The best way up Dollywaggon Pike

ONE Wainwright circular, or one-way, walk: Dollywaggon Pike 

Walk Rating:⭐⭐⭐

Time: around 4 - 5 hours 

Parking: Car parks at Patterdale or Glenridding. Limited parking is available for 'honesty box' donations outside term times in front of Patterdale School (Grid Reference: NY 394 161). Alternatively, especially if you want to do a 'one-way' route, arrive by bus. 

The view towards Nethermost Pike and Helvellyn from below Dollywaggon Pike

If you are lucky enough to be heading west from Patterdale on a really good weather day for walking, the chances are you'll be accompanied by plenty of others heading up to Helvellyn via Striding Edge. That's certainly a great walk but, if you want to escape the crowds and take in the scenery from a less frequented angle, then this walk to the top of Dollywaggon Pike is a really good alternative. From there you can always head on to Helvellyn itself,  return to Patterdale via Grisedale Hause or continue onwards to Grasmere.

This walk takes a route to the top of Dollywaggon Pike from Grisedale that Wainwright rightly describes as "much the most interesting and exhilarating way to the summit, but is relatively unknown and rarely used".  As such, the path is not always clearly defined but the ascent, while sometimes steep, is nearly always over grass and will not present any difficulties in route-finding in good weather.

Strava estimates a distance of around 12km for a circular walk from Patterdale

1) Start the walk by the church at Patterdale, or from the 'Patterdale Hall' bus stop. Head up the valley of the Grisedale Beck along the minor road that heads away from the main road immediately to the south of where the main road crosses the beck on a bridge.

Patterdale Church with Grisedale beyond

2) Follow the tarmac road around a right-hand bend and then up through the woods above the beck.

This signpost makes sure you know the road to follow

3) After about a kilometre, the road reaches a metal gate. Hikers for Striding Edge head right at this point but, for this walk, go through the gate and along the farm track that takes you along the bottom of the Grisedale valley.

Head through the gate and along the farm track

4) Continue along the track for about two kilometres, walking along the south-eastern side of the valley with Dollywaggon and Nethermost Pikes rising in front of you.

You will be heading up the ridge on the skyline - "The Tongue"

5) As the valley narrows, the track becomes more of a walkers' path and takes you via one of two routes towards footbridges that cross to the other side of the beck. To take the route via the first footbridge, head right down to the beck across some rather boggy ground.

Crossing the first bridge, with Eagle Crag ahead

6) Walk uphill from the beck, towards the old mine workings on Eagle Crag above you, then turn left on the clear path up the valley at a ruined stone building.

Looking back down Grisedale from the ruined building

7) Continue along the path, with waterfalls on the beck below you to the left, until you reach the 'Ruthwaite Lodge' hut with its slate roof.

Ruthwaite Lodge

8) Our route now leaves the main path, heading up alongside the stream running down the grassy  fellside behind the righthand side of Ruthwaite Lodge. From now on the route is more likely to be following sheep tracks than any distinct walker's path, so don't worry if you seem to be just walking across the turf.

St. Sunday Crag behind as you climb up beyond Ruthwaite Lodge

9) The first objective is to reach the first ledge on the top of Spout Crag, which rises behind Ruthwaite Lodge. To do so, head up the steep grassy ground to the right of the Crag and then head left to reach the grassy ledge above its lower face.

Head up to the right of Spout Crag, then left onto the ledge

10) From here, you need to make your own way up the rising ridge behind you. Make your way up the grassy groove that runs along the middle of the ridge, picking the way that you find easiest. 

Make your way up the 'groove' in the middle of the ridge

11) There are fine views to your right over 'Ruthwaite Cove', one of the corries underneath Nethermost Pike, around to Striding Edge to your north and then behind you back down into the valley below.

Looking across 'Ruthwaite Cove' towards High Crag and Nethermost Pike

12) The ascent eases as it reaches the flatter ground of Cock Cove, the corrie on the left side of the ridge that you are ascending.

Tarn Crag and Falcon Crag across Cock Cove

13) From the front edge of Cock Cove you will see a ridge rising up to your right. This is 'The Tongue', which the route now ascends to reach the summit of Dollywaggon Pike itself.

Make your way up 'The Tongue' from Cock Cove

14) At times, an intermittent path can be traced but it's best just to make your own way upwards up the ridge. If in doubt, keep more to the left flank, rather than heading over to the steeper ground to the right that falls away into Ruthwaite Cove. The views behind you down into Grisedale are excellent.

Looking back into Grisedale as you climb the Tongue

15) The best views of all, however, are left to the end at the point where the route crosses a grassy col just a little way below the peak of Dollywaggon Pike. Looking north you can see a panorama (see picture at start of post) that includes Striding Edge and the tops of Catstycam and Helvellyn, with Nethermost Pike and High Crag in the foreground. The Grasmoor Fells can be seen in the far distance.

Looking across towards the Grasmoor Fells

16) The last few hundred yards of the walk take you up to the more distinct path that runs between the summit cairns at the top of Dollywaggon Pike (2815'). From here you have a choice of onward routes but, before you finally reach the summit, take one last look at the route you have taken up from Grisedale.

Looking back into Grisedale from the top of the Tongue

Worth knowing: There may be no such thing as a "dolly waggon" after all! Most sources seem to agree that the most likely derivation of the name is from the Old Norse for "raised or lifted giant". Wikipedia gives the original Old Norse as being dolgr (‘fiend’ or ‘giant’) and veginn (‘lifted’).

Whilst the more frequented routes up the grassy western slopes of Dollywaggon Pike from Grisedale Tarn give little impression of the 'lifted giant', the steep ascent up 'the Tongue' from Grisedale certainly feels more like you have walked up one!

The grassy slopes heading back down to Grisedale Tarn 

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