Feb. 27th, 2012

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Stone Arthur doesn't get much of a write up in Alfred Wainwright's A Pictorial Guide to the Lakeland Fells.  In fact, in a minimalist account which reminds me a little of Ford Prefect's edited summary of the Planet Earth which is quoted in that eminent tome, The Hitch-Hiker's Guide To The Galaxy (e.g. 'Mostly Harmless...'), its qualities can be summarised in one small paragraph:-

'Without its prominent tor of steep rock, Stone Arthur would probably never have been given a name for it is merely the abrupt end of a spur of Great Rigg although it has the appearance of a seperate fell when seen from Grasmere.  The outcrop occurs where the gradual decline of the spur becomes pronounced and here are the short walls of rock, like a ruined castle, that give Stone Arthur its one touch of distinction.' (Wainwright, 1955).

At 1652 ft OD, it's modest in size.  This makes it an ideal destination for a winter walk, and an equally perfect destination for novice fell-baggers who've cut their teeth on Loughrigg Fell, Silver Howe and Helm Crag, and feel the urge to conquer something a wee bit more imposing.

I've been fascinated with this fell ever since I  first started visiting the Lakes in 2000 or thereabouts.  Its name - Stone Arthur - appeals to the romantic side of me, and most of all, seen from a distance, it reminds me of Weathertop.  It's that little crown of rock on the summit that does it - here's the view from Grasmere, with the rocky tor at the summit just visible in silhouette:-

To reach it from Grasmere, the intrepid walker is required to - gulp! - cross the road!  This is why it's taken me so long to visit Stone Arthur - until last summer, I'd stuck to the fells immediately overlooking Grasmere, but now I increasingly find myself wandering further afield.

There's a brief stretch up a picturesque lane before the real climb begins:-

It's quite a tough slog to the summit, which isn't even that easy to find.  It's quite prominent from various locations on the ascent, as pictured below, but the higher you go, the more tricky it is to discern the actual summit from the rocky outcrops that litter the shoulder of Great Rigg.

In the end, we wound up overshooting the summit the first time, heading on up the slope to take in the summit of Great Rigg before coming back down the hill again and taking in Stone Arthur on the descent.  It was no day to loiter on the summits, unfortunately: Stone Arthur in particular was battered and buffeted by a strong, cold wind that seemed worse at low level than it did when we were on the higher peak.  I assume Helvellyn's massive bulk was providing Great Rigg with some degree of shelter...

Anyway, the view was, as ever, spectacular, all shifting patterns of light and shade, with the muted colours of winter looking particularly beautiful.  Here's a view over to Helm Crag and Gibson Knott (December's destinations), with Easdale Tarn and Sergeant Man (last February's destination) seen in the middle distance. According to AW (and I'm not going to argue with him, because he knows what he's talking about much more than I do on regarding such matters!), the peaks beyond are Bowfell and Scafell Pike.

Another similar view now, with Helm Crag more centrally framed and the outcrop which rings the summit of Stone Arthur more prominently featured:-

And now I've visited it in person, I'm now even more convinced that this must be Weathertop! I can just imagine Nazgul swarming over the rocks in the dead of night, and Aragorn fighting them off with a heroically-wielded firebrand!!

All in all, it was a lovely destination.  It's one I'd recommend to anyone, whether they're an accomplished fell-walker or a novice recently converted to the noble art of Wainwright-bagging, and it's one which I hope I can return to in the future.  Hopefully when the elements aren't quite so malevolent as they were last Friday!!

And tomorrow I'll introduce you to Great Rigg!!


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