I gatecrashed a long weekend of walking arranged by the walking club at NIMR – National Institute for Medical Research at Mill Hill – where Tim used to work. It was a great gang of really friendly people, and a good weekend was had – despite the not so great weather.
Having arrived late afternoon on Thursday we had time to acquaint ourselves with the hut, and get our bearings – the Traveller’s rest was almost due south along the A591. It was in walking distance, though running back up the hill after a few pints was probably not to be recommended or attempted.
Day 1 – Friday, and the weather was poor with low cloud and rain. It was not forecast to get much better either. Ambitious plans were made to scale various peaks in the surrounding area, most starting with a short stroll up to Grisdale Tarn (I had a sudden sense of dÃ©jÃ vu with the objective and the weather).
With the weather not improving we all opted for the lower fell of Fairfield (873m), and the steep climb up to the top was started with the group stretching out into the mist on the steep scree covered slope. Visibility at the top was very poor, and it was hard to even make out Flinty Grave.
Heading south to Great Rigg, it would have been easy to miss the cairn, but a little further on the group stopped where the path divided, and we continued down to Stone Arthur, with the views over Grasmere to accompany lunch.
As the path descended down into the valley the path started to become buried in bracken, often obscuring the ground and making one’s footing a bit of a lottery. In a few places you could see the path was being re-engineered with big bags of boulders having been helicoptered into position for the works to be undertaken.
With the now persistent rain having sapped some strength and moral it was very pleasing to walk into Grasmere to find the gingerbread shop and the pub.
Day 2 – Saturday, and the forecast we had read on the door of an outdoor supplies store had lied to us. The cloud was low and rain was in the air. A larger group were preparing to head off in the minibus to Great Langdale in the hope the weather would clear enough for either the Horseshoe or Scafell Pike. I chose to stay local and walk up Helm Crag (355m) to stay under the low cloud base, and I was joined by six others.
I had previously wanted to walk along the ridge to Helm Crag when doing the Coast to Coast, unfortunately the weather was very poor that day and I had kept to the valley floor. At least today we could see the top of the crag with the Lion and Lamb rocks.
Having made it to Green Burn we paused for a short while to take pictures of the fast flowing water and the series of waterfalls. We also had to summon up some strength as the path went straight up the fellside on some very wet grass. While it did not seem so at the time the climb was short, and we would maximise the energy used as we were to walk along the top of the ridge for most of the morning.
Before heading north to the top of the valley we continued up to the top of Helm Crag, with wonderful views all around – as the weather started to clear you could almost make out patches of sunlight dancing across the valley floor.
We had lunch just before we reached Calf Crag (537m – the highest point of the walk), before heading down into the valley to find the gill and path. We passed the large waterfall, which I had heard previously in the mist of the Coast to Coast walk, and I also spotted a few familiar places on the way down.
It had turned into a nice afternoon and three of us split off to walk up to Easedale Tarn along Sour Milk Gill. It was then back to Grasmere to meet up with the others, to check in at the Traveller’s Rest and to try and make it back to the Hut to use the showers before the minibus got back.
Day 3 – Sunday, and the weather was improving. The cloud was much higher with patches of blue sky and the air was no longer filled with rain!! Having dropped Sai at Keswick (to catch her bus back to Penrith) Tim, Ruth and I headed back to Thirlmere with thoughts of walking round the lake, or hiking up to Helvellyn. Having stretched our legs up a short stretch of fell we decided they might be able to take us further up and we chose to go to Helvellyn (950m). Having started at the southern end of Thirlmere the obvious choice was to walk up via Comb Crag behind Nethermost Pike and approach from the south. It was busy at the top as the weather was clear, and I could finally see Striding Edge in all its glory. A couple of Steamers could also be seen in the far distance on Ullswater.
The walk back down Helvellyn, across Browncove Crag was fairly tedious, and the bounce started to go from my knees making it a slow and steady walk down. The views over the Thirlmere were beautiful with hardly a ripple on the lake – in contrast to the dark clouds gathering overhead. Having made it down we were now halfway along the lake and headed south through plantation forest – ideal red squirrel territory (though none were seen). Having reconciled in my mind that we were now off the fell it seemed quite a long walk back to the car, though thankfully we made it just in time as the rain started in ernest just as we drove out of the car park.
After a good tea at Tebay, it was south to London as fast as the motorway traffic would allow.
Gallery of imagesView the map in Google Maps, or here is the Google Earth KML file.