Fellwalking – Haystacks

Summit of Haystacks

“If mountains had fan clubs, Haystacks would have a legion of members. And I would be the first to enrol.”

Wainwright’s Favourite Lakeland Mountains

We started this walk from Buttermere on a lovely, sunny summer’s day, following the bridleway that passes through Burtness Wood on the south side of Buttermere. After passing the end of Buttermere the path turns eastwards towards Gatesgarth and then south to Warnscale Bottom. We took the footpath that diverges south from the bridleway and then decided in our wisdom to scramble up by Black Beck which allows entrance to the higher ground through a small breach in the crags, but is not really recommended (better to keep following the footpath that rises to the east of Green Crag).

From here it was an easy walk westwards along the tops, past the beautiful Innominate Tarn, to the summit of Haystacks (Hay Stacks on the OS map). Continuing on we reached Scarth Gap Pass, which we followed northwards back to Buttermere and a beer.

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

Warnscale Bottom and Buttermere Innominate Tarn Burtness Wood Fleetwith Pike and Haystacks

Haystacks was Wainwright’s favourite mountain and his ashes were scattered by Innominate Tarn.

“…a last long resting place by the side of Innominate Tarn, on Haystacks, where the water gently laps the gravelly shore and the heather blooms and Pillar and Gable keep unfailing watch. A quiet place, a lonely place. I shall go to it, for the last time, and be carried: someone who knew me in life will take me and empty me out of a little box and leave me there alone.”

Wainwright, “Fellwanderer”

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.

Fellwalking – Glaramara

On the path down from Glaramara

“Glaramara is more than a pretty name. It is a mountain of distinction, not amongst the highest or more exciting in Lakeland and lacking a shapely outline, yet having so many features of interest that fellwalkers always look forward to a visit with anticipation. There is never a dull moment on Glaramara.”

Wainwright’s Favourite Lakeland Mountains

There certainly weren’t any dull moments on this walk, the weather gods had decided to produce one of those days that tests the willpower of even the most determined fellwalker, with a strong wind and pelting rain that barely let up for the whole day. Of course you musn’t grumble (too much). I met an older chap coming down the path as I was on my way up; he remarked that it was “a bit damp”.

I started the walk at Seathwaite, parking at the end of the road close to the barns, there being no competition for parking slots on this day. I followed the bridleway south to Stockley Bridge, crossed over and then immediately continued south along the footpath by the side of Grains Gill. This climbs consistently and eventually reaches a bridleway. Turning south-east I continued on the bridleway for a kilometre or so before turning NNE onto the path that traverses the Glaramara ridge, passing over Allen Crags and by High House Tarn before reaching the summit of Glaramara. After a quick tea break at the summit, I continued along the ridge past Thorneythwaite Fell (the initial descent from Glaramara summit requires negotiation of a rather steep rock section) before descending to a farm track just south of Mountain View and turning south west onto this track, which eventually becomes a path (all part of what is called the “Allerdale Ramble”) that leads back to Seathwaite.

My rating: B+
Maps: OL4 – The English Lakes: North Western area (1:25,000); the route as described also requires a very small section of OL6 – The English Lakes: South Western Area (1:25,000)
Wainwright’s guides: The Southern Fells (50th Anniversary Edition): Book Four (A Pictorial Guide to the Lakeland Fells)

Fellwalking – Hopegill Head

Looking towards Braithwaite from Grisedale Pike

“A high mountain ridge leaps like a rainbow from the woods and fields of Brackenthwaite and arcs through the sky for five miles to the east, where the descending curve comes down to the village of Braithwaite. This ridge has three main summits, of which the central one (and the finest, but not the highest) is known locally as Hobcarton Pike and to mapmakers as Hopegill Head”

The Northwestern Fells (Pictorial Guides to the Lakeland Fells)

I started this walk from Braithwaite, parking in the village and then walking up the road (the B5292) to where a well worn vehicular track leaves on the left to begin the journey south-west alongside Coledale Beck. After passing Force Crag Mine on the right, the track ascends steeply to the east to Coledale Hause before turning north for the final pull up to the summit of Hopegill Head (via Sand Hill). Wainwright’s original guide (North Western Fells) describes there being no path on this final section, but thousands of boots since means there is certainly one now. From Hopegill Head I took the path eastwards that skirts the edge of Hobcarton Crag and then proceeds to Grisedale Pike. From here there is a well trodden path along the ridge back to Braithwaite.

The previous day I had climbed Glaramara, and it had rained all day, almost without respite – when I returned to my car at Seathwaite I had to literally pour the water out of my (Goretex lined) boots. Suffice to say that when it started to rain on the morning of this walk to Hopegill Head, I started to get rather grumpy and occupied myself on the haul up to Coledale Hause muttering to myself about the ****** English weather. Indeed I almost gave up on the final ascent when the clouds drew in and an icy wind started to blow, but in the end decided to persevere – and a good job I did. Just as I reached the summit, the rain stopped, and in the space of five minutes I went from a “view” of about 40 metres to a magnificent vista out to the coast, as the cloud dispersed as fast as it had appeared.

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)

Hopegill Head panorama (from Grisedale Pike)

Fellwalking – Crinkle Crags

Crinkle Crags 1

“Bowfell’s companion at the head of Great Langdale was given the name of Crinkle Crags by the dalesfolk of that valley because of the succession of abrupt undulations on its log summit ridge. Seen from a distance these seem minor and of little consequence but on closer acquaintance are found to be not merely crinkly but exceedingly rough…”

Wainwright’s Favourite Lakeland Mountains

Parking by the side of the Wrynose pass just east of Three Shire Stone, I walked briefly along the pass and then turned north, following the well-worn footpath past Red Tarn, and turning left at the crossroad of paths a little further on to follow the trail past Great Knott to the Crinkle Crags. There are five summits (although the track doesn’t traverse them all). A quick lunch was had at the last crag, before rapidly deteriorating weather forced a hasty retreat back to my car.

My rating: B+
Map: OL6 – The English Lakes: South Western Area (1:25,000)
Wainwright’s guides: Book four, The Southern Fells
Access: The track starts at the Wrynose path just west of Three Shire Stones.

Fellwalking – Helvellyn

Looking back over Striding Edge

“Legend and poetry, a lovely name and a lofty altitude combine to encompass Helvellyn in an aura of romance; and thousands of pilgrims, aided by its easy accessibility, are attracted to its summit each year”

The Eastern Fells (Pictorial Guides to the Lakeland Fells)

On both my ascents of Helvellyn, I approached from Glenridding on the eastern side, walking towards Patterdale on the permissive path by the side of the road, crossing Grisedale Bridge and then turning right into a lane and then picking up a path to Hole-in-the-Wall and ultimately ascending via Striding Edge. Wainwright describes Striding Edge as the finest way of all to the top of Helvellyn, a judgment that few would disagree with. After lunch at the top, I descended via Red Tarn and Swirral Edge, making a particularly fine circuit walk. The Pathfinder Guide to Lake District Walks describes a good route that follows this basic idea.

My rating: A+. Justifiably one of the most popular walks in the Lake District.
Map: OL 5 – The English Lakes: North Eastern Area (1:25,000)
Wainwright’s guides: The Eastern Fells (Anniversary Edition): Book One (Pictorial Guides to the Lakeland Fells)

Striding Edge from Swirral Edge Red Tarn On the track back to Glenridding

Books: Lake District Walks & More Lake District Walks (Pathfinder Guides)

Lake District Walks (cover) More Lake District Walks (cover)

I have found the pathfinder guides to be generally very good at providing interesting and varied walks in the various areas of Britain (I own and have used nine of them). These two books covering the lake district provide a good introduction to some very enjoyable walks in that beautiful region. The first book (Lake District Walks) is the best and will provide an excellent introduction to those not overly familiar with the area. The second (More Lake District Walks) is starting to push the boundaries of the area a little and I personally didn’t find the suggested walks as compelling – having said that, the Newlands Horseshoe is one of my favourite Lakeland walks, and the second book also includes Scafell Pike – the highest mountain in England – which is obviously a Lakeland classic.

The route descriptions are generally pretty reliable, and having extracts of ordnance survey maps rather than line drawings makes the walks (usually) easier to follow. There are however a couple of minor niggles – sometimes the route descriptions leave a bit to be desired – in some places there’s plenty of detail, but in others where a bit more detail would be nice, none is provided; the descriptions of how to get to the start points of the walks could also be improved.

Overall though, both books provide a good selection of routes with generally clear directions and can be recommended. Just make sure that you still carry a full map and compass (and know how to use them).