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Lake District Mountain and Fell Walks 8

 


Grisedale Pike from Whinlatter Pass (Braithwaite)

Grisedale’s shapely summit rears above the village of Braithwaite and is most conspicuous from Keswick. Its southern flank slopes steeply down to Coledale Beck and its north-eastern slope, equally steeply, to lonely Grisedale, the valley that gives the peak its name.

Climb the steps out of what was once a gravel pit and continue north on the clear, signposted path. The way continues up the bracken-covered slope, passing scattered rowans, hawthorns and birch.

Follow the path as it gradually winds left, still climbing, and then levels out and comes to a gate by a few more trees. Beyond, the way goes inexorably upwards over the bracken-clad ridge. Away to your right are fenced conifers, part of Hospital Plantation, named after a fever hospital that once stood here. Watch out for the moment when the summit comes into view.

Stride the path as it levels for a time, goes over Kinn and drifts away from the plantation. Go on and begin to ascend a steeper section, where bracken is replaced by heather. This scramble leads to Sleet How. Pause on the ridge to enjoy fine views down into the valleys on either side; Grisedale is on the right.

Enjoy the airy ridge. Then comes the final ascent, where more scrambling is required on the wide arete. There are steep drops on either side so take care as you climb, especially where the Skiddaw slates have shattered into loose scree. Fortunately the bedrock slate has eroded into manageable steps, easing your passage.

The summit cairn (791m/2540ft) sits square on a platform of slate and all around are fragments of slate, much of which has come from a derelict wall. Stay here awhile and take in the panoramic view of many of the Lakeland Fells. Look for Newlands and its small white church below Catbells, the corner of Bassenthwaite Lake and Derwent Water.

Go along the narrow continuing ridge, keeping beside remnants of the wall and some rusty fence posts - don’t trip over the iron bars embedded in the turf. Then begin your descent along a wider track with fewer ‘white knuckle’ drops on either side. Here you might be lucky to see Lakeland’s eagle soaring overhead. Climb the nameless subsidiary summit and just beyond leave the ridge by a path that branches left and eventually brings you to the wide grassy area of Coledale Hause.

Sit here by this cross of tracks. Look down into Gasgale Gill, over which lean the formidable Gasgale Crags, and plan to walk that way another time.

Turn left and begin your descent. Follow the clear path steadily downhill. Look left into a grassy amphitheatre crossed by Pudding Beck which, as High Force, has just made its impetuous descent. Near to the waterfall stand a row of derelict mine buildings, with black gaping holes for windows.

Go on down the rough wide mine road, where huge iron pipes used for drainage are now exposed. From here, left, you have a dramatic overview of Force Crag mine.

Occasionally attempts are made to wrest material from the heart of the mountain and helmeted miners scurry over the slopes seeking barytes and zinc. More often the buildings lie silent, one ruined building providing a nest site for a kestrel and the huge colourful waste heap providing a perch for a ring ousel. Adits are fenced off and warning signs are in place where railway tracks emerge from the depths.

To the left of the mine and dwarfing the huge waste heap is Force Crag, almost blocking the valley. Down it descends Pudding Beck, seen earlier and here again in great exuberance. This fall is known as Low Force, a replica of High Force. The beck joins with others to become Coledale Beck, which you cross on large stepping stones. Beyond bear right to stride the mine road high above the Coledale as it meanders through the dale.

As you near the end of the road, the way is hedged with gorse covered in flowers. Yellow hammers, their heads as yellow as the blossoms, give their familiar calls from the tops of bushes. Ahead is a grand view over Keswick and towards the Helvellyn range. Pass through the gate and descend gently to rejoin your car.

Information

Start/finish: A small parking layby, easy to miss, which lies on the west side of the foot of Whinlatter Pass, just north of Braithwaite and lies on the west side of the road.
Distance: 10.5km/6.5 miles
Time: 3-4 hours
Height gain: 730m/2400 ft
Terrain: Steep stony paths and rough tracks but there is also some great fell walking. The mine road is level and easy to walk after ascending the heady heights.
Refreshments: Spoilt for choice in Keswick.
Toilets: Braithwaite
Public transport: Stagecoach X5. For information, phone Traveline: 0870 608 2 608
Park: Leave your car in the parking area at the foot of the Whinlatter Pass, just north of Braithwaite, grid ref 227237. There is very little space, so get there early.
Map: OS Explorer OL4

Copyright Mary Welsh, © 2008. All rights reserved. No reproduction without permission.


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