#316 – Helm Crag and Far Easedale

Helm Crag (centre) in the late-afternoon sun, February 2007

For the best viewing experience, left-click the images and maps to zoom in to a new window, then exit that window to go back – go on, it really does work!

Helm Crag at Grasmere near Ambleside, in the English Lake District

“The journey of a thousand miles, starts with a single step” – Lao Tzu

“I would walk five hundred miles, and I would walk five hundred more…..” – The Proclaimers

Writing a blog is sometimes like taking that first step in a journey of a thousand miles.  All sorts of things can get in the way of that first step, but the reason I haven’t posted anything for almost three months is quite simple – we’ve been away from home for over half of that time, visiting places new and old, and more importantly getting more material for the blog.  In fact, I’m still sorting and editing photos from the trips!  Oh, and we covered quite a bit more than a thousand miles.

The route – out along the north ridge and back down the Easedale valley

Three months is a long time to disappear though, so while I’m getting on with the admin and edits, here’s a story from 2007.  I’ve written 72 walking routes for the Walking World website, mostly between 2007-10 (see – http://www.walkingworld.com/) but this one was the first – a classic Lake District walk including a busy, iconic peak and a lonely, deserted valley away from the crowds.  This is ‘Helm Crag and Far Easedale’.

Setting out from Grasmere in February 2007 ….
…. with Helm Crag rising above
The tarmac road ends ….
…. giving access to the hill paths ….
…. before reaching the edge of the open fellside

We set out at the beginning of February 2007, on a clear and almost cloudless day.  I say ‘we’ but I mean just Chris and myself – Border Collie ‘Mist’ didn’t become part of our lives until December 2010 (see post #5).  I must have been a pain in the arse to walk with back then because I took loads of photos to act as a prompt when I came to write up the route, instead of writing notes (I later used a digital voice recorder, which speeded things up a bit!).  The initial; part of the walk is along a quiet tarmac road, but tarmac is tarmac and it was good to get out onto the hillside at last.

Early view of the ridge to Calf Crag, with Gibson Knott just right of centre ….
…. and the view back to Grasmere with some late morning mist over the lake

Helm Crag sits at the southeast end of a ridge running northwest to Calf Crag.  Helm Crag is certainly no giant at 405 metres height (1329 ft), with Calf Crag not much higher at 537 metres (1762 ft) and most of the ridge joining them being around 400 metres. Despite the lack of height, the views of the surrounding country are impressive, with the main attraction being the first objective, Helm Crag.

Approaching the South Summit ….
…. with the North Summit just beyond
The North Summit, also known as ‘The Howitzer’

It was the Victorians who started giving daft names to hill and mountain summits. Helm Crag is itself a short ridge with two summits, the south summit being known as ‘The Lion and the Lamb’, presumably because it looks like a lion and lamb from the valley at Grasmere (hmm, sorry but I don’t get that one!).  The north summit is also known as ‘The Lion and the Lamb’ (yes, confusing isn’t it) or ‘The Old Woman Playing the Organ’ (really?) or ‘The Howitzer’ (a bit more plausible) depending on where they are viewed from.  If a daft name is needed, ‘The Howitzer’ is the most appropriate, but ‘North Summit’ does it for me!

The author mucking about, going up to the summit, posing like a good ‘un before retreating – safely!

In fact, the North Summit is by far the most interesting feature of the hill (well, to me anyway) because it has the distinction of being one of the few summits in the Lakes where you have to rock-climb to get to the summit.  It’s a short climb and not particularly difficult by rock-climbing standards, but it would hurt if you fell off (a lot!) or would be downright embarrassing if you had to be rescued from the top.  The famous English guidebook writer Alfred Wainwright chickened out on the summit bid, but he lived to be 84 – watch and learn.

From the North Summit – Gibson Knott in the middle distance
Heading up to Gibson Knott with the ridge beyond
Looking back along the ridge to Helm Crag
Looking down to Brownrigg Moss from Calf Crag, at the end of the ridge

For those who survive the scramble to the summit (or sensibly do a Wainwright), the view to Gibson Knott indicates the way forward.  The Gibson Knott-Calf Crag ridge is one big grassy frolic, giving easy, pleasant walking – in my hill running days, I ran the ridge several times, and it’s one of those gently undulating ridges that doesn’t ask much from the runner but which gives loads back.  On this trip Chris and I walked, gradually gaining height to Calf Crag before starting the descent to Far Easedale.

The view down to Far Easedale with the winter sun starting to set
Down in the shadows in Far Easedale, with the sun still lighting up the ridge

Far Easedale is a delight, being deserted and quiet, though the fact that the nearest car park or bus stop is over 5 kms away contributes to that.  If you seek solitude, this is where you will find it.  We found it as the February sun was starting to dip behind the hills – as the valley is narrow, it doesn’t take long before the shadows start to take over from the sunshine, leaving only the high ridge and Helm Crag in the sun. Possibly the best way to finish a short but rewarding day out on the fells of the Lake District.

Final view of Helm Crag basking in the late-afternoon sun

Text and images © Paul Shorrock

p.s. Apologies to those of you who have been hanging around waiting for a new post – I’ll try to keep up!

p.p.s. Apologies also for some of the colours in the images – digital photography has come on leaps and bounds since the photos were taken (15 years) but there’s only so much that can be done in editing.

About Paul Shorrock

I've been mucking about in the mountains for longer than I care to mention. I started out by walking my local hills, then went on to rock climbing, mountaineering and skiing. Still doing it, and still getting a buzz. I'm now sharing the fun, through my guided walking business (Hillcraft Guided Walking) and by writing routes for other publishers, mainly Walking World and Discovery Walking Guides. Just to make sure I keep really busy, I am also currently a member of my local mountain rescue team.
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6 Responses to #316 – Helm Crag and Far Easedale

  1. John Bainbridge says:

    Grand pictures – a favourite old walk of mine too.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. And while you’ve been doing all that travelling… I’ve been working and working 😦 I do wish the Government would relent and a) let me retire and b) let me have a damned bus pass!! But they’re too mean and want us to die before we retire now…

    Anyway – I could skip up to the true summit of Helm Crag no problem – the reason I haven’t yet is that I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t come back down without a rope!

    I haven’t been back down Far Easedale after that ridge for the simple reason that I love Steel Fell and always have to come back down that way… I love Gibson Knott too…

    I didn’t know that track up Helm Crag was in use back in 2007 – I thought it was much newer than that. We always wound round onto the end of the fell and used the steep path up that way – seems to have completely fallen into disuse now.

    Like

  3. ms6282 says:

    I think the best way is to do it clockwise. I’ve done it both ways and you get a great view over Grasmere as you come down from the top that way round. Nice walk either way, mind.

    Liked by 1 person

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