Walk date – 22nd May 2019
Distance – 10 miles
Weather – sunny with a brisk, cold wind
With another fine day in prospect the sun cream was applied and shorts were donned in readiness for a warm and sunny walk up Grains Gill, followed by a leisurely perambulation over the three fells around Esk Hause. Great End would be visited first, then we would return to Esk Hause and on to Esk Pike. From there we would return to Esk Hause, for the third and last time, and make our way up Allen Crags, before eventually descending down Allen Gill via the route given in AW’s Pictorial Guide to The Southern Fells, ref. Allen Crags 4. The day did indeed remain sunny but the forecast did not make any mention of the brisk and cold wind we would eventually meet and which kept the temperatures well down on all the three summits we visited. It wasn’t until we were much lower down the valley and on our way back to Seathwaite Farm that we finally escaped the cold wind, and where the warmer valley temperature finally put paid to the goosebumps on exposed skin.
Seathwaite – Grains Gill – Ruddy Gill – Esk Hause – Calf Cove – Great End – Calf Cove – Esk Hause – Esk Pike – Esk Hause – Allen Crags – High House Tarn – Allen Gill – Grains Gill – Seathwaite
From the parking field at Seathwaite Farm a look up the Grains valley and a view of Allen Crags on the centre skyline. The sun may be shining but a cold wind was blowing across the field so our windproof jackets went on immediately. Our bare legs could only hope that things would improve as we walked further into the valley. A good number of cars were already parked along the approach lane to the farm but their occupants were nowhere to be seen, so it looked as though early starts had already been made by quite a few people.
We walk through the farmyard where two young women passed by us as I stopped for this shot of Base Brown.
There they are on the path just ahead of us and not too much further along they came to a halt and we could see them delving into their packs. When we reached them we learned that they had discovered a slight problem. An energy drink had burst inside one of their packs so they were busy trying to sort out the resulting sticky mess, which of course had managed to soak into everything in the pack. They still had other drinks to get them through the day but its always annoying when something like that happens, especially when you’re only ten minutes into your walk.
All we could do was leave them to get everything back in order again so we carried on up the valley heading for …..
….. Stockley Bridge, where a pair of walkers took such a long time to take a photo of each other on the bridge that another pair had to ask them to move so they could take some too. I didn’t get involved and dropped down behind the bridge to take this view instead. By the time I’d done so both pairs had crossed over, one pair going up to Greenhow Knott and the other pair still standing beside the wall preparing for their walk up Grains Gill.
Approaching the gate in the intake wall as we climb the gradually rising pitched path through the valley. It was very warm along the lower reaches of the valley so, as faces began to glow, the windproofs had to come off.
A short distance along from the gate is this footbridge across Grains Gill and we’ll be using that to return to the pitched path at the end of our walk. As is clear from the photo there is no established footpath heading up the valley from the far side of the bridge.
Looking back from a little higher up the path. To give an idea of their proximity to each other, the footbridge is at the bottom right of the shot and the intake wall is coming down the fellside on the left.
A new footbridge has recently been installed across the point where Ruddy Gill tumbles down into Grains Gill. The old one was still there in September 2018 when we used this path on our return from Scafell Pike. The bags of rocks left over from the installation were still lying around on the ground off to the left.
A tempting pool and waterfall in the gill as we carry on up the valley and our faces, which now have a moist sheen over them, would have welcomed a few splashes of that clear, cold water. It was too far down to be able to get at it easily so we had to make do with brow mopping.
The imposing crags of Great End are a welcome sight after almost two and a half miles of continuously rising pitched path, it heralds our impending arrival at the crossing at Ruddy Gill, and the end of the long walk from Seathwaite Farm. Forget the gym and its stair climber machines, just take a walk up Grains Gill, where muscles and cardio-vascular systems will get an intensive workout completely free of charge. At this point we are beginning to feel the brisk wind, its not too uncomfortable at the moment as we are still very hot from the climb up.
The view back down the valley as we near the end of the climb. The summit of High Spy has come into view, towards the left of the shot, and behind it is the Skiddaw group of fells. Looking as though it is bisecting Derwentwater, at the far end, is the diminutive Castle Crag, a mere pimple amongst all the surrounding giants.
A look across towards Glaramara before we round the corner to the Ruddy Gill crossing and lose the view. The steepest climbing is almost at an end now and although there are more climbs to come they are shorter and not quite so demanding.
A grandstand view of the deep clefts in Great End’s craggy face. We found ourselves a sunny little spot beside Ruddy Gill and treated ourselves to a short break, much enhanced by coffee and, of course, a Mars Bar. We also put our windproofs back on before the cold wind brought up the goosebumps on our bare arms.
A look over to Allen Crags from our coffee break pitch beside Ruddy Gill. Two separate pairs of walkers crossed the gill while we were sitting there, one of the pairs had passed by us just after Stockley Bridge. They charged up like hares but every so often they had to stop so inevitably we kept leap-frogging them, a process which was repeated two or three times until we, the tortoises, ended up at Ruddy Gill ahead of them. Not because we race up anywhere on our walks, we just maintain a steady pace, quite happy to get there when we get there. There’s no point in wearing yourself out unnecessarily by rushing at things, the fells will always be there, patiently waiting for you to turn up.
After our break we cross the gill and pick up the path coming up from Sty Head where, at a junction we keep to the right hand path which will lead us over to Esk Hause. A look back along the way provided this view back to Great Gable, Green Gable and Sprinkling Tarn, with Grasmoor just beginning to peep up over on the right.
The cliffs and crags of Great End as we turn up the slope towards the Esk Hause path.
Ill Crag from Esk Hause where the wind came funnelling up from Eskdale, flapping our windproofs and turning things quite a bit chillier. This sunny view is quite deceptive and although quite a lot of the people around were wearing shorts (and, like me, probably wishing they weren’t) just about everyone was wearing either a jacket or a long sleeved jumper.
Hard Knott and Harter Fell are in view across the middle foreground as we trek up the slope making for Calf Cove.
A shot of Esk Pike as we were passing and which we leave for the time being, Great End is our first objective at the moment.
A look across Eskdale to Harter Fell and Ill Crag from the exposed, and windy, slope below Calf Cove.
Heading towards Calf Cove where there is no-one visible on the path at the moment as everyone ahead has rounded the corner and is hidden from view. I am fervently hoping that we will gain a little protection from the cold wind when we eventually enter the cove, at the moment I’m feeling quite chilly despite the sunshine.
We’re up on the rim of the cove now and about to walk over to the various viewpoints dotted around the edges of Great End. Before setting off I took a look across the cove for this view of Esk Pike, Bowfell, Crinkle Crags and, over on the far right, the Coniston fells ……
….. and now a look down to the path through Calf Cove which we’ve just walked up. You can, if you wish, leave the path lower down and climb to the summit of Great End through the jumbled acres of scree, stones, rocks and boulders which litter its slopes. We did that once, a long time ago, and vowed never to do it again.
Finally, after three and half miles, we walked up to the summit where we had a good view of Scafell Pike, lording it over Broad Crag and everything else since its the highest piece of ground in England. The ant like forms of walkers already up there aren’t visible in the shot but through the zoom I counted about two dozen folk and there would have been a good few more sitting around in close proximity to the summit. Hardly anyone came across to Great End, it doesn’t have Scafell Pike’s seductive allure for the majority of walkers. Great End’s very stony summit area admittedly has little of interest but as AW wrote ‘here one may enjoy, uninterrupted, a view scarcely less extensive or interesting, and certainly not less beautiful that that from the Pike.’
We made our way across the stony summit area towards the viewpoint on the western side with a fine view of Lingmell and the Corridor Route below. On the skyline beyond Lingmell is Seatallan, the white buildings of the Sellafield site and the Irish Sea. A zoom in towards the left reveals the irregular skyline of the Isle of Man.
Pillar, Kirk Fell and Great Gable across the middle foreground with the High Stile ridge appearing on the centre skyline.
Looking across the valley for this superb view of the Mosedale Horseshoe.
We continue around the perimeter to the north west cairn and the extensive view from it. Great Gable and Green Gable are soaring above Styhead Tarn, behind them to the right are Brandreth and Grey Knotts, Robinson and Hindscarth are right behind them with the Grasmoor group on the right skyline. Visibility and air quality are much better today and the long distance views benefit as a result. What are not benefitting are my hands which are now only just on the plus side of numb so we retreated to a nearby shelter to get out of the cold wind and have a lunch break. It was a borderline situation regarding putting my gloves on or not. Once we were sheltered from the wind and gaining some warmth from the sun things improved a little so the lunch break was a much pleasanter interlude. Hardly anyone bothered to visit the summit, a runner, two solo walkers and a couple came across during the time we were there but only stayed long enough to take a couple of photographs before going on their way, it really was too chilly in the wind to stand around for too long.
After lunch our perambulations continued and standing above the precipitous north facing cliffs provided this view across the tarn studded length of Seathwaite Fell, over to Dale Head, High Spy and Derwentwater, and culminating with the Skiddaw group and Blencathra.
A few steps further to the east and just behind the cairn column are Allen Crags and Glaramara. Our outward path up Grains Gill can be clearly seen far below in the valley.
Looking north west again with Grasmoor, Wandope, Crag Hill, Sail, Grisedale Pike and Scar Crags on the skyline. On the extreme left below Green Gable is Windy Gap which probably more than lived up to its name today.
Standing directly above one of Great End’s steep gullies, which I think may be the one indicated on AW’s drawing as ‘the branch gully’, for this breathtaking view down to Sprinkling Tarn.
We carried on around to the south east cairn for a view of Allen Crags, directly below us, with the Langdale Pikes to the right.
Further to the right is our next objective, Esk Pike, with Bowfell just behind it and a little smidge of Windermere over on the left.
Back to the Allen Crags/Glaramara ridge where Blencathra, Clough Head and The Dodds are now occupying the skyline. The views from Great End are simply spectacular in every direction and it is well worth a visit. AW, as usual, summed it up perfectly …..
‘Nobody will regret a day that includes Great End in its itinerary: it is a magnificent mountain, scarcely inferior to the Pike, and, in some respects, to be preferred.’ – AW
….. and from the way he is absorbing everything around him I think J would wholeheartedly agree with him.
Having warmed up a little during our lunch stop our summit perambulation in the wind had left us feeling chilled once more so we made our way back down through Calf Cove (sheltered and so a tad warmer) and onto the Esk Hause path (exposed and nippy) to cross over to Esk Pike, with a couple of views as we went along …..
….. Skiddaw and Blencathra beyond Derwentwater …..
….. and a look back along the path to Great End, Great and Green Gables and Grasmoor.
The windproofs are still on as we head up the path to Esk Pike summit, there’s no point taking them off with the wind still funnelling up Eskdale and which will only get chillier as we climb higher.
Views of Slight Side, Long Green, Scafell and Ill Crag across Eskdale. The summit of Scafell Pike can just be seen above the top of Ill Crag.
Much the same view but now including the River Esk snaking its way through Great Moss …..
….. while on the other side we become more closely acquainted with the Langdale Pikes.
Yours truly on Esk Pike summit trying to tuck my lower limbs in out of the chilly wind, and with the temperature up here and on Great End only about three or four degrees Celsius it definitely wasn’t as warm as it might appear.
A couple of quick shots from the summit where just below us is Rossett Pike and its next door neighbours, the Langdale Pikes …..
….. followed by this view of the north and south tops of Bowfell with a good path between here and there although that’s not on our itinerary today.
Unwilling to stay in the wind any longer we scrambled our way back down the gully, with a view of Ill Crag, the Calf Cove path and Great End opposite.
We’re almost down at the Esk Hause cross shelter with the last climb of the day in front of us. It’s not a very long or steep climb up to the top of Allen Crags, although some parts of the path are a little on the loose and slithery side. The three walkers ahead turned off to the right and followed the path down to Angle Tarn above Langdale.
Looking back to Great and Green Gables as we crossed Esk Hause.
Bowfell and Esk Pike from the path up to Allen Crags. The veil of cloud we’ve been noticing throughout the day was beginning to arrive but it was quite thin and patchy so it didn’t plunge us into deep shadow and it created some attractive skyscapes from time to time.
Looking back to Ill Crag above Esk Hause as we climb Allen Crags.
The Gables and a partial view of Sprinkling Tarn from Allen Crags …..
….. and the place to be, if you’re a tarn fanatic, is the top of Seathwaite Fell, they’re scattered all over it.
Left to right are – Allen Crags summit cairn, Bowfell and Esk Pike …..
….. while behind us are Ill Crag and Great End. Views which we are about to lose as …..
….. we leave the summit and follow the path down to the depression between Allen Crags and Glaramara. We have lost a lot of height now but the wind is still as brisk and cold as ever …..
….. evidence of which is provided by the ruffled surface of the first, and nameless, tarn we arrived at …..
….. and again at the second tarn, also nameless, along our route. By way of a little bonus we have a view of Thunacar Knott, Harrison Stickle and Pike O’Stickle on the left skyline. I’m now wondering how much further we will have to descend before the surrounding fells provide some respite from the wind. I am also keeping a lookout for …..
….. AW’s ‘perfect mountain tarn’ and here it is. It isn’t immediately beside the path as the previous two were and you have to step away from the path to get to it. We walked across the grassy boulder area on the left behind which …..
….. we sat on the sheltered grassy bank, an ideal spot to enjoy the tarn, have a drink and simply do nothing for five minutes. Beyond the ruffled surface of the tarn is Bowfell, totally unruffled by anything. A lovely five minutes of tranquillity and rugged beauty.
However, there is still the walk back to Seathwaite to be done so its back to the path and down to the Lincomb Tarns with only this one having a name, High House Tarn, the other two or three around it remain nameless.
High House Tarn below the rocks with its nameless neighbour in front …..
….. and a couple more just to the north side of it. It was at this point that we turned down from the depression to begin the descent beside Allen Gill.
The descent is initially very steep, there is an abundance of crags and tall cliffs to negotiate, the gill itself is steep sided and there is no path over the rough ground so we descended with great care. Several places further back from this shot required a sit down to get down from one ledge to the next and it was only when we reached this point, with the crags and cliffs well behind us, that the camera came out. The route we followed can be seen ahead, located above the gill is a small clump of shrubs, above the tallest shrub is another smaller shrub beside which is a low line of small mounds. This is the moraine referred to by AW in his route description and where we are heading towards.
For the time being we keep to the left of the gill and don’t cross it until we are much further down and well below the group of shrubs at the bottom of the shot.
A large boulder along the route with complex and intriguing striations. What upheaval was taking place on our planet as these were being formed I wondered? I love finding things like this but its a history book which I can’t read, unfortunately. Geology never appeared on the curriculum when I was at school.
We’re well below the group of shrubs now and with the gradient a little easier to deal with I am able to take a look back at our descent route so far, the crags and cliffs at the top right being the ones I mentioned previously. J took a look back, once his heart rate had resumed normal service, and said he never wanted to walk down it, or up it, ever again. Somewhere around this point we crossed the gill very easily and made our way over to the grassy moraine …..
….. and here’s the view down the valley from the top of it. Just below us, to the left, is a deep and tree lined gorge in Grains Gill and further along the gill, just in front of the next group of trees, is the footbridge over it and from where we will join the established path on the other side. We drop down off the moraine and, keeping to the right hand side of Grains Gill, make our way over the rough and pathless ground towards the bridge, crossing small becks feeding into Grains Gill all the way down. Apparently ‘grain’ is an old word indicating a tributary so Grains Gill is aptly named. At last the surrounding fells have stopped the wind in its tracks, the temperature down here is higher and finally we can take the windproofs off and stuff them into our packs where they ought to have been all day. Applying the sun cream to our arms this morning was a waste of time as things turned out.
Five minutes after we left the moraine a helicopter appeared right above us with the pilot taking the opportunity to do a bit of landing practice on top of the larger moraine on the other side of the beck. A zoom in to the centre right might be needed to spot it as its camouflaged by the grey cliffs behind.
It was just a very quick touch down and then it was off again, nicely silhouetted, quite by chance, against the bank of cloud slowly drifting in from the west.
No bank of cloud directly above us though as they flew off northwards and quickly disappeared from view.
Approaching the bridge and the ground continues to rise steeply from the gill, most of this return route has been walked with one leg always higher than the other, it’ll be nice to stand on level ground again.
Looking back up the valley from the bridge where I started to reflect on this particular route. If you wanted to walk the Allen Crags/Glaramara ridge then it wouldn’t be the right way to go about it, far better to approach Allen Crags via the Ruddy Gill route and continue on to Glaramara. If Allen Crags was the only objective then either route could be used. The Allen Gill route is slightly shorter than the Ruddy Gill one but it is much steeper, more rugged, completely pathless and negotiating the steep cliffs and crags below the depression in the connecting ridge needs a lot of care and concentration, especially when descending. We used it for our descent just to avoid walking across to Glaramara and then descending the long way round back to Seathwaite. Its obviously up to individual preference as to which route to use but the Ruddy Gill route is probably the easier option of the two.
A very short climb from the bridge gets us back on the established path once more and we have a warm and sunny walk back down to Stockley Bridge and the farm. There isn’t anyone on the path ahead, or following on behind us.
A last look back along the valley as we walk the last mile back to Seathwaite Farm. The cold wind was a nuisance and kept the temperature pegged back but apart from that it has been a lovely sunny day with an abundance of spectacular views from the top of each fell we visited. Well worth the effort and with the option of returning via Grains Gill or Styhead Gill if the Allen Gill route doesn’t hold any appeal. There were still dozens of cars parked along the farm lane as we drove away so the majority of walkers had yet to make their way down. However it is only mid afternoon so over the next couple of hours there’ll be a steady stream of weary legged walkers making their way back to the comfort of their car seats.