St Sunday Crag

Published 10 December 2017

The cairn that marks the summit of St Sunday Crag

In a break with tradition, the summit of St Sunday Crag is marked by a great big whopping pile of rocks

Want to do a horseshoe shaped walk that takes in Fairfield? And that starts at Patterdale? And takes in St Sunday Crag? You do? So did I, and I did on my third day spent in Patterdale. After a visit to Arnison Crag, and Birks, I walked on to the star of the show.

It was Sunday. And if there is any day of the week that you should climb St Sunday Crag, it’s on a Sunday. So thank goodness I was standing near it on the right day, ready to make that ascent?

Who though was St Sunday, and why did they get a fell named after them? Well it turns out that people in this part of the world (Cumbria for those not paying attention) used to call St Dominic by the name St Sunday. So that’s that explained then. Now let’s move onto the fell itself.

Sorry, what was that? Stop, you say? But who on earth was St Dominic you ask? And why did the local residents of this part of the world (Cumbria) call him St Sunday, you want to know?

Look, what am I? Wikipedia? Go read it yourself.

Okay, okay, okay then. St Dominic was a Castillian priest who lived between 1170 and 1221. During his life, he founded the Dominican Order of the Catholic Church to address the spiritual needs of various cities of the time. He’s also patron saint of astronomers (because, you know, why not?) and has a feast day on August 8.

The view of St Sunday Crag, from the summit of Birks

St Sunday Crag, almost looking straighforward when seen from the top of Birks

Now why St Dominic and his city loving ways resonated so strongly with the 12th century inhabitants of rural Cumbria, that they gave him a sabbath-loving nickname, that I can’t tell you. Nor why they saw fit to bestow this name on a fell in his honour either. Sorry, Wikipedia didn’t tell me. And if you want to know more, you go and do a web search to find out. I’m busy.

Anyway, back to St Dominic’s Crag. It’s a classic. And it’s a whopper to, coming in at a massive 841m above sea-level.

It’s imposing, with its mighty height and rocky ridges. It stands there, just screaming at you to visit it. Visit it now. Come on, get on with it.

And that’s why I took one look at it, and bogged off down hill to the pub.

Oh, okay, not really. I mean, I’d have to be pretty daft to do so as I was most of the way up it already thanks to me just having got to the top of neighbouring fell, Birks. All I had to do was walk a mile and a quarter, and go up a measly 250m in height. A doddle.

View of Ullswater, Birks and other fells, from the side of St Sunday Crag

There's a grand view from the Patterdale side of St Sunday Crag

There’s two ways to the top from Birks. Wainwright idly noted that the side path, that leads up to the rocky crown that’s Gravel Pike, was the easiest. I was – I confess – tempted to take that route purely on that basis alone. Although Gavel Pike itself looked well worth a visit on its own.

The second route was more direct. A zig-zagging, steep looking climb where the path appeared to be strewn with large boulders and sharp-looking rocks. From afar it looked rather hard work. Too hard perhaps for someone carrying a heavy rucksack full of pyjamas, books, and various electrical accessories with their chargers.

But as I reached the point where the two paths diverged, something compelled me not to turn left towards Gavel Pike, but go the direct route. Perhaps it was my brain demanding that I give my body a challenge. Maybe it was the potential for great views. But the most likely hypothesis is that everyone else was going the direct way, and I was too weak to do something different.

Large, pointed rocks on the side of the path up St Sunday Crag

Rocks so sharp they could hurt.

As it turned out, the path was a definite case of the bark being worse than the bite. Yes, the climb was steep, but the path was well made and easy to follow, with only minimal scrambling required. And the effort made my arrival at the summit all the more sweeter.

In fact it was the summit that created the biggest challenge. Not because it was hard to walk over, but more that it was difficult to work out which of the many piles of rocks that covered the top, actually marked the summit. In the end I decided that it was probably the biggest one. But who knew for sure?

The rocky top of St Sunday Crag

Rocks galore at the top of St Sunday Crag

Sometimes the real challenges really aren’t where you expect them to be. As St Dominic himself said, “You are my companion and must walk with me. For if we hold together no earthly power can withstand us.”

Yeah, I know that doesn’t make much sense. But it was easier to crowbar in than his other delightful quote of “Do not weep, for I shall be more useful to you after my death and I shall help you then more effectively than during my life.”

Although let’s be honest, he did help pad out this piece…

Next time: after revisits to Fairfield and Hart Crag, I end my day at Hartop above How. You can see all of my photographs from my three days in Patterdale over on flickr.

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