Nethermost Pike is a fell in the English Lake District. At 891 m it is the second highest Wainwright in the Helvellyn range to Helvellyn itself. It is located close to the southern end of the ridge with Helvellyn to the north and High Crag and Dollywaggon Pike to the south. Nethermost Pike along with many of the Eastern Fells, lies between Thirlmere in the west and the Ullswater catchment in the east.
The western slope of Nethermost Pike is grassy while the eastern side is predominantly rock. Geologically Nethermost Pike is part of the Borrowdale Volcanic Group. Mining for Lead has taken place on the eastern slopes, resulting in levels and open mines at a number of sites. The eastern slopes are protected as part of a Site of Special Scientific Interest due to the Pikes geological and biological features, including some of England's best arctic-alpine and tall-herb vegetation.
On the east, the first impression is all of rock. The long strath of Grisedale runs north eastward to Ullswater, cutting off a series of hanging valleys which fall from the Helvellyn range. To the south east of Nethermost Pike, below the summit of High Crag, is Ruthwaite Cove. Surrounded by crag on three sides, this corrie contains Hard Tarn, a small pool on a rock shelf. This is one of the most difficult mountain tarns to locate, and its black algal bed and clear water combine to give the false impression of great depth. Ruthwaite Cove is now the site of Ruthwaite Lodge, a climbing hut. It was formerly the setting for more industrious activity, with the remains of several levels and some shallow open mine working being visible near the Lodge.
Between the two coves, Nethermost Pike sends out a fine rocky ridge. This arête, whilst not as imposing as Striding Edge across Nethermost Cove, ascends by a series of rocky steps for three quarters of a mile, making straight for the summit. It is from this angle, rather than from the west, that the fell earns the sobriquet of "Pike", that is a peaked mountain. At the bottom of the ridge is Eagle Crag, standing above Grisedale Beck and forcing walkers to take a detour from the ridgeline.
North from Nethermost Pike is the depression of Swallow Scarth above the head of Nethermost Cove. From here the ridge climbs again, turning to the west as the long plateau of Helvellyn top is reached. Southwards the ridge steps down over High Crag and narrows as it swings east around Ruthwaite Cove to Dollywaggon Pike. A heavily eroded path runs along the ridge, but actually bypasses the top of Nethermost Pike to the west. The majority of walkers on this route have nothing but Helvellyn in their sights.
The summit area is triangular in plan as befits a fell with three ridges, the actual top being toward the northern corner and set back a little from the drop to Nethermost Cove. There is a rash of stones on the summit although the surroundings are mostly clad in rough grass, and several small cairns have been built. Other than northward, where the bulk of Helvellyn intervenes, the view is impressive with much of the District in sight. Further ground is brought into view from the summit of High Crag.
Ruthwaite Cove was the location of mining activity, with the remains of several levels and some shallow open mine working being visible near Ruthwaite Lodge. These excavations were made for lead bearing galena, and are believed to have been worked in the sixteenth century. Further leases were taken out in 1784 and 1862, the last known operation being in 1880.
North east of the summit the scene is repeated in Nethermost Cove, containing Eagle Crag Mine which was mined for its Lead and Zinc. The vein mined forms a visible gully on Eagle Crag which was worked both above and below ground over an altitude of 300 m. The vein is surrounded by rocks from the Borrowdale Volcanic Group which dates from the Ordovician. Large dumps of veinstone are found in the area as a result of the mining. They contain, among other minerals, crystallised tetrahedrite which is not believed to be able to be seen or collected anywhere else in Britain. Eagle Crag Mine has a history of working similar to that of Ruthwaite Lodge.
Overgrazing by sheep in Grisedale common saw the vegetation fall into an unfavourable condition. Since 2003 grazing has been limited to 1 ewe per hectare in summer and 0.6 ewe in winter. In summer sheep are also flushed from the coves (Nethermost and Ruthwaite) as they contain vegetation which is susceptible to damage from summer grazing. The vegetation structure has started to improve, however recovery is slowest on the higher land with the summit still being heavily grazed.
The summit suffers erosion from the large number of walkers who climb Nethermost Pike. The use of fewer footpaths would help reduce the disturbance to the summit species.