New Years Day 2016 - Hiking Up to Grey Knotts and Brandreth With Mandy and Steph.

January 04, 2016  •  2 Comments

First of all, let me wish you all a very happy and prosperous 2016 from myself and all my family.

Mandy and I decided we wanted to start the new year with a nice hike somewhere new and with the weather forecasting NYD as the only day of the week likely to stay mainly dry I decided it would be nice to head up to the Honister area as we haven't been there for a long time and there are a couple of summits I haven't yet visited and was keen to explore. Best of all though, my daughter Steph agreed to come too. Perfect.

I decided we would definitely do at least 2 summits, these being:

  • Grey Knotts (2287ft)
  • Brandreth (2346ft)

With the potential to add Green Gable and Great Gable to the route if conditions / weather / energy allowed. In the end we visited just two, the route we did looks like this when exported from my Suunto Ambit 3 Peak watch into Google earth.

And for those of you whom prefer maps, the route as viewed in Viewranger which I use to plan all my routes: (This map is active so feel to zoom in and scroll around etc. Viewranger members can view it in OS25K format)

We left Blackpool at 8:30 and made north lakes in great time, however, the back road to the Newlands Valley was closed and we had to come all the way back and go via the back of Keswick which delayed us 30mins. That's what I get for taking the scenic route as the way we were forced to go is actually quicker anyway. Typical. We were starting our route today from Honister Slate Mine at the head of Honister Pass. Starting here saves a lot of ascent. Ideal for getting up high quickly and helpful in winter when you are short of daylight hours.

Parking up in the National Trust car park next to Honister at 10:50am, we are immediately greeted with a great view of our initial ascent up to Grey Knotts. It is a steep start and you can see a few folk already on the way up! (The path follows that fence line vertically)

Having been in the car over 2.5hrs, we all really fancy a brew before we set off. I am sure that the cafe won't be open on New Years Day but we take a look anyway and what do you know, it is! So we spend another 30mins sat down drinking tea and coffee. We even got a free mince pie... brilliant place, anyone who is in the area should come and take a look at the slate mine, they do great tours, have various Via Ferrata routes to try and the cafe is great.

With an extra mince pies worth of calories to burn off, we make a start uphill...

Its a steep ascent. Mandy seems to like ascents like this. Steph and I don't, but the bonus of course is the speed you gain height. Within 10 mins the slate mine below us is starting to look a long way down! The path is icy and slippery so a lot of the ascent was done off the rock path.

It quickly turns into a really rocky ascent and the problem we started to face more and more was ice. With all the rainfall this path has become a stream, more of which was frozen as we gained height so extra care was needed.

Mandy muttered something about the way ahead and my belly. Her and Steph found it amusing but I missed it.

I soon discovered what they meant. I am glad I only had one mince pie!

Looking back now, the valley looks incredible from what looked like the top when stood in the car park!

Of course, what looked like the top from the car park, was far from it! Upwards again, and the ice is getting worse. More interestingly though, a snow line is appearing!

A nice couple with a dog we spoke to later on was gaining ground on us. Damn those mince pies, I knew they would slow us down!

The higher we got, the colder and windier it became. I am pleased I have my Kestrel wind and temperature meter with me today as I enjoy guessing the wind speed and temperature and then measuring it to find out the reality. It's definitely going to get some use today!

Looking back to Dale Head now, what a view.

At about 1800ft we entered the snow line. 

From here, looking north we can see the Honister mining operation (Hopper Quarry) on the side of Fleetwith Pike with Dale Head, Hindscarth and Robinson on the other side of the valley. We will walk right by that on our descent.

Not far to go now. Love the fells in the snow, but it is treacherous underfoot.

And of course, incredibly beautiful.

Steph negotiating a potential soaking. 

So beautiful. What a place to spend NYD. Sad to think so many people will spend it in bed hungover!

Here we are, at the rear of the 2287ft summit of Grey Knotts.

The wind is absolutely howling so the girls sensibly stay sheltered behind the summit while I climb up to take some readings. The wind is averaging 34mph and peaking at 48mph up here. Wind chill during gusts is an impressive -11deg C. The views over to High Stile and Crummock are just amazing.

And the view over to Green Gable and Great Gable are hardly horrible are they?

We stopped here for a well-earned coffee and a bite to eat, happy to be sheltered from the wind for a while.

Naturally, instead of resting, I messed around taking pictures. I loved the diffused light while the sun was clouded out for a few minutes and hoped my little Canon G7X could do it justice. I believe it did. I love this image of Brandreth, Green Gable and Great Gable.

Suitably fed and watered, we negotiated some boggy ground and headed onwards to summit 2, Brandreth.

What a place... for a short while, the light was incredible, although I doubt the girls even noticed. The photographer in me was having a whale of a time while the girls slid around cursing my route. Ha Ha.

The summit of Brandreth is ahead now.

A treat awaits us as we crest the summit. This is one of the few areas where you can see down both Ennerdale and Buttermere valleys at the same time. What an amazing place. The dark brown summit with no snow in the middle is Wainwrights favourite fell, Haystacks. To date, with 113 of his summits now under my belt, I still agree with him.

I took some more readings here, so for any of you wondering what a Kestrel wind speed and temperature meter looks like, here is a geek with one in his hand. Image courtesy of my daughter Steph. -9.1 Deg C now... Brrr.

Mandy and Steph with Buttermere and Crummock behind them.

Brandreth Summit view of Green and Great Gable.

Those lonely figures up there are my Wife and Daughter. Maybe I best stop messing with my camera and go and join them. We have a decision to make right here. Do we ascend to Green Gable, or turn right here and start the descent back down.

Unfortunately, my wife Mandy is plagued with a bad hip joint due to complications at birth. It normally doesn't give her too much bother but the hike in this extreme cold has triggered it and its becoming very painful. Mandy said she was happy to do Green Gable and make the decision about Great Gable once up there, but we decided the pain she was obviously suffering, the time of day, wind speed and forecasted rain later on, it was a challenge best met another day. We have had an awesome day and knowing when to call an end to it is an important factor in keeping the hikes happy ones. These trips should be enjoyed, not endured. We head down.

Pillar and the Coledale route looks amazing from here. My friend Steve and I did it a couple of months ago.

The girls saying goodbye to Green and Great Gable. I must admit, the wind speed at "Windy Gap" (The gap between Green and Great Gable.) was likely going to be dangerous too. The right decision has been made.

We make our way down towards the path known as Moses Trod and we decide to stop for a late lunch as it's gone 14:30 and we haven't eaten a lot. That's got to be a great advert for Honister Cafes mince pies! I notice a crag on the map called Brin Crag so suggest we head over to it as it may give us a nice viewpoint for lunch.

What a decision that turned out to be! Such a great place to enjoy lunch with on New Years day. There aren't many nicer places to sit and enjoy a hot drink and some food in the Lake District than this. Overlooking Ennerdale, Buttermere & Crummock Water with Wainwrights favourite between them, Haystacks and indeed his final resting place just below it, Innominate Tarn. The mighty High Crag and High Stile towering up into the sky behind Haystacks. The rocks here are even shaped like a bench to sit on. Just perfect!

Naturally, I ate my lunch running around with my camera! This is Pillar on the left, flanking Ennerdale Valley.

A close up of Haystacks, Innominate Tarn and Black Beck Tarn with Buttermere and Crummock in the distance...

Oh yes... And some ladies lunching. I better join them before I am in bad books!

Our path down was taking us nearer to this amazing scene anyway, but I knew in a few minutes the view would fade as Haystacks gained height on our horizon. We are going to head down to Black Beck Tarn and then divert North West from there towards Fleetwith Pike. 

This is where we head to the right. I must admit, the temptation to head up Haystacks was strong tonight.

The ground here was absolutely saturated, it was pretty hard going and ankle deep most of the way.

Eventually, Dubs Hut and the mining area comes into view. That is our current destination.

As we come to the well-known viewpoint over Buttermere, the wind is incredible. I decide to try and grab a few images that show the temperature and wind speed. I managed a couple but it was hard to hold a camera and the meter still in this wind so I didn't get any clear images of the lowest temp during a gust which was -9C. The rest were blurry.

And the peak recorded speed was 49.4mph!

Hold onto your hats girls!

Downwards now... Dubs Hut ahead for some well-needed shelter!

Mandy almost came a cropper when a big gust of wind caught her crossing Warnscale Beck.

Just one last steep climb and we are at...

Dubs Hut. A former mining hut squirrelled away in old quarry workings above Honister Pass. It has been used as a free shelter by those in the know for a number of years, and was at one time maintained by the National Park Ranger Service. Dubs Hut comprises a single room and is a very basic facility. It is a stone-built shelter with a concrete floor and a slate roof. There is no fireplace or stove, nor a sleeping platform or cooking area but it does have some camp beds I noted on this occasion. I've been here many times and not seen these.

A bothy with a view!

And plenty of instructions and information. I read on a Facebook Groupo that a fella slept her from Xmas Eve to NYD for a children's charity and I am sure his name was Chris Jacks. If so, I guess that's his slate right there. Whoever you were, a big well done to you.

We left here at 16:10, just after sunset. The wind was strong and we had heard hail hitting the roof of the bothy so decided it was time for a very swift exit as we still had some mileage to cover back to the car!

We were not swift enough, a storm of hail and rain caught us up extremely quickly.

The hail and rain was really stinging, very unpleasant and very, very cold. This was the last image I took before even I had to put the bloody camera away. We made it back to the car about 30 mins later.

And that was the end of yet another awesome hike and of course the first of the year. This was a great route with a lot of options for extension if you fancy adding on another 2 or 3 summits for minimal miles. We all enjoyed it a great deal, one of the best New Years days in my memory and it shall remain there for some years to come I am sure.

Here are the Ups and Downs.

Some data from my Suunto Account.

And a small 60-second video of the route courtesy of Suunto Movescount.


**Route Completed NYD 2016**



Stewart Sanderson Photography
Thanks Val, glad you like it. All the best to you and yours too.
Val Kay-Dunn(non-registered)
An awesome trip on any day, but I applaud your choice of a way to begin 2016. Thanks once more for sharing...Stewart and family. Happy New Year.
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