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Having a Border Collie means a decent walk for the dog, every day. Most of the time I’ll go with Chris, and we do a good number of hillwalking dog-walks together, but every now and then I’ll go off with ‘Mist’ for a solo day as on our Scottish trip in May (see posts #224 and #230). August saw us back in the Lakes and on Day 1 our dog walk had been on Rannerdale Knotts (see post #234) – the views across to the Grasmoor Hills had been good enough to tempt me back there for a solo day, so that was the Day 2 dog walk sorted.
The North-Western Fells of the Lake District are hills for serious walkers, the hills that the tourists don’t bother with. The Grasmoor Hills are part of this neglected corner, a complex set of linked ridges with Grasmoor the highest at an altitude of 852 metres, but nearby Crag Hill (839 metres) is the hub where the ridges come together. It’s a group of hills I don’t know all that well, so a route including Grasmoor and Crag Hill would tick a couple of boxes.
One obvious fact about Grasmoor becomes obvious the more you look at it – It’s steep from just about any approach! I was starting from Crummock Water, and the previous days outing on Rannerdale Knotts had been a good recce – the wide, heathery ridge of Lad Hows looked like being a more gradual and pleasant approach route than some of the alternatives, so that was the plan.
Although Lad Hows was probably a less strenuous alternative to some of the other options, the route wasn’t taking any prisoners! Starting from about 120 metres altitude, I had an ascent of 730 metres over 2.5 kms. That averages to about a 30% slope, around 1 in 3. It’s one of those routes that looks like a long way up as you start, and still looks like a long way up when you are halfway there! Then, suddenly, you are at the top.
The view to the north from Grasmoor summit gave the first and only views of Whiteside and Hopegill Head, but as I backtracked to head towards Crag Hill I had a great preview of my intended descent route along Whiteless Edge and Pike, with the Buttermere Hills beyond and the Scafell Range in the distance to the south. To the west the view was dominated by my next target, Crag Hill. This involved a 130 metre descent followed by 120 metres uphill to gain the height lost – the gap between the two seemed a good spot for a wet* of coffee, with a biscuit for Border Collie ‘Mist’. (* wet = Royal Marines speak for a drink!)
On the move again, it was just a question of heading upwards on a not particularly steep slope. The view back to Grasmoor gave a different perspective on the hill I had slogged up from Crummock Water, but the best outlook came on the summit of Crag Hill, with great views out to Skiddaw, Blencathra and the Helvellyn Range. I guess that’s the whole point of the Grasmoor Hills – they aren’t much to look at from a distance, but the views from them to the other hills are amazing.
I had already had a couple of chats to other walkers on the way down to Wandope – the Grasmoor Hills seem to attract friendly characters. Then on Wandope I met Brendon from New Zealand – I’ve never met a New Zealander I didn’t like, but Brendon was a gem! He was knocking off the ‘Wainwrights’ and having a great time in the Lakes – it turned out that we both knew people in Glenridding (Patterdale), and ‘the craic was mighty’ as they say in Ireland. By the time we parted company we had been nattering for over half an hour!
Brendon still had some mileage to get in before the end of the day, but my route back to Crummock Water via Whitless Edge and Whitless Pike was almost all downhill. From the Edge there was a great view across to my ascent route up Lad Hows Ridge before my final descent to the ridge of Rannerdale Knotts and a steady walk back to the camper for the usual happy conclusion to a walk – dinner for the dog (slightly overdue) and a cold cider for me.
Text and images © Paul Shorrock