Grasmoor via Gasgale Gill & Dovecrags Arete

23 07 2020

Sun 22 Mar 20
This was at the start of the superb weather spell we had this year. I’ve also got a feeling it may have been the first day of lockdown or perhaps the day before. There were hundreds of people around down Buttermere though and, just to show there was no problem with walkers, everyone was already keeping a very safe distance between their family groups etc.

All photos:
my Zenith manual film SLR
click on photos for full size/resolution

I’d had my eye on this route up Grasmoor for years now but I’m not sure I had it in mind when I set off up Gasgale Gill. I think my first idea was to go up the gill and come back along Whiteside. It’s taken so long to get my films processed though that I can’t remember now!

It was a lovely hot, sunny and calm day and I set off late morning so, by the time I reached Lanthwaite Green in the Buttermere valley, the place was heaving. As I said earlier though, everyone was keeping their distance whether they were picknicking by the river or setting out up the hills. I managed to find a good space on a roadside pull-off just after Lanthwaite Green carpark (much less rough too!)

I set off across the green for the mouth of Gasgale Gill – one of my favourite routes into the hills (Buttermere valley is also my favourite Lakeland valley).

The only people I saw who annoyed me that day were two cyclists resting by the river. I was hoping they would return to the road but, unfortunately, they set off up the gill behind me. Now, Gasgale Gill has become increasingly eroded each winter with the bad floods and the path is getting literally torn apart – in many places it’s missing altogether. The very last thing it needs is tyres cutting through it as it’s very close to the edge of the beck! Bike tyres are excellent at cutting away riverbank paths (and other mountain paths for that matter)! 😦

I hadn’t been in the gill for ages and kept wondering where the ‘bad step corner’ was. In the end, it took so long for me to reach it, I thought it had fallen down too. Anyway, eventually, it appeared and I had a fun little scramble up it…

Gasgale Gill – looking back to bad step corner

The gill is exceedingly pleasant – in its lower reaches it’s like being in a secluded meadow after you’ve passed the narrower sections…

About half-way along the gill, there is a rise to about half height and the meadow section ends to be replaced by heather and rougher ground. I looked around at the top of the rise to see if the cyclists were catching up – nope – quite a way behind – much better to walk eh!

Soon, all that is left is the final rough climb to the top of the gill…

Gasgale Gill Finish

I arrived at the top and looked back at the struggling cyclists – they were very far behind now. I settled down by the beck top for a coffee and biscuit as, by now, I’d decided I was going to traverse to the Dove Crags arete and knew it was very steep and strenuous! As I left, there was still no sign of the struggling cyclists…

My traverse start can be seen on the photo below – it cuts to the right from the top of the beck and, keeping below the scree flanks of the ridge above, continues more or less levelly along…

Gasgale Gill from Whiteside

The rest of my traverse is seen on the photo below and the arete goes up the right-hand side of the dark hole of Dove Crags – quite a declivity!

my traverse was across to the foot of the dark hole – the arete is the right-hand side of it

The traverse was much longer than I thought it would be and, at one point, I nearly set off up the ridge before. I realised it was nothing like steep enough though and should be grassy and not full of loose rock and scree…

I soon came across a delightful little tarn with a lovely stony ‘beach’ all around the edges – it was so hot I just felt like lounging on the beach for a while but pressed on with my traverse…

At the end of my traverse, there was a gill exiting the Dove Crags hollow which had to be descended down to and then climbed back up from – probably a loss of around a hundred feet or so…

Then I was at the foot of my ‘arete’ (it’s really a one-sided arete) and looking up to see how steep it was. I can tell you, it’s a LOT steeper than the photo makes it look. I was slighly worried about the small crag band half-way up… (near the top of the photo below)

Much steeper than it looks!

It was steep but very straightforward on grass up to the crag band. The crag band was much larger than it looked from below and was composed of small ledges which sloped downwards and were quite smooth and a bit slippery. However, all went well most of the way up them. There was just a moment’s bad language when a shelf I was stood on seemed to move!

There were great views across Dove Crags here – I can’t decide between the next three photos so have included them all!

I took a photo looking back down the arete but, again, it looks nothing like as steep as it had been. Whiteside across Gasgale Gill looks spectacular though…

Looking down the arete to the gill – again, much steeper than it looks here

I then followed the easy grass on up to the summit, the ridge getting less steep all the while. I noticed two guys who appeared to be finishing the exciting route up the corner of Grasmoor and, on reaching the plateau, set off to apprehend them for questioning!

Turns out the two guys had gone for a look at the Grasmoor End route for a descent and turned back and decided on a friendlier route. I said I didn’t blame them…

I was then at the summit where I didn’t bother to hang around (I rarely do) – I just went for a look off the end and came back up again. There was quite a chilly wind blasting across the summit anyway…

I set off along the ridge to take the normal descent to the col with Wandhope and planned to take the nice ridge down over Whiteless Pike. However, I remembered my last descent of the Lad Hows ridge and how much whimpering and fuss I’d made about the steep and loose ground. I wondered whether I’d ‘improved’ in courage since then?

Only one way to find out. I decided to descend that way again and see what I thought. I have to say, although it’s still loose, I don’t think it’s as bad as it was as I think a lot of the loose rock has been replaced by bare earth. The steepness didn’t scare me either but I was characteristically careful all down the first section to the grassy shoulder…

From the grassy shoulder it’s just an easy romp down to Lanthwaite Green and the car.

Rannerdale Knotts from Lad Hows Descent

Lad Hows is the ridge descending Grasmoor to the left of the gill

I was soon down at ground level and walking the mile or so along grassy paths under Grasmoor’s spectacular front to reach my car at Lanthwaite Green. What a superb day out!

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15 responses

9 08 2020
tessapark1969

That looked great 😎

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10 08 2020
mountaincoward

It’s actually a really nice route and I think I’m going to make that my normal ascent up Grasmoor in future. I’ll vary the descent though…

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27 07 2020
underswansea

Wonderful post and photos. When you said it’s steeper than it looks, I laughed because that’s what I always think when I look at photos of the places I’ve hiked. Those are old rocks you live on. Smooth and grassy but rugged and slippery as hell. I always enjoy your adventures. Take care.

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28 07 2020
mountaincoward

It’s really hard to capture ‘steep’ on a photo

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24 07 2020
Paul Shorrock

Nice report Carol – I’m guessing you will be getting out and about now, making up for lost lockdown time.

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24 07 2020
mountaincoward

I was doing around 8 hills a week during ‘lockdown’ as the Lakes hills are very local to me and a very short drive (and we were allowed to take short drives to exercise here). But I’m still getting up as many as I can – especially after work now I work in Keswick 🙂

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24 07 2020
Alli Templeton

Glad you managed to get this one in before lockdown – what an amazing setting for an adventure. And the weather looks wonderful – I’m not sure I can even remember the good snap around then, but it was clearly gorgeous up there. Your photos of your traverse are awesome – that light is so beautiful. And as for the ‘arete’ – it looks steep enough to me! If only we had some scenery like that around here… 🙂

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24 07 2020
mountaincoward

I’ve actually decided that arete is probably one of the best ways up Grasmoor so will be doing it much more often (going up that is). I aim to drag Richard up it as soon as I can get him fit enough…

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26 07 2020
Alli Templeton

I hope he enjoys it! 🙂

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24 07 2020
John Bainbridge

Stunning pics of a stunning way up. Seems an age since we were on that side of the Lakes.

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24 07 2020
mountaincoward

Yeah I’ve been meaning to get back round to Buttermere. I’ve a feeling it’s going to be horrendously busy now though and so probably bad for parking…

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24 07 2020
KC Redding-Gonzalez

Such fabulous geology! An illustrated history…

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24 07 2020
mountaincoward

That ‘hole’ of Dove Crags is something else when viewed from across the valley as in my photo. The Lakes are just fabulous anyway though – a lot of interest packed into a small area.

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23 07 2020
Blue Sky Scotland

Looks like a cracking day out. Although I cycle myself on roads and land-rover tracks I have seen increasing damage on grass paths, in woodland park footpaths and on the hills caused by bikes. It is what it is I suppose but it annoys me at times when I find mud instead of the grass paths from five years ago..

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24 07 2020
mountaincoward

Well I cycle on estate and landrover tracks – I just don’t cycle on the hills or on footpaths and I wish others would stop.

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