Grasmoor & Rannerdale - Photo Gallery
If you have broadband there are a couple of video clips here of mist & clouds when I was on Grasmoor
It was a grey morning when I parked the car at Lanthwaite Green, there was a glimpse of blue sky in the west but the mist was moving quickly across the top of Grasmoor. The breeze was stronger than I was expecting and the speed of the mist made me suspect that it might be quite a bit too windy for keeping to the crest of the ridge. From the car park you can see faint paths in the grass leading to Grasmoor which looks quite close and impossibly steep, is that one illusion or two?
The easy walk over grass you can see is a lot steeper and a lot further than it looks from the car park, it must be the steepness of Grasmoor itself that creates the false impression. I usually take the left hand path across the grass but I took the right hand one just to see what it was like. At first it seemed a bit easier than the other way but I got to the bilberry and heather mix sooner, this kind of vegetation grows on stonier ground and erodes more quickly. I was too far to the right and the scree slope ahead didn't look fit for climbing so I had to get back to the other path.
At first there was a line of flattened vegetation between the stones but soon I was walking up steep ground; I had to be careful about what the greenery was hiding in the places where the stones weren't already beginning to cascade downwards. I did eventually get back to the usual path, my diversion wasn't that difficult but it wasn't really any better although it was a bit more varied. Back on track then and the only way is up, a long way up; there is a line of lighter coloured stones that shows you the general direction but where possible keep off the stones and walk on the peaty path through the heather.
It's easy to lose the path as it cross a run of scree but you'll wish you had paid more attention if you end up scrambling on all fours on the sliding stones. Not that the path is easy, steep eroded peat especially when wet or very dry can be a bit of a strenuous challenge. There is no respite, you keep going upwards until the path turns left and you might think it gets easier from here but it just leads to the start of a steeper section. Not only steeper but more eroded, this is where you are thankful for the well rooted heather, it is the only handhold available to you.
At the top of this section you get to the rock gateway although it looked greener than I have seen it before with the new bilberry growth. The view improves as you get higher, I like looking across the steep slopes – you wouldn't have thought you could walk up something this steep but here you are. The breeze had become quite strong by this stage, hopefully not as strong as this time last year when I had to turn back on this climb but it had got cold enough for me to put some gloves on. There is a way up through the rock gateway although I have scrambled up the rock on the right hand side before now, I wouldn't attempt it this early in the year because the rock can be quite greasy.
Above the gateway is the start of the rocky ridge, there is a rock step to scramble up and on a less windy day I would have clambered up on to the crest at this point. My photo of the rock step was too blurred because I couldn't hold my camera steady in the wind; there is some exposure on the crest of the ridge and I would rather hold myself steady when I am there. After a while there is another rock step that is more susceptible to the wind and further up still is another rock step that is quite exposed, in good dry conditions the steps are no problem.
The next section of the rocky ridge is the most exhilarating but the difficult and most prone to greasy rock, I had no intention of repeating my awkward moments in the strong wind. The path goes around to the left of the rock to a gully that most people use, it isn't an easy option though; it is steep, narrow and eroded with its own greasy rock obstacles. By the time I got the the top of the gully the mist was flying past me at a good speed, the weather was definitely closing in as I got to the final stage of the rocky ridge.
This last stage is probably the easiest and least exposed when you keep to the crest of the rocks but it was still too windy for me so I kept to the path that avoids the crest. After the ridge ends there is still rock to clamber over although you can bypass it if you want to avoid being close to the edge. Eventually you reach grass and a small cairn that would be a good viewpoint if it wasn't so misty, I can only see a few feet ahead of me. There is still a way to walk to the summit of Grasmoor, there is a faint path to start with but it soon fades but I know where the summit is and as usual I had the shelter all to myself.
I had planned a route needing some precise navigation and some fairly obscure ridges but in the mist and strong wind I had to think of something different. I set off in the direction of Eel Crag, the mist turned to rain for a fairly uncomfortable walk to the depression. I met other walkers here who were also thinking about their route, you can't be quite as adventurous in bad conditions. I walked over to the cairn of Third Gill Head Man before descending in the direction of Whiteless Pike. The path up to and down from Whiteless Pike is varied and interesting usually even though it is becoming more eroded and awkward but in the rain I just kept going.
Eventually I got to the plain grassy col at the top of Rannerdale and belatedly put on my waterproof trousers. I turned right to walk down the valley and through the masses of bluebells still at their best in this late Spring and around the front of Rannerdale Knotts to the road. By now it had stopped raining and I thought maybe I could complete some of my planned route. I removed my waterproofs and started up the path that climbs Rannerdale Knotts, there is a fairly easy walk up grass until you reach a junction of paths. For some reason I chose the less obvious right hand branch that seemed to be going the wrong way until it turned left towards the skyline.
I was fairly soon walking through gorse bushes on a steep muddy path, this was obviously a regularly used path in the wrong direction that rejoined the usual path at a large rock outcrop. It has to be said that Rannerdale Knotts is an interesting little hill, there is a lot of rock and a varied route to its rugged little summit. Just as I got to the summit the rain came in again and I decided that I should just head back down to the road and save my clever route for a better day. I walked back to the bluebells for a few photographs whilst the rained paused briefly, crossed the footbridge over Squat Beck and followed the good path back to the road.
All I had to do now was walk a mile on the road back to Lanthwaite Green; by the time I got there the bottom half of me was still wet but it had become a lovely sunny afternoon.
Andy Wallace 27th May 2006