Fellwalking: High Street

View of High Street from near Kidsty Pike

“High Street is in stature the most massive of the fells on the far east of Lakeland, in altitude exceeding all others in that company … yet despite these credentials, High Street is unassuming and unpretentious and so accommodating to travellers that the Roman surveyors and engineers, during their early invasions of this country, laid a road across its broad top for the movement of troops and supplies in preference to their usual practice of seeking routes through the mountain passes. This ancient highway, still to be seen, gave High Street its unusual name.”

Wainwright’s Favourite Lakeland Mountains

Another great day out in Lakeland, this time at its far eastern edge. We started at Mardale, leaving our car in the small carpark there. From the carpark a path curves around north-east to join the Rigg. From here it is almost due west straight up the ridge, over Rough Crag to eventually attain the summit ridge along which the Roman’s built their road. There are splendid views in all directions in good weather and a cairn marks the summit at 2718 ft.

The path soon leaves the old Roman Road to turn south-east to Mardale Ill Bell. Not long after it crosses a bridleway which could be  used to return to Mardale Head, but we continued on past Harter Fell to eventually join Gatesgarth Pass and then a moderate descent back to the start of the walk. The Haweswater Hotel, on the road out, provided a good spot to relax and have a beer.

My rating: A
Map: OL5 – The English Lakes: North Eastern Area (1:25,000)
Wainwright’s guides: The Far Eastern Fells (50th Anniversary Edition):Book Two (A Pictorial Guides to the Lakeland Fells)

Fellwalking – Scafell Pike

View from Summit of Scafell Pike (Lake District, England)

Been too busy to do any walking, so another walk from the ‘archives’.

“Scafell Pike is massive, shapeless and without a touch of elegance … but superior altitude counts for much and the Pike is the magnet that attracts all active visitors to the district, giving them a sense of achievement: there is a unique satisfaction in standing on the very highest point in the country…”

Wainwright’s Favourite Lakeland Mountains

My first proper walk in the Lake District was an ascent of Scafell Pike, back in November 1998. There are numerous routes, following are a couple that I have done.

From Wasdale Head – the most direct way to get there, but this means it’s relentlessly uphill pretty much from the start. We followed the bridleway that heads almost due east from Wasdale Head, past Bursting Knott and Toad How to Sty Head, after which we turned south and followed the “corridor route” to the summit. For the descent we followed the path that goes west via Brown Tongue (Wainwright refers to this as the “tourist route” up Scafell Pike – it is the most direct but possibly the least interesting) and then turns north to return to Wasdale Head.

Looking towards Scafell Pike with Broad Crag in the foreground Scafell Pike summit marker

From Borrowdale – a rather longer route, but an interesting variation. We commenced at Seathwaite, and took the bridleway south to Stockley Bridge. From here we followed the footpath that ascends steeply by the side of Grains Gill. This path joins another footpath just south of Sprinkling Tarn and below the northern face of Great End. We followed this path south-west to a junction and then followed the footpath that travels south and then south-west via Esk Hause and Ill Crag, before a short but steep climb to the summit. We descended initially the same way but then headed north to join the corridor route back to Sty Head, and then descended via the bridleway that passes Styhead Tarn, eventually returning to Stockley Bridge and then back to Seathwaite.

Leaving Seathwaite bound for Scafell Pike Descending via the path by Styhead Gill
My rating: A, A+
Map: Via Wasdale Head: OL5 – The English Lakes: South Western area (1:25,000); the route via Borrowdale also requires OL4 – The English Lakes: North Western area (1:25,000)
Wainwright’s guides: Book four, The Southern Fells

Fellwalking – Fairfield

Summit of Fairfield (Lake District, England)

“It is the north flank that gives Fairfield distinction. In complete contrast to its bland appearance in other directions, a series of rocky buttresses and screeshoots plunge suddenly from the edge of the summit plateau into the head of Deepdale with startling ferocity: it is a dramatic scene that escapes attention on the southern and western approaches.”

Wainwright’s Favourite Lakeland Mountains

Commencing at Patterdale, I walked southwards along the A592 until I reached a permitted footpath to the west of the road, following this path until it reached the lovely Brothers Water. The track becomes a public footpath here, skirting the western shore of Brothers Water and continuing southwards before curling to the south-west and crossing Dovedale Beck, thence continuing westish to pass Dove Crag and thereafter to join a footpath traversing the ridge. From here the walk continues north-west over Hart Crag and then turns west briefly before attaining the summit of Fairfield, from which there are great views in all directions.

After a lunch stop I continued on north and then north east along the ridge line that traverses St Sunday Crag and then drops down into Patterdale. The first section is very steep and a little tricky in places, before levelling out somewhat. As Wainwright points out, the view of Fairfield from this direction is very different from the southern and western approaches, looking most impressive with its series of rocky buttresses. The views down to Ullswater are also fantastic.

All in all, a great day’s outing – but a fairly demanding walk that took me over 6 hours.

My rating: A+
Map: OL5 – The English Lakes: North Eastern area (1:25,000)
Wainwright’s guides: The Eastern Fells (50th Anniversary Edition): Book One (A Pictorial Guides to the Lakeland Fells)

Dovedale Beck View from summit of Fairfield Looking south-west towards St Sunday Crag and Fairfield Looking down to Ullswater

UPDATE: I did this walk again in 2012; this time I had a car and so parked at the National Trust car park at Cow Bridge. I’ve indicated this as the start position on the map of starting locations.

Fellwalking – Pillar (Lake District, England)

Descending from Pillar into Mosedale

“…Pillar, a fine bold mountain overtopping all else around and forming a high barrier between the valleys of Ennerdale and Mosedale”

Wainwright’s Favourite Lakeland Mountains

My first attempt at climbing Pillar ended without attaining the summit. The weather on that day was particularly bad – I ascended initially via the Dorehead screes (not a good idea). The wind was blowing over the ridge that leads north-west from Dore Head to Red Pike with brute strength, at one point a strong gust from the west blew my legs under me to the east, and I hit the deck. It was also raining – the wind driving the rain into my jacket and through the neck and arm holes so by the time I had reached Little Scoat Fell and started the final ascent to the east, I was cold and wet. At this point, with visibility down to less than 10 metres, I decided discretion was the better part of valour – leaving the summit to another day I descended down the rough footpath that cuts between Green and Elliptical crags, back into Mosedale and a very welcome late lunch at the Wasdale Head Inn.

I eventually climbed Pillar a few years later. As it happens, the weather was still fairly ordinary on the day (hence the lack of decent photos), but nowhere near as bad as the first time. The route we followed starts at Wasdale Head, following the bridleway that pushes north into Mosedale to the east of Mosedale Beck. After a junction with a path that continues northwards and forms the return of this route (the Wind Gap route – fairly indistinct last time I was there), the bridleway slowly curves to the north east crossing Gatherstone Beck and becoming the Black Sail Pass, eventually attaining the east ridge and a track junction. From here the path proceeds westwards, climbing for most of the way before finally reaching the summit.

The descent proceeds steeply south-west into Wind Gap before turning south east onto the screes and then a rough footpath that drops down into Mosedale and ultimately joins the bridleway from the start of the walk that leads back to Wasdale Head.

My rating: A
Maps: OL4 – The English Lakes: North Western area (1:25,000), the very start of the walk also requires OL6 – The English Lakes: South Western area
Wainwright’s guides: Book seven, The Western Fells

Fellwalking – Grasmoor

Walkers on Lad Hows

“The Culminating point of the North Western Fells occurs overlooking Crummock Water, where the massive bulk of Grasmoor towers above the threshold of the Buttermere valley”

A Pictorial Guide to the Lakeland Fells: Book six – The North Western Fells

I parked at the parking area just north of Rannerdale bridge and decided I would attack the summit by going straight up Red Gill, the route described on page Grasmoor 7 of Wainwright’s guide and quite an obvious route from the road (the photo on the left below has pretty much the same perspective as the drawing in Wainwright’s guide), a decision I started to regret about two thirds of the way up, when the scrambling up the loose screes had started to make my calf muscles feel like they were burning up. At this point I didn’t have much choice though so it was onwards and upwards and eventually the steep ascent came to a finish and a short stroll west along the grassy tops took me to Grasmoor End and a fine view over Crummock Water.

From here it was a straightforward walk east to the summit of Grasmoor for a quick break and admiration of the superb views in all directions, following which I descended via Lad Hows back to my car.

One of the delights of walking in the Lake District (apart from a nice pint of real ale at the end of a walk) is the great variety of landscape within such a small region. I think the part covered by Wainwright’s “The North Western Fells” may be my current favourite area.

My rating: A.
Map: OL4 – The English Lakes: North Western area (1:25,000)
Wainwright’s guides: The North Western Fells (50th Anniversary Edition): Book Six (A Pictorial Guide to the Lakeland Fells)

Red Gill View from Grasmoor End Grasmoor Summit Shelter Grasmoor - looking towards Grisedale Pike

UPDATE: I climbed Grasmoor in 2014 via Rannerdale Knotts, Whiteless Pike and Wandope, a delightful ramble that I describe here.