Wainwright’s Wainwright

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At the beginning of last week I managed to get away for three days to do some walking in the Lake District. I decided to book into the Youth Hostel in Buttermere for a couple of nights as they had places available and I’ve never been there before. Well, that’s not quite true. I do remember driving over there once on a rainy day many, many years ago during a stay near Bassenthwaite Lake, but due to the poor weather we didn’t linger. So this would be my first proper visit and I was looking forward to getting up on the fells I’d never explored before. Of course, the weather in the Lakes is always unpredictable, to say the least, and I experienced a range of conditions during my short stay. But they say there’s no such thing as bad weather, only inappropriate clothing (although I can’t say I’m completely in agreement with that statement!)

I drove over on the Monday morning via Keswick and the scary Newlands Pass. It’s a very scenic drive but it’s not exactly sensible taking your eyes of the narrow, often steep and windy road to admire the scenery or you’re likely to get a closer look at the fells than you’d planned.

The weather was mixed during my journey but didn’t seem too bad as I drove through the Newlands valley. The forecast was that it would be cloudy during the afternoon, with rain coming in early evening, and that’s how it transpired. I arrived in Buttermere around midday, to find that the tiny village (a hamlet really) was pretty much parked up, so I drove up to the top of the valley to Gatesgarth where I managed to find a space in the car park near the farm at the start of the Honister Pass. My plan was to tackle, Haystacks, a medium sized fell at the head of Buttermere. At 1,958 ft high it’s just a few feet short of being able to “officially” call itself a mountain, but it has all the characteristics of one, and just the right size and difficulty for an afternoon walk to kick off my break. It was a grey day with very flat light, so not a good day for photographs, but I did manage to “improve” some of my shots by playing about with Snapseed, although I’m still learning how to manipulate my photos.

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It was the favourite fell of Alfred Wainwright who stated that

“for beauty, variety and interesting detail, for sheer fascination and unique individuality, the summit area of Haystacks is supreme. This is in fact the best fell-top of all”

His ashes are scattered on the summit near the curiously named  Innominate Tarn.

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Memorial to Wainwright in the small church in Buttermere village.

After parking up and getting booted and kitted up, I stopped for a short while to soak up the atmosphere while I grabbed a bite to eat.

Then set off along the path across the bottom of the lake, passing Fleetwith Pike, heading towards the far shore and the start of the Scarth Pass.

The route would take me up the relatively gradual incline up to Scarth Gap and then a steeper climb and short scramble to the summit of my destination.

Looking back to the lake at the beginning of the Pass.

and looking across to Fleetwith Pike.

Looking up to Haystacks

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The much higher fell of Great Crag over to the right

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Looking back down to Buttermere

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Reaching the Scarth Gap I could see over to Ennerdale, the next valley. But Pillar, the high rocky fell at the head of the valley, was obscured by low cloud

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Pillar in the mist!

It was a shortish, steep climb to the summit of Haystacks. Hands were required for a couple of short stretches, but nothing too difficult.

Looking back as I climbed

The view towards Buttermere and Crummock Water from the summit

I stopped at the summit for a short while, revitalising myself with some hot coffee from my flask, and chatting with a trio of other walkers who’d reached the top a short while before me.

This is the view across the summit towards Great Gable. Not much to see of the mountain as it was covered with cloud.

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I crossed the summit plateau heading towards Innominate Tarn

I followed the path in the direction of Fleetwith Pike

Looking towards Fleetwith Pike

Looking down towards Buttermere and Crummock Water through the gap in the crags

The route took me across to descend along the flank of Fleetwith Pike to the east of Warnsdale beck

There was a great view of Haystacks across the valley during the long descent

The beck tumbles down steeply over a series of waterfalls which were flowing with plenty of water following recent rainy weather.

Looking back up the valley towards the end of the descent

Reaching the floor of the valley there was an easy walk back towards the Lake and Gatesgarth Farm. Time to change out of my boots and drive the short distance back to Buttermere village and the Youth Hostel. I arrived a little earlier than the official check in time of 5 o’clock, but managed to book in, settle in to my room and take a shower.

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The rain arrived, as promised, at about 6 o’clock. It continued through the night and the wind also picked up. The next day was going to be a little different!

10 thoughts on “Wainwright’s Wainwright

  1. I have a sentimental spot for Haystacks as this was the last of only three fells my Dad was able to climb before the cancer that killed him. We ascended and descended by Scarth Gap that day. Much later, I returned by climbing Fleetwith Pike and circuiting Warnscale, a route I highly recommend, especially where the path crosses the outflow of Black Beck Tarn.

    • I’ve read your blog post about that walk with your dad.
      So mixed feelings when you walk up there I reckon.
      Did you go up Fleetwith by the ridge? From the valley floor it looks rather steep with a few tricky scrambles.

      • By the ridge, of course. It’s a grind in parts, especially under a hot sun, but there was nothing too testing and no scrambles worth worrying about. After that, there’s nothing too strenuous, just an intricate ramble around. Recommended for a clear day.

  2. Have definitely done Haystacks, I recognise the views, but a number of years ago. Somewhere between 15 and 5! 2004 (I think) was when we first became semi-regulars in the Lakes, and it seems a while back so i’ve chosen the figure 5 at random. Let’s average out at 10. Time for a return, maybe?

    • It’s a good walk up there. Not too difficult but with great views (if it’s not too foggy!). And a beautiful area with some literary connections. Definitely your sort of place

  3. I would say its a fine fell from my experience but as I’ve only climbed it once, over 30 years ago, then whatever my experience was I’ve forgotten it! Buttermere is a splendid spot if a little too well known and busy.

    • Yes, it certainly is popular round there – although I can understand why. It was heaving when I arrived – hence the difficulty in finding a parking space in the village. Not so many day trippers there the next day, though! Good walking country, though.

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