Saturday, 8 April 2017

The Buttermere Horseshoe

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Route: Buttermere, Scale Bridge, Scale Force, Lingcomb Edge, Red Pike, Chapel Crags, High Stile, Comb Crags, High Crag, Scarth Gap Pass, Hay Stacks, Green Crag, Dubs Quarry, Fleetwith Pike, Honister Hause, Dale Head, Hiondscarth Edge, Hindscarth, Littledale Edge, Robinson, Hassnesshow Beck, Buttermere

Date: 08/04/2017
From: Buttermere YHA

Parking: Buttermere
Start Point: Buttermere YHA
Region: Western Fells

Route length: 16 miles (25 km)
Time taken: 07:45
Average speed: 2.1 mph
Ascent: 1,939m
Descent: 1,936m

Wainwrights on this walk:
Red Pike (755m), High Stile (807m), High Crag (744m), Hay Stacks (597m), Fleetwith Pike (648m), Dale Head (753m), Hindscarth (727m), Robinson (737m)

Other Summits: None

Other points of interest: Scale Force, Comb Crags, Dubs Quarry, Honister

The clocks have moved forward and so it was time for a big one - a round of Buttermere. Traditionally, walks from Buttermere would take in the fells of Red Pike, High Stile and High Crag. Extended walks may visit Hay Stacks and Fleetwith Pike before returning. Our intent was to extend things even further by including the previously mentioned fells before crossing the valley at Honister and returning via Dale Head, Hindscarth and Robinson. It promised to be a long, rewarding day in the Spring sunshine.

We began, disappointingly, by heading away from our first objective - the summit of Red Pike. We were heading for Scale Force, the Lake District's highest, single drop waterfall. The falls are hidden away from prying eyes in a tree-lined gorge, which is well worth a visit.
The Buttermere ridge beckons
Dodd standing over Wilkinsyke Farm
A silhouetted Fleetwith Pike
Rannerdale Knotts
Rannerdale Knotts with Grasmoor appearing behind
The view back down Scale Beck
Scale Force
A steep path climbs the left-hand side of the shady gorge up to the heath-lined valley above. A short distance further, after some modest rock-hopping, is a line of boulders, lying on the hillside, which marks a path of sorts that leaves the valley and climbs up to Lingcomb Edge. While it may not appear particularly path-like upon first inspection, there is definitely a route up through the heather to the edge.
Scale Beck
Starling Dodd and Great Borne
Lingcomb Edge
Lingcomb Edge sweeps round to Red Pike and provides a wonderful view of the fell, even with the sun directly in our eyes. Peering across the valley to the north is equally rewarding. Lingcomb Edge is a pleasant route to the final footings of Red Pike, which steepens at the line of an old boundary fence.
Lingcomb Edge and Red Pike
Looking over the Newlands Pass
Lingcomb Edge and Crummock Water
Nearing the top of Lingcomb Edge
The northwestern group of fells
The final push for the summit
Crag Fell makes an appearance
Red Pike's summit cairn
It is clear where Red Pike gets its name, the syenite in the eroded rock giving much of the summit a rich red colour. It is also notable for having a large number of lakes in view from the summit; Derwentwater, Buttermere, Crummock Water, Ennerdale Water and Loweswater are all visible on a fine day.
The view from Red Pike
After a short break, we continued on, bound for the high point of the ridge, High Stile and perhaps one of the most exciting few miles in the Lakes. Once again, the boundary posts provide a keen set of markers, guiding you across the top of Chapel Crags high above Bleaberry Tarn. From here, Red Pike looks magnificent, especially on a day like today though the whole scene really is a feast for the eyes.
Chapel Crags
High Stile
Bleaberry Tarn
Red Pike and Bleaberry Tarn
Looking across to the Scafells
High Stile's summit
Thanks to the wonders of modern technology, we know that the highest point of High Stile stands out on the small spur that leaves the main ridge in a north-easterly direction. This point, a lofty 1m higher than the main ridge, is now regarded as the summit proper though, in Wainwright's day, the understanding was less clear, without the benefit of satellites and GPS. Hence there is another, sizeable cairn positioned on the ridge at the height of 806m, a height certainly not to be ashamed of. Some books even refer to the two heights as two separate names; High Stile for the ridge and Grey Crag principle elevation on the spur. Another moment of indecision arose on the summit of High Stile, that of trying to decide just how impressive the views are.
Panorama from High Stile
Red Pike
To the north-west lie Chapel Crags and the wonderful bowl of Bleaberry Tarn at the foot of Red Pike. To the south-east stand the impenetrable wall of Comb Crags, the narrow link between High Stile and High Crag. Beyond that, Sheepbone Buttress (surely named for obvious reasons?), White Cove and High Crag, guarding the end of the ridge before it drops suddenly down Gamlin End to the Scarth Gap. Once again, it is a place to stand in awe of the simple process of ice grinding against rock that has created this scarred and shattered landscape.
High Crag
The crossing of Comb Crags is an exciting affair, the ridge narrows to a few metres in places and the path passes perilously close to the edge. It's a fantastic route that provides fine views down into Burtness Comb and back to High Stile.
Grey Crag
Comb Crags and High Crag
Robinson stands over Buttermere - the sweeping ridge would be our way down later in the day
High Stile from Comb Crags
Comb Crags and High Stile
In Burtness Comb, there is a prominent bank of debris that runs along the outer flank of the upper bowl, before turning down to the lower slopes, ending with blocks strewn at the intake wall. It marks the course of a rock avalanche which fell from Grey Crag on the summit rim of High Stile and was channelled along the foot of the glacier some 11,000 years ago. It is a unique feature in the Lake District.
High Snockrigg and Robinson
High Crag
In contrast to High Stile, High Crag has a much more distinct summit, a large cairn marking the high point. Ahead is the great scree slopes of Gamlin End, which fall some 700ft from the summit. They provide a very quick route off the ridge and an alarming loss of height considering the summit of Hay Stacks now stands considerably higher than you.
High Crag's summit
Buttermere from Gamlin End
Looking down Gamlin End
Seat and Hay Stacks
Gamlin End
Hay Stacks stands over the Scarth Gap
It's plain to see that, from the vantage point of the Scarth Gap, Hay Stacks looks a much larger obstacle to conquer, standing some 200m higher than the pass. It's an interesting climb though, there are enough scrambling sections to distract you from the climb before you achieve the tarn at the summit. From here you are able to gaze across the startling landscape ahead of you. Wainwright held Hay Stacks in high regard, he had his ashes scattered near the shores of Innominate Tarn (innominate meaning 'no name' or 'anonymous') and it certainly justifies his adoration.
High Crag
Crags of Hay Stacks
High Crag from Hay Stacks
The summit area of Hay Stacks
Hay Stacks' summit
The summit plateau really does have everything; tarns, crags, streams, heather, outcrops and all other manner of mountain scenery you could wish for. As several websites and books state, this is a place to stop and investigate and that's just what we did.
Hay Stacks
Innominate Tarn
Fleetwith Pike over Green Crag
After basking in the early afternoon sun by the legendary Innominate Tarn and re-filling water bottles, our plan was to climb up to the summit of Fleetwith Pike, The path carries you right to the edge of Green Crag, and is a truly riveting affair, being perched high above the valley below. Hay Stacks really does have it all.
Green Crag
Looking along Buttermere
After threading our way through the final rocks and outcrops of Hay Stacks, we reached Dubs Quarry, a now abandoned workings that is home to the Dubs Quarry bothy, a handy (if less than 5 star) accommodation for backpackers passing through these parts. After a pathless climb across the grass above the old quarry, a rather indistinct line runs north-west, gaining in prominence. A relatively straight forward climb takes you to the summit of Fleetwith Pike.
Dubs Quarry bothy
Fleetwith Pike is probably best known for its slate mine at Honister that has been mining slate since the 1750s (with a break between 1986 and 1997). It is also home to the imposing Honister Crag, the only prominence to be added to the Nuttall guide since publication in 1990. Standing central to the Buttermere valley, it has a magnificent view.
The Buttermere ridge from Dubs Quarry
Looking down the path up Fleetwith Pike
Fleetwith Pike's summit
Mellbreak and Rannerdale Knotts
We descended from Fleetwith Pike towards Honister Hause, the home of all things Honister. Significant quarrying was undertaken at the mine until the early 1900s with a number of technological improvements making the mines more profitable. After 1892, The Hause (where the current shop / museum is) became the centre of operations and was linked to the quarries by road, tramway, aerial ropeway and huge inclines inside the mountain.
Black Star - the summit of Honister Crag
The quarry road
Honister Hause 
Honister Hause
We made the most of the café at Honister prior to the 400m climb up Dale Head. A path leads in an almost direct line straight up the fellside to the summit.
Honister Pass
Honister Crag
The rutted path up Dale Head
A nice day on the Scafells
Dale Head has a wonderful view of the Newlands Valley to the north, it sits right at the very top of the valley, hence its name. The valley is regarded as one of the most picturesque in the entire National Park and we had a grandstand view of the entire thing from the handsome cairn atop the summit.
The Newlands valley
Dale Head's tall cairn
We decided the climb Hindscarth for completeness, it would be a shame to miss it out as it can be easily bypassed if you remain on the ridge bound for Robinson. Despite the summit being located some way off the ridge, it's an easy climb to the top.
Honister Pass
Honister Pass
Hindscarth Edge
Climbing Hindscarth
Hindscarth's summit
Skiddaw from Hindscarth
We pressed on from Hindscarth, cutting the corner to meet Littledale Edge - the ridge thank links Hindscarth to the neighbouring Robinson. A final short but noticeable climb follows the fence to Robinson's summit, marked by a modest shelter. Like Hindscarth, the summit area is largely level.
Littledale Edge
Littledale Edge and Honister Hause
Fleetwith Pike
Robinson's summit
Robinson is unusual in that it sits above two road passes. To the south, the road to Honister Pass begins its climb below the slopes of Robinson. To the north, the road from Buttermere to the Newlands Valley over Newlands Hause runs up the slopes north of High Snockrigg, then runs down the far side of Keskadale.
Crummock Water and Loweswater
It was finally time to return to Buttermere, our choice of route being a path I've not used before which runs down alongside Goat Crag. I'll warn you now, this route off the fells is exceptionally steep - it came as a bit of a surprise and we were thankful for the fence to hold on to in places. Still, I think it's a better alternative to sloshing across Buttermere Moss, especially with another walk planned for the following day - getting my boots wet would not have been ideal.
Grasmoor, Wandope and Crag Hill
Heading for Hassnesshow Beck
Goat Crag
The steep way off
Goat Crag
Goat Crag and Hassnesshow Beck
Hay Stacks through the trees
We spent the last mile strolling along the road in the evening sunshine, content that we'd made the most of the spectacular weather. It's not often that days like these come along and they really need to be grabbed by both hands.
Last light

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