Saturday, 10 June 2017

The Buttermere Ridge

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Route: Buttermere, Old Burtness, Bleaberry Tarn, Dodd, The Saddle, Red Pike, Chapel Crags, High Stile, Comb Crags, High Crag, Gamlin End, Scarth Gap, Low Crag, Horse Close, Burtness Wood, Buttermere

Date: 10/06/2017
From: Buttermere

Parking: Buttermere
Start Point: Buttermere
Region: Western Fells

Route length: 7.5 miles (12.0 km)
Time taken: 04:06
Average speed: 1.8 mph
Ascent: 904m
Descent: 899m

Wainwrights on this walk:
Red Pike (755m), High Crag (807m), High Stile (744m)

Other Summits: Dodd (641m)

Other points of interest: Buttermere

Sadly, today was not a day to be taking in expansive views, more a day of testing yourself against the elements. Considering it's mid-June, the weather was especially wintery today, with a 50mph wind blowing across the summits and persistent, heavy rain falling for much of the day. Undeterred, we made an attempt to make the most of it by delaying our start until after midday.

Had this been an ordinary weekend I would have spent the day mooching around Keswick, however, it was the weekend of the WaterAid Mountain Challenge so we thought we'd at least give it a try. Head to toe in waterproofs, we made our start from the car park beside the Fish Inn.
This is what we'd be walking into
We were following what may be considered as the 'classic' route along the Buttermere Ridge, starting with a steep climb through the woods at Brackenbottom. Despite the rain and wind, it was incredibly humid and it didn't take long to be soaked both inside and out. We walked, heads down against the elements until we reached Bleaberry Tarn.
The path at Old Burtness
High Stile looms in the background
Sourmilk Gill
Clouds hang low on Red Pike
Bleaberry Tarn
Despite being in the shelter of the mountain, the wind was still fairly strong and would no doubt be much stronger on the tops. From Bleaberry Tarn, the path climbs steeply up to The Saddle, a shallow col between Red Pike and the outlying summit of Dodd. Dodd, however, is prominent enough to be counted as a Nuttall in its own right, one that I had yet to climb. Until now.
The Saddle
The summit of Dodd
Wrapped up
From The Saddle, a very steep, eroded route makes the final climb to Red Pike's summit. It was a miserable place, not one to hang around for long. In fact, a large proportion of the group decided that the one fell was enough and plotted an alternative route back to Buttermere via Lingcomb Edge. For the masochists, it was on towards High Stile.
The steep way up to Red Pike
Red Pike's summit
I'd like to tell you how good the ridge walk is - if you are curious then head over to here to see how it should look. For us, a sea of grey, rain and wind was all to accompany us as we battled our way along the top of Chapel Crags to the summit of High Stile.
Some pretty fearsome walking conditions
High Stile's summit
With much of the rain easing, we still hoped that the weather might begin to clear. This turned out to be a false hope as we found the worst of the conditions while crossing the top of Comb Crags. As the wind was coming from the south, it was blowing strongly across the ridge and seemed only to get stronger as we eventually reached High Crag's summit. I assume we had moved out of the shadow of Pillar and were feeling the full force of the gale.

The large scree slope of Gamlin End presents an ominous obstacle in the mist with the ground seemingly disappearing before your eyes. Fortunately, there is a way down and much of it is paved with stone steps though it is tremendously steep. We were grateful to get out of the worst of the wind and, finally, it had stopped raining.
Hay Stacks
Having rounded Seat, a slippery series of rocks eventually leads you to Scarth Gap, the main pass between Buttermere and Ennerdale and arguably among the quickest ways between Buttermere and Wasdale (via Black Sail). Having been battered for the previous few hours, it was time for a quick snack break and a decision - to continue on towards Hay Stacks or to call it a day and head for home. A combination of wet feet, strong winds and low clouds made the choice fairly straightforward.

A huge amount of water was cascading down the Scarth Gap path into Buttermere, making a few of the stream crossing a little tricky. It wasn't until we reached the lakeshore did things start to get a little drier underfoot. The weather had started to improve as we made our way back towards the village though the summits still looked an unappealing place to be.
The Scarth Gap path beneath High Crag
Looking into Buttermere
Fleetwith Pike
One of a number of streams which were flooding the path
Sara crossing the stream
Hay Stacks
Comb Beck
Upon returning the campsite, never has a tent and set of dry clothes been more appealing, only overshadowed by the prospect of the pub close by. It's been a while since I've been out on a challenging day and they really are hard work. Still, a bad day in the mountains beats a good day in the office anytime.
Fleetwith Pike
Muddock Crags below Robinson
The Grasmoor range

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