Great Carrs Buttress and Coniston Old Man, 30th June 2015

A sad week last week because our friend and nephew Keith passed away and we’ll miss him. I won’t say more about that.

Great Carrs buttress is at the head of the Greenburn Valley, immediately south of Wrynose Pass. It’s described in Brian Evans’ book “Scrambles in the Lake District”, as a two star grade 2 route. I’ve been thinking about it for many years.

I parked in Wrynose Pass, as near to Fell Foot bridge as I could. The fields in the valley are looking beautiful at the moment, full of yellow flowers, and cow parsley on the road edges.

Langdale Pikes
Langdale Pikes from Fell Foot bridge.

You cross Fell Foot bridge and walk south for a short half mile to pick up the track leading into the Greenburn Valley. The views of the Langdale Pikes from Fell Foot are really spectacular, perfectly framed by Wrynose Fell on one side and Lingmoor Fell on the other.

The track leads easily up the valley until you get to a gate through the wall that forms a National Trust boundary. More on this later but for now, note that there’s a track straight ahead keeping to the valley floor (which we’ll take) and a path on the right over a bridge, but no trace of any path on the left. Remember this fact.

Follow the track as it becomes a path up to the old mines, past the reservoir and then the path gives out and you’re following your nose along the valley bottom heading for the valley head. Eventually you reach what I assume is a glacial moraine and standing on top of this you can see the whole cwm and the line of the scramble.

Great Carrs Buttress
The approximate line of the route of Great Carrs Buttress, see from the moraine at the entrance to the cwm.

The “blunt nose capped by a perched boulder” can be seen if you skirt up to the left and then step back a little. The boulder is about a metre wide and squat. The picture in the book is a good guide to the route.

Great Carrs Buttress
The start of the route up to the balanced boulder mentioned in the book, up the groove to the slabs. If you have walked up to the base of the route, you have to walk leftwards (southwards) to get this view, from where you can more easily see the boulder.
Great Carrs Buttress
Up the groove to slabs and up to the boulder.

My first try at the start – “…a rock groove gives access to slabs…” – is a false start and I back off. The groove is slimy and holdless but a little to the left is another, much easier, groove leading to slabs and everything is OK. The rock is nice but wet moss doesn’t encourage going off route. It’s easily escapable, a series of rock steps with grass between until you get higher up and you need to cross over the scree and loose boulders to your right to reach the top spiky ridge.

Great Carrs Buttress
The spiky ridge in the top half of the route, with the gully to your immediate right. It’s quite easy and safe scrambling.

This ridge becomes obvious once you reach the deep straight gully (which was very obvious from when you were standing on the moraine earlier). As promised its full of spiky holds. Near the top there’s a choice of lines, all attractive. I crossed the gully to take what I hoped was a nice long sweep of good rock. The scrambling finishes as a good scramble should, at the summit of Great Carrs. The views are panoramic and tremendous – the Langdale Pikes, Crinkle Crags, Bowfell, the Scafells, Harter Fell and Eskdale, the sea west and south-west, Wetherlam, etc.

Greenburn Valley from Great Carrs
Greenburn Valley from Great Carrs, Wetherlam on the right.
Great Carrs Buttress
Greenburn Valley from Great Carrs, the spiky ridge of the scramble immediately in front, Wet Side Edge on the left.
Great Carrs
Great Carrs summit. Scafell in the distance on the right.
Great Carrs and Wetside Edge
Wet Side Edge from Great Carrs summit

I hadn’t planned beyond this so I looked at the map to see what I could make of the day. I decided to go south along the ridge to Coniston Old Man and then straight back again to Swirl How, then I’d decide further.

The going is quite easy along the fairly level ridge until Levers Hause. The view of the Old Man and Dow Crag is particularly good.

The route from Swirl How to Coniston Old Man (left-hand distant summit) with Dow Crag as the pointy distant summit on the right.

After Levers Hause it steepens again until Old Man summit. I think I’ve only been on here once before and I couldn’t remember it but its particularly nice. I didn’t stop long, taking plenty of pictures of the views south to the sea, and east to Coniston water and Windermere. There’s also a fantastic head-on view of the climbing crags of Dow Crag, though I didn’t see any climbers despite the good weather. Normally you hear them first, their big hexes clinking about like Swiss cow bells and the calls of “on belay”, “climb when ready”, “aaaggghhh”, etc.

Scafell from Coniston Old Man
Looking back from Old Man summit to the return path, the Scafell range in the distance.
The view north from Coniston Old Man, Levers Water immediately in front, Wetherlam in the distance on the right.

Back quickly to Swirl How and the return route across Wetherlam wins out, though I’d also like to try the Wet Side Edge route some day.

This return takes longer than I thought. It’s a very rough descent down to Swirl Hause, a rough and steep re-ascent to Wetherlam, and another steeper and rougher descent down Wetherlam Edge, but makes for a very good and sporting day.

Looking down to Swirl How from Swirl Hause with the path to Wetherlam summit beyond.

I was on the lookout for the return path. The OS map shows a path leading north-north-west from grid reference 293 016, cutting a slanting path across the side of the hill and finishing in the valley at the National Trust boundary wall I talked about earlier (remember that?) I looked very carefully, used all my navigation skills, but couldn’t see any obvious path. There is a nice grassy rake that I thought might be it so I followed it. The danger with routes along the side of steep hills is when the hillside steepens to crags above and below so I was careful not to get stuck. The rake petered out and I used the compass which told me that the path I wanted should now be below me, though I couldn’t see anything. I decided just to strike straight down the hillside from where I was. I could see the terrain so I knew I wouldn’t get into any trouble. It was steep and rough but fine. Don’t try this later in the year when the bracken has reached chest height though.

Further compass checks told me the path should now be above me. I was now getting fed up and decided there was no path. I just followed my eyes and nose through  the bracken and sparse boulders and rocks until I hit the outward track on the valley bottom. I had found a path some way down and I followed it rightwards but it was leading uphill so I gave up on it after a few hundred metres.

So, arriving at the NT boundary wall again I looked back. The path I had been looking for, and which is marked on the map, just doesn’t exist. Not a big problem as long as you know but wouldn’t have been so nice later in the year in high bracken.

Langdale Pikes from the valley with a hot bovine relaxing in the heat.

Now a short walk back to the car and more pictures of the Langdale Pikes with yellow fields.

The scramble is very worth doing, a nice line on nice rock, easily escapable and not needing a rope for reasonably competent scramblers.

Harter Fell scramble 7th June 2015

UPDATE September 2020: We did this route again just recently after wet weather. Much of the rock in the lower half was damp and greasy. The rock has very little friction like this and we found the going much, much harder. We had to skip quite a few pitches and find ways around. The upper half was dry and still as described. So if doing this route I’d suggest waiting for a dry period. END of update.

Much nicer weather than yesterday encouraged us to go higher. Harter Fell can be seen from all round the valley as a perfect pyramid and has very inviting rocky flanks (especially on the west and north). We once did a climb on the north side ( Demming Slab ) that turned out to be a very vegetated adventure but with a good mountain atmosphere for a relatively small peak.

We started (with our friends Richard and Polly and their dog Morgan) along the beautiful turquoise river Esk from Boot and along to the Doctor Bridge. I’ve no idea why it’s called the Doctor Bridge.

River Esk on the way from Boot to Doctor Bridge

Past Penny Hill farm and you strike up the hillside and the terrain becomes really nice. Incredible views east and west along the valley and north to the cirque of the scafells, bowfell and crinkle crags. Lovely rocky knolls surrounding you, you cross a tumbling stream and eventually the path gives out and you have to follow compass and terrain clues until you find the crossing of Spothow Gill and find the clearer path that ascends Harter Fell west flank.

Upper Eskdale towards Bowfell (pyramidal peak left of centre) and Crinkle Crags (in the clouds, centre).

Now you can see the rocky west flank of the hill and out with the scrambling book, Steve Ashton’s “Scrambles in the Lake District”. We were looking for routes 100 and 101. His pictures and descriptions usually, shall we say, allow for a spirit of adventure. I was pretty sure I was looking in the right place but couldn’t see any evidence of the so-called Harter Beanie, the “prominent hat-shaped knob”, on route 101 but route 100, the north-west crags route, did seem to be there and it looked very inviting.

Harter Fell north and west faces seen from Penny Hill farm. The scramble route is the lighter-coloured ridge in the centre of the face running slightly bottom left to top right.

The start was steep grass but it led into a very nice looking rock gully with steep but beautiful rocky walls on either side. Move leftwards up great rock onto what looks like a steep exposed ridge, though when you get there it turns out not to be at all exposed but now you can see a continuous line of good clean rock stretching away above you.

Joy looking up the route from a short way up. Perfect rock.
Looking down on the route from much higher up, on a more grassy section between the two main rock sections.

You can pretty much put the book away now and choose any line you fancy. There is a more continuous ribbon that invited us up. The moves were never hard, with just two or three needing thought and meriting grade 2. We had the rope handy but never felt the need of it.

There is a break after this stretch then another crag above. Out with the book to find the best route, which isn’t obvious but the description is accurate and the photo in the book useful. This is another good section of continuous rock until the ridge flattens and you’re on much easier ground with the top of Harter Fell ahead of you.

There are still some very nice easy rocks to play on as you make your way to the summit. Harter Fell is one of my favourite summits and I’ve often thought I should take rock shoes and a bouldering mat to play at the top but never have.

Views all the way were incredible. We could see the Isle of Man to the west, Morecambe Bay south-west, Pillar, Scafells, Bowfell, Crinkle Crags, Hardknott Pass. The weather had turned clear and sunny.

Looking west towards the coast. The Isle of Man is out there somewhere.
Looking west, down to Boot.
The Scafell range.

Return back the way we came, still needing navigation following compass and terrain features until back at Penny Hill farm, then along the road to Boot.

Eskdale Green to Burnmoor Tarn 6th June 2015

Although in the heart of the mountains we decided on this lower walk after seeing  the forecast of fifty mile per hour winds on the tops.

From near the bottom (south-western) end of mitredale near the end of the walk.

We started from our B+B and wandered round the various paths back to Eskdale Green then started to figure out a way around Fell End and along the shallow ridge to Boat How. The terrain is full of rocky knolls and succulent bogs and there are no clear paths. Navigation along here needs to be aware but not precise as you can wander around where you like as long as you go vaguely in the right direction. The two tiny tarns of Siney Tarn and Blind Tarn help as way-markers. Following the compass and the terrain we eventually found the stone circles on Brats Moss then carried on, again using compass and terrain as a guide, until we could see Burnmoor Tarn.

The big hills were hiding in the clouds, brooding on our right. We carried on hoping for views down into Wasdale but we kept hitting false horizons and gave up, wanting some lunch. We chose a spot by an ugly ruined house on the south end of the tarn, hiding from the wind.

The next stretch was a surprise. The head of Miterdale is a box-shaped ring of small crags and waterfalls that narrows into a fairly shallow valley with a small stream in the bottom that eventually becomes the river Mite. You can walk right next to the water course until the valley widens out and you get to the farm. The whole valley seems secret, certainly I’d never been there before and didn’t know about it.

On reaching the woods, which are forestry commission so mostly evergreens, we decided to be rash and walk through them. Every time I’ve been lost on a walk it’s been in forestry commission woods. The tracks and paths change constantly and never match the map. I’ve always lived to tell the tale though. This time the track led fairly safely out to where I expected then back along the road to Eskdale Green.

Mostly fairly easy going but you need to do a lot of navigating on the outward stretch. It would have been nice, in June, to be able to take a few layers of clothes off but that was not to be.