Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Gray Crag

Gray Crag, "A lofty ridge, bounded by exceedingly steep flanks" good description AW.  The exceedingly steep nose of Gray Crag does not invite one to head straight up it but that's what I did today.  Soon in the snow, I continued to climb until whiteout conditions forced me down to the valley.  I had hoped to continue around the High Street and on to The Nab, assuming that the notoriously boggy ground would be frozen today.  On reflection, the snow probably prevented a hard frost so it may be just as well that I did not venture this way.

My route:

I couldn't resist stopping at Bassenthwaite Lake to take a few photos of Skiddaw across the lake.

There is a bit of snow on top.  The lake was very still and a better photographer would have taken a few shots of Skiddaw reflected.

Very different to conditions on Sunday when I had thoughts of bagging Bakestall and then continuing up Skiddaw and onto Longside Edge.  In the end, I turned around at Bakestall and came back down the same way.

I should probably keep a map of the Skiddaw area in my car because everytime I go past it at the moment it looks fantastic and I want to go there.  Today was a Far Eastern day though and I was heading to the small car park north of Brothers Water.  Only a few other cars when I got there.

From the car park, Gray Crag on the left.  Hartsop Dodd on the right

I followed the road to the little car park at the end of Hartsop.  I then followed the Hayeswater path until I took a branch that crossed Hayeswater Gill.  Once past the farm buildings and wall, I headed straight up the nose of Gray Crag.  It was steep.

Gray Crag ahead.  I'd clocked the false summit

Gray Crag's true summit ahead.  Threshthwaite Mouth visible here which is the way I came down

across Hayeswater, The Knott and High Street collecting cloud.

The snow got a bit deeper as I climbed but never too much.  There were some knee high drifts next to walls later on.

Once you are up on Gray Crag, it's a pleasant little run to the top.  From here you can continue on to Thornthwaite Crag, which is easy to distinguish by the large Thornthwaite Beacon.

The cloud was really coming down now and soon enough I was in clag.  If I had read my Wainwright book, I might have been more confident, he describes the ridge route to Thornthwaite Crag as:

"A simple stroll on grass; safe in mist.  Sheep tracks may be followed much of the way, but the walking is so easy that they are scarcely worth looking for.  The escarpments on both flanks of the ridge are steep enough to warn of danger in mist, when it is necessary to note that the first two walls are crossed at right angles and the third followed."

At the third wall, I knew that I was close to Thornthwaite Beacon but could not see it around.  If I had spent a bit more time looking at the map, I could probably have worked out that I was just below the beacon by what looks like less than 100 metres.  What I paid attention to on the map was that the wall lead down to Thresththwaite Mouth, a col between Thornthwaite Crag and Caudale Moor where I knew there was a path to the valley floor and back to Hartsop.  As I followed the wall down a little bit, I got below the cloud and at this point made the decision to continue on this way, abandoning my original route.

cairn on Gray Crag

looking south to Windermere

the first wall.  I was navigating with a Harvey Map today as these are used in the GL3D and other mountain marathons.
On these maps, a wall (or boundary feature) that is not maintained, such as this fallen down wall, is marked as a faint solid line.  All the walls around here are of this nature and are hard to pick out, especially when you are in a mild panic in the middle of a white out!


dropping down a bit, along the wall, I could see Threshthwaite Mouth

This picture shows how near to Thornthwaite Beacon I was.  It looks like it was less that 100 metres away and a simple run along the wall would have got me there.  There are some clear landmark features, such as the point further down where the walls intersect or, looking back, the right angle of the wall I had already crossed over.

The wall with the right angled corner that I crossed at the top of the picture is much easier to make out on this type of map, an Ordnance Survey Explorer 1:25000 scale, than the Harvey 1:4000 scale map that I was using.  I find that the Harvey maps are clearer for identifying summits.  Cairns seem to be more clearly marked and the contours are more obvious, particularly of the higher fells.  I have learnt today that the Harvey Maps do have a lot of detail, you just need to look carefully sometimes.

this path down to Thresthwaite Mouth was slippery.  I put my microspikes on and made slow progress.  I was happy to be able to see where I was going.

Troutbeck Tongue just slightly left of centre with Windermere beyond

looking down Threshthwaite Cove to Pasture Beck

and back up to Thresthwaite Cove

eventually I got to a nice path along Pasture Bottom

I had a nice run for the two or so miles that it takes for the path along Pasture Bottom to reach Hartsop.

Along the way I passed the impressive Raven Crag and the stones that Wainwright mentions as being good for shelter (here are some of them on the left).

Back at the car, I enjoyed the luxury of a clean set of clothes, a drink and something to eat.  I stopped off at the Catstycam shop in Glenridding.  This is a great little shop, the staff are always really helpful.

On the drive home, I couldn't resist stopping again to take pictures.  This time of the mighty Blencathra, covered in a thin snow with a brilliant blue sky behind.  Wait a minute, blue sky?  Argh!!  Yes, as is customary, the cloud cleared revealing a bright blue sky with fabulous visibility shortly after I descended to the valley.  Oh, well.  Here's to the next time!

Raven Crag

Gray Crag from the car park


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