My favourite winter walk: Braithwaite to Grisedale Pike

Lancaster-based Tim Bell, shares one of his favourite Winter Walks.

Leaving Grisedale Pike

Leaving Grisedale Pike

Personally, I’ve always preferred the winter for heading up into the Cumbrian fells. Before heading out the door with the courteous “see you later, I’m off for a walk”. As the front door closes behind me, the inevitable “OK, But Be Careful” advice is offered emphatically from upstairs.

I am prepared. I’ve done the right courses, listened to the instructors, bought the right equipment and am now able to confidently and safely reap the benefits of a Lakeland Winter.

Before I tempt you further, be sure to read my previous blog: 3 Essentials to remember when winter walking in the Lake District.

But let’s concentrate on the joys of the outdoors, and here’s an example of a superb walk to do this winter.

My suggestion is a much-loved “loop” in the Keswick area, tackling the distinctive summit of Grisedale Pike. Here, you also have options to take in a few more peaks, which, if you’re lucky, will give you views not only of central Lakeland, but also Scotland and even the Isle of Man.

A circular walk from Braithwaite to Grisedale Pike

Route Map for Grisedale Pike ascent from Braithwaite

Route Map for Grisedale Pike ascent from Braithwaite

Starting at the car-park just outside the village of Braithwaite, on the B5292 (Whinlatter Pass) Road, the path up is immediately obvious and winds its way quickly in a South/South Westerly direction.

The route to the summit of Grisedale Pike is usually well marked, even in the snow, and follows the natural spinal ridge to the top of the mountain. Even after a few minutes, the views to Coledale Valley on your left and beyond to Keswick are superb.

En-route to Grisedale pike from Braithwaite

En-route to Grisedale pike from Braithwaite

The path does become increasingly steeper, and I would recommend poles and a steady, safe pace on the ascent. It’s just under 2 miles to the 2,595ft summit, so it’s no “walk in the park”.

Here, the wind can occasionally be brutal, so even though the forecast might be clear, be mindful that the gusts up here can topple anyone’s balance. (I speak from experience of course!). But if you’ve done your homework properly, you’ll be doing this only in calm, clear conditions, and able to safely enjoy the trek.

Having reached the summit, the panoramic views should be superb, with Scotland clearly visible across the Solway Firth and the Lake District’s biggest peaks including the full Sca Fell range will be in full glorious view. (If you want to know which fells mountains you’re actually looking at, Wainwright’s Pictorial Guide to Lakeland, Edition 6, is a wonderful companion up here).

The Sca Fells from Grisedale Pike

The Sca Fells from Grisedale Pike

The path from the summit then continues downwards in a south westerly direction with the steep Hobcarton Crags to your right (keep a safe distance from the edge) before ascending gently once again to Hopegill Head. Here, the views west now take in Crummock Water, and if the clarity is really good, look high above the Lake and you’ll see the faint outline of the Isle of Man across the sea.

Looking towards Hopegill Head from Grisedale Pike

Looking towards Hopegill Head from Grisedale Pike

With two significant peaks now “bagged”, you can start the journey back, heading South Easterly to the plateau of Coledale Hause. Once you’ve reached this notable flat area, the impressive Eel Crag will tower temptingly before you.

Eel Crag

Eel Crag

Here, you can then head down Coledale to the East which will descend gradually to the valley floor passing the Mines and following the track back to Braithwaite. However, if you’re tempted, climbing the summit of Eel Crag can then lead you down the south-spine of this valley, taking in a couple more peaks. This will add a couple of hours at least to your day though, so be mindful of time.

The daylight hours in winter a mercilessly short, so don’t get caught out.

Once back to the village, it would be rude not to stop by the lovely Royal Oak to reward yourself with some good local ale.

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