Date: 30 September 2019 Weather: 13’C, rain and low cloud, very little wind
Height gain: 1,785ft Distance: 7.5 miles
Time taken: 5 hours 40 minutes Wainwright count: 98 of 214
Route: From Broadgate Meadow car park in Grasmere up Easedale Road then taking the farm road to Lancrigg and right through a gate onto the footpath. Crossed Far Easedale Gill at the footbridge and headed left under Stenners Crag to take a narrow path off to the right directly up to Tarn Crag. Descended to Easedale Tarn then back down to Easedale Road.
It’s rained and rained over the last few days and we’re itching for a walk. Today’s forecast said that low cloud would lift early in the morning leaving sunny spells and light winds before rain arrived again around 5pm. We decided we would tackle Tarn Crag, our penultimate Central Fells mountain.
As we drove towards Grasmere the cloud was indeed lifting off the tops and the sun was shining – Windermere was still as glass and with the swirling cloud and morning sun it looked stunning. A quick stop in Ambleside for pasties and we arrived in Grasmere at about 10.30am – the roads were relatively clear buts lots of people around in both Ambleside and Grasmere.
The car park is mostly empty and we park up, pay the eye-watering fee (full day, lesson learned, see previous narrow escapes on parking time overruns). Boots on we set off in the sunshine. The view from Easedale Road back towards Grasmere village and the mountains behind it looks lovely with the hill cloud still visible:
We move swiftly up the familiar road and after about a mile, and only 18 minutes, we reach Lancrigg where we take a right under the trees and through a gate onto the footpath – we came down this way from Greenup edge on our Coast to Coast walk from Stonethwaite on 27 August so it’s familiar. The guard sheep are waiting for us as we come through the gate (see C2C write up), but a man coming towards us scattered them before I could take a photo.
Sour Milk gill is in full flow below Greenup Edge – lots more water around now after a wet August and September:
We reach the footbridge and turn left over it and carry straight on up towards Stenners Crag – diverging at this point from our previous C2C descent route. The scenery up here is really lovely:
As we gradually gain height and enjoy the lovely path we meet a man coming the other was with a calm light brown Labradoodle who the sheep are running away from. I comment that for a moment I thought he had a large sheep on a lead before looking more closely and he stops to chat. He asks where we’re heading and when we tell him says “so am I, it’s got to be done”. He asks if we’re completing the Wainwrights and we swap notes. It turns out that he and his wife moved up here from Frinton-on-Sea last year once the kids had left home – now that’s a long way away! So we’re not the only ones to do it, then.
We carry on up the path and notice it’s getting busier with lots of people around. S suddenly realises that we’re heading for Easedale Tarn and have missed a right hand turn, probably some way back. I had wondered why the man we met was going in the opposite direction, he had said he was on his way to Tarn Crag, not the way back. We turn around and head back over the stepping stones over the boggy bits. As we reach a point where a river is coming down off the crags we meet our man coming towards us – he too had missed the path. As we all ponder whether to head straight up from where we are cloud sweeps in and it starts to rain. We all swiftly take off rucksacks and put on our waterproofs.
We start to head up the hill but S’s gadget suggests we’re quite a way from the path so we go back to the path to carry on retracing our steps – our new friend didn’t even try going up and is ahead of us. He makes a left hand turn into the ferns but we don’t fancy it so carry on. We’re just around a bend when I spot the path. S’s gadget is happy and up we go. Our friend has managed to join the path a little ahead of us and we watch his progress up the steep route ahead of us.
The rain stops but the cloud gets lower and lower. The gradient is very steep as we climb up to crag after crag. The GPS says we still have 800ft to climb but all we can see is mist. With 400ft still to go we decide to stop for some food and admire the views (sort of):
We set off again and the path wriggles steeply up the hillside, grassy in places and rocky in others. We know Tran Crag is straight ahead of us but we can’t see it. With 200ft to go we meet our friend on his way down. He comments that it was more challenging a walk then he expected and he’s never known so may false summits. We agree and he carries on with his descent – the last time we’ll see him.
With 100ft to go we can see the steep rocky face of Tarn Crag directly above us. We follow the path round the face and find a surprisingly nice grassy route up the back of the crag and finally we’re at the top:
The views are, ermm, perhaps a bit disappointing:
We sit down and get out the Wainwright to see what we could have seen …… We’re damp from sitting in the wet grass and are acquiring ever more sheep poo on our poor trousers with every rest stop.
We soon set off again and as we descend the cloud starts to lift. Mountains and lakes come into view then disappear again and it’s mesmerising to watch. We sit for a few minutes on the shoulder of the mountain and admire the misty views east towards Fairfield and Helvellyn, with the ridge from Gibson Knott to Helm Crag in front of them:
We turn 180 degrees at this point and head west towards Easedale Tarn which comes into view below us:
The descent is steep but mostly grassy and a lot better than I had been expecting given the steep and rocky path we used on the way up. The path (what Wainwright refers to as the “old path”) bears left but it looks like it gets rocky and I don’t fancy that as it’s very wet up here after the earlier rain. The path to our right looks perhaps steeper but grassy and I can see it all the way down to the tarn. S agrees to follow me down this alternative route. It starts grassy then the path disappears and we have a choice of a steep rocky stream or thick and steep ferns. We pick our way carefully down trying to find grass where we can. S falls more than once but thankfully isn’t hurt each time.
We finally make it down to the Tarn and manage to pick up an undulating path around the edge to get us back to where we should have been. We stop for a breather and a cake at the head of the Tarn before heading down the final 700ft:
It feels warm with no rain and no breeze and S decides to take off his waterproof. It’s at this point that he realises his nearly new prescription sunglasses are no longer tucked over his chest strap and he must have lost them in one of the falls. We debate whether to go back and look for them but he can’t be sure when they fell off so we decide it’s not worth it.
We head down the familiar well made path from Easedale Tarn. I realise that we have great views of Helm Crag (Lion & Lamb) to our left as we descend:
Why have I never realised it was there on the umpteen other walks up and down to the tarn?!
We eventually reach the road (that last flatish mile or so always seems to go on for so long). We only meet one car on the last three quarters of a mile down the road to the car park – plenty of people in Grasmere still but it’s strangely quiet on the traffic front.
This was a steeper walk than I expected (I have no memory of our previous ascent in September 2011, apart from paddling in the tarn on the way back on what was a very warm day). It was a shame not to see anything from the summit but seeing the clouds lift and fall on the way down was wonderful to watch and I’m glad we didn’t miss out on that.