Crossing St. Sunday Crag

Thursday 15th September 2022

Striding Edge had been crossed and Helvellyn was now in the bag. After lunch, I would continue my circular journey heading back towards Glenridding.

South would be my direction for the next while. Passing Nethermost Pike and Dollywaggon Pike, guided by cairns that mark the bridleway.

Fairly easy walking, after having hiked so hard to get up to Helvellyn. But this comfort would not last. I took in the views while I could.

I found myself descending towards Grisedale Tarn and as steep as this staircase became, I didn’t once stop to question my direction. This was a mistake. My original plan was to head up and over Seat Sandal. I was losing far too much elevation.

A bit further down and I passed Harriet and her partner one last time. They’d taken a breather on this relentless descent.

Near the bottom of these stone steps, I turned west across wet and boggy terrain. Loosely following a public right of way that would lead me to contour around and beneath Seat Sandal to then join the intended pass between two mountains.

Almost inevitably, my left foot got dunked and the water stank!

From the pass at Hause Gap, I turned to the east and began climbing up towards the summit of what I now realise was Fairfield. In the photo above, you can see Seat Sandal with Grisedale Tarn down to the right. Note the materials that make up this path beside the cairn…

I want to swear. It was an absolutely brutal climb!! The most punishing of gradients, following a loose pathway of stone intent on throwing you back down the hillside… Like a game of Snakes and Ladders, where you keep landing on the snake.

I paused several times along the way. Heart beating fast. Lungs almost hurting. Calves ready to burst. Far beneath me I could see two people on the much lower path. Probably Harriet again. My route up to Fairfield was punishing!

On the summit was a small collection of stone shelters with seating inside. Very welcome, as the conditions up here were suddenly quite wintry. It was like stepping in to a different day, away from the stillness and sunshine of Helvellyn. A cold wind matched the tone of the rocky landscape.

I knew that I’d be crossing close to this point on the next day, when I’d tackle the Fairfield Horseshoe and it soon dawned on me that I’d be stopping up here around halfway. Pleased to now know that seating would be available.

I was almost getting too cold up on Fairfield and even with the last of my tea now inside of me. Turning north now, I would carefully descend from Corfa Pike.

A long but steady climb would lead me up and on to the ridge of St. Sunday Crag. My legs were weary, as mentioned but this much I was capable of.

Here’s a view from the summit cairn, with Ullswater visible beyond.

No more fells to climb from here on. It was time to descend. I was conscious of time and wanting to get down to the village shop before it closed. Even though I’d packed food for my trip, I was feeling hungry. This walk had taken a lot out of me and I’d have another half hour of driving before returning to my tent.

Descending from Black Crag was the only potentially hazardous point. In retrospect, this is probably a nice route to head up to St. Sunday Crag!

I passed a couple of dog walkers who seemed reluctant to walk too far or too high. One of my most pleasing sights was the gate leading to the first road that I would’ve seen for six or seven hours! I could follow that to the A-road at Grisedale Bridge and then take a straightforward route back in to the village.

(Photo taken in the morning)

I was pleased to find that the local shop stays open beyond 17:00. I filled my hands with £14 worth of flapjacks, chocolate, fruit and anything else I could just about carry back to my car!

By far, the best walk that I would do in my week up in the Lake District. I’d definitely visit Helvellyn again. But I would prefer to revisit St. Sunday Crag on a separate route that doesn’t involve an evil ascent of Fairfield!

Thanks for reading.


Author: Olly Parry-Jones

I live in Weston-super-Mare, close to the Mendip Hills in Somerset and I enjoy time spent outdoors, whether that's walking, camping or backpacking. My day job involved making furniture from recycled wood (I'm a furniture maker and carpenter by trade). I have two blogs: Olly Writes (woodworking, DIY, baking) Walks With Olly (walking, camping and kit) You can also find me on YouTube, Twitter and Facebook. My second YouTube channel is titled 'Walks with Olly'.

2 thoughts on “Crossing St. Sunday Crag”

  1. Well done again Olly, you certainly get around these days.
    Some nice breath taking views too, you must have been exhausted after this adventure, but worth it all the same.


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