Author Topic: TR - Helvellyn via Hard Tarn wild camp  (Read 749 times)

richardh1905

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TR - Helvellyn via Hard Tarn wild camp
« on: 15:20:21, 06/09/20 »
TR - Helvellyn via Hard Tarn

A wild camp at remote Hard Tarn, followed by a promenade along the Helvellyn tops, and a descent down Sticks Pass past the old mine workings at Greenside.

3rd-4th September 2020


I have had my eye on Hard Tarn as the site for a wild camp for a while now, remote, difficult to get to, and in a dramatic setting – the perfect ingredients for the full mountain experience as far as I am concerned.



Viewranger route HERE

I allowed 4 hours for the walk in with a heavy pack, so there was no need to set off early. I like to be heading off up into the hills as the last of the day walkers are coming down. I parked at Hartsop, gave a donation of £3, and was on my way by 1515.

I tried out the permissive path that runs parallel to the main road along the west side of the valley; this was not very satisfactory, in my opinion, and soon ended, leaving me to follow the roadside path to Patterdale. My return route down the quiet eastern side of the valley was much nicer. The weather was pleasant though, and Place Fell in particular looked lovely in the afternoon sunshine.


Place Fell from near Patterdale


Northwards from the Broad How bridge in Patterdale

I couldn’t resist a swift socially distanced pint at the Patterdale Hotel before heading up the road to Grisedale. I have descended down Grisedale a couple of times in the past after a day on the hill, and have been frustrated by how long the valley was for tired legs, but this evening I enjoyed it. The route really is lovely, through verdant farmland, then beside woods, before emerging into the wilder country beyond.


The minor road up Grisedale winds through verdant farmland. Hard Tarn lurks at the head of Ruthwaite Cove, visible in the centre of the photograph.

The tarmac ends, and is replaced by a farm track. This turns into a path that starts to climb into the upper reaches of the valley.


The path climbs towards Grisedale Tarn. Cofa Pike rearing up to the left, Dollywaggon Pike to the right.

After crossing the footbridge over Grisedale Beck, I followed the path up to Ruthwaite Lodge, a climbing hut – I can imagine this to be quite a cosy place to be in winter, in good company with the fire roaring after a hard day on the fells – reminds me of my university mountaineering club days.


The hard work begins. A faint path can be seen above the minor mine workings in the centre of the photo, this traverses sharp right below the crags and emerges above the waterfalls before petering out.


Looking back down Grisedale from near Ruthwaite Lodge

I left the main Grisedale path at Ruthwaite Lodge, and headed directly up the hillside, past some old workings and then through bracken, before finding a path of sorts that traversed into Ruthwaite Cove above the waterfalls.



I still had a lot of hard work to do though, it was tough going in the pathless valley, and I made an unwelcome discovery – whilst crossing a boggy patch, I experienced an unpleasant wetness on the inside of my left foot, and found that a long split had opened up in the leather of my boot where it meets the rand – oh well, that’s the end of another pair of boots. At least I had some dry socks in a plastic bag lurking in the depths of my rucksack.

Onwards and upwards, slow going, but eventually I tackled some steeper ground and started angling to the right, to where I thought that the tarn would be. My instincts didn’t let me down, and I emerged over a rocky lip to find the tarn before me.


Hard Tarn – at last! St Sunday Crag across the valley.

It was now 1900, and the weather was a bit threatening, so time to get the tent up and settle in. In fact it started raining whilst I was pitching the tent and I got a bit wet. It was good to zip myself in for the night!

I could see from the clouds racing overhead that it was quite windy on top, and from time to time a strong gust found its way down into Ruthwaite Cove and gave the tent a good shaking. But the wind died down in the early hours, and I got enough sleep. In the morning, the weather was somewhat better, and I was able to savour the remoteness of my location, an airy perch high up in the cove. After a couple of Quaker Oat bars I was on my way.

I had been debating how to escape from Ruthwaite Cove – I didn’t fancy climbing the rocky east ridge of Nethermost Pike in the strong westerly wind that I could see was still rushing over the tops, especially when encumbered by a full pack, and I didn’t fancy The Tongue leading up to Dollywaggon Pike either. To retreat down the valley would have been a real wimp out, so I decided to have a look at the steep grass and scree at the head of Ruthwaite Cove. I had read on someone’s blog that there was a path there, but all I could see was a nasty looking scree gully. I approached with some trepidation…


Hard Tarn in the morning, High Crag beyond. I climbed the steep grass and scree to escape the cove.


My Lightwave T10 Trek beside Hard Tarn, the Tongue of Dollywaggon Pike beyond

The climb up the grass and scree was unpleasant, and is not for the faint hearted. I shortened one of my walking poles so that I could traverse up the slope, swapping poles when I changed direction. I remembered from my childhood some McHaggis creatures in a cartoon strip that had shorter legs on one side so that they could run around the steep hillsides.

The nastiest part of the climb was crossing an unstable scree gully about half way up, mostly small stuff but with some larger leg breaking rocks in amongst it. I picked my way gingerly across onto slightly easier slopes beyond. The final headwall steepened, and I used my hands to cling on to the grass. The end was in sight though, one last burst of energy and I was there, a moment of elation as I broke out onto the summit plateau.


Looking down from the steep climb up the headwall of Ruthwaite Cove.

But my goodness it was windy on top. I stopped to put on some extra layers as I was cooling rapidly after my hot climb – I made sure that I didn’t put my rucksack down too close to the edge! The top of High Crag was just a short distance away to the south, so I abandoned the rucksack for a few minutes to enjoy the view from the top.



Hard Tarn and Grisedale from High Crag, Ullswater visible in the distance. The east ridge of Nethermost Pike is visible to the left – it looks rather intimidating, to say the least.

By now I had made my mind up to head north over Helvellyn and see where my feet took me. I had considered heading south over Dollywaggon Pike and then on to Fairfield and St Sunday Crag, but that would involve losing a lot of height, and Helvellyn was so close…

After picking up my rucksack, I headed north over the broad summit of Nethermost Pike, and I smugly started to think that I might be the first person to climb Helvellyn today – only to see two figures appear beside the summit shelter ahead – I had to laugh!

The path is not steep, and I was soon at the shelter myself, where I took a break – time 0850.


Striding Edge with Catstycam beyond.

The wind was really whistling over the tops, and there was some rain in the air – a good testing of my new Mountain Equipment Tupilak jacket. I was heading into the wind as I continued past the summit towards Lower Man, the north top of Helvellyn, wind ‘strong enough to impede progress’, as they say on the mountain weather forecasts. The wind eased as I descended northwards, and I started to meet a few early starters on their way up. The wind was particularly vicious between Lower Man and Whiteside, funnelled up the valley to the west, but eased off again as I climbed over Whiteside and then descended towards Raise. I took the opportunity to cram some more food down, calorie packed crushed oatcakes and squirty cheese, the remnants of my evening meal.


Red Tarn far below


The view south from Helvellyn.


Catstycam and Helvellyn from the north, clouds skimming the top.

I was feeling a bit cold and was tempted to descend eastwards down the Keppel Cove path, but, fortified by my meal and the sight of better conditions on the lower hills to the north, I pressed on over Raise instead. I had had enough by the time that I dropped down to the top of Sticks Pass though, so I took the path eastwards, out of the wind at last.


Descending Sticks Pass towards Greenside Mine, Sheffield Pike and the High Street range beyond.

I enjoyed the descent down Sticks Pass, it was a relief to be out of the wind. The path was rough and eroded in places, but the beck below was interesting, and the smaller streams flowing down off the upper slopes of Greenside gave me an opportunity to refill my water bottle before I reached the lead mines.


One of the small streams descending the slopes of Greenside. I filtered the water.

Lower down, the path levelled off as it skirted a boggy flat area, formerly a reservoir for the mines, I believe. The mine workings at Greenside are extensive, and extended from the top of the ridge all the way down to 100m below sea level. Greenside was at one time the largest lead mine in Britain, and finally closed in the early 1960’s. More details on the mine can be found HERE, and some underground photographs HERE. The upper spoil tips are actually quite attractive when viewed from space!


The upper part of Greenside mine. The holes in the fellside above are caused by the collapse of the mine workings.

After poking around a bit, I crossed a footbridge over the beck and started to descend towards Glenridding. The ground drops away steeply, and the path zig zags pleasingly down a craggy hillside covered in juniper.


Glenridding from the top of the zig zags, a pleasant spot to take a break.


The path descends by a series of zig zags through juniper woods. Catstycam brooding over the valley.

Easy walking down the rough road took me into Glenridding, but the weather turned and it rained for an hour or so. I took refuge in The White Lion in Patterdale and enjoyed an excellent pint of “Razorback”.

The rain had passed by the time that I emerged, and I enjoyed a lovely walk back to Hartsop along a series of bridleways and paths that run down the eastern side of the valley, well away from the road, a pleasing contrast to the harsher environment of the high fell tops.


I passed through lovely open oak woodland on the way back to Hartsop.


Dramatic skies above Kirkstone Pass.

Angle Tarn Beck cascades down the steep hillside.


Almost back – tranquil Brothers Water bathed in sunlight.

It had been quite a tough but intensely satisfying outing into the hills, 17 miles in total with around 4000′ of ascent.
« Last Edit: 17:19:26, 06/09/20 by richardh1905 »
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karl h

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Re: TR - Helvellyn via Hard Tarn wild camp
« Reply #1 on: 16:58:33, 06/09/20 »
That's brilliant Richard, O0  I love Hard Tarn, never climbed out by that crazy way, I thought the East ridge of Nethermost was bad enough ;D
show your love for Lady Nature. And she will come back again.
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April

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Re: TR - Helvellyn via Hard Tarn wild camp
« Reply #2 on: 17:51:25, 06/09/20 »
Great stuff Richard  O0 Grisedale is a lovely valley  :)


Karl, don't get any ideas for your Kut Price Tours. We won't be climbing up that slope  :D
"Who would've thought...... you are light and darkness coming through" words by Tim Armstrong

henryb

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Re: TR - Helvellyn via Hard Tarn wild camp
« Reply #3 on: 19:33:27, 06/09/20 »
Great report and photos Richard, really like the Catstycam shot O0

richardh1905

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Re: TR - Helvellyn via Hard Tarn wild camp
« Reply #4 on: 20:16:59, 06/09/20 »
That's brilliant Richard, O0  I love Hard Tarn, never climbed out by that crazy way, I thought the East ridge of Nethermost was bad enough ;D

Thanks Karl, Hard Tarn is in a very dramatic spot. I must try the East Ridge sometime, but it will be on a calmer day, and with a light day sack!


Great stuff Richard  O0 Grisedale is a lovely valley  :)

Karl, don't get any ideas for your Kut Price Tours. We won't be climbing up that slope  :D

Thanks April - I'm not likely to be climbing that slope again, and it is even less likely that I will ever descend it !  :o   BANNED.


Great report and photos Richard, really like the Catstycam shot O0

Thanks Henry. I have yet to climb Catstycam - I will save it for when I go up Swirral Edge.
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richardh1905

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Re: TR - Helvellyn via Hard Tarn wild camp
« Reply #5 on: 07:32:14, 07/09/20 »
@Karl ... I've been reading an old TR of yours, from way back in 2010, where you camped at Hard Tarn and then climbed Nethermost East Ridge in the snow!

Now I love walking in winter conditions, but I'm not sure that I would tackle ground like that with a heavy pack!


@April ... and I see that you have been up The Tongue in 2013. Sadly, Photobucket have spoilt your photos by plastering a banner across the middle of them (one of the reasons that I have started a wordpress blog, by the way).
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April

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Re: TR - Helvellyn via Hard Tarn wild camp
« Reply #6 on: 08:31:25, 07/09/20 »

I'm not likely to be climbing that slope again, and it is even less likely that I will ever descend it !  :o   BANNED.


On our banned list up and down  ;D



@April ... and I see that you have been up The Tongue in 2013. Sadly, Photobucket have spoilt your photos by plastering a banner across the middle of them (one of the reasons that I have started a wordpress blog, by the way).


We did it in 2015 as well. If you open the same TR's on a tablet or phone the pics still show. I migrated to Flickr when Photobucket started wanting to charge an absolute fortune to host the pics. I still have all my pics saved on DVD discs too.
"Who would've thought...... you are light and darkness coming through" words by Tim Armstrong

richardh1905

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Re: TR - Helvellyn via Hard Tarn wild camp
« Reply #7 on: 09:10:20, 07/09/20 »
On our banned list up and down  ;D 
Now on mine too!  :D


Quote
We did it in 2015 as well. If you open the same TR's on a tablet or phone the pics still show. I migrated to Flickr when Photobucket started wanting to charge an absolute fortune to host the pics. I still have all my pics saved on DVD discs too.


Yes, photobucket are rats and not to be trusted under any circumstances - ruined an account I had on a non walking related forum.
I have my photos on the phone micro SD card (I put in a new card when full and store the old one), on my computer's hard disk (less safe), on imgbb (unknown quantity in the longer term), on Wordpress (photos uploaded to their site), and I also keep a backup copy of the Wordpress site locally, using HTTrack website copier.


So hopefully I am well covered!
« Last Edit: 11:21:16, 07/09/20 by richardh1905 »
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Dodgylegs

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Re: TR - Helvellyn via Hard Tarn wild camp
« Reply #8 on: 12:11:52, 07/09/20 »
Richard once again enjoyed reading and viewing, really liked 'Looking down from the steep climb up the headwall of Ruthwaite Cove.' photo. Your photos really do the area justice.


Notice you didn't mention swimming in the Tarn this time!


Sarah Pitht

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Re: TR - Helvellyn via Hard Tarn wild camp
« Reply #9 on: 15:56:57, 07/09/20 »
Yet another great TR and photos. I do like your style (similar to April and Beefy's) of finding interesting routes - although possibly that climb out of Ruthwaite Cove might have been a bit too interesting for me!! ::) 


Looking forward to next weekend's TR! :)

Bigfoot_Mike

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Re: TR - Helvellyn via Hard Tarn wild camp
« Reply #10 on: 16:05:23, 07/09/20 »
An excellent report Richard. Was this a trip without Tess? I remember some very strong winds between Lower Man and Hellvellyn where legs were blown sideways when not in contact with the ground. Razorback is not a bad pint at all, but is quite far from home in the Lake District.

MkPotato

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Re: TR - Helvellyn via Hard Tarn wild camp
« Reply #11 on: 16:45:32, 07/09/20 »
That’s a great report, and great route. I’ve looked down Grisedale a few times, and it looks very inviting. I guess most people do just that - look down on it. It’s interesting seeing Striding Edge from the other side. Normally you’re either on it, or looking at it from Helvellyn summit or Swirral.


I quite fancy doing a Grisedale/Deepdale combo.

richardh1905

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Re: TR - Helvellyn via Hard Tarn wild camp
« Reply #12 on: 16:53:42, 07/09/20 »
Richard once again enjoyed reading and viewing, really liked 'Looking down from the steep climb up the headwall of Ruthwaite Cove.' photo. Your photos really do the area justice.

Notice you didn't mention swimming in the Tarn this time!


Thanks DodgyLegs  :)  The view looking back down Ruthwaite Cove once you have climbed out of it is much better than the view looking up at the headwall knowing that you HAVE to climb up it! But finally breaking out onto the summit plateau really was one of those moments to savour - as I said in the report, a moment of elation.


And the thought of a swim never entered my mind, for some reason!
« Last Edit: 17:42:07, 07/09/20 by richardh1905 »
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richardh1905

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Re: TR - Helvellyn via Hard Tarn wild camp
« Reply #13 on: 16:55:42, 07/09/20 »
Yet another great TR and photos. I do like your style (similar to April and Beefy's) of finding interesting routes - although possibly that climb out of Ruthwaite Cove might have been a bit too interesting for me!! ::) 


Looking forward to next weekend's TR! :)


Thanks Sarah  :)  Not sure where I'll go yet - might be a family day walk, or, as I have taken early retirement, maybe I'll sneak off on my own on Monday for an overnighter. I prefer wild camping during the week if possible - quieter.
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richardh1905

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Re: TR - Helvellyn via Hard Tarn wild camp
« Reply #14 on: 17:01:22, 07/09/20 »
An excellent report Richard. Was this a trip without Tess? I remember some very strong winds between Lower Man and Hellvellyn where legs were blown sideways when not in contact with the ground. Razorback is not a bad pint at all, but is quite far from home in the Lake District.


Thanks Mike  :)
No Tess this time, not sure I want an excitable wet spaniel in a small one man tent! And whilst she would have managed climbing up the steep grass and scree, legs scrabbling furiously, I would have had to let her off the lead and keep an eye on her, too much of a distraction on steep ground.


The Razorback was excellent, a well earned pint. I was on a bit of a high after my little adventure, and they were playing some early Cure in the pub.
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