Sunday, 10 September 2017

Helvellyn from Wythburn by the Old Shepherds' Path

I did this route to Helvellyn - which is a little known variant of one of the popular routes - last year and it was published at the time on my other blog; but as these pages are about walking in Lakeland and it was such a good day out, I felt it ought to be on here too. Well now it is. One thing to contemplate... was The Old Shepherd's Path so named because it is an old route used by shepherds or was the trail originally blazed by an elderly shepherd? Something to think about whilst climbing the last steep slope near the end...
thirlmere from Wythburn
Thirlmere from the lower part of the route
The path from Wythburn Church to the summit of Helvellyn is an old and well trodden route though it is perhaps now not as popular as the wide path via Grisedale Tarn or the more exciting but over publicised Striding Edge. In terms of variety and the beauty of the views though, this route to England’s third highest mountain is hard to beat especially if an old and little used shepherds’ track is followed. It is detailed in the Wainwright Guide The Eastern Fells though few people used it then and probably even fewer do today.
Beginning at Wythburn Church the path leads steeply up between tall pine trees with the
thirlmere from the helvellyn path
Higher up Skiddaw comes into view
river on the left; to cross a forestry road before leaving the sheltering trees for the open fell side above. The way ahead is never in doubt and soon enters a steep sided valley where the gradient of the path eases before climbing steeply up the right slope below crags. Soon the easy grassy slopes above are reached and the path again turns back around to the left with spectacular views northward along Thirlmere to where the prominent peak of Skiddaw stands in apparent isolation.
Soon after the steep drop offs to the left are passed a faint path leaves the main one in this direction and soon crosses a stream descending the western slopes of the mountain. The walker following this soon has the mountains to his or her self and is led roughly northward across easy slopes of tussock grass. The path fades in and out and it is apparent that it is
Back from the Old Shepherds Path towards Coniston
rarely used, soon passing a large rock that makes a comfortable rest stop with views towards the hills around Wasdale and Buttermere away to the west. This is a tranquil place on a warm day and it is worth lingering before rejoining the rest of humanity on the summit.
The way up is found by continuing around the slope below small crags and once past them heading up the slope to the right over steep but not difficult terrain. As the path is faint and practically non existent in the latter stages, this route can not be recommended in poor weather but on a day of good visibility it is a joy to follow. Presently the main path is reached and followed left
reaching the summit of helvellyn
Walkers at the summit of Helvellyn

up to the summit at 3116ft or 950m above sea level – the third highest point in the Lake District. After enjoying the views I returned by the normal path – remember to branch down to the right at the fork before Nethermost Pike or you will end up at Grisedale Tarn and wonder why you never passed it on the way up. In total it’s a climb of 2550ft or just under 800m and a distance of just over 5miles/8km in total.

And here are a few more views from the summit...

catstycam ullswater and red tarn from helvellyn summit
East from the summit - Catstycam, Ullswater and Red Tarn
North along the ridge with Skiddaw in the distance

striding edge and red tarn
The Striding Edge route ascending from the other side
wythburn church cumbria lake district
And back to the start with a visit to Wythburn Church

Thursday, 7 September 2017

Three Wainwrights from Hartsop - Rest Dodd, Brock Crags and the Nab

Today was one of those days which began as a mission to bag a couple more of the few remaining unclimbed Wainwrights on my personal list and ended up a really good day out in the hills - and that
lake district walks - brock crags
Looking back from below the pumping station building
despite technical issues involving camera batteries. In the Lakes, every second walker I talk to seems to be doing the Wainwrights just as in Scotland the obsession is with the Munros. The one advantage of this gratuitous peak bagging though is that it does take you away from the usual routes and into new places often far from the beaten path. After all there's only so many times you can climb Scafell Pike or Ben Nevis!

The route - which was made up as I went along - began as a walk up the track from Hartsop just off the Kirkstone road near Patterdale. Staying on the north side of the beck I followed said track past the turn off for Hayes Water (this was to be the return route) and on as far as the old pumping station building. Just before the building another grassy track doubles back across the hillside giving some great views of the
Brothers Water area and Fairfield across the valley. When a large boulder is reached after the wall, a fainter path leads back again and up the steep slopes. This way - with some meandering near the top - brought me to Brock Crags the first summit of the day.

For its lowly altitude Brock Crags is a fine viewpoint and well worth the climb which while short, is steep in its latter stages. From here I followed a path that led back to the main trail to High Street that crosses the fells here. A short distance from the path, Satura Crag is worth a visit for the views it affords in all directions - especially to Boardale and to Angletarn Pikes just beyond Angle Tarn. For peak baggers who haven't already been to the Pikes, it's a short distance left or west on the main path but my route lay the other way over Rest Dodd which would be my high point of the day at 2278ft or 696m.
Brothers Water and Fairfield

From the summit of Rest Dodd I headed steeply down in a northerly direction along a path that led to the grassy plateau between Rest Dodd and the Nab. Numerous peat hags are in evidence here though keeping right avoids the worst of the bogginess and if the path is followed you should stay dry. Halfway to the Nab was a large isolated boulder - the only rock for some distance around - that I termed a "rest rock" as it was a good place for lunch. The location was extremely peaceful on what was a fine day and curious in the fact that from here one can not see the valleys or indeed any sign of human life. Only the surrounding fells are visible seeming to rise like islands in a sea of grass. Rest Dodd in particular is well seen from here.

So it was on to the summit of the Nab and another tick in the Far Eastern Fells book and a fine view
lakeland tarns
Angle Tarn, Angletarn Pikes and Place Fell from Satura Crag
of Martindale too. The Nab is something of a sea of grass too but a pleasant enough place. Even in the summer holidays you'll likely have it to yourself. It's situated in the Martindale Deer Forest and there's apparently a good chance of spotting them though I wasn't lucky in this respect today.

Returning from the Nab and back over the wide grassy section which lasts about a mile, a wall is reached just after the ascent of Rest Dodd is started. Instead of climbing all the way up to the top again I passed the wall and followed it to the right across the fell side which saved a steep climb. A faint path is presently joined that emerges on the north west side of Rest Dodd, rejoining the path I'd earlier taken to that summit.

Onward and downward then - a return over Brock crags and the way I came would be okay but to
walking in lakeland - the far eastern fells
The Nab from Rest Dodd - Ullswater far distant
vary the route I headed back to the main High Street path and turning left, followed it approximately south east towards the bulk of the Knott, leaving it to descend to Hayeswater. Incidentally; for those who may be unfamiliar with Lakeland, High Street is the highest point of the area known as the Far Eastern Fells and is named after the Roman Road that follws the ridge. There are no shops up here!

From the lonely Hayeswater reservoir in its steep sided valley, a wide track was followed all the way back to my start point at Hartsop. In all a walk - as done - of 12km or about 8 miles visiting three summits; Brock Crags (561m), Rest Dodd (696m) and the Nab (576m) though it would not add to much to also visit Angletarn Pikes and even the Knott if so desired.

I have recently started making some film clips of these outings but as my spare batteries had even
Martindale seen from the Nab
less enthusiasm than the old ones it didn't happen today. I did manage these few photos though. The film clips will appear on my new channel which will be called Pete's Tales from the Hills.

walks in lakeland - far eastern fells
The "rest rock" in a sea of grass with Rest Dodd beyond

Thursday, 20 April 2017

Wasdale Head to Scafell in Pictures

The number of people hiking up Scafell Pike every summer would probably fill a football stadium but the neighboring peak of Scafell - though an equally fine expedition when the rain stays away - is far less frequented. England's second highest peak is definitely the abode of the fellwalker rather than that of the tourist. The route initially follows the same path (from Wasdale Head village green or the National Trust campsite - the paths converge shortly after where the first two photos were taken - initially following the stream of Lingmell Gill and then up the relentless slopes to Hollowstones - the wild and rock cwm below the peaks. The way to the Pike - and the crowds - branch off to the left while our route continues up over rough steep terrain to Mickledore the obvious col between Scafell and Scafell Pike at about 2650ft.. 

Head down the far side for a short way towards Upper Eskdale, keeping to the right which avoids a boulder field, until the gully is spotted leading up through broken crags to the right. Going up here can be wet after rain as it doubles as a stream bed but it's not boggy and we stayed dry today!  The path is clear up past Foxes Tarn - which turns out to be a small pool with a rock in the middle - and on up to the summit of Scafell which at 3162ft is the second highest point in England.

If anything this route is harder than the slightly higher Pike due to the roughness of the terrain and the descent from Mickledore. The rock scenery up to the ridge is sublime and the ascent of the Foxes Tarn gully exciting but not difficult or exposed. We descended west from the summit via the Green How route which is without difficulty unless you follow our route down the steep scree back to Lingmell Gill - better to continue on down to Brackenclose and the campsite. 

Total distance 10km/6.25 miles >>> Ascent 3100ft/950m >>> Descent 3100ft/950m

The Lord's Rake route was subject to rock falls some years back and has a large boulder to be negotiated. It's passable but there's always a risk of further rock falls and this route is a straightforward one. Do not be tempted to go up Broad Stand - the direct route from Mickledore unless you're an experienced rock climber - it looks short but it's a climb rather than a walk and without a belay rope a slip would not end well!

wastwater in the lake district
Wastwater and the Screes from early in the walk

wasdale head from path to scafell
Wasdale Head from the same place looking to Pillar and Kirkfell

route to mickledore and scafell
Further up is the area known as Hollow Stones just below Mickledore

mickledore between wasdale and upper eskdale
Mickledore separates Scafell and the Pike looking to Broad Stand

hiking scafell from wasdale head
Looking up the gully towards Foxes Tarn

Looking back down the gully from just before the tarn

summit view from scafell
The summit of Scafell with the Wasdale Fells and Grasmoor far distance

Scafell Crag with Deep Ghyll Butress left and Scafell Pinnacle

The Wasdale Fells looking towards Pillar, Kirkfell and Mosedale

Looking back to Scafell Pike 

The top of Deep Ghyll Butress is a fine vantage point reached by an easy scramble

Wednesday, 7 October 2015

A Short Walk in the Western Fells

Only the seasoned Wainwright bagger and local residents of West Cumbria will ever have heard of the hill called Grike but for everyone else it's the westernmost of the Wainwrights or Lake District
western lakes
The early part of the walk looking to Blake Fell
Fells, and stands next to Crag Fell whose far side rises splendidly above Ennerdale Water. In the mist and rain this area is bleak and lonely indeed but when the sun shines it reveals a side of the Lake District most tourists never see. Lonely it certainly is but that is part of its appeal.

Leaving the minor road that links Gosforth and Ennerdale Bridge I followed the track that leads into the hills from just south of Kinniside Stone Circle. The ancient monument itself is well worth a visit before setting out and if you're not walking is a worthwhile destination in itself. The track led over open fields before reaching patchy coniferous forest beyond a gate and climbing at an
easy gradient to meet another track coming up from woodland below. Crossing this trail, the open fellside was gained close to a low col and I took the left hand of two tracks in a roughly easterly direction over open grassland. After a short distance - perhaps a kilometre or so - I left the trail and crossed a stile to climb the sheep cropped turf to the left up to the large cairn on the summit of Grike.

At 488m this is no great height but its position as the westernmost of the Wainwrights affords a wide view over the West Cumbrian Plain and the Irish Sea as well as ahead where the grassland rises steadily towards the more rugged terrain of Pillar, Scoat Fell and Haycock on the horizon. Leaving the cairn I headed on down into the dip between here and Crag Fell which is slightly higher at 523m. The low ground is boggy and it's maybe better to
western lake district fells
Pillar Scoat Fell and Haycock from the summit of Grike
return to the track which lies just beyond the communications mast right of the dip but I didn't and got slightly wet.

The top of Crag Fell is impressive for a lesser fell and commands an eye catching panorama of the head of Ennerdale above a steep drop to Ennerdale Water. It is well worth journeying the short distance beyond the cairn to the next minor summit where the view is even better and brought to mind the walk along the top of the Screes from Whin Rigg to Illgill Head above nearby Wastwater.

These lower hills often provide an experience in excess of their stature and these two remote and
Ennerdale Water
The wild head of Ennerdale from Crag Fell
seldom visited summits are no exception though today the weather contributed to the experience with blue skies and far off views forming a backdrop to the empty miles of Lakeland's western rim. What had started as a mere peak bagging exercise to achieve two more ticks towards finishing the Wainwrights became a fine walk in itself.To return I merely headed south from Crag Fell to join the original track further up and follow it back to where I had started for a total outing of just under 9km or 6 miles.

Friday, 4 September 2015

The High Level Route to Pillar - a Venture into Mountaineering

Pillar has always been one of my favorite mountains of the Lake District but for some reason I had never walked the so called High Level Route until a week or so ago which was a shame as it turned out to be one of the best walks in the area. The trail leaves Black Sail Pass; the col that links Wasdale Head with Ennerdale, and initially follows the usual route to Pillar along the first part of the ridge. After Looking Stead which is worth a visit in itself as a viewpoint, a cairn is seen a short way up the path to Pillar. Here a path leads off to the right and follows an exciting route across the rugged mountainsides overlooking the wild upper reaches of Ennerdale and leading to the summit above the great bastion of Pillar Rock.

This route ventures into mountaineering territory though if the path is kept to it remains easy throughout.and is undoubtedly the finest way to Pillar. I wouldn't do it in the snow without the right gear as there are a few places where it wouldn't be good to slip but the path is easy to follow most of the way This is very much a walk on Lakeland's wild side with the unpopulated Ennerdale being below throughout and despite it being a great route I had it to myself today.. The track along Ennerdale makes a great bike ride (MTB) and there's a link at the end of the post to that and also on the route to Black Sail itself.
bridge in the lake district
This is a beautiful bridge (behind the pub at Wasdale Head) but don't cross it as its the wrong way - carry straight on and bear left over a stile into Mosedale for the way to Black Sail.
Walking in the Lake District - Ennerdale
Looking down to Ennerdale from the first part of the High Level Route - the River Liza and the track to the Black Sail Youth Hostel can clearly be seen. That track is great on a mountain bike.
walking in the lake district
The way is usually clear and always easy - as long as you don't leave the path...
great gable from the high level route
Looking back along the trail from some way before Robinson's Cairn - the path can clearly be seen with Looking Stead (left) and Great Gable in the distance
walking in the lakes - ennerdale from pillar
From Robinson's Cairn there's a wonderful view of the wild upper reaches of Ennerdale with Great Gable at its head
pillar rock and the shamrock traverse
Ahead from Robinson's Cairn with the 200m high bulk of Pillar Rock barring the way. The route goes up the low rock ridge in the foreground and across the ledge top left - the Shamrock Traverse.
The start of the Shamrock Traverse - it looks daunting from below but the way is wide and not too exposed though You would need to gear up if it was icy.
pillar rock from the high level route
Above the Shamrock Traverse there are great views back over the top of the Rock to the High Stile Range
pillar rock from above
Looking back down to the Rock and Ennerdale 2000 feet below from near the summit - High stile and Grasmoor beyond
The summit of Pillar 2928ft is level ground in contrast to the route we've just followed; Great Gable, Great End Scafell Pike and Scafell beyond.
The way down to Wasdale (or Ennerdale) is by the usual route to Pillar. Here's a link to the bike trail through Ennerdale and the first part of the Four Valleys Walk describes the way to Black Sail Pass from Wasdale.

Pete Buckley Sept 2015
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Friday, 24 April 2015

The Lake District Four Valleys Walk

Circular walk from Wasdale Head
The approximate route taken without diversions
The topography of the western Lake District is so aligned that four of the seven main valleys converge on the relatively small area between Great Gable and Honister Pass. The advantage of this to the hiker is that these four valleys can be linked by a circular walk through some of the finest scenery in the National Park that is no more than a longish day's outing in the fells.

This route which I've called here the Four Valleys Walk leaves Wasdale Head to cross Black Sail into Ennerdale before skirting the very upper reaches of the Buttermere valley and returning over Brandreth and Green Gable to Styhead Tarn in Borrowdale. From here the return is over Styhead Pass to Wasdale and the start point. My deviation to the fell called Base Brown - the only Wainwright in the region I had not climbed - added 2 miles and considerable ascent but a better diversion would be Great Gable if you haven't been up there before. Without deviations it's a walk of 15k or about nine and a half miles and an ascent of 3700ft. Great Gable adds 500 feet of ascent and perhaps half a mile (you can return from the summit directly to Styhead) while my version was eleven and a half miles and 4200 feet of ascent which fully justified the pint in the Head afterwards.

If some of the photos look as though they were taken on different days it's because they were - my camera died and I was forced to dig out old pictures along the route and no - I did not spend the whole day in the Wasdale Head Hotel!
mosedale and pillar
Pillar and Mosedale in early morning light

There was something satisfying about being up at 6AM in a Wasdale Head that I seemed to have completely to myself. A short breakfast and I headed up past the pub and along the bank of the stream - the route here goes left in front of the shop, past the bar entrance at the side and right along the river bank - until I left the valley track and turned left into Mosedale with Pillar at its head and the seemingly unbroken wall of Yewbarrow and Red Pike on the left. For a while at least I was alone as the early light painted the fells in rich reds and golds that revealed every fold of the hills.

The path soon steepened as the climb to Black Sail was reached and hard work replaced serenity. After crossing the stream I climbed steeply to gain the upper valley before the gradient relented. The line of sunlight moved steadily lower until it reached me as I gained Black Sail Pass. Here I left the Wasdale Valley and entered the wilds of Ennerdale; the upper reaches of which are only accessible to the walker and the mountain biker as no road extends up here.

Lakeland fells at dawn
Walking up Mosedale from Wasdale Head at dawn
After pausing to admire the sublime scenery of the pass - if you head a short way north west along the ridge to Looking Stead the views are even better - I followed the path down in warm sunlight to the wooden footbridge that crosses the River Liza in the valley floor. The valley here is still a thousand feet above sea level so its a short descent and a nice one in almost any weather. This area is one of my favorite in the Lakes and always reminds me more of the remote Scottish highlands than the relatively busy Lake District but the hordes don't come here - they would have to walk too far from their cars! After the bridge which is a short distance up the path from the Youth Hostel I headed right towards Great Gable at the head of Ennerdale. For this walk it's essential to follow one of the paths up to the left before a prominent ridge is reached that rises ahead to Green Gable. The path to the right of this is the route to Great Gable but that's another walk.
from black sail looking towards honister
Black Sail Pass is the route into Ennerdale from Wasdale

Presently I joined a good path that climbed steeply in a shady gully to gain the edge of the plateau above. The route isn't obvious from nearer the Youth Hostel but it becomes clear as the aforementioned ridge is approached. From up here on the high ground connecting Haystacks with Brandreth and Grey Knotts a new vista opened up of the Buttermere valley with Grasmoor beyond and following the path roughly eastwards past a fence took me into the heathery upper reaches of that valley towards Fleetwith Pike and Honister. That is where this path heads to but only as far as where it met the Honister to Great Gable path.

My first actual summit of the morning  - and it was still early - was Brandreth which I reached after 3000 feet of ascent and sat down to enjoy the views down to Buttermere and Crummock Water on one side and my final valley of Borrowdale on the other. From here it was just a case of following the wide easy ridge towards Green Gable though I deviated to Base Brown which was the one
Ennerdale and high crag
The beautiful upper part of Ennerdale is 6 miles from the road
"Wainwright" of the area I had not climbed. It was a a nice place for lunch but further than it looked and meant I had ascended precisely 4000 feet by the time I'd reached Green Gable. The path up on the left side of the ridge led on to Great Gable but I had no need to go up again - it's a steep and stony climb but not hard and well worth doing if you haven't been up before though there are easier ways up Great Gable than trekking through four Lakeland valleys!

My way led finally down to the left which again was very rough and stony at first but soon met a path constructed of stone steps that made the going easier down to Styhead Tarn about a thousand feet lower in the Upper part of the fourth valley - Borrowdale. In places the river must run a little way underground as it can be heard out of sight below the stones - frustrating if you had run out of water on a warm day. The path
path to ennerdale youth hostel
The path crosses the River Liza just above the Youth Hostel
here to the left goes to Seathwaite while my route led a little way up to Styhead Pass and on down back to Wasdale Head which comes into sight just after the pass indicating that it is all downhill from here. Once in the valley, the path passes the Church of St Olaf which is reputedly England's smallest before emerging at the Green just past the small campsite. From here the pub is not far...

High stile and the Buttermere Valley
High Stile and Grasmoor frame the Buttermere Valley
Pete Buckley April 2015
Ennerdale from green gable
Pillar and Ennerdale from the summit of Green Gable

Styhead tarn and Great End
Styhead Tarn in the upper reaches of Borrowdale with Great End beyond

wasdale head lakeland
Back into Wasdale Head from Styhead Pass after coming full circle