'Sticks and Skis'
For many parking their car in Glenridding, the day's objective is usually one of Lakeland's 'Munros', namely Helvellyn. I have to admit, I have often parked up cogitating whether to ascend some lesser peak, before being overwhelmed by Helvellyn's obvious draw and opt for that. However, removing Helvellyn from the equation does present some equally fine peaks in the vicinity.
This route is inspired by some of the features of Tubular Fells. It will take some discipline, but ignore Helvellyn for a change and ascend Raise as part of the day's itinerary and complete a round traversed by very few indeed.
As with so many mountains, it is the flanks and valleys that present the hidden charm and dramatic perspectives. For this route there are some less familiar features that are worthy of some closer inspection. A walk up Greenside is the first experience in this walk. Choosing to walk along the south edge of the valley does give some variety in the route, but you can choose to walk up the concrete of the road all the way from the car park. Once at the Youth Hostel the route seems somewhat daunting as the way follows the zig-zags up the spoil and detritus of the once booming copper and lead workings. As you ascend, look to the east and observe the artificial bank on the side of Sheffield Pike, now planted with grass and infant trees in order to stabilise the mass of spoil from dangerous slope failure.
Once into the upper stretches of Swart Beck above Lucy's Tongue, you enter a rather haunting world of former workings, in what geologically is a hanging valley. Previously there was a dam here called Top Dam, which was still in existence in the 1950s but it is now a dry bed. About 70 metres above and 400 metres to the north-east is Nick Head, the col marking passage over into Glencoyne ('Nick' as that on Pendle Hill, is a word for a gap or pass through the hills). Did you know?One of the ski runs on Raise is called Outer Mongolia!All around there are tips and elongated spoil heaps, showing how many hollow caverns there must be underground. Onwards, a footbridge crosses what is now Sticks Gill, and the path turns left and westwards before neatly traversing upwards in order to intercept the top of the pass, now just 180 metres above and about 1.6km away.
AW Says:"Eastern slopes pock-marked with the scars of industry."
Sticks Pass, (like Stake Pass between Langdale and Langstrath), is so-called because of the poles or stakes that used to guide the route over the fells, especially if deep snows buried the path. It is the highest pass in Lakeland still used as a regular bridleway. The col is in fact only a few metres lower than the more famous pass at Esk Hause. As you ascend the route, you should be able to see the permanent ski tow on the northern flank of Raise towards the south and left. For many people, this is an unknown feature of the fells and in winter it often comes as a surprise to witness people being whisked up the slopes on Keswick Ski Club's fantastic button lift, before they whizz back down the black run known as Outer Mongolia!
From the top of the pass at 750m, sometimes still indicated by a stick in a small cairn of stones, the route turns left or south. The remaining 130 metres to the top of Raise is a simple affair, presenting a high and broad summit cap falling away into Keppel Cove to the south and continuing as a high ridge to White Side to the south west. Such territory is described by Peter Wilson in his excellent book Lake District Mountain Landforms
, as 'elevated downs' (after Thomas Hay) although of course at higher altitude than the southern namesakes. Wilson suggests this landscape is, "unmodified or only slightly modified fragments of the pre-glacial landscape."
Those seeking a longer day could do no worse than carry on to include an ascent of Helvellyn and descend by one of its fine edges, but avoid the tantalising vista of fells and make Raise the only objective for the day. Your next target is to see the facilities of the ski slope close up. By wandering off from the summit in a roughly north-westerly direction, a strategy that will also keep you away from the crowds, you will easily intercept the ski tow. As long as you keep off the facilities there are some interesting photographs to be had whether there's snow or not. Of course, in snow conditions there is no need to reiterate the dangers of coming into contact with a fast moving skiier! Hang around and watch for a while by all means and experience the sights and sounds more akin to the high Alps of Europe and elsewhere. Out of season you may well be the only person around, but there might just be ski club members maintaining the gear.
From the ski slopes turn east-south-east to descend Stang End, one of the few areas of rock encountered on this route. There is just one final feature that may well be known but so rarely visited. This is the remains of the chimney on Stang End. This chimney isn't one like you'd imagine, but more importantly a flue that ran for over half a mile in order to draw air for the smelter lower down the ridge. Many will know how such a draw can help to increase smelter temperatures and thereby help in the production of various metals from ore. There would have been a vertical chimney at the far western end of the flue where the smelting gases and smoke were vented. How shocked would you be today, to see such industry on the fellside? Follow the stones of the smelter flue eastwards and finally drop back to the main path by which you ascended.
The descent back to Glenridding follows the old mine road passing the Traveller's Rest on the way back into the village. As you pass, you'll deserve at least a cup of tea or even a beverage of slightly more intoxicating pleasure!
The Route Map and Path Profile: