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Are These the Six Greatest Summits in the Lakes?

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Are These the Six Greatest Summits in the Lakes?

Sitting atop Helm Crag and looking down over Grasmere. One of the best views in the Lake District?

Hello and welcome! So, as you might have guessed from the blog title we’re in Cumbria this time around. And specifically in the Lake District. That’s because a while ago I was reading Alfred Wainwright's seventh, and penultimate, Cumbrian guidebook “The Western Fells” and tucked away in the epilogue I came across the following claim:

"The six best summits (attributes: a small neat peak of naked rock with a good view) I consider to be: Dow Crag (Coniston), Harter Fell (Eskdale), Helm Crag (Grasmere), Eagle Crag (Langstrath), Slight Side (Scafell), Steeple (Ennerdale). All these, except Steeple are accessible only by scrambling on rock. The top inches of Helm Crag are the hardest to reach."

This obviously excited me a great deal (and not just because of the use of the word “naked”), as at that stage I hadn’t been up a single one of them. I became even more excited when I got out my the Harvey British Mountain Map to the Lakes and started to look at where each one of them sat. It quickly became apparent that in a single three-day trip a dedicated hillwalker could feasibly bag all six. Not only that, but if this group of relatively little known fells proved to be as impressive as Wainwright promised, then this could be one of the best long weekends you could possibly spend in the Lakes.

So, last spring, I did head up to the Lakes and I did summit each of the six. And each one was amazing, each one a marvel that challenged even the spectacular tops of bigger peaks like Blencathra and Pillar and Helvellyn for setting and drama and mountain architecture. But that’s not important right now. It’s in the past. What really matters is the future, i.e. you. What I really want to do is convince you to do exactly the same thing at some point this spring or summer. Or, better yet, prove me and Wainwright wrong and tell me which six are even better, or which ones you’d substitute in their place.

So, to present the case for the six peaks mentioned above, here are some images from my three-day summit-fest.

Helm Crag’s summit decoration variously known as “the howitzer”, “the old lady playing the organ” and “the lion and the lamb”. Whatever ridiculous name you call it, scrambling to the top is a very dicey affair.

Over in Coniston, this is the summit of Dow Crag. I reached it via the south rake scramble after a night’s wild camping at Goat’s Water.

Me, posing happily in the morning light. The snowy peaks behind are the Scafell range.

Looking south from Dow Crag over Buck Pike on a searingly blue morning.

Although my route started in the forestry of the Duddon valley, the trig point and summit of Harter Fell are as bare as they come. Again, this is looking towards the Scafell range.

The summit of Harter Fell is decorated with a wide array of monolithic blocks, all possible to climb and all offering superbly scenic views.

… they’re rather tall, though, so don’t get too near the edge.

The summit of Slight Side, just south of Scafell. Approaching from near Hardknott Pass, this was a wild, boggy and tremendously atmospheric walk in.

The rocky summit of Slight Side and the view over towards Eskdale and Wasdale.

Me (again) posing on the summit of Slight Side, Harter Fell is in shot to the right.

The tremendous boggy wilds between Slight Side and Hardknott Pass, near the River Esk.

A morning’s cloud inversion atop Eagle Crag, which sits at the end of Borrowdale just at the entrance to the Langstrath valley.

Me, posing happily above the clouds. The early-morning walk in had been in thick cloud and clag, so I was understandably elated to suddenly find myself above it all.

Steeple, flowing down into beautiful Ennerdale.

The view from the top of Steeple, looking downwards. It certainly meets Wainwright’s demands of being a “small, neat, naked peak”.

The Ennerdale Forest and distant Ennerdale Water (with the Irish Sea not far beyond) seen from Steeple.

So, make sure to visit the Lifesystems Facebook page and Twitter feed to share your own opinions, pictures and videos on the subject of the Lake District’s greatest summits (and others worldwide too).

Until next time.


Dan Aspel is a journalist and Mountain Leader. You can find him at
Visit to find a host of kit and equipment for your next mountain adventure.

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