Bagging eight Wainwrights in a single walk, James Forrest takes on the iconic Coledale Round – one of the Lake District’s best horseshoe ridge hikes.
The Coledale Round, or Coledale Horseshoe if you prefer, is a high-level, summit-bagging loop of Coledale Beck – the stream that flows north-east from Eel Crag to Braithwaite, nestled in the steep-sided valley between Grisedale Pike and Outerside. It is one of the finest walks in the north-western fells, and a versatile Lakeland classic with an almost endless array of options.
Think of it as a tapas set menu, with tasty optional extras. The basic meal features six dishes – Outerside, Scar Crags, Sail, Crag Hill, Hopegill Head and Grisedale Pike – a gastronomic delight that will satisfy most palates. Hungrier participants won’t be able to resist ordering sides of Barrow and Causey Pike (the approach we’ve suggested here), while the greediest of all will somehow find room for Wandope, Grasmoor, Whiteless Pike and Whiteside.
The eight-dish serving starts with a wintry ascent of Grisedale Pike’s shapely eastern ridge, with panoramic views over Keswick, northern leviathan Skiddaw and ahead to the dark, brooding cliffs of Hobcarton Crag, plunging dramatically into a secret, craggy amphitheatre. And the delights keep coming. Hopegill Head has grandstand views of the Vale of Lorton; the lumpy-bumpy ridge from Scar Crags to Causey Pike’s knobbly summit is airy and delightful; and the grassy humps of Outerside and Barrow feel like two freebies for your Wainwright box-ticking. It’s a superb day out and, despite fierce competition from Mosedale, Kentmere, Deepdale and Newlands, some argue Coledale is the best horseshoe ridge walk in all of Lakeland.
The Coledale Round: route description
START/FINISH: The small car park off the B5292 Whinlatter Pass (GR: NY227237) | MAPS: OS Explorer OL4 (1:25k), OS Landranger 89 (1:50k), Harvey British Mountain Map Lake District (1:40k) | DISTANCE: 17km / 10.6 miles | ASCENT: 1,420m / 4,659ft | DURATION: 7 hours
1. NY227237: From the small car park, take the wooden steps heading north-west, marked ‘Public Footpath Grisedale Pike’ at a fingerpost sign. Climb on the good, clear path before looping sharply south over bracken-covered slopes. Go through a gate and continue on a grassy path that climbs west and then south-west to Kinn. Continue south-west on a wide grassy track, remembering to turn around to feast on the excellent views over Keswick and the Skiddaw Massif.
Veer west as the ascent steepens, passing the Lanty Well spring to gain the Sleet How ridge. The final push south-west and west for the top is along a rocky, narrowing arête, but there are no technical difficulties. Pass old metal fence posts and arrive at Grisedale Pike’s summit.
2. NY198225: Descend south-west following an old, derelict dry stone wall. The path briefly bends left and right before arriving at a col. Climb over rocky terrain – including a short section of easy scrambling – to reach the 739m top of Hobcarton Crag. Descend briefly west and, at a cairn, fork right to follow a wall to a col.
Climb the path ahead, sticking close to but safely away from the edge of the crags to the north, to reach Hopegill Head’s 770m summit.Retrace your steps down south-east briefly, fork right, descend to a mini col, and ascend easily ahead to the summit of Sand Hill. Descend south over loose, stony terrain to Coledale Hause. Directly ahead the ascent is blocked by crags, so fork right and ascend south along a stream. At a four-way junction, turn left and steadily climb north-east to Crag Hill’s trig pillar.
3. NY192203: Veer right and descend east along The Scar ridge – including some easy scrambling – to a col. Climb easily ahead to the summit of Sail, which is located slightly to the left off the main path. Descend north-east and east on the winding, zig-zagging switchbacks of a machine-built path to reach another col. Climb north-east to the cairned summit of Scar Crags. Descend the ridge east-north-east to a col and ascend easily over undulating, lumpy-bumpy terrain to Causey Pike’s dramatic summit. Re-trace your steps back to the col and fork right on a shortcut path curving west and then north to High Moss. Climb ahead to the summit of Outerside. Descend north-east to Low Moss, skirt south-east around Stile End on narrow trods to Barrow Door, and ascend gently east and north-east to gain the summit of Barrow, the final Wainwright of the day.
4. NY227218: Descend Barrow’s north ridge on a good, well-trodden path. Ignore a turn-off to the left bearing towards Barrow Gill and instead continue north-north-east to Braithwaite Lodge. Pass through the gated farmyard and through a field to arrive at the road. Turn left and head north-north-west through the village. Cross the bridge over Coledale Beck and pass the Royal Oak pub to arrive at the B5292 Whinlatter Pass. Turn left on the narrow road, taking care of traffic, and ascend the road west and then north. As the road steepens, arrive back at the small car park at the foot of Grisedale Pike’s eastern ridge to complete the Coledale Round.
PUBLIC TRANSPORT: Take Stagecoach’s Keswick-Workington X5 bus and alight at Braithwaite.
TOURIST INFORMATION: www.visitlakedistrict.com
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