Summit of Whiteside

My Old Man of the Mountain, a.k.a. Ian Whitworth, on the summit of Whiteside

Date completed: 30th May 2010 [with a companion for a change: Ian Whitworth, a.k.a. ‘my Dad’]

Weather conditions: High clouds but superb visibility – both the Isle of Man and Ingleborough visible today, thus a range of at least 100 miles. However, a chill and brisk northerly wind made it the coldest walk since the Langdales in mid-February.

Fells climbed: Whiteside (2317 feet above sea level, no. 53), Hopegill Head (2525’, no. 54), Grisedale Pike (2593’, no. 55)

Distance: 5.75 miles approximately, as suggested by Memory-Map — but I must admit that it felt rather longer than this.

Total ascent: 2700 feet approximately.

Start and end points: Started at Lanthwaite Green, reached by the #77 bus from Keswick (summer only). Ended at Braithwaite which is both on that bus route and that of the #X5, which runs all year.

View of Skiddaw, on the descent from Grisedale Pike

View of Skiddaw, on the descent from Grisedale Pike

Pub at end: Coledale Inn, Braithwaite. This place does not make a point of advertising itself – it’s up the lane on the right as you drop down into Braithwaite from Whinlatter Pass, signposted ‘Youth Centre & Coledale’. However, being really honest, at the time I visited it had little reason to. I was not impressed by being patronised by bar staff, nor being offered a food menu that appears to consist of standard ‘chicken in a basket’ bar food sold at 160% of the price you’d normally expect to pay for it.

[Postscript: however, in the interests of fairness I will observe that in the time since I did this walk the Coledale has been refurbished and is now a rather more pleasant place to get refreshments.]

Route card: Click on the link to download a route card (2Mb, .doc format), showing summary information, a map, the elevation profile and waypoints with grid references. Route card for Walk 15: The Whiteside – Grisedale Pike ridge

Route: Lanthwaite Green is a popular drop-off point as not only this walk but the ascent of Grasmoor start from there. To get up Whiteside you need the left-hand side of the stream coming out of Gasgale Gill, as you look at it. As long as that is achieved then there is no reason to get lost on virtually the whole walk.

The route leads clearly over Whin Ben, up to the summit of Whiteside, then along the superb arête to Hopegill Head (the highlight of the day) and round the head of Hobcarton valley to Grisedale Pike. After that, it is a matter of following the clear path down to the right, instead of the left (which goes to Whinlatter Pass); only towards the end is there the possibility of confusion, as the path appears to be leading away from Braithwaite but eventually loops round to deposit you on the Whinlatter Pass road. Even in mist I do not think anyone could really get lost on this walk (and Wainwright agrees, incidentally).

View of north Cumbria and the Solway Firth

View of north Cumbria and the Solway Firth, from Whiteside

Father/son bonding stuff: In large part all this is my parents’ fault.  I think that my first holiday in the Lake District took place when I was about 9 years old, during which I climbed Helvellyn among others, but by the time I saw these mountains for real I had already developed a very good ‘on paper’ knowledge of this place. This was because I grew up with Wainwright’s Pictorial Guides in the house and grew to appreciate them as things to read and admire before I ever saw  the Lake District, the place to which they were a homage. And to be honest, until fairly recently, this same ‘on paper’ knowledge was as much as I had, except for certain selected parts of the district; only now am I really discovering the wider reality which Wainwright wrote about and which is still largely intact.

So it is appropriate that at least one of these walks involve one of my parents, and Mum now officially refuses to go up any major slopes any more so that leaves my Dad, who has recently retired having just reached 65. We – meaning me, Clare, Joe and my parents – were staying in Braithwaite for this half-term week, and among various combinations of walks involving us all this was one where I went out with just Dad. T

Isle of Man on the horizon

View from Grisedale Pike, looking back to the Isle of Man on the horizon

The weather was cool, with a brisk north wind making this the chilliest walk since I went up the Langdale Pikes in the February snow, but the airflow produced incredible visibility. The Isle of Man was clearly visible out across the Loweswater fells – there is no uncertainty about it (see the picture) – and in the opposite direction, peeking up at the end of the Helvellyn range, there was Ingleborough, at least 50 miles away into Yorkshire. The range of vision was amazing.

The only real source of bother was the three rather dubious knees making the ascent and, more pertinently, the descent. My right knee was the only one of the four that either of us were fully comfortable with. The climb up was OK – steep, but then again most climbs in the Lakes are, and it is worth it – but the descent from Grisedale Pike was much longer than anticipated and by the end we were both feeling it. However, I was impressed with Dad’s capacity for the walk and if I am still fit enough at 65 to be able to do that hike at the pace we did – then I will feel that is a reasonable return on life. And he can ride a bike far longer and further than I can.

All in all this is a very good ridge-walk, particularly between the summits of Whiteside and Hopegill Head where the ridge narrows to an arête barely two yards wide, with stunning views of Cumbria and the Solway to the north and west and the sharp peak of Hopegill Head promising much, and delivering, too. Only the mediocre pub at the end was something of a downer.


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