Notes on the North Western Fells
As I get around to finishing running each of the 7 Pictoral Guides I thought I'd put down a few notes and pictures on that group of fells, with a few suggestions for routes. Please treat these as a laymans guide to some good days out in the Lakes, but please refer also to this post for an overall picture and crucially the things you need to think about before heading out in the mountains.
Word of warning that you must pick up the relevant maps for much of this to make sense.
I'm not going to descibe the intricacies of any of the individual fells, you can get the books for that, but I have spent a good deal of time putting together routes linking valleys, tops, ridges and tarns. There are a few specific routes in these groups which have been truly exceptional.
Finally, be aware that this barely scratches the surface of what is available in terms of exploration of this terrain.
The North Western Fells fall in to 3 groups. The Newlands Valley Fells. The Buttermere Fells. The Whinlatter Group. There are three logical days out that on those bigger groups. There are also a few outliers which make for good short easy walks.
The North Western Fells are almost unfailingly exceptional. None are boggy slogs like their more central associates. Rock is ever present but it rarely impedes screaming fast descents. And the views over the coast where Lakeland drops away to the west are spectacular on a clear day.
Most or in fact all of the fells in this group make straight forward enough excursions, but there are a few lower outliers that don't make logical sense as part of an extended route. These make for great easy family days out.
Castle Crag: Stands alone as a rocky prominence above Grange in the Borrowdale Valley. This is actually Wainwright's lowest fell. A short drive from Keswick, parking responsibly in Grange Village by the River, you can join the Cumbria Way on a flat path, before climbing the western side of the Fell on a short, well made track. There is some loose slate but only a short section.
Sale and Ling: These two fells up around Wythop Mill mark the end of Lakeland to the North West. Reachable within 20 minutes of Keswick via the A66, both are gentle grade climbs of a mile or so, offer stunning views and are achievable in all conditions, even with 2 stone of child on your back.
Louis on Ling Fell
Newlands Valley is just stunning. It's not surrounded by the highest peaks, but the ridge lines of the fells reach north like spiny fingers towards Keswick and Skiddaw, creating a narrow corridor of exceptional beauty. This view from the top of Dale Head looking North down the valley gives a perspective.
From Dale Head summit. On the left Hindscarth. Ahead in the distance Skiddaw group.
Maiden Moor is on the right.
Bob Graham Leg 5, the final leg, takes one from Honister Pass up to the top of Dale Head, around to Hindscarth, then Robinson, and down her flank to Newlands Church and Little Town before the final 5 mile run in on road to Keswick.
Left to Right - High Spy, Dale Head (Distance), Hindscarth, Robinson.
Whilst Leg 5 is a great day out, that group of fells is better done in a bigger horseshoe. By starting at Cat Bells, a natural ridgeline ascends over that first summit, on to Maiden Moor and High Spy, before a drop to Dale Head Tarn. A steep pull up a grassy slope deposits one on the summit of Dale Head, before commencing the leg 5 tops of Hindscarth and Robinson, before the drop back down to Little Town and a couple of gentle flat miles back to the foot of Cat Bells. This is a reverse of the Fell Race, The Anniversary Waltz. Navigationally this is a very straight forward line.
The path up Eel Crag from Sail Pass
The sister race to the Waltz, Teenager With Altitude, is a much more signifcant route taking in Causey Pike, across to Outerside, then a big pull up to the King of the Buttermere fells - Grassmoor. Off of Grassmoor via Whiteless Pike. Up to Newlands House, High Snock Rigg (not a Wainwright) then on the remainder of the Waltz Route via Robinson around to Cat Bells. More information here. Circuit is around 16 miles with 7300ft of climbing.
The View over Rannerdale Knotts (near) to Red Pike from Grassmoor Summit.
The Teenager and Buttermere Sailbeck Fell Race Routes are truly the pick of the bunch. You can pick up the maps (pictured) from Pete Bland Sports (online and with a shop in Kendal), though as always in the Lakes it is worth taking the relevant OS Sheet for the area too. Please don't copy and paste them from here, they are featured merely to show the routes as opposed to long written descriptions. For those familiar with the Lakeland 100 route, the Sailbeck links the fell tops seen to the left and right as you climb up from Buttermere check point towards Sail Pass and down to Barrow Door. Highlights include the line up Causey Pike and the run from Eel Crag all the way down across Wandope and Whiteless Pike before the steep drop to the finish. Circuit is around 10 miles with 4700ft of climb.
Whiteside from Grassmoor
Finally, one should not ignore the ridge across Whiteside and up and over Grisedale Pike, the towering giant of a mountain which looks like it has a motorway driven up it from the A66 approaching Keswick.
Here is a line I took in April 2015, starting out from Buttermere and linking together the western group of Buttermere fells before dropping off of Grisedale Pike to Braithwaite. This was one of the best days of running I've ever had. Link to Strava File.
The group consisting of Graystones, Broom Fell, Lord's Seat, Barf and Whinlatter make for a logical round. My chosen route was to start at Scawgill Bridge, taking the fairly extreme initial climb up Graystones before a sweeping view over the coast presents at the summit. From there it's easy if slightly boggy running around to Broom, Lord's Seat and then to the classic Barf with it's rocky escarpment overlooking the A66. From Barf I took a direct route through Whinlatter Forest to the peak. There are scores of tracks in there and they do not correlate necessarily to the map. I ended up in a fairly desperate manoevre climbing directly up Willybrag Gill, actually in the water itself. It's worth coming at it from the East via the Forest Park. This circuit is circa 8 miles with 2500 feet of ascent.
Here is a link to my strava file of this route.