Sheep above Ruthwaite Lodge

Looking back down into Grisedale, from just above Ruthwaite Lodge

Date completed: 13th July 2016.

Weather conditions:  Typical of this year so far, that is to say, could have been better.  Occasional bursts of sunshine did not disguise the general greyness and there were some showers. Not terribly bad, but not terribly good either.

Rain shower in Grisedale

Rain shower in Grisedale

Summits bagged: Dollywaggon Pike (2815 feet above sea level, no. 50 of my second round), Seat Sandal (2415’, no. 51).

Dollywaggon Pike was previously visited on walk 39, almost five years ago (21/7/11), Seat Sandal on walk 23 in August 2010.

Start and end points: Started in Patterdale, at the bus stop by the Patterdale Hotel. Ended at the bus stop by the Travellers’ Rest pub, north of Grasmere.

Patterdale is served by #508 buses that link it with Penrith and, in the summer, Windermere. The Travellers’ Rest is passed by the #555 Keswick – Grasmere – Windermere service which at this time of year runs twice an hour. I fitted the walk between the 10:15 arrival in Patterdale (departs Penrith rail station at 09:20) and the 14:55 pick-up at the Travellers’ Rest, this got me back to Windermere station in time to catch the 16:00 train.

Vale of Grasmere

View of the Vale of Grasmere, on the descent from Seat Sandal

Distance walked: 9 miles approximately.

Total ascent: 3050 feet approximately.

Pub at end: Nice to renew acquaintance with the Travellers’ Rest for the first time since January 2011 (walk 30, as it happens). Festooned with ivy and other foliage outside, it really is a beautiful little building, and the bus stop is just a few yards away. Full range of Jennings’ beers.

Route: This is a walk with fine scenery all around, throughout.  The ascent of Dollywaggon Pike is easier than it looks, and any reasonably active walker could get up it without undue concern, though as Wainwright warns in his chapter, it should not be attempted in bad weather.

It would be useful to get off at the bus stop before the one I used, but at the moment that is obstructed by road works — when these go, bear in mind there’s no need to go all the way to the hotel, as you just have to walk back a way, to the lane going to Grisedale (and all its police warning notices about parking and car thieves).

Walkers in Grisedale

Walkers in Grisedale — south side, so the path must be open.

There are clear paths on both sides of the stream in this valley, which looks almost Norwegian with its steep mountain walls, particularly St. Sunday Crag on the left side. I went up the north side (the Birkhouse Moor side), because on the gate at the bottom of the other path there was a sign warning that it was still closed after the December floods — and having seen the state Glenridding still remains in, this did not surprise me.  However, I did later see walkers on the path (see picture), so maybe that sign is overdue for removal.

It did not matter much, the other path is perfectly decent, though if you take it you just need to make sure you do not end up on the Striding Edge path to Helvellyn by mistake. Whichever way you go, Dollywaggon Pike rises dead ahead, giving you plenty of time to survey the ascent route, which is clearly visible. Climb up to Ruthwaite Lodge, take a break and then begin the main grind. This is a good climb, though not exciting in the way that neighbouring Nethermost Pike is from this point.

Dollywaggon Pike from Grisedale

Dollywaggon Pike from Grisedale

There are very sketchy signs of a path up by the cascades, but as long as you keep them on the right and don’t cross the stream once past the Lodge, there is no need to worry if a path is not actually underfoot. Once up the first bit, swing left up a break in the crags that is clearly visible on the picture here (in the centre). This becomes very steep and is pathless, but remains grassy, there is never a need to handle rock (in fact you can get all the way to the summit with only the most sporadic contact with rock). It comes out at the lip of Cock Cove, a good example of a hanging valley, at which point you swing more to the right. Just keep going up, onto the Tongue (which is narrow, but no knife-edge – there is a picture below), and this takes you directly to the summit. As I said, the route is quite clear on this picture, and no particular difficulties arise on the ground.


View north to Thirlmere. High Seat and Bleaberry Fell above the lake.

Seat Sandal might seem an optional extra on the walk but it needed bagging and is worth doing because of the good views on the descent back to Grasmere. To get there from Dollywaggon Pike, Wainwright suggests (in both fells’ chapters) just making a beeline for it, this would take you to the west of Grisedale Tarn. I did consider it, but it looked a pretty drab route, so instead I went down the zigzag path to the tarn’s outlet, crossed it then went up to Grisedale Hause then up Seat Sandal from there. This adds a bit of extra climbing (maybe 50 feet or so), and the climb from Grisedale Hause is another stiff ascent, with some awkward bits, but it doesn’t last long (and is more agreeable in ascent than when I went down it on walk 23).

From the summit of Seat Sandal, head for the subsidiary cairn first and then the south ridge is obvious, swinging round and down in the direction of Grasmere. Even though the path is not always great, no one will have any problems in this descent. At the bottom, you go through a gate onto a lane that leads down to the main road just north of the Travellers’ Rest.

High Crag, Nethermost Pike

Looking along the ridge from Dollywaggon Pike, to High Crag (a subsidiary summit above the cove)

Five-year commentary: You’ve lived through 2016, you know how it’s gone thus far. When I got back to Preston station this afternoon the TVs in the café were broadcasting the latest stage in the coup d’etat taking place in Britain right now, largely without public protest. The accession of Teresa May to 10 Downing Street has so far seen the Conservative Party membership bypassed (there may only have been 150,000 of them but there would, at least, have been a modicum of democratic process had they had a vote) and generally the Parliamentary opposition has been neutralised and may itself be bypassed by no Commons vote being allowed on the terms of Brexit. There is still the 1975 European Communities Act to be repealed though — so expect some kind of manoeuvring to get that through and past the House of Lords without debate. The Establishment are going for it with a level of support that, if it’d been a trade union voting for a strike, would have been declared illegitimate.

Near the summit of Dollywaggon Pike

Near the summit of Dollywaggon Pike. Great Rigg in the background.

I reckon I can finish my second round of Wainwrights by 2021. At that point a lot of other things will pan out in my life as complete (Joe’s schooling, my mortgage — there are others). Will this place be somewhere I still want to live in five years? A song by David Bowie (another casualty of 2016) springs to mind, “Five Years”, the opening track of Ziggy Stardust — check it out if you don’t know it. Prophetic and quite appropriate.

The hills are still there, of course. But even around Cumbria there remain plenty of signs of the devastation wreaked last December, in large part by bad land and water management, and if one thinks the May Dictatorship is going to give a flying toss about the people of villages like Glenridding, on Ullswater, then one really is deluded.

The Tongue

The narrowest part of the Tongue. A good ridge, but Striding Edge it is not.

Glenridding is still in a right state, to be honest: oh, it’s open, and habitable, but the sheer amount of rubble that remains apparent shows how damaging were the events of late last year. Checking out the bus timetables in Penrith station made it obvious that Haweswater is now almost completely inaccessible without a car, and nor does the 508 service now link with the first sailing of the day from Pooley Bridge pier (Ullswater steamers are running, and the bridge over the Eamont re-opened, but the first sailing of the day cannot be reached, unlike two years ago).

I’m not naive about politics, and the motivations of politicians, I studied the subject for seven years at university for heaven’s sake. Nevertheless there was this part of me that thought, no, I have faith in the checks and balances which prevent our elected (not appointed) officials from abusing that power — or, on the other hand, neglecting it. In the last six years and particularly the last three weeks that faith has been sorely tested. I do not yet announce it has gone completely: how Brexit plays out is still ultimately undetermined. But it doesn’t look great. Five years, that’s all we’ve got….

St Sunday Crag and Grisedale

St. Sunday Crag towers above Grisedale

Ah yes, the fells, the reason I’m still here doing this blog. I’d been in this vicinity before, of course — after all by now I’ve been round most of Cumbria once, at least. But the valley of Grisedale had only been seen from above. Today was my first walk in it, and very fine it is. St. Sunday Crag and Fairfield loom steeply up on the south side, with the crags of Ruthwaite Cove on the other, sweeping up to Striding Edge. The climb of Nethermost Pike five years ago (there’s that timespan again) certainly ranked among the best moments of Round One and since a second visit became a certainty I had been looking forward to returning and trying the climb of Dollywaggon Pike from the same point.

Seat Sandal summit

Seat Sandal summit cairn, looking west

It turned out not to be quite as dramatic or exciting as its neighbour, but still very good,  a highly satisfying way of reaching the summit that I think any reasonably active walker could manage. Certainly there was nothing as awkward as Easy Gully (see last time) or even the tougher bits of Hall’s Fell on Blencathra. It might even work as a descent, allowing for a circuit of Ruthwaite Cove, and that really would be a cracking expedition. But that will have to wait for another time — if there is one, after the next five years play out. Good luck to us all.

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