A Gasgale Round

Outline of Route
Lanthwaite Green - Whiteside - Hopegill Head - Eel Crag - Wandope - Grasmoor - Coledale Hause - Lanthwaite Green (Grid ref. NY 159209)
Total Distance 8.0 miles, Total Ascent 3600 feet, Equivalent Distance 15.2 miles

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Escape Routes

  1. From Coledale Hause descend via Gasgale Gill and back to Lanthwaite Green.

Details of Route
This walk was originally posted having a descent from Grasmoor via Red Gill. I remember this descent being steep, but not as unpleasant as I found it when I recced it yesterday. So unpleasant was it, that I reurned to the top and found an alternative, and much more attractive, descent. As a result, the title "A Gasgale Round" requires some stretch of the imagination.

Parking is free at the car park about a hundred yards south of the cattle grid at Lanthwaite Green. Head northeast from here, towards Whiteside and a wall that ascends the fellside. You'll find a footbridge here which saves you fording the fast-flowing beck. Follow the path upwards, to the right, which gives access to the ridge up Whin Ben and climb that. If you find this an easy ascent you'd better check your bearings as you've most likely followed the high level path up Gasgale. The ridge up Whin Ben is steep, but otherwise good going and easy to follow. The path continues up the ridge to Whiteside with the fine rock scenery of Gasgale Crags to the right. As one approaches the summit the drop down these crags reaches awesome proportions (photo). The views from the summit are excellent and provide a good excuse for a rest after your exertions. To the west are the coastal towns of Cumbria and some of the lesser fells; to the southeast Crummock Water (photo) and some of the western fells; to the north the Solway Firth and the Scottish hills, and to the East (photo) the ridge to Hopegill Head and Grisedale Pike, with Skiddaw in the distance.

Leave the summit, following the path eastwards towards Hopegill Head. Keep as close to the top of the ridge as you can: it may be steep either side but provokes none of the angst of the likes of the Blencathra or Helvellyn aretes. Those who require the threat of imminent extinction for their appreciation may be unimpressed, but this is, as far as I'm concerned, one of the finest ridge walks in Lakeland; my only regret being that it's not twice as long (photo). Another elegant arete approaches Hopegill Head from the north (photo) and there's a fine (panorama).

From Hopegill Head stroll over Sand Hill (photo) and down towards Coledale Hause. Take particular note of the direct route up Eel Crag (Eel Crag, the fell - not Eel Crag, the crag) which is to the left of the route. The name comes from the Old Norse illr, meaning precipitous.) A path from the hause leads to a scree fall which seems to emanate from a small gully some way up the ridge. It looks forbidding from here but it's less so close to. I find the grassy area to the left of the scree easier to climb and the gulley "interesting" rather than fearsome. Once above this gulley the walking becomes easier, with no path, but a line of cairns to follow, to the trig. column at the summit. Eel Crag has a flat top and one needs to explore the edges to find the best views, such as Coledale (photo). Head WSW to find the path to Wandope which runs vertiginously round the rim of Addacomb Hole (photo). An alternative continuation via Whiteless Pike appears below.

The path to the summit of Grasmoor appears as a well-worn scar up the fell, clearly visible from Wandope. There is nothing much of interest on this ascent, but thoughts of the extensive shelter at the top, providing protection whatever the prevailing wind direction, afford some incentive. Go to the southern rim of this plateau for views of Buttermere, and the Scafell massif behind Haystacks. For those who wish to investigate the Red Gill descent follow the ridge westwards, past a series of cairns that curve off to the left, to a cairn near the end of the ridge. Bear left a few yards before this cairn and soon the cars parked at Rannerdale will come into view. The path, of small, predominantly red, stones is steep and slippery; and, whilst it provides a reasonable uphill route, is unpleasant to descend. Follow the road at the bottom to the right back to the car park. About a mile of distance is saved this way.

To follow my preferred route return to the east from the shelter, but slightly to the left of the main path. When the rim of the plateau, above Dove Crags, is reached continue eastwards along the rim. There is a clear path which follows it, curving to the left and eventually following a ridge down to Coledale Hause. Turn to the left, following the noisy little beck, past the waterfalls, into the valley. I've never known a valley like this one: V-shaped, with very steep sides and narrow bottom, it seems to have been transported from another land. Some distance down the valley, the path splits to provide high level and low level paths. I suggest taking the high level route as the low level one has the habit of disappearing into the fast-flowing beck. Whichever is taken the outcome is a return to Lanthwaite Green.

Alternative Route
Instead of heading towards Grasmoor from Wandope, go southwest to a prominent crest, unnamed on my maps, but sometimes known as Thirdgill Head Man. From here there is a fine, narrow ridge to Whiteless Pike (photo), seen also in retrospect (photo) and as one descends there are good views down to Crummock Water (photo). From Whiteless Pike there is an excellent view over the village of Buttermere. Continue down the path, now going south, and then, southwest with another good view of Crummock Water (photo) until, just beyond a col, a path leads to the right to Rannerdale Knotts (photo). Continue west from the top, where there's a fine view of Crummock Water (photo), taking care to avoid the crags on the north side of the Knotts, where a number of paths, sometimes very steep, will lead you to the lakeside road, just north of Hause Point. Follow the road from here back to the start point. There is a path, on NT property, in places to the south of the road, but beware! It ultimately leads away from the road to the lakeside. If you find yourself on this path, walking through a private forest, just continue by the lakeside until you reach a boathouse. From here head away from the lake, along a path through the forest, via gates and fields (photo) to Lanthwaite Green Farm and the main road once more.

Rev. 02 September 2014

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