Before 2010, to me Green Crag was another of those peripheral Wainwrights whose main attraction was solving the problem of knocking it off efficiently. That’s until I visited it, of course, and discovered a fell with many of the qualities that I look for.
To start with the views are good across Eskdale, back to Harter Fell, and across Birker Fell. Green Crag is a bit like a boundary fence that someone just plonked in the middle of open moor to break it up a bit. A series of serrated crags run north-south to interrupt the heather. Wainwright even compared it to the Black Cuillin on Skye, due to the way the serrations cut a jagged path across the bottom of the skyline, and because you can’t help but have your eyes drawn to them.
Green Crag is not a single summit as there are a number of separate craggy outcrops on the upper part of the fell – Crook Crag, Long Crag and The Pike to name three – and providing plenty of opportunity to explore. Green Crag is yet another one of those lower fells which have an undulating top part to make up in terms of interest what it lacks in absolute height.
I approached Green Crag, as many do, having just descended from the west side of Harter Fell, on a day that had started on Hard Knott. Both of these fells had been enjoyable and both make it into the top half of my favourite fells list. But on that particular day it was Green Crag that I remembered most. I approached it very much of the mindset that it just needed to be knocked off while I was in the vicinity, and then I never needed to come back. And despite the fact that it was clearly in view from the top of Harter Fell, it proved a bit of challenge to get to.
I came down off Harter Fell and could see the path up Spothow Gill not far below, so tried to cut the corner off, as I’d realised I’d veered off on the path heading west rather than south west. I tried to fight my way diagonally down through the heather and bracken and it proved difficult. In the end I returned to the path and followed it down to the gill before coming back up the gill on the bridleway running alongside. This had wasted some time and the afternoon was advancing fast.
When the bridleway disappeared through a fence into the woods below Harter Fell, I opted to stay on open fell and as the path had disappeared decided that I had nothing to lose for simply making a beeline straight for Green Crag, rather than continuing along the edge of the wood to pick up the main path. This wasn’t the brightest idea I’d ever had as the fell side rose gently but with hidden dips near the streams running down its side. It seemed to take ages to make appreciable progress, but the end destination was never in doubt.
I climbed up onto Long Crag and the summit wasn’t much further. I didn’t really have time to explore the outcrops, but thought they looked interesting and might be a good place to return to with the tent one day. I climbed up onto the summit and rested a while to take in the view and gather myself before the slog back to the hostel.
I chose an adventurous route straight off the western side of the summit outcrop to put me on the main path below that would take me down to Low Birker and Eskdale. I marvelled at the crags rising above to my right and the path of blue sky that had appeared this late – after the rest of the day had been so grey and murky. I may have had to work harder than expected on the east of the fell, but I absolutely loved the west.
Of course, the adventure wasn’t over for the day. The path became faint and I tried to cut a corner off which just made me go in a big circle through the bracken. Next time I’ll just hug the base of the crags, path or no path and that would bring me to Low Birker Tarn, sitting north west of and below Green Crag. I turned for one last look at the line of crags before the path hid them from me.
The big mistake I made that day was in thinking of Green Crag as a bolt-on to knock off quickly at the end of the day. I should have started the day with it and enjoyed it properly. Green Crag has everything I like in a fell – it’s got some interesting crags to explore, a tarn nearby, it’s somewhere I could see myself camping and, best of all, it’s away from the crowds. Please stay away!