Calf Crag

Published 19 September 2013

A classic Grasmere round starts at Steel Fell, visits two other fells, then finishes off at Helm Crag. And that’s exactly what I had planned on 4 July 2013. It all started with Steel Fell. And it could have got to Helm Crag. If only the weather had been better…

“He who reaches Calf Crag with dry feet has cause to be satisfied with his boots.”.

I looked at the marshy top of Steel Fell, water oozing out of the ground and began to rise up against the leather of my walking boots.

Wainwright wrote his words in an era when waterproof technology consisted of little more than giving your boots a liberal coating of dubbin. But all the dubbin in the world wasn’t going to stop my socks from soaking up the fell water. My walking boots may have been lined with Gore-Tex, but even the best waterproofing technology is going to struggle when there’s a massive crack in the leather.

I’d been meaning to buy new boots for ages, but never seemed to find the time. Now the folly of that decision was being felt as I slid and squelched my may along the mile and a half long ridge route path from Steel Fell’s cairn, to it’s companion on Calf Crag.

Weather still not looking great

Of course, the fact that it was pouring down, wasn’t helping to keep the rest of me dry. The weather forecast was insistent that the rain was going to clear but there seemed to be no evidence of that happening. Instead, as I walked over the sodden ground, it started coming down even more heavily.

The path roughly followed a row of old fence posts, deviating from them every now and then to avoid the impromptu streams that now littered the fell tops. Several times I bounced my way around grass, trying to avoid the floods, only to lose sight of the posts completely in the mist.

Calf Crag’s summit wasn’t exactly massively distinguishable from afar either. Of the two, Steel Fell is higher than Calf Crag, and only by a mere 16m, meaning I was essentially going downhill. In fact I almost missed the summit completely, only spotting the cairn as it appeared out of the gloom.

"He who reaches Calf Crag with dry feet has cause to be satified with his boots"

The cairn was, however, a bit of a masterpiece. Small, but perfectly formed, it was formed of a handful of small thin rocks delicately balanced one on top of the other. On top, a larger boulder sat, precariously perched on top and looking for all the world like it would be blown off by a mere gust of wind.

Reaching the cairn though, meant I’d reached decision time. My plan for the day had been to carry on to do a horseshoe. Steel Feel begat Calf Crag which would begat Gibson Knott, before a thrilling climax at Helm Crag. But it all depended on the weather. It was supposed to be clearing up for a sunny afternoon, but if anything, the weather had got worse. Much worse. The visibility was the worst it had been all day, the wind battering, and as for the rain…

On the way there I’d told myself that if I reached Calf Crag and things weren’t looking up, I’d head down via the Easedale Pass. Calf Crag would be my last escape point. If I didn’t turn off there, I’d be committing to the whole thing, and I didn’t really want to spend the afternoon slipping and sliding on wet rock, whilst soaked through the skin thanks to the never-ending fall of water from the sky.

Standing next to the cairn, I reluctantly made my choice. I headed towards the Easedale Pass route down, safe and easy to navigate in all conditions, according to Wainwright.

Some way down, I looked back at Calf Crag, noting with a sigh that the summit I’d been at and struggled to even see, was now bright and clear. Up ahead the sun was out and shining over Helm Crag. The forecast had been right after all.

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