Crag Fell and Grike

Date: 18 Jan 2020 Weather: 5’C, sun & cloud
Height gain: 1,155 ft Distance: 5.6 miles
Time taken: 2 hours 55 mins Wainwrights: 116,117 of 214

Route:  From roadside parking at Scaly Moss up the mine track passing Grike and then turning left up to top of Crag Fell then descending west from summit and across to Grike and down to mine track and back to car.

At long last two days of sunny spells and light winds are forecast so we decide we’ll make the most of it and head to the western fells and stay over in Cockermouth for two days of hill walking.  We decide that we’ll tackle Crag Fell and Grike today – the two we had to leave for another day when I felt terrible in the warm weather back in August (Lank Rigg).

The trip via the A595 had taken us almost two hours in August.  Today we decide to take the route up the M6 and across the A66 – it’s 20 miles longer but Google suggests it will take an hour and a half.

Packing for an overnight stay, sorting enough water bottles for both days and making our sandwiches for today takes a bit of time so we don’t leave very early.  However, there are no hold ups on the journey and it does indeed take an hour and a half – much better than the horrible slow driving on the A595.

There are plenty of parking places along the road we want to park on but we’re taken by surprise by how busy it is when we arrive in this more remote part of the Lakes.  It is the first sunny Saturday we’ve had in a few weeks and people must be keen to get out into the mountains – there are far more cars parked than there were back in August.

There are plenty of places still left and the biggest challenge is finding a spot that isn’t too muddy for the car (BMW’s don’t like anything that isn’t solid under their wheels).  We drive to where we parked in August and then turn around and drive half a mile or so back to where most people are parked and find a good space.  When the map gadgets wake up we find we’re in the perfect spot and the footpath we want is just 100 metres or so further up the road.

We get our boots and rucksacks on and head for the footpath.  It’s a wide and stony mine track and easy to walk on – thankfully away from the mud that is plaguing a lot of routes after all the recent rain:

1Lank Rigg is ahead of us as we walk.  I couldn’t feel more different to how I felt last time we were here – admittedly the gradient is gentle from this side but even so I feel good as we gain height and it’s great to be out in the mountains with sunshine above us.

We walk underneath Grike as we’ve decided to climb the furthest of the two first.  We get to the radio mast and a gate which is where we need to turn left off the track and head up the last 300ft on grassy hillside.  It’s wet and boggy in places but not unrelentingly so and we soon reach the summit of Crag Fell:


There are two big surprises – the first is the view that opens up to the north east as we get to the top.  The second is that low cloud decides to roll in to obscure the best of the views.

We decide to stop for lunch and see if the cloud lifts as we eat.  The breeze is cold up here so we drop down a few feet and find a crag to sit on looking down over Ennerdale Water:


The lake appears and disappears as the cloud rolls in through the valley and lifts again.  We should be able to see a great ridge of mountains with the Grasmoor range giving way to Pillar and Steeple to the south east but as we eat the cloud stays stubbornly low and this is as good as the view gets.  We keep looking behind us and the sky seems to clear but then cloud bubbles up from seemingly no-where and sweeps across to replace the clouds that are charging through the valley.

The views north east back towards Cockermouth are a strange mixture of sun and hill fog:


I’m getting cold and the funnel of cloud keeps recreating itself so we give up waiting to see the Grasmoor ridge and decide it’s time to head off west towards Grike.

It’s an easy decent back towards the mine track.  We decide to take the direct route and head over the stile at the fence in the depression between the two hills rather than go all the way down to the mine track again – it means a bit more walking on the marshy ground but it really isn’t too bad.

It’s only 150ft up to the top of Grike which we climb at a good pace:


We’re only just over 100ft below the summit of Crag Fell but we’re now fully out of the swirling hill cloud.  The views from this wide grassy top aren’t quite so stunning, though.

I look across to Lank Rigg which was such a struggle to get to the top of five or so months ago:


I also look back at Crag Fell where we’ve come from – it looks more substantial than the short walk across felt like:


The views to the north west look out towards the Solway Firth and Scotland beyond it, all obscured by the swirling hill cloud today:


We take our photos and then head down the fairly steep but short western flank of Grike to re-join the mine track back to the car.  I’m still cold from our lunchtime stop, especially my hands despite changing to my thick “emergency” mittens.

I’ve really enjoyed being out in the hills again with some sunshine between the swirling cloud, although the warmth of a Premier Inn room and shower is very welcome to defrost me after the short drive to Cockermouth.

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