There are not many walks in Lakeland that reach the summits of four Wainwrights with so little effort, but this route from Grasmere does just that. It’s a particularly beautiful and varied walk too and the four hills it climbs are ones I had not previously visited; Steel Fell, Calf Crag, Gibson Knott and Helm Crag, so I was on new ground myself today. Incidentally – if you are unfamiliar with the Wainwrights, they are the 214 hills and mountains (known locally as fells) categorised by AW Wainwright in his guides to the English Lake District.
Setting out from Grasmere and following the lane northwards past Ghyll Foot and Helm Side, a good path leads from the end of the road onto the south ridge of Steel Fell which rises interminably ahead. The way is without difficulty; being up grassy slopes but it is somewhat relentless… The views well compensate though, with the prospect back over Grasmere drawing the eye towards the distant Windermere which lies like a silver ribbon to the South. A much wilder prospect lies northward though, where Helvellyn dominates the scene and to the west stretch the windswept hills of Central Lakeland.
Grey shower clouds made their way out of the North West towards us and coats were donned on a couple of occasions though the bulk of their rain was dumped over the
Langdales to the West and we were spared getting soaked. Part way up the ridge though I was given cause to run up the hill to capture on camera a particularly vivid rainbow that appeared beyond the brow of the hill ahead though my effort was rewarded with a particularly nice photo.
The summit of Steel Fell is worth any effort involved in getting here with the view opening out along Thirlmere to the north complementing the softer southern prospect – check out the 360 degree panorama video at the end of this post.
The cold wind and the eastward progress of the rain showers that had been sweeping the Western Lakes made sitting around a less attractive prospect though so after a quick lunch we set off for the next Wainwright, Calf Crag.
It’s not far to Calf Crag from Steel Fell but there was a certain amount of navigating a route around the boggy areas that make up this empty region. The path is evident for most of the way but one must be creative for the rest! The short rise to the summit pretty much marks the end of the sogginess though and a new prospect opens up of the route onward over the small but interesting peaks of Gibson Knott and Helm Crag backed by the wooded valleys and glinting lakes of southern Lakeland.
A good path now led over to the cairn atop Gibson Knott and in time to our last Wainwright of the day Helm Crag. Despite a modest altitude, Helm Crag is one of the more celebrated fells of Lakeland, being better known as the Lion and the Lamb; a name which refers to the summit rocks when seen from Grasmere. Indeed I have looked up at this fell countless times though today was my first ascent. The highest rocks are a little way north of the Lion and the Lamb and involve a tricky scramble to reach though the Lion’s head is a much easier undertaking. Even here care is needed as the other side of the rocks drop steeply so it’s not advised for young children.
Having admired the view from here we set off on the short descent to Grasmere which is made by continuing along the path that soon heads steeply down into woodland and joins the valley track that heads from Easedale (and ultimately over Greenup Edge to Borrowdale in that direction) to Grasmere village through a mix of woods and fields. I summer this section is a popular destination and many head up to Helm Crag without doing the full ridge.
Overall this was a good day out with great and varying views throughout the walk made better by the fact that it was my first visit to these hills. I especially liked the contrast between pastoral Grasmere and Steel Fell’s wild uplands with the views to Thirlmere – oh and don’t forget looking down from the Lion and the Lamb after so many times looking up at it!
This walk visits 4 Wainwrights; Steel Fell,Calf Crag, Gibson Knott and Helm Crag. The total distance is 12.5km or about 8 miles on good paths almost all of the way though the area between Steel Fell and Calf Crag is decidedly boggy in places. Views are varied and beautiful throughout and well compensate for any wetness!
And here’s a panoramic 360 degree film of the view from Steel Fell, the highest point of the walk – impressive for a peak of such modest height…