Along the Buttermere ridge

On the west side of Buttermere there’s a wall of rock that looms over the lake, keeping it in the shade for much of the year. There are three main summits and once you’re up there there’s a great walk along the ridge. I’d been itching to get up there since I arrived in Buttermere and the Wednesday during my short break looked like conditions would be perfect for tackling it. What a difference a day makes!!

I checked out of the Youth Hostel and drove the short distance to the National Trust car park, which is just to the north of the village. There were only a couple of cars parked up, but it would get much busier as the day went on. I got kitted up, locked the car, stowed my car keys safely inside the security pocket in my rucksack and set off walking. It was chilly – there had been no cloud cover over night – but the sun was shining and I knew it would warm up later on.

An easy stroll at first through the village and on to the lake

Looking back towards Whiteless Pike and Grasmoor – what a beautiful morning!

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The lake was as still as a mill pond (the sun in the south east made photography difficult)

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I crossed the river and then a few yards later, just inside the woods, I took the path that climbed up to Blea Tarn and the summit of Red Pike.

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An “engineered” path has been created most of the way up to Blea Tarn, but it was steep and hard work for an old bloke and I was overtaken by a few more agile walkers. The views ahead and looking back down on a sunny morning were outstanding.

Looking up

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The view back towards the Grasmoor group

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and down to Buttermere

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After the hard climb I reached Blea Tarn where I stopped for a short break and to grab a bite to eat to get my blood sugar up before I tackled the final stretch up to the summit of Red Pike, which had now come into view.

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The initial stretch of this final leg up to the ridge, along an engineered path, wasn’t too bad but then it ran out and there was a difficult scrabble up a steep scree slope. The scree was very loose and it was difficult to stop myself from sliding back down at times. It rather reminded me of the final stretch of the Watkin Path on Snowdon, although it didn’t go on for quite as long. Using my walking poles helped, although they got in the way a little on some stretches where I needed to use my hands.

I eventually made it and it was worth the effort for the views over Crummock Water, Buttermere and Ennerdale. I could see over the Solway Firth to Scotland and to the Isle of Man sitting on the horizon in the Irish Sea.

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Crummock Water and Grasmoor
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Down into Ennerdale
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Zooming in – the Isle of Man is just visible on the horizon
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Looking north
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Zooming in over the Newlands Valley towards Keswick, Skiddaw and Blencathra
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High Stile – my next objective

After a break to soak up the views, rest my legs and have a bite to eat, I set off along the ridge towards High Stile. It was relatively easy going now for a while in good conditions.

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Looking towards Pillar and the fells to the west of Ennerdale

The view back towards Blea Tarn (it looks a long way down) Buttermere village and the Grasmoor range

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Looking back to Red Pike as I neared the summit of High Stile

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Looking south west from High Stile I could see the Scafells

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Looking back towards Red Pike from the summit of High Stile

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Carrying on along the ridge and looking back at the crags below the summit of HIgh Stile

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and looking over Fleetwith Pike and the Honister Pass – there’s the Helvellyn and Fairfied ranges in the distance

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The ridge terminates at another peak, High Crag. I’m going to bore you with some more views now from its summit

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Looking south towards Great Gable at the end of Ennerdale with the summits of Scafells visible in the background
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Looking back along the ridge towards High Stile with Ennerdale Water visible to the left
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Looking north west
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Looking over Haystacks with Great Gable and the Scafells in the background
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Looking South East over the Honister Pass
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Fleetwith Pike

I almost felt drunk with the magnificence of it all. Conditions were just perfect. Sunny, blues skies, but not too hot and with minimal wind and superb visibility. I could have stayed put for longer, but it was time to carry on. And having had a long steep climb to get up on to the ridge I now had to descend down a VERY steep scree slope. Luckily in recent years a lot of work has been done on the path but it was still hard going, initially down a zig zag path through loose scree, before reaching a steep engineered path that took me to the foot of, Stair, a small fell that was crossed to take me to the Scarth Gap – the top of the pass I’d climbed on Monday on my way up to Haystacks.

This is the view looking back after I’d got to the bottom of High Crag – you need to look carfeully to make out the path.

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Looking down I could see Buttermere

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Looking over Haystacks to Great Gable

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I carried on over Satir and then descended to Scarth Gap – there’s Haystacks ahead

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It would be feasible on a good day to carry on over the fell and then back down to Buttermere taking my route from Monday, but I turned left and carried on down Scarth Pass. It seemed longer and steeper going down than it had going up it on Monday!

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I eventually reached the bottom of the pass and the west shore of Buttermere. I then had a pleasant, easy walk of about 2 miles back to the village

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Looking back up the lake towards Fleetwith Pike

I needed a brew by now, so before returning to the car I called into Skyes farm cafe for a pot of tea

and then treated myself to an ice cream for the final stretch back to the car.

It had been a superb walk in perfect conditions and I wished I could have stayed longer. But I had to visit a client the next day so it was time to set off for home. I packed my kit in the boot and set off home by a different route. Rather than tackle the Newlands Pass (it was closed and there were diversion signs, although some vehicles were ignoring them) I headed north along Crummock Water. I’d intended to drive through the Whinlatter Pass but missed my turning resulting in an unintended diversion through Cockermouth. It’s not so easy to make a U-turn on those narrow country lanes!

It had been a great few days up in Buttermere. The weather had been mixed but I’d more or less done what I’d planned. And that walk along the ridge in perfect conditions will remain in my memory bank for a long time!

19 thoughts on “Along the Buttermere ridge

  1. I did that ridge earlier this year, I headed up Floutern Pass to Great Borne and then like you walked to High Crag, across all the fells. I loved the section between High Stile and High Crag and looking down at the combe below and Buttermere beyond. The section down Gamlin End off High Crag is horrid, the worst path in the Lakes I’ve been on so far, the scree was tough on the legs after the long walk, at the end of that path I headed down and left below Seat on a narrow path and reached the Scarth Gap path half way down which helped speed up the descent. A fine walk and you had such amazing conditions

    • I’d considered going up from further north but decided against the longer route as I had to drive home later. I reckon it would have been a little easier going up without that final climb up the scree.
      I saw your path down on the map and was keeping an eye out for it but didn’t spot it on the ground.
      You’re right that conditions were amazing. A memorable day 😀

      • The path down to the left is basically at the low point between the bottom of the Gamlin End path and the start up Seat. I was lucky as two other walkers headed down that way and I followed!!

    • It was as good a day as you get for a walk and the views were stunning. Well worth the steep climb up and steep descent. A fantastic walk. A good day for photos as the visibility was perfect. It’s good to revisit the post and the memories when the weather is so miserable outside!

  2. That is one of my favourite fell walks. I’ve done in three times now. I’m sure the final section up to Red Pike is markedly more eroded now than it was when I first did it (or perhaps it’s just that it’s even worse to come down than to go up). You are so right though, the view from the top is ample reward and continues to be so all along the ridge.

    What a perfect day you had. Your pictures are breathtaking.

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