Steel Edge, Wetherlam

7 08 2021

Wed 14 July 21

On our recent trip to the Southern fells, staying at Broughton-in-Furness, we decided to have an ‘easy day’ as we’d done 7 fells the day before on the main Coniston ridge.  I said that, as we hadn’t done it more than once (and that was years ago when I was still cowardly), it was time we revisited Steel Edge on Wetherlam – providing we could get parked!  Below is a film photo I took after our first ascent…

All photos:
my Zenith manual film SLR and Richard’s digi-point-and-shoot as marked

We drove down to the Tilberthwaite parking and there were loads of spaces, despite it being around 1030 when we arrived. We parked up in the blazing hot sun…

After Richard got kitted up (I drive in my walking ‘trail shoes’ nowadays and don’t generally carry a bag in the Lakes – just a drinks carrier on my belt on hot days) we set off for the far side of Tilberthwaite Gill. I knew there was a path but couldn’t remember much about it as we’d only used it once for a descent.

We soon found the path – very nice it was too – well graded and shady to start. My plan was to go up that side and return down the other, more regular, side at the end of the walk. We were soon crossing the beck via the bridge at the top of the gill.

A quick cut up through bracken got us to the start of the ridge where a path transpired (I don’t think there used to be one)…

a photo I took (into the sun) of Steel Edge after our descent on the first visit

The ridge is steep, grassy and easy to start and we were going pretty well despite the heat.

On the flat section before the rocky bit, Richard took a couple of photos for me (I hadn’t bothered with my camera as I already had stock photos).

Both Richard’s digi photos

Close-up of Steel Edge

The ridge had obviously seen much more use than it used to back in the day and was now a steep, eroded gully most of the way. Richard started to make heavy weather right from the start. I waited for him and asked him what was wrong, worrying that he might have ‘lost his nerve’ for steep, loose stuff. Luckily, it was just his knee bothering him. I slowed the pace considerably, encouraged him on and we continued up…

I’d been hearing a radio and noted that it was coming from a large digger in the cwm below (absolutely no idea how they got a digger up there – helicopter?). Richard couldn’t hear it but as we ascended it got louder – much louder – it was absolutely blaring. It seemed weird to be scrabbling up a loose, high ridge with loud music belting out below! I was quite amused and would have joined in if I knew any of the latest mainstream stuff…

Again, on several sections, Richard’s single walking pole was a bloody nuisance and I had to take it up some bits for him. Here is a stock photo of Richard clambering up pole-less back in the day (plus another of a following guy)…

Richard on Steel Edge (when he was much younger!)

A lot of the rocky sides were peeling away to form yet more loose scree so I urged Richard not to trust any holds and to be gentle with it all! After a rest halfway up, we were soon up to the top of the ridge – I quite enjoyed it! I got Richard to take a photo looking at the sudden and large drop over the ramparts of the ridge top – you can see the grassy ridge way below on the left…

Looking down from the top (Richard’s digi photo) – see how far below the start of the ridge is (grassy ridge on left)

Just below the ridge summit is a delightful tarn – it was also a delightful day to hang around there for a while… so we did have a lounge 😉

me relaxing above the tarn at the summit of Steel Edge

We then set off for the summit of Wetherlam – now an easy stroll… We kept to the edge for the side view of Steel Edge and I got Richard to take a photo. You can see various routes from the scree onto the upper parts of the ridge – I’m assuming those were people who didn’t fancy the narrow-seeming ridge itself.

We then reached the summit and had a chat with a nice chap from Lancashire for a few minutes. Not ones to hang around summits, we soon set off back down after a quick confab about whether to descend Wetherlam Edge or Lad Stones ridge. We decided on Lad Stones ridge as it returns to the top of Tilberthwaite Gill through a positively delightful valley.

This meant returning to the lovely tarn where we had a much longer break in the sun, lounging, eating flapjack, drinking and sunbathing – what a glorious day! (My photo of the tarn this time)

We ambled steadily along the ridge and Richard took photos towards the main Coniston Ridge of the mountains we’d done the day before…

I was particularly taken with the view back to the Black Sails ridge of Wetherlam (I normally include that ridge if I can) so got Richard to take this photo…

Richard’s digi-photo but I was the director!

We reached the end of the ridge for the steeper-than-I-remember descent down to the delightful valley – I hoped Richard’s knees would cope – they did…

There were a few small groups walking the valley and one mountain biker. I loved this little waterfall which we crossed the top of with a tree atop it and got Richard to take another photo…

Another of Richard’s digi-photos but directed by me

A look back along the delightful valley and our descent ridge (Richard’s digi photo)

We then reached the top of the other side of the gill and started our descent. We ended up on the track right next to the drop into the gill which I thought was remarkably close to the drop really (although it no longer bothers me) – the paths we’ve used before have been much further from the edge. The scenery back down and across the gill is truly lovely here (Richard’s photo)

While Richard took the above photo and I admired the view, I got bitten by a horsefly – ugh! Luckily, it didn’t itch too badly over the next week and didn’t swell up at all – unusual nowadays.

Near the foot of the gill, there is a stupendous, multi-level quarry which I had to explore every level of looking for climbing routes – I’m pretty sure there are lots. Slate isn’t my best climbing rock though!

me going to look for climbing opportunities in the quarry

All too soon we were back at the car and then off to the caff in Conistone. I don’t very often eat ice cream as I’m not a huge fan but have to say that the cafe had some really lovely flavours which actually had some taste for a change! We’d had some the day before and we had some again now – delicious! 🙂

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16 responses

10 08 2021
Alli Templeton

That looks to have been a fabulous day’s adventure, Carol, and the adrenaline was flowing in my veins just looking at the photos and reading about your ascent! But it looks well worth it to be able to relax and take a good long break by that gorgeous tarn. What an idyllic place to chill out. And I’m like you in that I don’t eat ice cream very often as I can take it or leave it, but when we were in Northumberland and it was hot, again like you I did indulge and it was delicious! 😀

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10 08 2021
mountaincoward

it has to be really hot before I eat ice cream anyway – and it was really hot that week. Just the weather to lounge around by a mountain tarn 🙂

Liked by 1 person

11 08 2021
Alli Templeton

Sounds like heaven. 🙂

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8 08 2021
bob

Are you sure you’re not a cyborg Carol?. It baffles me that you were nervous of heights and scrambling when you were younger, yet now, at an age when most scramblers are slowing down or giving up altogether you seem to be speeding up and getting bold. Well done on another fine route. I avoid steep stuff now as I know my reactions/ reflexes are much slower in the event of a slip or stumble and I break instead of bounce.

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9 08 2021
mountaincoward

To be honest, although this route looks intimidating, and I certainly wouldn’t descend it as I hate loose descents, it’s just a loose clamber really and there’s no danger on it.

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8 08 2021
underswansea

Great post! Looked like a fantastic day. I like the way you look for things to tackle the next time you are in the vicinity. Very good policy and part of the fun. I bet you have enough side routes to last several lifetimes. Only one horsefly bite? I could tell you stories. Very fine photos by you and Richard. Take care. Bob

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8 08 2021
mountaincoward

I’m getting very good at noticing horseflies and knowing where they’ll be waiting but I was distracted for this one.

I always look around any area I’m in for more exciting things to do – even when I go abroad on holiday with groups of other people – I always have to wander off on my own to find ‘the real countryside’!

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8 08 2021
Bitchy After 60

What beautiful terrain. I can see why you enjoy hiking there so much.

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8 08 2021
mountaincoward

All the English Lake District is beautiful which is why I’ve moved to North Lakes for my eventual retirement. South Lakes (which is where these photos are) I’m particularly fond of though and, due to Covid, we hadn’t been that far away for 18 months so we were very glad to get back.

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8 08 2021
tessapark1969

Nice post. I’ve still to do Wetherlam (and some of the other Coniston hills too)

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8 08 2021
mountaincoward

I trust you won’t be aiming to do Steel Edge? 😉

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30 08 2021
tessapark1969

Definitely not!!

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8 08 2021
John Bainbridge

The way I first went up back in 1996. Rather grand.

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8 08 2021
mountaincoward

it’s definitely fun. I wouldn’t go often though as I always feel bad eroding stuff like that even more!

Liked by 1 person

8 08 2021
George

I love Steel Edge. My favourite way up Wetherlam. I’m always amazed that Wainwright missed it out.

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8 08 2021
mountaincoward

Yeah I’m really surprised too – in fact, many people are – it gets a lot of comment why he didn’t do it. I like Wetherlam Edge better – going up you can find lots of scrambling problems near the path.

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