Sunday, 15 December 2013

Helm Crag and Sergeant Man

For various reasons, I still haven't tackled some of the Lake District's better known fells. Helvellyn, Crinkle Crags, Bowfell, Grasmoor and Helm Crag are all still untrodden ground for me. I managed to tick one off the list when on a recent trip to Grasmere - well it would be rude to leave Helm Crag unclimbed now wouldn't it?!

Normally I like to plan a Lake District walk well in advance. For safety as much as any other reason, we need to know which maps and guidebooks to take and to know roughly how long we are going to be out on the fells.

Every now and again I do change my mind along the way. For this walk, we had planned to head up Helm Crag, follow the ridge over Gibson Knott and Calf Crag and then back down along Steel Fell. But in the end we chose the longer option of hitting the higher ground of Sergeant Man.

The walk up from Grasmere to Helm Crag is a delight every step of the way. The path remains good, the route is clear and easy to follow and the views are incredibly rewarding. In fact it was hard to keep going, instead of turning around every other step to look over the ever expanding view over Grasmere, Loughrigg and beyond.

Yes this is a popular route and not necessarily one for those looking to escape from it all, but the Grasmere to Helm Crag trek is a fantastic walk.

As it was fairly crowded, we didn't linger for too long on the summit and soon headed along the clear ridge route from Helm Crag to Gibson Knott. It was quite amazing how after the sounds of the busy A591 had accompanied us on our initial ascent, as we moved away from the road we were soon had just the wind for musical accompaniment.

The ridge made for a very pleasant walk and felt like a lot of reward for the relative ease of ascent of Helm Crag.

We marched on across the summit of Gibson Knott, although by this point our stomachs were rumbling so we started to keep an eye out for the perfect picnic spot. On our way, we hit the summit of Calf Crag, but it was very windy here so still not the ideal place to take a break. We did find a lovely sheltered spot to stop for our lunch, with fabulous views all round.

At this stage, it was still early in the afternoon so I decided we would head further into the heart of the Central Fells and pay Sergeant Man a visit. This walk was a little longer than anticipated, and something else that was decidedly unexpected was the GPS running out of batteries! Fortunately the route was fairly straightforward, over Brownrigg Moss and along Mere Beck.

I think at this point we were possibly thinking it might have been a nicer walk over Steel Fell, as the weather threatened rain. We were also the only people on this path along the beck, possibly because it wasn't the most spectacular of walks. Anywhere else and this would be a popular walk but in this centre of the Lake District, there is just too much competition.

It didn't take us long to reach the summit of Sergeant Man, the second highest of the Central Fells. The wind had picked up a little so we didn't linger, heading down the steep path that would take us past Eagle Crag and onto the boggy ground towards Easedale Tarn.

Although it was getting to late afternoon, we passed a lot of people who were heading up into the fells, surprisingly as there wasn't a great deal of light left in the day. Easedale Tarn is a beautiful setting and from here the walk back down towards Grasmere was excellent as we walked beside Sourmilk Gill before heading back into the village.

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