GLW1208:  Helm Crag

Saturday 22nd September 2012

Ask a random sample of Britons to name an iconic view of the Lake District and in third place, after Ashness Bridge and the Langdale Pikes, will most likely be Helm Crag, as seen across Grasmere.  Not that they will know it by that name.  More likely they will refer to the Lion & the Lamb (of which there are actually two).

The other Lion & the Lamb is only seen from the north and is the real top of Helm Crag. More often it is referred to as the Old Man playing the Organ or, more commonly, the Howitzer.

Ask the same sample to name which of the Wainwrights did the Great Man fail to reach the summit and, unless they have read his books, they are most unlikely to suggest that it is this relatively modest hill, topping out at only 1,299 feet.  However, it is those last thirty feet or so up the Howitzer that are the real challenge- steep with a false move rewarded by a terrifying drop from the overhanging pinnacle.

Actually, the going up is not that hard (Yes, I have done it- see BB0922).  It's the coming down that is tricky because, for part of the way, you can't see where your feet should go. Fortunately, when I did it, I had three experts with me to call out the movements.

Bragging over, it came as a bit of a shock to me when Margaret said that she hadn't been up Helm Crag for about forty years.  It was time to put that right. Fortunately, she just wanted to what Wainwright had done.  This was a relief as I am far from sure that I could still climb the Howitzer, never mind guide her up and down safely.

It was early afternoon on a rare bright sunny day when we parked in a busy Grasmere and set off up the Easedale road.  Are Edward VII postboxes rare?  I would have thought so.

In a garden, Margaret spotted a summerhouse that she wanted to take home. Fortunately I was able to distract her with a fine view of our objective.


As ever, there were not that many of the visitors actually venturing onto the fells, so although there was a fair amount of Hello-ing and How-doing, overcrowded it was not.

It is a steep pull up Helm Crag, although much of the way is now a stone staircase.

Once near the top, if you take the wrong route, it can be a bit intimidating for the more nervy walker.

Margaret coped cautiously well, deserving her coffee and choccy reward by the summit slab whilst enjoying the view over to Easedale Tarn and the Langdales to the west and Fairfield to the east.

She was a bit worried about the descent but our intention was to drop down the eastern side to the Green Burn valley.


After a short rocky section, it was thereafter an easy zigzag that looks like it has been put in by the Fix the Fells people but is much less visually intrusive than the horror above Kentmere.

Nearing the bottom, I felt something on my leg which I discovered was an engorged tick.  Whether it had lunched on me or was just looking for its dessert, I don't know, but it flicked off easily without seemingly leaving its head and pincers behind so, hopefully, there will be no after-effects.  I remarked to Margaret that it was a good job there were no deer in the area so I needn't worry about Lyme disease.  To cheer me up, she pointed out that on our way up Easedale, we had passed a house with a deer fence!!!  Aggghhh! Please make sure that you know the symptoms of Lyme disease and keep an eye on me!


The path soon meets the (very) minor road, past an ancient farmhouse (1577) with a garden that Margaret much admired, then the secluded house reputed to be owned by Sting.  It was now late afternoon and Chateau Sting is on the dark side of the hill- not a position I would choose if I had his money.


There was an unusual sight in one of the fields.  Many around here have large numbers of sheep in them.  Quite a lot have one, two or three rams entertaining themselves by painting their ladies' backs.  But this field had at least a dozen fine looking rams of various ages, judging by their horns.  Yet there was not a single ewe to be seen.

Soon we were back in Grasmere where we had a disagreement as to whether the Miller Howe cafe would be open.  It was resolved that if it were, then Margaret would pay but if it were not, I would pay.  How come, then, that it was open but I had to pay???

Don, 22nd September 2012


Distance: 5.2 miles;     Height climbed:  1,394 feet



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