The weather forecast for last Saturday promised that it was going to be a hot sunny day, so I decided to make the most of it and go out for a walk. I visited Grasmere a couple of weeks before and had a short walk along the lake, but at the time was really tempted by the hills. So that’s where I decided to go. I left home fairly early to miss the traffic (I was sure plenty of other people would have the same idea) and make sure I could get a parking space.
Helm Crag is a small, but, according to Wainwright, “perfectly formed” fell only a short walk from Grasmere village, but involving a fairly steep climb. It stands at one end of a ridge which has another 2 peaks mentioned in Wainwright’s “Central Fells”. I decided to tackle the ridge, combining it with Far Easedale to make it a circular walk. My research beforehand suggested that this is a fairly popular route and that most people seemed to tackle it anti-clockwise, starting by climbing up Helm Crag. However, Wainwright recommends going the other way round due to the views of Grasmere obtained during the descent of Helm Crag. This is also an easier route as height is gained more gradually up Far Easedale, with a steep descent down Helm Crag at the end. I think that was the right decision.
There was quite a bit of cloud around when I set off but there were signs of the sun breaking through. The cloud cleared during the walk, but there was quite a bit of haze and humidity in the air which meant visibility was restricted to some extent.
Going up Far Easedale involved a gradual climb over some rough ground. Although there has been little rainfall for a few weeks, there were some sections that were quite wet underfoot. Wainwright comments on this – “Far Easedale is wet underfoot in many places – always” – he wasn’t wrong. The landscape soon became very wild and it was very quiet. During my ascent of the valley I only saw 6 people coming towards me from the opposite direction. Two of these were mountain bikers. Although the path is marked as a bridleway, it was too rocky and uneven to ride a bike down, so they were carrying their bikes, and would probably have to do so all the way down.
The country got more rugged – dramatic rocks and crags loomed up ahead and on both sides of the valley. The steeper part of the climb didn’t last too long before I reached the point where I needed to turn right toward Calf Crag and the start of the ridge walk. If I’d continued straight on the path continues to rise for a while, eventually dropping down into Borrowdale.
My route continued up hill until I reached the summit of Calf Crag and I stopped for a while. It was still a little misty and hazy but the view was worth the climb. I had a good view of the valley I’d just walked up and the surrounding cliffs, crags and fells.
I carried on along the ridge and now started to see more people, all walking in the opposite direction from Helm Crag.
The ridge undulates and beside Calf Crag there are two other high points – Gibson Knott and Helm Crag. The view constantly changes with different mountains popping into view as I progressed along the route.
Eventually I reached the summit of Helm Crag and stopped to enjoy the views and take a bite to eat and top up my sunscreen. The sun had broken through and it was beginning to get hot and sunny, although it was still quite blustery on the exposed summit. Helm Crag is well known for its jumble of rocks and rock formations – “The Howitzer” and “The Lion and the Lamb”.
Descending the Crag there was a fantastic view of Grasmere, just as Wainwright had promised, even if it was a little hazy. The path soon begins to descend very steeply and I lost height quite quickly. it was hard going underfoot in places. It didn’t take long to get back down into the valley. The path took me through the grounds of Lancrigg (where we’d stayed nearly 20 years ago) right by the hotel building. I followed the road back to Grasmere. Arriving back at the car park, I dumped my rucksack and headed into the village in search of a cup of tea.