BB0735  Helm Crag and a Question of Ethics  

Wednesday 14th November 2007

Helm Crag is a magnificent little mountain- don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.  It is distinctive, a seriously steep climb and has probably the most challenging summit of any Lakeland hill.

All of which is by way of introduction to the question that was posed today.  Is it actually necessary to touch the top of a hill in order to claim its conquest?

This is what was troubling us as we arrived in Grasmere on a better than expected but grey and still November morning.

Layered smoke at Grasmere with Helm Crag in the distance

We put the question to the Bootboys Ethics Committee.

Bryan argued that in the same way that it is not necessary to climb a solid cairn, it is not necessary to touch to topmost part of the summit rock- touching any part of the solid piece of rock that forms the summit is sufficient.

Tony argued that in that case why did we not simply get out of the car, touch the ground and repair immediately to the pub without wasting valuable drinking time on the hills?

My argument was that we are fell walkers, not climbers, and what we are currently doing is completing the Wainwrights.   And as AW himself had never managed to scale the “Howitzer” on the top of Helm Crag (otherwise known as the Old Woman playing the Organ when seen from Dunmail Raise), there was no need for us to do so in order to claim it for this purpose.

The Ethics Committee ruled in favour of this argument so we did not need to rope up. This was particularly reassuring as we had no ropes.  Bryan informed us that he had actually climbed the Howitzer.  However he had packed his plimsolls in order to gain extra grip and even so had found it very difficult to get back down.  And that was when he was ten years younger.

So we charged up the hill, passing various groups on the way.  The Lion Rock (of "and the Lamb" fame) posed no problem but the Howitzer is a different proposition.  We gave it a good examination.  Bryan had a bit of a go but without great enthusiasm.  

 Bryan and Tony on the Lion

 Bryan approaching the Howitzerl

Then, to our shame, two blokes that we had overtaken on the way up arrived and promptly tackled the Howitzer from different sides.  Successfully.  What is worse, they were Welsh*!  One of them, however, did find it exceedingly difficult to get down and it was quite amusing the way his companion just walked away and left him stranded.  The third member of their party had more sense than attempt it, as did a passing Scottish couple.

Team picture at the side of the Howitzer

The Welsh show Howitzer done

So slightly crestfallen we pressed on to Gibson Knott as the sun pushed back the high grey cloud.  It was now turning into one of the best days that we have had all year.  Lunch was taken in a rocky hollow on Moment Crag (at a remarkably early time).  There was a scary moment when Bryan announced he had no sandwiches.  Tony and I did the decent thing and mumbled something about sharing ours but actually there was no need to panic- he was on survival biscuits instead!  

Helvellyn and Fairfield Ranges beyond Steel Fell

When we continued on our way to Calf Crag, for some strange reason Tony and I both got very itchy on the scalp.  An attack by Fell Mites?

Looking back to Gibson Knott, Helm Crag and Grasmere

Our plan was to return alongside Far Easedale Gill but this was now in afternoon shade. We did think for a short time about heading round by Tarn Crag in the sunshine but we did not need it so we stuck to Plan A.  Actually, even though in the shade, it was a pleasant walking temperature and the sight of the fells in the autumnal sunshine was superb.  

A Mirror Pool

Easedale Gill Waterfalls

There were some lovely little waterfalls and a novel tree masquerading as a Stag’s head and some friendly sheep welcoming us back down the valley.

The Stag's Head and Helm Crag

A welcoming sheep

Windermere Sunset

Tony had promised us an ice cream once we got back to Grasmere but all the ice cream shops were shut.  

Had he done a reccy the day before we wondered and discovered it was safe to make the offer?

Whether or not, we did find a shop selling excellent English Lakes Ice Cream and lots of things to do with dogs (we couldn’t make the connection either) near the Waterhead Jetty, Ambleside, where we watched the sun set on a very calm Windermere.

It was a lovely way to complete a fine day out.

Don, 14th November 2007


* Perhaps I need to explain, should the thought police ever get hold of this item, that the reference to “Welsh” is in no way intended to appear critical of or derogatory to anyone emanating from Wales or Welsh people in general- fine folk, wonderful singers etc- but to emphasise the point that, unlike us, they were not local and therefore there was a degree of embarrassment that we who look upon these hills as our own were unable to compete with these two guys from another country.  Wales.


Distance: 8.7 miles  (Garmin)

Height climbed: 2,320 feet (Anquet)

Wainwrights:  Helm Crag, Gibson Knott, Calf Crag


For the latest totals of the mileages, heights and Lakeland Fell Book Wainwrights see: Wainwrights.

If anyone wants to claim other peaks, please let me know and I will submit them to the adjudication committee!



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Bryan has kindly produced a log of which Wainwrights have been done by which Bootboy in the "modern" era, i.e. since the advent of Bootboys.  

To download the Excel file click on Wainwrights.  

If anyone wants to claim other peaks, please let me know and I will submit them to the adjudication committee!


BOOT boys

This page describes a 2007 adventure of BOOTboys, a loose group of friends of mature years who enjoy defying the aging process by getting out into the hills as often as possible!

As most live in South Lakeland, it is no surprise that our focus is on the Lakeland fells and the Yorkshire Dales.

As for the name, BOOTboys, it does not primarily derive from an item of footwear but is in memory of Big Josie, the erstwhile landlady of the erstwhile Burnmoor Inn at Boot in Eskdale, who enlivened Saint Patrick's Day 1973 and other odd evenings many years ago!

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