Surrounding hills


Scafell Pike may be the highest peak in England, but it is in great company, with a number of other fantastic mountains offering superb climbing and hillwalking in the Lake District. Here are some of the best mountains in the Lakes:

1. Skiddaw

2. Blencathra

3. Grisedale Pike

4. Great Gable

5. Helvellyn

6. Old Man of Coniston

7. Cat Bells

1. Skiddaw

Skiddaw lies in the far north of the Lake District, close to the town of Keswick.

Whilst acknowledging that Skiddaw was not the most dramatic climb in the world, Alfred Wainwright himself observed that “Skiddaw is the fourth highest peak in Lakeland and but little lower than the highest, Scafell Pike. It is the oldest mountain in the district, according to the evidence of it’s rocks, definitely not the most impressive in appearance, but certainly one of the noblest. The summit is buttressed magnificently by a circle of lesser heights, all of them members of the proud Skiddaw family, the whole forming a splendid and complete example of the structure of mountains, especially when seen from all directions because of it’s isolation. It’s lines are smooth, it’s curves graceful; but because the slopes are steep everywhere, the quick build-up of the massif from valley levels to central summit is appreciated at a glance ……. and it should be an appreciative glance, for such massive strength and such beauty of outline rarely go together. Here on Skiddaw, they do.”

Wainwright describes 7 different routes up Skiddaw, but there is no doubt that the one favoured by most people is the so-called “tourist” route. This is probably one of the less interesting ascents. Perhaps one of the more interesting routes is a circuit taking in Skiddaw and its neighbouring peak of Lonscale Fell. Beginning at Peter House Farm to the north-west, a route can be taken up the southern side of Dash Beck, heading below Dead Crags, and up towards the Whitewater Dash waterfall. A route can then be taken up the north-eastern ridge of Skiddaw, over the top of Bakestall, to approach Skiddaw from the north. The summit sits at a proud 931 metres.

The route then continues south and south-east, skirting round the north side of Little Man, and following the ridge on over Jenkin Hill to Lonscale Fell. The north / north-east ridge of Lonscale Fell can then be taken, down the ridge of Burnt Horse, before turning towards Skiddaw House and continuing on the track which crosses the River Caldew and heads back towards the Whitewater Dash waterfall, to rejoin your ascent route, from where you can retrace your steps back to the starting point at Peter House Farm.

2. Blencathra

What we have described here is a route that is not for the unexperienced, as it involves a steep scramble up Sharp Edge.

Keswick is the closest town to Blencathra (less commonly known as Saddleback), and the start of this route begins at Scales Farm to the south-east of Blencathra itself. It follows a route round the east side of Scales Fell, and along the hillside towards Scales Tarn. A route is then struck north from just before Scales Tarn to gain the arete of Sharp Edge. Very great care should be taken on this arete, as it is a steep and dangerous scramble. Once climbed, the route strikes south west above Tarn Crags towards Blencathra, with its summit at 868 metres.

The route then runs along the ridge in a south-westerly direction towards the top of Knowle Crags, before running south-west down the hillside, and then, lower down, cutting roughly east above Blease Farm, and following a route back round to your starting point at Scales Farm.

There are certainly easier routes up Blencathra, such as the route running directly up Scales Fell, the route running up Hall’s Fell, or even going up our described route of descent.

3. Grisedale Pike

A nice route up Grisedale Pike starts from the the B5292 road at the east end of the Whinlatter Pass. The route heads directly up the south-east ridge of Grisedale Pike, to the summit at 791 metres. For a quick day, you can return by your route of ascent, but for a more interesting day, continue south-west along the ridge, swinging round to the top of Hopegill Head, at 770 metres. You could then cut south / south-east down Sand Hill to Coledale Hause, before heading south-west, up the north-east ridge of Grasmoor, whose summit is at 852 metres.

From here you can drop east and then up to Crag Hill, at 839 metres, before retracing your steps down into the valley, then heading north and going back up and over Grisedale Pike, to rejoin your original route of ascent. This is only good for the fit and experienced, and you should make sure you have plenty of daylight to play with and that weather conditions are favourable.


Skiddaw from Derwentwater.

4. Great Gable

Great Gable is a great mountain which can be taken from a number of directions.

Either ascend from Wasdale Head, to the south-west of the mountain, by following a path up to the col between Great End / Seathwaite Fell, and Great Gable itself, before turning north-west to gain the summit at 899 metres. You can either return by your route of ascent, or continue north-west to another col, before climbing west to the summit of Kirk Fell, at 802 metres. A path drops from here in a south-westerly direction back to Wasdale Head. Alternatively, you can extend the walk by continuing in a north-westerly direction from the top of Kirk Fell, gaining the ridge of Pillar, and following it to its top at 892 metres. The route then turns south-west for a short distance, before striking down in a south-easterly direction into Mosedale, which is followed back to Wasdale Head.



From the north-east, the route begins at Seathwaite, heading west and then south-west, under Base Brown, on its northern side. The route then heads south up onto the ridge at Green Gable, and then continues south-west to the summit of Great Gable. The ascent route can be retraced, or else you can drop south-east to the col with Great End / Seathwaite Fell, before turning north-east down the valley, and then turning north to come back to Seathwaite.

It is also possible to approach Great Gable from the north-west or from the south-east.

5. Helvellyn

Helvellyn by its Striding Edge route is one of the classic climbs in the English Lake District. Helvellyn itself sits up to the east of Thirlmere, roughly half way between Keswick and Ambleside.

This classic route begins down near Glenridding, so that Helvellyn is approached from the east. A route is truck up Grisedale Brow, above Grisedale itself. A path will be picked up on the ridge on the south side of Red Tarn, and this ridge, higher up, becomes Striding Edge. This is a difficult scramble, and you should not attempt this route unless you are confident, experienced and weather conditions are favourable. Once the Striding Edge arete is climbed, you emerge at the summit of Helvellyn, at 950 metres.

A nice descent route heads south along the ridge to Nethernmost Pike, at 891 metres, and south again to Dollywagon Pike, at 858 metres. The route then zigzags its way down towards Grisedale Tarn, before cutting north east round and under Falcon Crag. It continues north east down the valley towards Grisedale itself, and Grisedale Beck should be crossed in its upper reaches so that it is not too deep or fast-flowing to cross. Once on the north side of Grisedale Beck, the route can be followed back to your starting point.

Helvellyn can also be climbed, less spectacularly, from the west. There is a parking area by Thirlmere at Highpark Wood, and there is also one further south, close to the southern end of Thirlmere. Either can be used if approaching from the west, as you will have to pass both parking areas anyway, unless you come with two cars. Assuming you are using the northern parking area at Highpark Wood, the route strikes up the obvious north-west ridge of Helvellyn, and is followed all the way up to its summit.

The route then turns south, following the ridge over Nethernmost Pike, until High Crag is reached. The route then turns west, down Birk Side, and meanders its way down to the southern parking area. If returning to the northern car park, follow a track north through the forest from this southern parking area, and it will eventually bring you to the parking area at Highpark Wood.

6. Old Man of Coniston

The Old Man of Coniston, near Torver on the west side of Coniston Water. There are a number of routes incorporating this gentle mountain, this is just one of them, which includes its neighbouring mountain, Dow Crag.

From Torver, a route heads north-west up past Tranearth, beneath Little Arrow Moor, into the corrie of The Cove. The path continues on up past the east side of Goat’s Water to the col between Dow Crag and The Old Man of Coniston. From the col, you can take either peak first, returning to the col to climb the other, and then returning to the col again to retrace your ascent route, which will take you back to your starting point at Torver. The summit of the Old Man of Coniston stands at 803 metres, while the summit of Dow Crag is at 778 metres.

Another route goes up the south-eastern ridge of The Old Man of Coniston, although care should be taken here as there are disused quarries in the vicinity. An alternative route down from Dow Crag is to head south along the ridge from the summit, over Buck Pike, at 744 metres, down to Brown Pike at 682 metres, and then south west, before heading east along the old Walna Scar Road. This can be followed east to join your ascent route, above Tranearth. For those who are much fitter, and with enough daylight on long summer days, a much longer circular route can take in Dow Crag, The Old Man of Coniston, and Wetherlam.

7. Cat Bells

Cat Bells is probably one of the most climbed hills, lying to the south west of Derwentwater, though is a fairly modest peak, and lower than the others described on this page. A circular route typically starts at Hawes End, beside Derwent Bay. A path is struck up the north ridge of Cat Bells, to reach the summit at 451 metres. The route is then followed south and south east to the col, before either turning north along Alterdale Ramble to head back to your starting point, or more interestingly, to continue down, south east, under Black Crag, south along the road a little, and then turning north east towards the Great Bay, of Derwentwater, and following the lakeside north all the way back to Hawes End.

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