Hills: Stone Arthur
Classification: Wainwright (128)
When: Thursday 18 July
Who: Me and the mountaineering minion
Distance: About 3 1/2 miles
Time: 2 ½ hours, including breaks
Weather: Cloudy, but above summits. The odd shower
Post walk drink: Crafty Pale Ale
Post walk watering hole: The Crafty Baa, Windermere
Uses of the arse crampon: MIA again
Mishaps: Drink related (though not alcohol related this time); packing
Time of journey to time of walk ratio: About 3:1
Since the end of our holiday in Keswick, there has been no walking of any substance done – and being honest very little exercise. A very busy period of work hasn’t helped on either front, but at least we had a planned break to look forward to attending the Hawkshead Beer Festival – Stuart was originally meant to be away working that week and travelling to the Lakes separately, so I’d decided to travel up early and try and fit in some walking. Inevitably once we had booked things it turned out Stuart wasn’t going to be away after all but I decided I would still travel up – this time we were staying at Windermere as I wanted to see whether it made a decent base for walking as well as for other stuff to do.
Earlier in the week, the weather for the whole few days looked to be pretty good. However, as time moved on the forecast gradually got worse with Friday now in particular looking dubious. Thursday looked decent, but I had an early morning meeting that morning which couldn’t be rearranged, so travelling up the previous night (or very early on the Thursday) wasn’t an option. A plan was hatched… it was going to be one of those walks where the journey to the hill took far longer than the actual walk. I would leave work as soon as I could once my meeting was over, work on the train, drop my bags at my B&B in Windermere and take advantage of the long days to cram in a walk in the late afternoon/ early evening. Given I have done a lot of the smaller hills or shorter walks in the South of the district already, and would be reliant on buses, this didn’t leave me too many options – but one obvious one was Stone Arthur near Grasmere.
Regular readers of my blog may remember that this is a sort of bogey hill for me. It’s (so far) the only Wainwright I have ever turned back on, in horrendous weather (pouring rain, wind and zero visibility) back in March 2018, though the reason I turned ultimately was to do with the path having fallen away. I’d heard that the path had now been sorted out courtesy of Fix the Fells, and it being a relatively short walk it fit the bill for what I was looking for, though I had remembered it being very steep (at least the bit I had actually done) and I was feeling pretty unfit. Never mind, it was only about 400m of slog and even feeling unfit I was pretty confident I could manage that!
24 hours before leaving the plan looked as though it would get derailed as work got really busy with various things being landed on me at the last minute and by close of play Wednesday it’s safe to say I was feeling pretty stressed, and ended up doing my packing in a rush – which is always fatal. However on Thursday itself things worked pretty seamlessly. I managed to leave work in time to be on a train at Euston at 11.30, used the train journey productively by reading some work stuff I hadn’t had time to previously, made a tight connection at Oxenholme, and dropped my bags at my B&B shortly after 3. Having got changed into my walking gear at work all I had to do was fill up my hydration bladder, put on my boots and head for the bus stop and was on a bus at Windermere train station at 3.45.
This seemed to take forever to get to Grasmere and mishap 1 became evident around Ambleside when my hydration bladder somehow got squashed and half the contents ended up all over me and also the floor of the bus. Argh! However, I still had half of it left which would be enough for a short walk, though I did have a wet backside. Oh well, it would dry off so long as the rain didn’t come in… I was dropped at the Swan hotel shortly after 4.30 and it was a case of head down and get going, taking the minor road which heads up towards Greenhead Gill, then a stone pitched path which cuts steeply up the hill beside a wall.
I hadn’t liked this path much on my first attempt – it probably didn’t help that it was pouring with rain and I always find stone pitching a pain in the wet as it gets so slippy. However, today it was dry and although it was still pretty steep it was a much better experience, although there was a heck of a lot of bracken and at times I felt I could have done with a machete to hack my way through it. Eventually there is a break from the steepness and the path cuts across the hillside contouring at a pretty gentle angle and rising up to where I’d had to turn back before. This was a completely different experience – the views were great, the rain was holding off and the path builders had made an excellent job of re-routing the path above the tricky bit.
Eventually, the path cuts back on itself and turns steeply up a ridge heading for the prominent summit rocks. This was, though fairly steep, easy enough walking although as I headed up it started to rain. Curses! I suppose it was inevitable given my previous experience with the hill… however the rain soon stopped and at around 5.45 I was at the outcrop with its very small cairn which marks the summit. Given how prominent the hill looks from Grasmere it is surprising how little drop and re-ascent there is on the ridge up to Great Rigg. The views were great though and I chilled out for quite a while at the top taking them in.
I ended up wandering a bit further up the ridge to Great Rigg afterwards – not really sure why but I slightly lost track of time and didn’t really have enough daylight to go all the way up to Great Rigg and back down over Heron Pike which I might have thought about if it had been earlier in the day, though I have done them before. I turned round and cut back down the ridge – inevitably once I hit the stone pitching it started to rain! It wasn’t too bad though but my meandering up towards Great Rigg had meant I was going to be tight for the 7pm bus back to Windermere. However as luck would have it, the bus was delayed and I just about managed to get it and at 8.15 was installed in the Crafty Baa craft beer bar in Windermere for a post walk drink in the sunshine.
And the packing mishap – I’d forgotten to pack some rather vital items of clothing. Thankfully a trip to Booths would remedy this!