Lanty’s Tarn and Birkhouse Moor

Walk Date – 24th December 2018

Distance – 5.6 miles

Weather – sunny, dry, cold, keen wind on top


Poor weather, including another named storm, and then each of us succumbing to a bout of ‘flu, despite having the jabs, has resulted in another long gap before we could get out on a walk once again. Everything seems to be conspiring against us just lately. However, today was at least going to be dry, but cold, with even the possibility of some sunshine. The winter solstice has come and gone so we have turned the corner and the hours of daylight will slowly lengthen, but for now there is barely any noticeable difference so we stayed close to home and drove over to Glenridding for today’s short walk via Lanty’s Tarn and then up to Birkhouse Moor, returning to Glenridding via Lanty’s Tarn again.  Both of us still have heads and chests full of gloop so how we’d get on with breathing up some of the steeper sections remained to be seen.  It might be a bit of a struggle we thought but nothing that plenty of stops wouldn’t sort out, and maybe the cold, fresh air would at least blow away some of the cobwebs.


Glenridding – Lanty’s Tarn – Grisedale – Birkhouse Moor – Lanty’s Tarn – Keldas – Glenridding

We were a little later leaving home than we had planned but we parked up in Glenridding without any difficulty. There were a few people around doing some last minute shopping but there wasn’t the usual hubbub with scores of walkers getting kitted up and setting off on their various routes.  The car park had one car in it and only three cars, including ours, were parked roadside so things were very quiet indeed. We walked up the left hand side of the beck following the road all the way up to this point, which marks the beginning of the path up to Lanty’s Tarn. A hard frost during the night had left the roads and pavements icy and with the sun still hidden behind the fell tops things were decidedly nippy in the deep shade.

There’s a decent pitched path for most of the way but higher up it deteriorates into a rough, loose and stony track which on a wetter day would have made for a very muddy ascent.  The pitched stones were very icy today so it was a slithery climb from time to time. Its only a short climb but it is quite steep and we soon began to feel the effects of our respective breathing impairments.

 At the top of the climb and on level ground at last where we deal with the consequences arising from our duff respiratory systems once again, lots of nose blowing and coughing and spluttering.  How the heck are we going to get up Birkhouse Moor in this state, I’m thinking.

A very welcome and rejuvenating stroll over flatter ground brings us to Lanty’s Tarn where the trees, and Birks beyond them, are nicely reflected thanks to the absence of any breeze down here. The tarn area is generally a quiet place and even in high summer it doesn’t seem to attract a crowd. Some tarns are an absolute magnet for picnickers and bathers but Lanty’s Tarn just isn’t one of them.

Maybe the heavy shade all round the tarn puts folk off but the surrounding woodland did look rather attractive today as the sunlight worked its magic.

At the far end of the tarn we ignore the path, out of shot to the right and which starts climbing up to Birkhouse Moor more or less immediately, and continue just a little way past it to pick up another path which leads us over a fairly level traverse for a while. Every little helps when you’re short of breath even on flat ground.

A look back to Place Fell as we cross the open fellside from Lanty’s Tarn, the tarn is below the little hill in the centre and is surrounded by the trees behind it. The sun is doing a grand job of warming us up but my toes and finger ends remain numb despite lots of wiggling them around. That’s unusual as I hardly ever get cold toes, fingers yes, whenever I take my gloves off for more than a couple of minutes to take photos in winter, but today toes and fingers have been numb ever since getting out of the car so it looks like my circulation is also out of kilter as well as my breathing apparatus.

Another look back as we pass through the gap in the wall where a tiny patch of Ullswater is on view with Gowbarrow on the distant skyline. One of Place Fells’s subsidiary peaks, Birk Fell, is nicely silhouetted against the sky over to the centre right. A thick layer of ice covered the puddle in the gap and not knowing how deep the puddle was we did a bit of shimmy around the sides rather than step on the ice. The thought of ice cold water seeping onto my already numb toes definitely held no attraction.

I suppose the path could be called a terrace route as it continues high above a very cold looking Grisedale. The line of trees in the foreground going diagonally from left to right also has a path beside it which takes you from Lanty’s Tarn right down into Grisedale. The coldness of the valley bottom at this time of year has to be experienced to be believed, even wearing several layers plus gloves, hat and jacket hood I was shivering by the time I reached Patterdale when I walked that path during a similarly frosty January a couple of years ago. Just blame it on Saint Sunday Crag whose height keeps the sunlight from reaching the valley during these short winter days.

Looking ahead to the Helvellyn range as we continue along the ‘terrace’ path, which is out of shot a little way to the right. Below us another path rises to meet the one we are following. Returning to the path our lower halves were in the shade cast by Saint Sunday Crag, while our upper bodies were enjoying the warm sunshine as the sun gradually crawled above its summit.

On we go, still crunching across the frozen grass and enjoying the more or less level route, but things are about to change up ahead for no matter which path you choose all of ’em start going up. Neither of us is looking forward to more laboured breathing and its associated discomfort.

Christmas Eve in Grisedale, brrr! By ‘eck I’m glad we’re not down there.

On the left skyline are Low Spying How and Bleaberry Crag which mark the beginning of Helvellyn’s Striding Edge route. We decided that we wouldn’t continue all the way across to the path which leads up to the ‘hole in the wall’ path, instead at the next path junction we would turn up and begin the climb up to Birkhouse Moor.

So here we are, having passed through the gate at the junction of the wall and a fence, turning upwards to begin the seemingly endless slog alongside the wall up to the top of Birkhouse Moor. The established path is on the other side of the wall but we’ve always used that so we thought we’d have a change today plus there would be the added benefit of walking on the sunny and therefore frost free side of the wall. There is a path on this side of the wall, it isn’t as well trodden as the one on the other side but its easy enough to follow. Here beginneth what felt like an eternity of agony and affliction.

Having reached a flattish area we straighten up to get the cricks out of our backs once again, throat lozenges are unwrapped, and noses get blown into tissues for the umpteenth time. Why is it that, having blown all possible liquid from your nose, in almost no time at all it fills up again and you find yourself on the nose blowing merry-go-round all over again. How the heck does that happen, and even more puzzling, where does it all come from? Its not even windy down here either so that’s not a factor. As for the legs, there is absolutely nothing by way of energy in them and I’m running on empty. The thought of the climbing still to be done in this debilitated, and some might say dilapidated, state is beginning to feel akin to tackling Everest.

We stagger on, pausing yet again to gulp in some air and recover a semblance of equilibrium. Despite our discomfort we can still enjoy the beautiful winter day, the lovely colours and the spectacular scenery so I take a look back across the wall to Place Fell and Ullswater. Loins suitably girded we press on …..

….. to where the gradient gets even steeper and the pauses become more frequent. Somewhere at this point we cross over the wall because a) the ground on the other side became much rougher with lots of tough, tall grasses to trudge through and b) the views of Ullswater are starting to open up more now and can be seen better on this side than on the other. On the skyline are the north Pennines with just one blob of cloud hanging over Little Dun Fell, we haven’t seen them so clearly for weeks now.

Now that we’ve crossed over the wall I took a look back at the path coming up this side of the wall. All of it was in the shade with both grass and rocks covered in frost and/or ice which didn’t make for carefree walking. The other option was to walk the sunnier grassy edges although the constant rock hopping became a bit of a chore after a while. J was becoming rattier by the minute, he was struggling with his breathing and low fitness levels too and for him and me the top of the climb seemed as far away as ever. Obviously neither of us are anywhere near back to our pre ‘flu fitness levels.

If the ground hadn’t been so frozen and uncomfortable when we reached the top of Birkhouse Moor I think I would have flung myself onto it in sheer exhaustion and relief at having reached it at last. We would have had a five minute recovery break had it not been for the strong cold wind which met us as we crested the ridge.

We had thought about taking a lunch stop at Red Tarn but one look ahead at the deep shade surrounding it was enough to put us off that idea. Instead I took a few photos from the summit cairn on Birkhouse Moor …..

….. left to right are Catstycam, White Side and Raise …..

….. then Raise again followed by Stybarrow Dodd, the very tip of Great Dodd and then Green Side.

Having abandoned the idea of lunch at Red Tarn we head for Birkhouse Moor’s north cairn, over on the right of the shot at the end of the path across, in the hope of finding somewhere to take a break sheltered from the strong wind. The wind and sun are at our backs, the route is relatively flat and frozen solid so it didn’t take long to reach the cairn.

The view from the north cairn, well worth the short detour before tackling Helvellyn if time allows for it. The little blob of cloud I mentioned earlier has now drifted away from Little Dun Fell and has plonked itself over Cross Fell.

Still very windy up here so only a couple of shots before we dropped down to find some relief from it, this is looking towards Sheffield Pike with Hart Side behind it on the left.

Stybarrow Dodd, Green Side and Hart Side.

A look back at the north cairn as we take our leave.

It took a while but eventually we found a sunny and sheltered spot to take a break and have a bite to eat. It wasn’t fine dining by any stretch of the imagination but the hot soup and sausage rolls were just fine by us and went down a treat. Here’s the view we had of the shady side of Birks and Saint Sunday Crag with a panorama of sunny far eastern fells beyond them.

Grisedale still looking very chilly as we make our way back down after lunch. All the way down we kept coming across lone hounds which seemed to have become separated from the very large group we saw when we were traversing the lower slopes of Birkhouse Moor. We noticed at the time that there was a large number of cars parked along Grisedale far below us so we assumed there was a Christmas Eve hound trailing event taking place. Perhaps the ones we saw on the descent had lost sight of the main group and were still roaming around trying to pick up the scent again. We did wonder what would become of them as most of the cars which had been parked in Grisedale had now gone. Hopefully they were local hounds and would eventually find their way back home again.

Lovely colours in the winter sun as we continue our descent back to Lanty’s Tarn.

Heron Pike dropping down to Glenridding Dodd on the left, Gowbarrow behind on the western shore of Ullswater and Place Fell jutting out into it on the eastern side. We’re out of the wind but noses are still needing attention and we’re still coughing and spluttering but at least its all downhill.

A look back at Birkhouse Moor with the Striding Edge route peeping out behind it on the left …..

….. while to my right there’s a view of the east ridge of Birkhouse Moor with Sheffield Pike right behind it.

Not much further to go now before we’re back at Lanty’s Tarn which is just behind the little hill on the right with the white frosty patch on its top.

Even further down now with Glenridding back in view and Birks and Saint Sunday Crag casting their shadows over us once again. There’s still lots of sunshine around, we’re just not in the right place to be getting any of it.

We crest the little hill guarding Lanty’s Tarn and gaze down at the still and deserted scene. We haven’t seen many people around today, maybe we’ve seen a dozen folk here and there but certainly no more than that, plus the three or four geographically challenged hounds of course.

Dropping down off Lanty Tarn’s little guardian hill and making for the gate at the other end of the tarn. When we go through that we will turn off to the right, go through another gate and take the very short climb up to the top of Keldas. Keldas is on private property but there is a permissive path to which walkers are requested to keep.

Another little diversion worth making for the various views of Ullswater and the surrounding fells. This shot looks along Ullswater beyond Silver Point to Gowbarrow, glowing golden in the afternoon light.

Beyond the tree tops is a fine view of Birkhouse Moor …..

….. and over on my right are Sheffield Pike and Glenridding Dodd. The permissive path winds through the trees towards the bottom of the shot.

Another view of Ullswater from just below the top of Keldas.

One last look along Ullswater towards Gowbarrow Fell as we make our way back down to the gate. From first going through the gate to going back out of it has taken only ten minutes, including the time for photographs, which gives you some idea of just how short a diversion it is. Well worth it.

Back at the gate at Lanty’s Tarn where the sun peeking through the trees and across the tarn caught my attention. Once again there was no-one around so all was tranquil.

We begin the rough descent from the tarn back to Glenridding with a look along a very frosty Greenside along the way. The valley and the fellside we are on haven’t had a ray of sun on them all day so the route back down was still very icy.

Safely back down in Glenridding where things are still not fully back to normal three years after Storm Desmond, and a couple of subsequent storms, hit the village. Hopefully by the time next summer comes around everything will be tickety-boo again. I just hope that by the time we get to the New Year me and J will have fully recovered and will also be tickety-boo again. Right now we’re going home for a nice cup of tea, the cough syrup, throat lozenges, tissues and all the rest of it, sniff, sniff, cough, cough!

  Happy Christmas everyone.