Outline of Route
Patterdale - Ruthwaite Lodge - Dollywagon Pike (via The Tongue) - Seat Sandal - St. Sunday Crag - Birks - Patterdale (Grid ref. NY 396159)
Total Distance 10.1 miles, Total Ascent 4100 feet, Equivalent Distance 18.2 miles
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Details of Route
Starting from Patterdale Car Park - the charge for a car was £4.50 for the day in October 2011 - walk towards Glenridding, past the church on the left and turn up the road on the left . Continue up this road and subsequent path with Grisedale Beck to the right until crossing the footbridge near Ruthwaite Lodge. When I did this route last year I came upon a notice on a gatepost that said "There is a bull in this field. It is of a registered breed. It is more interested in the cows than it is in you, but don't draw attention to yourself." or words to this effect. The relevance of it being a registered breed escapes me, but I did notice that the high dry-stone wall that runs alongside the path contained lots of "throughies", long flat stones that run through the wall and jut out either side, providing a quick escape route over the wall if necessary. I continued on my way without incident. Those accompanied by dogs or of a particularly nervous disposition may wish to cross the beck and continue on the other side before they reach this point (photo from the "wrong" side).
Ruthwaite Lodge was a ruin for many years but has recently been refurbished as a climbing hut and is a credit to those who worked on it. Follow one of the several indistinct paths up, to the right of the lodge, and to the right of Spout Crag (photo), there are caves by the little beck to avoid or explore, and then either continue into a grassy hollow (photo from Nethermost) and (photo from Deepdale Hause) and find a gully up on the left, or bear left before the hollow and regain the crest of the ridge above Spout Crag. These routes converge just below The Tongue (photo) which is an exhilarating airy ridge, giving superb views of the crags of Nethermost Pike and Striding Edge (photo), and leading directly to the summit of Dollywagon
Make a beeline south for Seat Sandal and you will soon find yourself walking down a grassy slope near an old demolished wall. The ground at the bottom is very wet but plenty of people have found "stepping stone" type routes across here before you, which are easy enough to follow. It is, in any case, a small price to pay for avoiding the badly eroded descent from Dollywagon to Grisedale Tarn. The ascent of Seat Sandal from here is straightforward, as is the subsequent eastward descent to Grisedale Hause. Views from Seat Sandal are fine looking south towards Grasmere and northeast along Grisdale (photo).
Continue down to the tarn and along to its egress. From here the path to St. Sunday Crag runs diagonally up across the fellside. We seem to gain height deceptively rapidly as we pick our way along this rough path because the valley floor drops away as we progress upwards. The crest of the ridge is reached at Deepdale Hause and we continue up the ridge to the top of St. Sunday with the valleys of Grisedale and Deepdale either side and way below. The views of Fairfield and Helvellyn are fine and we can clearly pick out the route of our earlier ascent of Dollywagon Pike.
As we descend the ridge from St. Sunday Crag, and more and more of Ullswater comes into enchanting view, there is the choice of going over the top of Birks or skirting it on its left flank. As we come down off the fell (photo) we come to a gate in a fence. Here we can either go through the gate and join the lane we set off along earlier, or follow the path to the right which brings us out behind the Hotel in Patterdale opposite the car park. This is an excellent route throughout, always having something to hold our interest, and is highly recommended.
Rev. 17 July 2012