmer at Underfell remarked that we had chosen a good week, it had been raining almost every day since before Christmas. At the access land boundary we climbed the SE ridge of Steel Fell towards the snow line and fought the attempts of the strong northerly wind to blow us back down, while hoping the predicted easing of the windspeed was correct. There was a grand prospect of the gleaming white tops of the Helvellyn ridge and the snowy peaks to the West.
The ridge curves around to the Steel Fell tarns where the open water shimmered with a deep blue against the surrounding ice, a spot to savour. The onward line was ill defined in the snow but it was a straightforward climb to Calf Crag and descent to Brownrigg Moss.
Here the winter conditions began in earnest as we picked our way upwards close to Mere Beck, a slow and tiring climb with all the winter gear and snow and ice, and we quickly decided to maximise our options by collecting water while we were near a good source. Eventually we reached Codale Head and admired the splendid views for as long as the biting wind would allow, then descended towards the frozen pools to clear a tent area just above them, sheltered from the worst of the wind and making a superb pitch in the winter scenery.
In the morning the windblown powdery snow had covered the tent pegs and their heads were set in hard ice beneath, making depitching a slow and cold business against the still brisk wind. Today would be a short tour of the area with plenty of time to savour the splendid snow scenery and the clear views which extended to Ingleborough in Yorkshire. Curving around towards Pavey Ark, we noticed the headwaters of Bright Beck were flowing from beneath the snow almost at the col and we made a note to collect our water there on the way back.
Our circuit took us from Pavey Ark past several frozen pools to Thunacar Knott and back to the col. Hazy cloud started to form on the final climb to High Raise but it remained clear to give a fine view from the summit. Returning to the Codale Head area we cleared a pitch lower down near the frozen pools for better shelter, and shortly after it began to snow. Now we discovered that our Zap towel and cleansing wipes had frozen hard and were unusable, and our liquid soap wasn't: it had the consistency of dense toothpaste but we managed to squeeze some out. We had also made a serious omission: despite the fine windblown snow that was falling, we forgot to fill the gap below the flysheet...
That evening we heard the sound of snow sliding off the tent: great, the fly was shedding it well. Later though we awoke and wondered why it was snowing on our faces. The very fine powdery snow had blown in under the fly and all around the inner, completely filling the porch from top to bottom and burying our packs, boots and gear, and finding its way through the tiny gap in the mesh door. We closed the gap and decided to leave it until morning since it couldn't get any worse. At dawn we slowly unzipped the door and pushed back the wall of snow to clear the porch and empty our boots, which we managed to dry remarkably well but we had to hack out the ice that had filled the D-rings. The rest of the gear was safe inside bin liners.
The mist was clearing as we chiselled out the tent pegs from the ice and depitched, leaving a great view of snow, sun and dark clouds. Climbing back to Codale Head, we took a route down the pathless southern slopes of virgin snow and joined the main path lower down above Belles Knott. This was easy as far as Eagle Crag but the steep part of the path was largely ice covered, needing a slow and careful descent but rewarded by the lovely ice formations and falls in the stream.
Stopping for a break, we really didn't feel like eating at all, a well known effect for high altitude mountaineers but apparently just as real here. As has often happened, a raven landed and sat a few yards away from us hoping for some scraps, in this case he had a bonanza with most of our cake. The main highway past Easedale Tarn was an easy and picturesque return to Grasmere below the snow line.