Walk Report: St. Sunday Crag

Date: 24th Mar 2008
Stats: 10.0 miles, 2900 feet
Weather: Clear and sunny, deep snow, very cold and windy on the tops
Trig Points: 0
Wainwrights: 3: Arnison Crag, Birks, St. Sunday Crag
Other Info: Free parking and toilets in Patterdale village, gets very busy!
Summary: Patterdale, Arnison Crag, Birks, St. Sunday Crag, Deepdale Hause, Grisedale Tarn, Grisedale Forest path to Patterdale


Key to symbols:
= Wainwright Summit

Rob was available this weekend for a walk and despite wanting to do Scafell Pike, I sort of vetoed the idea on the basis of the recent weather and the fact that I own neither ice axe or crampons, both of which I felt would be needed for an ascent of the tallest peak in England. As it was we decided to do St. Sunday Crag instead and we could have made good use of both these items of equipment, as well as snow shoes!

St. Sunday Crag from Patterdale
Oxford Crag, the first (but by no means the last) steep climb of the day

St. Sunday Crag from Patterdale
More artistic folk have already passed this way (but not today)

As we reached the snow line, Rob marked our names in the snow by the path. He became a little upset that I had a walking nickname and he didn’t. We spent the next 5 hours trying to come up with something suitable, with varying degrees of success. He insisted on the name being something walking related and appropriately rugged and manly. Finally on the way home in the car, after dismissing several hundred options during the day he roared his approval at my suggestion of Tex Gore!! A name to strike fear into the hearts of evil madmen everywhere (or at least those who wander the hills of Lakeland).

St. Sunday Crag from Patterdale
Catstye Cam poking its head above the ridge leading to Striding Edge, the wall in the centre contains ‘Hole-in-the-wall’

St. Sunday Crag from Patterdale
The beautiful vistas we experienced today were unprecedented, I’ve never walked anywhere so glorious

St. Sunday Crag from Patterdale
Hartsop, sheltered in the valley, backed by Hartsop Dodd and Gray Crag

St. Sunday Crag from Patterdale
Birks

Our path up the side of Birks follows the thin dotted line from middle left, which is the old broken wall. Following the broken wall up the side of Birks was slippery going, with the snow getting deeper and covering the stones and rocks.

St. Sunday Crag from Patterdale
On the ascent of Birks, another steep slope.

The snow was by now well over a foot deep in places, drifting even deeper in parts. There is no path here, even when there’s no snow, so its just a matter of picking your way up the side of the hill.

St. Sunday Crag from Patterdale
Snow is drifting to knee level now and we keep falling into deep drifts

St. Sunday Crag from Patterdale
Wherever we looked there were stunning views. The weather was superb for winter walking. Although it was bitterly cold in the wind, with a wind chill factor of something like -10 degrees, there was no haze to spoil the long shots.

St. Sunday Crag from Patterdale
Rob approaching St. Sunday Crag across the windswept tundra – now there’s a word you don’t use very often 🙂

St. Sunday Crag from Patterdale
Looking across the snowdrifts towards St. Sunday Crag

St. Sunday Crag from Patterdale
Snow tracks, very deep in places, on approach to St. Sunday Crag

St. Sunday Crag from Patterdale
An almost Alpine quality to this shot of Rob approaching St. Sunday Crag. Much deeper drifts now, above the knee as we climb higher.

St. Sunday Crag from Patterdale
Very windy, with snow being driven across the summit of St. Sunday Crag

St. Sunday Crag from Patterdale
Me on a very, very windy and bitterly cold summit of St. Sunday Crag. The water has frozen in the tube of my Platypus

I have four layers on the top and two on the bottom. Fortunately the only cold part of me is my ankles. When you’re walking through deep snow, it gets over the tops of your boots and in the cuffs of your trousers, I’m not complaining though – this is going to be a hard walk to beat in 2008.

St. Sunday Crag from Patterdale
Helvellyn (right) and Striding Edge (far right) from St. Sunday Crag

St. Sunday Crag from Patterdale
Fairfield from the path down St. Sunday Crag

St. Sunday Crag from Patterdale
Inverted footprints in the snow on the way down St. Sunday Crag. Snow compressed beneath a boot is revealed as the loose snow around it is blown away

St. Sunday Crag from Patterdale
Grisedale Tarn (looking like a
puddle of mercury) with Seat Sandal behind, from the path down St. Sunday Crag

St. Sunday Crag from Patterdale
The path up to Fairfield (left), Grisedale Tarn and Seat Sandal (centre) and our path to Patterdale below Dollywaggon Pike (right)

St. Sunday Crag from Patterdale
Fairfield looms ahead.

Rob is wearing every layer he has brought with him and he tells me he is just about warm enough. The wind chill is around -10 we guess. It is here we meet the first walker of the day – several hours into our walk – he has just walked up from Deepdale. He is somewhat surprised to see us and we all try to avoid the wide yellow stain he has just left in the pristine snow bank nearby.

St. Sunday Crag from Patterdale
Hart Crag from St. Sunday Crag

St. Sunday Crag from Patterdale
Another shot of Hart Crag, taken from Deepdale Hause. Its about to get hairy from here!

St. Sunday Crag from Patterdale
The descent from St. Sunday Crag – hairy at times, but great fun

At Deepdale Hause, I had planned to follow the narrow path down to Grisedale Tarn, avoiding the climb up to Fairfield. However, the snow had completely obliterated the path and we spent an uncomfortable 40 minutes slipping and scrambling down to the tarn. The snow had filled the gulleys and without the path to aid us, we both dropped into deep drifts, sometimes up to our waists, where we had to roll down the drift to more stable surfaces. Despite one or two hairy moments, we both agreed it was a lot of fun – but only once we reached the path by the tarn.

St. Sunday Crag from Patterdale
We’ve been skittering over hidden rocks, wading across snow filled gulleys and scrambling over frozen rocks and grass for 20 minutes now and we’re still a long way from the tarn.

Despite Rob’s suggestion, we couldn’t cut north down the side of St. Sunday crag towards the valley, as we were separated from the path home by Grisedale Beck and a steep climb on the other side of the beck. We had to push on to the tarn and pick up the path there.

St. Sunday Crag from Patterdale
20 minutes later and we’re almost at Grisedale Tarn. The weather, a capricious beast at the best of times in the Lakes, has closed in. We’d got down from the peaks not a moment too soon. Fortunately it changed back within 15 minutes, to clear skies.

We didn’t linger at the tarn. Preferring instead to push on for the warmth of the car at Patterdale. We started to meet lots of other walkers now, from both directions. The path is treacherous and icy, and runs between deep snow, thanks to many many boots. But it’s heaven compared to the scramble we just experienced down the side of St. Sunday Crag.

St. Sunday Crag from Patterdale
Ahead, the snow gives way to grass on the fellside

St. Sunday Crag from Patterdale
Ruthwaite Lodge – a landmark on the Coast to Coast – only 80 minutes to Patterdale from here

St. Sunday Crag from Patterdale
Catstye Cam

St. Sunday Crag from Patterdale
Snow storm on the way back to Patterdale

St. Sunday Crag from Patterdale
Ullswater

We ended the walk by spending over 3 hours in Bank Holiday traffic on the M6.

To coin a phrase from Rambling Pete: Walking…. it’s great… Traffic… it sucks!!

lonewalker

Fell-walker, trig-pointer, peak-bagger, Wainwright-er & Pennine Way author, with a passion for long paths, malt whisky, fast cars & Man City

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