Rannerdale Knotts summit

Rannerdale Knotts summit. Slopes of Mellbreak and Crummock Water immediately behind, Loweswater in the distance. And a sheep can admire the view, right?

Date completed: 28th October 2011.

Weather conditions: A glorious morning which followed through into cloud with outbreaks of sun. Thus, more very good photography conditions. However, for walking, things were a little spoilt by a viciously cold wind on the top of Grasmoor, where the wind-chill made it feel below zero.

Fells climbed: Rannerdale Knotts (1160’, no. 141), Grasmoor (2791’, no. 142).

Coledale

Looking back along Coledale during the long descent. The fell in the background is Eel Crag.

Distance:  8.92 miles.

Total ascent: 3566 feet.

Start and end points: Started in Buttermere village, served by the #77 bus from Keswick (until the coming Monday, when it will stop for the winter, even on weekends, though I am sure it would see enough business then to make it a viable year-round proposition). Finished in Braithwaite, served by same and also by X5 buses to/from Keswick.

Pub at end: This was the fourth walk to finish in Braithwaite (after walk 3, walk 15 and walk 18) and the third to end at the Royal Oak, which is a perfectly good pub. I do not intend to drink at the Coledale Inn any more, the other one in Braithwaite, after the barman rudely patronised me last year, but that is no loss – I like the Oak.

Route card: Click here to download a route card which includes an elevation profile (how hilly the walk is), waypoints with grid references, and a summary map. Route card for Walk 46: Grasmoor

High Crag and Buttermere

High Crag and Buttermere, seen from Rannerdale Knotts

Route: The first thing to point out is that this walk involves two completely separate ascents, with a full descent to valley level inbetween. As this descent brings you out to a point where the bus will drop you – and there is a car park there too – it would be very straightforward to only do one or the other fell, rather than both. Rannerdale Knotts is a very easy ascent, suitable for all (as proved by my passing a kid of under 3 years old just about to reach the summit under his own power – and the watchful eye of his mother – with a look of utterly intense concentration on his face); though the descent is steep and slippery, and I imagine it’s easier to go back the way you came up, if doing only that fell. Grasmoor, on the other hand, is a steep and long slog, both in ascent and, though easy, descent.

This is not a hard route to describe or to follow, as there are few alternative paths. However, I did get a bit lost on Lad Hows; well, not lost exactly (the destination was clear), but I could not find the main path for a while.

Burneside

View from the train at Burneside station, on the way in this morning

The bus drops you by the Fish Hotel (see walk 16); come out onto the main road, cross it and go straight up the path through the woods. This replicates the beginning of walk 3 (to which, incidentally, Rannerdale Knotts could easily be added). Go up to the first main crest at which there is a junction, and go straight on, rather than right, as that takes you up Whiteless Pike. The other path leads along the crest of Rannerdale Knotts, the summit of which is easily attained; there is a bit of very mild scrambling but nothing major. It does have the slightly irritating characteristic of seemingly always having another summit just a bit further on, but it’s such a dinky little fell that we should in the end let it off.

Go straight over the summit and down the only other obvious path. Don’t try any short cuts – low altitude though they are, the slopes of Rannerdale Knotts are very steep and craggy.  I took an hour to get up from Buttermere and back down to the road, and though I was trying to push the pace, 90 minutes for the fell is ample time, even if returning to Buttermere.

View from above Force Crag Mine

View from above Force Crag Mine, with several other Northwestern Fells visible: left-to-right, Barrow, Outerside, Causey Pike, Scar Crags and the slope of Sail.

Once back on the road, turn right then immediately right again through the car park and along the bank of Rannerdale Beck. The map says there is a footbridge further up by which the path crosses the stream but I got bored before that point and made my own way over, not totally straightforward but I stayed dry. The path on the other side is up the bank a little way and goes round to the left. Here is the only point at which I think anyone could go wrong today. I was looking for the path up Lad Hows, the slope to your right, but I think I left the track too early. I ended up ploughing through heather for a while until finally spotting other walkers who were clearly on the path, to my left. After that things are very obvious onto the top of Grasmoor. But to repeat – this really is a very long and tiring slog upwards of some 2,400 feet of continuous ascent. Frankly, I was knackered by the top.

Grasmoor is well named, as the the top of it is, indeed, a broad grassy moor (though see the note on the Grasmoor fell page regarding the origin of the name). The summit is to the left of the top of the Lad Hows path. Descents lie in the direction of Eel Crag, though I bore more to the left to skirt the top of Dove Crags, but the destination is the same in the end – Coledale Hause, which in clear weather is easy enough to find (in less clear weather, follow Wainwright’s guidance).

The Buttermere Red Pike

The Buttermere Red Pike, viewed from Grasmoor

From there simply descend the very good path down Coledale, which is to the right, stretching ahead, straight as an arrow. This passes the deserted Force Crag mine, which looks like something that should be in the Yukon, then turns into an old mine road of superlative surface quality (as good as a tarmac road, but without the traffic) which will deposit you just above Braithwaite a few easy, but rather monotonous, miles later on. Turn right once you hit real tarmac to descend into the village, go have a pint in the Royal Oak, and ask the friendly barman where the bus stop is if you’re not sure.

Miracles do happen commentary: Headline spotted today on billboards in Ambleside and Windermere: “Alien Crab Invades South Lakes”. Cool! Call Dr Who!

Looking down Coledale

Looking down Coledale. Outerside on the right, Blencathra and Great Mell Fell in the background.

I’ve been in Russia all week for work and only got back home at 10.45pm last night. But though I have a bit of work to do today, so do take my Mac on my back for the first time in quite a while, the forecast is good and my schedule for the rest of 2011 is such that I genuinely may not now make another walk until January (I have something like two possible days in the whole of Nov and Dec, and if the weather’s not great on both – then I’m having a two-month-plus break from today). So I need to walk. I let the mild jet-lag work slightly in my favour and get up at 5.30 by convincing myself that it’s 8.30 in Moscow and that’s where my head is.

Then comes the human factor. The last two times I have headed out on a day trip, I have been aiming for the 1020 bus from Keswick to Buttermere in order that I can do this walk. But both times, Virgin have ineptly failed to get me to the connection at Oxenholme, which I need to catch in order to get all these various links in the chain to stay together.  All it needs is for the 0753 at Preston to be more than about 6 minutes late and it’s gone before I even get the chance to test Stagecoach’s ability to make their connection (a whole different story, though I must be honest and say that unpunctuality has never been one of my personal issues with that company).  And Virgin JUST CAN’T DO IT. Guys – if you simply can’t fulfil your obligations – why not change the timetable? Less embarassing surely?

Buttermere Hause

Another photogenic sheep, here at Buttermere Hause, below Rannerdale Knotts.

Once again then, the Virgin train is late. But for once – glory be, and I actually thank the conductor personally for this (in the hope such effusive praise makes him & his colleagues wonder whether they might not do this more often), Transpennine Express’ve actually held the connection at Windermere and even though the conductor worries that they are now 4 minutes late, we can all catch it despite Virgin’s best efforts. (That he was so worried about this is a sign of how standards differ between the two companies, perhaps.) I think if I ever do write a book about these experiences I’ll call it ‘The Oxenholme Connection’. We could get Daniel Craig to star in the movie.

The mild comedy of errors continues. The connection to the #555 at Windermere is a safe one, but the one at Keswick, the other end of that bus journey, is not, with only 5 minutes to get between buses.  Little things start to matter.  When an ‘Udale Foods’ van is spotted heading north in the direction of Grasmere, I worry. (See walk 33.) When an elderly couple want to embark on the outskirts of Keswick, I pray that they have all their faculties. But wonder of wonders, I not only make the connection to the Buttermere bus, but I even get a seat.

Whiteless Pike

Whiteless Pike, from Grasmoor

So at 11am I can finally start walking and only just over an hour later, Rannerdale Knotts has been ascended, descended and bagged and I’m back on the road again. The High Stile range, and Buttermere lake, are the foci of interest; clouds cover much of the region but are breaking over to the south-east of where I stand, causing sunbeams to shoot everywhere and this photographer to have another mild paroxysm. How cool is digital photography? You can just keep shooting, and with source material like that you know you’ll get something good in the end. Despite, at one point, slipping on my arse on the way down the Knotts, I’m feeling thoroughly jolly and expect to be on the top of Grasmoor by about 1pm.

Er, yeah, right. I should have remembered that I’m back at valley level and my next destination is the highest peak in the Northwestern Fells, one of the ten highest I’ve ascended so far. It’s up, up, UP all the feckin’ way for about 2,400 feet, not helped either by never getting a proper start on the Lad Hows path and having to plunge upward through thick heather for about 10 minutes lower down. Bloody hell, this one is a slog, the continuing spectacular views some compensation, but then the effort is exacerbated by a really stiff and exceedingly cold wind coming straight off the Irish Sea. I eventually get to the top of Grasmoor at 1.45pm, where I would lay money it is well below zero, with that wind-chill factor.

Rannerdale and Crummock Water

Looking down to Rannerdale and Crummock Water from Grasmoor.

It is all downhill after that but it’s a long way to Braithwaite – Coledale has a great path in it, probably the best of any of the 450+ miles so far in fact (smooth as a road but with no traffic), but it doesn’t half go on a long way with not much really to look at. No matter though, I make it in time to drink at the Royal Oak and catch the train to Penrith.

The wait at the station is enlivened by a couple having a completely stellar argument on the platform, and my taking bets as to how it would work out if a) he, b) she, or c) both of them were actually due to get on the train. In fact I’ve typed all this up on said train – but this one’s running late too (here TPE may be the fuck-ups), and if it’s not in Preston in 10 minutes I’m not getting home until 10pm. So it’d better get a move on. [POSTSCRIPT – I did make the connection, just. Finishing this off on the HB train.]

Buttermere and Haystacks

And another shot back to Buttermere from Rannerdale Knotts, this time with Haystacks in the background.

Anyway, as I said, that may well turn out to be the last walk of 2011 – I’ll do my best, but no guarantees, I need the weather to play ball as well as work & family. (And the bridge over the River Greta in Keswick is closed for five weeks from Monday, which is going to play havoc with public transport even more than usual.)

I’ve got the chance to be an exhibitor at at least one, and hopefully 2, craft fairs in Hebden Bridge before Xmas, with an aim to sell calendars and photos. Never having done this before I have no idea how it’ll turn out but I’m quite proud I am going to give it a go. Some of today’s will be on the stall. If you read this and you’re in Hebden on either Nov 12th or Dec 17th/18th then come and see me at the Holme Street Arts Centre, below the Trades Club (next to the post office).

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