Saint Sunday Crag

It’s been on my to-do list for a while and the opportunity presented itself a few weeks ago during the planning stage of a geocaching idea. Come to Grisedale, decide on the geocache spot then go up Saint Sunday Crag.

However after my recent walk up Fleetwith Pike I felt bold enough to take the direct route (did I say bold enough? I meant just about fit enough) and go straight up Birks, get onto the high ground and enjoy the high level walk to Saint Sunday. Sounds great on paper. Sounds like a plan.


Ullswater  looking very blue, probably quite choppy out on a boat.

The view

The view back towards the enclosing fells beyond Glenridding and Patterdale.

I like the

I like the signs of life and business around Ullswater. Not as manic as Bowness and there are plenty of other places if you want absolute solitude.

Down by Ullswater the weather was having a tantrum; boiling hot then freezing cold, but by the time I was at the foot of Birks the sun was out, it was three layer walking. Some bright spark decided that a staircase up Birks was a good idea and whilst I understand how steps prevent footpath erosion they’re hard to climb, harder than a steep footpath.

Thornhow End, the eastern bit of Birks, appears through the trees.

Thornhow End, the eastern bit of Birks, appears through the trees.

Elevation gained and fine views down into Grisedale and the coniferous playground of the Patterdale Hall estate I ended up on a traversing footpath below Birks summit and here was where the wind introduced itself. I knew things were serious when I saw a couple who looked like they were coming down from K2.

Ullswater beyond the Patterdale estate.

Ullswater beyond the Patterdale estate.

Grisedale valley heads off west. My proposed geocache location should be down there somewhere!

Grisedale valley heads off west. My proposed geocache location should be down there somewhere!


The climb up Thornhow End takes you past some ancient Birch trees.

Can you feel the wind

Can you feel the wind starting to blow around you?

The bobcap and a hood eased the sense of intensity from the gale, but it still made staying upright problematic. It was one of those intermittent howlers, the kind I first encountered in Grains Gill. What I thought was an RAF jet coming up the valley was an approaching front, which arrived with all the tempestuous nastiness of a hurricane . . . then calm. Ten minutes later the sound of jets was coming again, same tempest, and on and on all the way up the valley.

There it is

There it is, Saint Sunday Crag keeping a beady eye on Dollywagon Pike and Nethermost Pike across Grisedale. Difficult to stand up here.

The same jet engine winds were blowing up here and the closer I was to Saint Sunday, the greater the thrust! The path up the narrow end looked lethal in this wind so I followed the path along the cove towards The Cape (Wrath). As if things couldn’t get any worse I was virtually blown off my feet, something I haven’t experienced since my forced sit down arrival on Skiddaw a few years ago.

Gavel Pike, a Wainwright that Wainwright left out, was fifty metres away, but I didn’t think I’d get there alive. When I made it to the rocks and shelter I looked behind me and saw for the first time where the wind had been brewing.

The rough side of the Lakes.

The rough side of the Lakes, but also sublimely beautiful, impressive, outrageous. . . .

From the Vale of Grasmere, Fairfield, Dollywagon Pike, Nethermost Pike and Helvellyn look like sublime, proud rounded fells, all big and bumbly. But from Gavel Pike you see the arse-end of these monsters with their ghylls and fissures, their prehistoric erosion and tectonic immensity. The colossal roughness is in sharp contrast to the mathematical perfection of the slope that sweeps up to Coledale Hause, all tense and taught, strung out from Saint Sunday to Cofa Pike.

That was the source of the wind, the turbulence generated by a south westerly roaring over the lofty scoop of Deepdale and through the grinding gap at the head of Grisedale.

So, decision. A simpe one: would I die between here and the summit of Saint Sunday? Up on the top a human figure appeared and didn’t look like a speck in the distance, so I went for it, on all fours at one point and reached the bouldery tumble of the summit. A bit blustery would be an understatement, but the views. . . .

The summit cairn on Saint Sunday Crag.

The summit cairn on Saint Sunday Crag.


Grisedale Tarn lying like a pewter plate between Fairfield, Seat Sandal and Dollywagon Pike. The Scafells on the horizon.


Across the moonscape of Saint Sunday looking back across northern England. I don’t know how far this view goes on for.

Remember I was supposed to be scouting Grisedale for a geocache location and in an ideal world I would have ventured onto Coledale Hause and dropped down to Grisedale Tarn. But in an ideal world I’d be a millionaire, author of several succesful novels and the owner of Valencia football club. But it isn’t and I’m not (times three). In the real world I’d be blown off the Hause like a plastic bag.


Birks lonely summit cairn.

From Birks, the views across to Hartsop and the High Street range beyond.

From Birks, the views across to Hartsop and the High Street range beyond.

The journey back was over Birks summit, a lonely fell but with grand views toward Hartsop, Place Fell and of course Ullswater. I concluded this is my favourite lake, favourite valley. Yes, it’s crowded on tourist summer days, but it’s just populated enough to not feel isolated (eg Haweswater), but not overpopulated like Windermere. Fifty metres either side of the main road and you’re spoiled for choice and how many people have you seen wandering up Deepdale or falling off Sheffield Pike.

The lamb has the right idea today.

The lamb has the right idea today.

But the wind, the wind today was a killer. A pint in the The Inn on the Lake eased the pain and chicken satay back at a Chinese restaurant in Ambleside did everything else. And I’ll have to go back to Grisedale to choose that geocache location.*

That view of Ullswater one more time.

That view of Ullswater one more time.

*A geocache treasure trail involving five different sites, created as part of a promotion campaign for my second novel coming out in June. (Or just a clever excuse to keep going back up to the Lakes.)


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