My Favourite Lake District Walks – A personal guide by Nick Stuart
On the Walks And Walking Twitter account I invite people to tweet me their walking photographs with the offer of retweeting the best ones. Somebody who tweets consistently great photographs of his walks is Nick Stuart so I invited him to write an article sharing his favourite walks…. and here it is!
My Favourite Lake District Walks – A personal guide by Nick Stuart – September 2013
Blencathra or Saddleback
Blencathra, or Saddleback as I have always known it, is a proper mountain and my favourite.
It has a beginning, middle and an end. Blease, Gategill, Hall’s, Doddick and Scales as each of the fells are named. Whether you be an experienced walker or just a beginner it can accommodate all you needs. It has gentle, if not steep, flanks and challenging ridges, including the famous “Sharp Edge” which can only be described as one of the best walks in the Lake District. It also has a lovely, if not barren tarn, named after the last fell of the group.
My favourite route is straight up Hall’s Fell. A steep climb up the flank leads to rapid height gain before a gentler climb up to the start of the ridge. From here onwards the real work begins. Two main routes are available. The side path, which keeps off the actual ridge, or clambering right along the ridge itself. This is my chosen option, though not for the fainthearted since there are occasional shear drops on either side. As you ascent it just keeps on getting steeper and harder until suddenly you’re just below the summit thinking, I was really enjoying that. The views from the top are spectacular, Criffel, the Solway, the Pennines and if you look down St. John’s in the vale and beyond Blackpool Tower is visible on a clear day.
This is a powerful mountain. By sheer size along it stamps its authority on those nearby.
There are three main ways up, The Band, The Crinkles or via Esk Hause. There is however a much more dramatic route to the summit, the Great Slab. To gain access to this near 45 degree flat slab of rock one must first locate the Climbers Traverse path at the top of The Band. But we’re ahead of ourselves. My preferred route is from Stool End, along Oxendale taking the path above Browney Gill towards Red Tarn. Here we turn right and up onto the Crinkles. I like to walk near the edge, better views, where you will encounter The Bad Step. A short steep pitch upwards and then onwards along the Crinkles themselves towards the Three Tarns.
At this point we could just continue to the top, but then miss the best part. So we now decent down The Band a little way keeping left until we pick up the Climbers Traverse path. This is a lovely, if not all too short, path below the Great Slab itself heading towards Bowfell Buttress. All too soon it ends near a spout of continuous fresh water flowing all year round. Here we double back on ourselves and take our first look up at what’s ahead. A nearly flat steep angled massive slab of rock. The path tucks right against the rock face to our right and initially looks never ending. Ascent is slow and methodical but extremely rewarding. The views across Langdale and beyond are breath-taking. As the route opens out bare right and you’re nearly at the summit. Just a few yards of clambering over giant rock slabs and you’re there. What a climb.
This can only be described as a Chimney Scramble for experienced walkers only. In the picture it’s the left most gully of the two at the top and ironically named Easy Gully.
Dow Crag is situated above Goat’s Water behind The Old Man of Coniston and can be accessed via the Walna Scar road from Coniston Village. The walk to Goat’s Water is picturesque and straightforward. The real work starts as you climb the very steep scree towards the main Great Gully. As you reach the base of Dow Crag turn left and look up the South Rake. This itself is a good scramble straight onto the top. However Easy Gully is much more fun.
Once you start climbing the South Rake the entrance to Easy Gully is not too far up on the right. Once entered you continuously step up boulder after boulder using all limbs for purchase. It is extremely rewarding and very exhilarating. As your assent reaches the top you suddenly find the main route blocked by a large boulder. Here a slight detour to the left is required. At this point you are faced with what looks like a shear face of rock about 8 feet high. This is the only hard bit and requires a bit of commitment and is soon overcome. The route then returns to the right and the final section is completed with ease.
Arguably everyone’s favourite mountain with many routes of ascent. My route however is lesser known and little used.
In Seathwaite cross the beck, turn left and walk towards Taylor Gill. Here you have a nice short scramble past Taylor Gill Force on your left side. At the top keep the beck to your left and head straight for Styhead Tarn. Proceed towards Sty Head and take the “Tourist” route up Aaron Slack towards Windy Gap. Once reached most people will turn left and follow the path straight onto Great Gable summit. So at this point we continue down a little into the head of Ennerdale and bare left. Here you will see a narrow little path right under the rock face dropping slightly downward. Take this and continue until you can start to climb sharply where you will join the main route from Beck Head up the backside of Great Gable. This is a good scramble with plenty of rocks and a terrific view down Wasdale.
This route leads you straight on to the summit and is just a bit different.
Out of all the “High Level” traverses this has to be the longest, best and most dramatic, especially at the end when nearing Pillar Rock.
Pillar stands majestically at the end of the Mosedale Horseshoe off to the side of Wasdale Head. To be honest it looks much better from the Ennerdale side standing on Haystacks but I digress. The traverse is very similar to the one on Bowfell but much higher, longer, dramatic and at points challenging. This mountain is just about the most remote from an access point of view. The two mains routes to the start of the traverse are from Wasdale Head via Mosedale and Black Sail Pass or from Buttermere via Scarth Gap Pass into the head of Ennerdale then via Black Sail Hut and Sail Beck.
From the top of the hause you walk towards Pillar summit passing Looking Stead on your right. Shortly after you will see a pile of stones on your right denoting the start of the traverse. The majority of the route is straightforward and very enjoyable however there is a slight sting in the tail. Just passed Robinson’s Cairn, a remembrance plaque on a rock, there is a short stretch of path you have to walk. It’s known as the Shamrock Traverse. To the left is a sheer wall of rock, to the right about 6 feet away a sheer drop. It’s always wet and slopes upwards towards Pillar Rock. The tricky bit is only about 4 paces long and is passed with care. It just looks scary from a distance. After that the path turns left, with Pillar Rock behind, for a short scramble to the summit. Very satisfying and enjoyable.