Steel Fell, Calf Crag, Gibson Knott, Helm Crag

Date: 14 Jun 2016 Weather: 18’C, partly cloudy, still
Height gain: 2,200 ft Distance: 7.3 miles
Time taken: 6 hours Wainwrights: 5,6,7,8 of 214

Route:  From parking near Town End Farm up to Steel Fell then across to Calf Crag, turning east to Gibson Knott then straight on to Helm Crag and back down to Town End farm.

All the Lake District to play with and we decide to try this ridge walk from our “Walking the Ridges of Lakeland” books – one of the more achievable ones for us.  The day starts with puffy clouds, warm sunshine and light winds and we’re looking forward to a round of four tops in this lovely valley.

We park up and head across the road and to the footpath that leads us straight up the nose of Steel Fell – a familiar sight every time we drive up the A591 past Grasmere.  Once we cross the beck the gradient is steep – Steel Fell isn’t particularly high but it seems to go on for a long time.  You feel like you’re getting somewhere at the first knobble of crags but it’s only 700ft of ascent.  A second knobble is nearer to the top and then it’s a grassy path all the way to the top:

1 - Steel Fell

It’s feeling pretty warm now after all the uphill walking and there’s still very little wind.  The views down to Thirlmere look good:


We can also see across to the ridge we’ll be walking later to get to Helm Crag (Lion & Lamb) at the end of it:



We don’t hang around too long but find the fence and follow it for the one and a half miles across to Calf Crag.  It’s warm and the ground undulates up and down and is boggy in places so it’s slow going.  S starts to get grumpy (bogs always do this to him) so we decide to stop for some lunch.  As we sit we meet our first person of the day – a young man who’s on the Coast to Coast and taking in the option of a visit to Helm Crag on his route.  We start to see many more Coast to Coasters as the day progresses.

We set off again and finally reach the top of Calf Crag:

4 - Calf Crag

The views are a little restricted here, especially to the west where the long ridge of Greenup Edge stretches behind us:


We have a short sit down to recover from our undulating walk before turning east and setting off on similar territory for the one and a quarter miles to Gibson Knott.  The scenery around us is stunning but we’re getting frustrated by the slow going and the fact we have to look down at our feet all the time to avoid the ups and downs and the bogs.

In facts it’s another hour before we finally reach the top of Gibson Knott and it feels like we’ve been walking for a long time in the heat by now:

6 - Gibson Knott

We can just catch sight of Easedale Tarn to the west:


But the loveliest views are towards Grasmere with Loughrigg behind it:


We enjoy the views for a while and try to cool down a little before heading off on the final mile across to Helm Crag.  The path is much better as it bypasses most lumps and bumps and we’re soon at Helm Crag and say hello to the Lion:


It’s lovely up here in the sunshine and there are less people about than there were on the last two tops.  We scramble about on the rocks and sit and take in the views and generally enjoy ourselves for 20 minutes or so.  The views down to Grasmere are still good.  We also look back at the ridge we’ve walked today with Greenup Edge behind it:


To the north the Helvellyn range is peeking out above the beautiful landscape:


Once we’ve soaked up the sunshine and the views we steel ourselves for the steep 1,000ft of descent from Helm Crag.  We head off down it’s eastern side and what joy – the path builders have been here since our last visit (December 1997) and there is now a wonderful, grassy zig-zag path which gently sweeps you down the steep side of the mountain and I declare my undying love for all Lake District path builders.

We soon get back to the road and make heavy work out of the short climb back up to layby where we’ve parked the car.

This is a beautiful ridge walk and we had a lovely day for it – it’s just a shame that the terrain on most of the ridge made for hard and slow going.

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