Hello, my name is Mal Tabb.
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Saturday, 11 August 2012

Nethermost Pike via East Ridge

Nethermost Pike's East Ridge
With: on my own

Weather: temperature 22degC in Patterdale; light winds; any cloud above the summits - a glorious summer's day

Where: Lake District

Distance: 9.5 miles

Height Gain: 2,930 feet

Like most folk who enjoy spending time in the fells I have a long  "to do list" and Nethermost Pike via the East Ridge has been on it for some time. Good weather and the proximity of the Glenridding / Patterdale area to my new base made yesterdays choice an easy one.

The drive past a flat calm Ullswater packed with holiday makers   enjoying the sunshine gave early warning of how busy the southern end of the lake might be and in the end I had to find a parking space on the Patterdale Hotel car park (by no means the most expensive parking in the National Park).

A short trudge up the road from the car park, past the church and hang a left towards Grisedale Tarn. Initially the shade of the trees held the sun at bay but once past the plantations the heat was searing. Its quite a while since I've ventured out in this area and it was good to reminisce about a day spent on St Sunday Crag & Cofa Pike with Kay and the girls when on holiday in the area what must have been well over fifteen years ago. After a steady plod up the valley the appearance of Ruthwaite Lodge, the landmark I was aiming for, almost came as a surprise.

Ruthwaite Lodge
Mine Entrance Behind Lodge
Just behind the lodge is a mine entrance and what looks to me like some open workings, this not an area of Lake District mining that I am very familiar with but I assume this is Ruthwaite Lead Mine.

Looking into Ruthwaite Cove is quite an impressive sight and I had already made up my mind to access the ridge after a short exploration of the cove before I set off. This is a pathless area but I quite like walking where there are no paths, for those who prefer navigating via a path Wainwright refers to a faint track leading to the east ridge from the Nethermost Cove area.

Ruthwaite Cove

This was one of the best parts of the day. Following the beck and generally trending to the right throughout the ascent the isolation was incredible, in fact after seeing a handful of folk around the lodge I never saw another soul until I descended back down to Grisedale Tarn perhaps a couple of hours later.

I never got right into the very heart of the cove - opting to ascend up on to the obvious ridge. 

Generally speaking the east ridge is quite broad with a more precipitous drop on the Nethermost Cove side. For the most part it is no more than a steep walk, however, I took every opportunity to engage hands and feet on rock and feel this made for a better ascent, although it must be said that to simply walk is possible just about through the entire length of the ascent. The views across to Striding Edge are excellent. The highlight of the East Ridge is undoubtedly the last rocky 30-50m of "arete" which is quite enjoyable and left me thinking what this area must have been like several millennia ago before the eroding effect of wind and rain took its effect. Hard Tarn viewed from above was good to see and I'd like to think closer inspection might be possible one day.

St Sunday Crag From East Ridge

A final grassy stomp led on to a deserted Nethermost Pike summit, in fact the whole of the Helvellyn ridge was deserted - incredible on a fine summers afternoon in the middle of the school holidays.

On this occasion I turned my back on Helvellyn's summit and headed south across what is almost a plateau in the direction of Grisedale Tarn. Dollywagon Pike was by-passed and the descent began. It was at this point that I encountered humans again!

The tarn is an impressive sight and in my opinion the efforts of the National Park in stone pitching on this path are some of their better ones.

Grisedale Tarn
The walk back out through Grisedale was a pleasure with the sun now getting lower in the sky, the time about seven o'clock. The rugged mountain scenery gradually giving way to a more pastoral setting, the sun on the Scots Pine making them glow bright red.

So what of the East Ridge? For me it was worth doing, not as exciting as its more well known cousin Striding Edge, but as an alternative and quieter point of access to the Helvellyn range its a good option.

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