Grange Fell and Great Crag

Date: 24 November 2018                 Weather: 5’C, cloudy at first then sunny, light wind

Height gain: 1,115ft                          Distance: 4.3 miles

Time taken: 3 hours 30 minutes   Wainwright count:  55 & 56 of 214

Route:  From Watendlath car park along the Bowdergate Gill path to Puddingstone Bank then right up to Grange Fell then back to Puddingstone Bank and a broadly straight line across the bogs and up to Great Crag then back skirting the bogs and along the side of Watendlath Tarn and back to the car.

The weather hasn’t been great since our stunning day in the Langdales on 17 November but today’s forecast is quite hopeful – chance of some sunny spells later in the day and light winds.  We learn from our sunny Saturday in the Langdales (a) don’t head to the main peaks on nice days, even in November, and (b) we’re not ready for 2,500ft of steep ascent yet.

So we pick these too lesser known mountains in a hard to get to area.  It’s quite cloudy as we set off but not wet and not windy.  We have an uneventful drive, even up what seems like the never ending tiny road off the B2589 that gets us here.  We park up in the large car park – just one or two other cars here today.  We boot up, find that the loos are locked for winter and set off through the farmyard and to the footbridge across the head of the tarn and pick up the footpath towards Puddingstone Bank.

The path rises gradually and is pleasant with a few other walkers and cyclists out but they pass us quickly or are ahead of us in the distance.  We get to Puddingstone Bank and the views that greet us are quite amazing towards the Borrowdale fells:


We take a right here and plough up the hillside along the wall.  It’s boggy in places but not too bad.  We seemed to get very lost up here when we climbed it the first time in 2011 but the route finding seems straightforward enough today.

The clouds start to break up as we climb and by the time we reach the top the sun is shining:


It’s stunning up here with its craggy towers among the autumnal colours.  There are lovely views down to Keswick and Derwentwater with the Skiddaw range behind it:


A noisy party of middle-aged couples arrives and settles down to have their lunch at the top with non-stop discussion and laughter about their exploits of the night before (it involved a lot of Prosecco it seems).  We move a little way from the top with some good noise protection from the crags and continue admiring the panoramic views.

Here looking west with Maiden Moor in front of us:


And north east towards the Helvelyn range with Watendlath Tarn peeking out below us.


We move further down, and out of earshot of the noisy party, and enjoy our own lunch soaking up these wonderful views and the unexpectedly great weather.  Eventually we drag ourselves away and head back down to Puddingstone Bank to find the path across to Great Crag.

We remember meandering across the very boggy ground towards Great Crag last time and don’t really want to repeat that (especially as a fall into a large bog for one of us scuppered our planned continuation to Ullscarf back in 2011).

Fortunately, the footpath has been diverted around the edge of the boggiest centre and signs have been erected to guide you onto the alternative route which is now much more distinct.  We detour to our left before finding a firmer stony path as the gradient starts to steepen.  We reach a gate where the path really does look very vertical, but it’s only for the last 300ft.

As we huff and puff up the steep path we meet a couple with two dogs coming the other way – one of the dogs is bounding about from side to side with huge enthusiasm as he descends.  We stop to say hello and comment on how lovely the weather has turned out.  We say we’re relieved to find less crowded mountains.  They live in Keswick and agree that sticking to the lesser known fells is a good plan, especially when they’re this beautiful.  I say their dog seems to be really enjoying himself – they tell us that they put a GPS on him on a recent walk up Consiton Old Man.  By the end of the day they’d walked 10 miles and he’d recorded 17 with all his bounding about.  We let them go, still smiling about the enthusiastic dog, and carry on our ascent.

We need to turn right and find our way directly up the final craggy section but there’s no clear path.  We find a way but it’s very steep and I don’t fancy it as a descent.  Finally we reach the top of Great Crag:


Here looking towards Helvelyn to the left in the background, with Ullscarf the closer mound in front of us.

The views aren’t quite as good as Grange Fell but still impressive and again the terrain around us is interesting, although Great Crag lives up to its name and has quite a narrow top.  Here looking south west to Bowfell on the right and the Scafells in the middle distance:


We start our descent and I head off down a route which doesn’t seem quite as vertical as the route up, hoping it leads somewhere.  It stays a good gradient as it snakes left across the front of Great Crags but then ends in the ferns with a sharp drop below.  I double back and manage to pick up another path which eventually joins our ascent route but not at its steepest point – phew.

The steep 300ft path down to the gate is well made so poses no issues and we’re soon back on less steep ground as we head towards Watendlath Tarn:


We take a look across to Grange Fell before making our final descent:


The route down is enjoyable and the late afternoon sunshine looks very pretty when we get back to the Tarn, this time able to enjoy a bit of a walk round its edge:


This is a beautiful and not too taxing walk in weather which was much better than forecast.

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