Grasmoor (852m) is a huge old lump, the highest of the peaks in the group of summits between Coledale and Crummock Water. You can’t really see it approaching from the north, but from the south, it is inescapable.
From the carpark at Lanthwaite Green Farm, I follow the road south – there’s plenty of room to get off the tarmac on the left side of the road. There are a further 2 carparks about 15 minutes walk; after the 2nd, I turn due east along Cinderdale Beck. I have a bit of a map reading dither here and nearly turn east to soon, which would take me up into Red Gill. There is no water in Red Gill. Just scree. Red scree. Now, I like a steep ascent as much as the next man (unless the next man is Heinrich Harrer) but 400m of scree is nobody’s idea of good way up.
The gradient is gentle at the start, but up ahead, I can see the going gets hard pretty quickly. The heat is a physical pressure today, pushing me down into the ground like a tack. I soak my hat in the beck and replace it, deliciously cold, on my head. Despite bing cotton, it is dry in 15 minutes.
The path follows Lad Hows, a great, steep ridge that curves round to the north. I meet a couple who have paused to get their breath. Their dog comes to say hello. And by “say hello”, I mean sniff my crotch. Revived by this inspection, I push myself onwards and upwards, making bargains with myself – you can stop for a breather when you get to that rock etc. I stop and take off my pack at the 550m contour, where the gradient goes up another gear. I drink water, eat flapjack, reconsider my predilection for steep ascents. Somewhere below, there is a high keening; a buzzard turns in slow, heavy circles around the foot of Low Bank.
I turn back to the problem at hand. This is the steepest section of the day, the heat is really quite something else and the path is slippery with gravel. Resilience, perseverance and foul language see me cresting out onto the vast flat deck of Grasmoor’s summit.
There is a refreshing breeze up here and I make my way to the summit shelter with all the jauntiness I can muster. The summit shelter does exactly what it says on the tin and is consequently full of insects sheltering from the refreshing breeze. I make my excuses and leave.
Elsewhere on the plateau, I sit down and drink all of my coffee. Out to sea, you can see the Isle of Man on a clear day; a haze obscures the view today. Inland, however, I can see Red Pike, High Stile, High Crag, Pillar, Great Gable Green Gable, the Scafell massif, and there, away to the south, Harrison Stickle. To the north, my intended next fells of the day, Hopegill Head and Whiteside. Wearily, I clamber up and head east to the pass between Eel Crag (or Crag Hill, depending on whether you’re AWS or the OS). Thence I trudge roughly north into Coledale Hause, pausing only to soak my hat in the stream.
Coledale Hause is a meeting of many trails – Grasmoor, Eel Crag, Hopegill Head, Grisedale Pike all deposit walkers here. It is broad and flat and, in the weather, something of a heat trap. I sit and eat sandwiches and drink water and look at the next ascent – Sand Hill leading up onto Hopegill Head. Northwest of me, Gasgill Crags loom forebodingly under the summit of Whiteside. And I’m tired – Lad Hows really drained the joy out of me – and it’s hot and I don’t have enough water with me and I know I’m stubborn enough to finish this but not sure I’m fit enough to finish it safely. And nine times out of ten, I could finish it safely but these days I tend to dwell on that one time out of ten. Those fells will still be there another day so I head east, down beside Liza Beck.
It’s beautiful, actually, really lovely, the sound of water bubbling over little falls and birdsong echoing across the ravine. The path is a nightmare, mind – steep, slippery with loose stone; in places it’s just a horizontal shelf across scree. It’s like having a pet hyaena – it’s all banter until you stop concentrating on it and then it eats your legs. A hwee-tsak-tsak draws my attention to the heather slopes above me. I stop (tether the hyaena, step away from its jaws) and look to find a female stonechat scalding me. Turning back to the descent, I soak my hat once more and continue downwards. The beck winds round southwest and the tracks follows, sometimes skirting up the slope over a small crag, sometimes sticking close by the water. I never feel anywhere terribly exposed, but there are sections where a slip could be serious. You wouldn’t have to fall very far to knock yourself unconscious and unconscious in a stream is always a bad combination.
Finally, the ravine broadens out and I see Crummock Water glittering in the distance. I cross Liza Beck on a (really very sturdy) footbridge and head across some rough pasture to the carpark.
Some learning points from this:
- be realistic about your fitness levels, especially on unfamiliar routes – I’ve done Grasmoor before but always from the easy side;
- perhaps going at it from the other direction would have been easier – I’ve been up Whiteside from Lanthwaite before and it’s not as steep as Lad Hows;
- carry more water on days like this – I looked at the forecast and still didn’t have enough with me;
- I made the right decision to bail out.
In my pack (a Macpac Amp 25): Rab Demand pullover, Rab Bergan pants, Klättermusen Vidblåin smock, Montane Flux belay jacket, Silva mirror-sighting compass, OS OL Sheet 4, Benchmade Presidio lock-knife, Highgear AltiTech 2 altimeter, iPhone, Veho Pebble phone-charger, half a litre of water, decaf coffee, sandwiches, flapjack, Terra Nova 2 person emergency shelter, Black Diamond ReVolt head torch. I wore some Marmot shorts designed by Tommy Caldwell, some Clavin Klein microfibre base layer Mountain Hardwear Canyon shirt, a cap by Blurr, Julbo sunglasses and Millet Super Trident GTX boots.