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!

Rannerdale Knotts

After drying out in the cafe and revitalising myself with some soup and cups of tea, I decided to brave the elements again. The weather was definitely picking up. The rain was much lighter, although the wind was still blowing. So what to do? I contemplated walking round Crummock Water, but I fancied getting up a bit higher. I ruled out climbing up any of the big fells due to the wind, so decided to climb the modest fell of Rannerdale Knotts.

A short distance from the village, just before the National Trust car park, I turned right just after a row of houses on to a path which climbed up towards Whiteless Pike. One of the locals was keeping an eye on me!

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The Pike wasn’t my destination (perhaps another day) but after a shortish, moderately steep climb up a grassy slope, my route veered off to the north, up towards the long ridge of Low Bank and Rannerdale Knotts. The rain had stopped and there was blue sky ahead. Much more promising than the morning!

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Looking down into the valley and the National Trust car park, with Mellbreak, on the other side of Crummock Water, in the distance.

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and looking back towards Buttermere

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I carried on along the grassy ridge, getting buffeted by a strong wind. It seemed to be flowing through the valley and then rising up and sweeping over the ridge. Other than that, it was fairly easy going.

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Looking over to the right there was Whiteless Pike

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and a little further to the north, the great bulk of Grasmoor, with some cloud still lingering on the summit.

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Getting nearer to the summit now and a little scrambling over rock required, but nothing serious.

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Reaching the summit, this was the view over Crummock Water with Loweswater a little further on in the distance.

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and looking back towards Buttermere.

The view over to Red Pike and High Stile the other side of Buttermere.

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The cloud had dispersed now from the top of Grasmoor (well, more or less) as the skies brightened.

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I could have descended now and walked back via the shores of Crummock Water, but I was enjoying being higher up and as the views towards Buttermere were so stunning I decided to turn round and retrace my steps along the ridge.

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Before descending back down to Buttermere I diverted slightly to have a look down Rannerdale itself with the Knotts dominating the left side of the pleasant valley. In the spring the sides of the valley are covered with a mass of bluebells. But not in October!

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At the end of the ridge, this was the view over towards Newlands Pass

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and beyond Haystacks the summit of Great Gable was beginning to emerge from the cloud.

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By the time I was back in Buttermere it had really brightened up

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I passed the small church of St James, where I’d sheltered from the downpour for a short while in the morning, on my way back to the hostel. Look at the blue sky!

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It was looking promising for Wednesday.

A wet morning in Buttermere

I woke up on Tuesday to be greeted by, as expected, a wet and windy day. It was forecast that conditions would change mid afternoon, but most of the day looked like it was not going to be conducive to getting up on the fells. So after breakfast I had a decision to make about what to do. I hadn’t come up to Buttermere to spend the day in a Youth Hostel and working on the principle that there’s no such thing as bad weather, only inappropriate clothing, (I don’t actually agree with that statement) I donned my waterproof coat and prepared to get wet!

I decided that my best option was to spend the morning taking a stroll around the lake and decide what to do in the afternoon later on, depending on how things were looking.

As I set out, this was the view over the valley towards High Stile

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Approaching the small picturesque Church of St James at the end of the Newlands Pass,

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I decided to pop inside and take a look.

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Under this window, which looks towards Haystacks (not visible today, alas!), there’s a monument to Alfred Wainwright

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Leaving the shelter of the church, I set off through the village towards the lake, passing the Fish Inn

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which, in the 1790’s, used to be the home of Mary Robinson, the landlord’s daughter, who was known as “The Beauty of Buttermere“. In 1802 she was swept off her feet by a visitor to the Inn, calling himself “Colonel Alexander Hope” and they were married. It turned out, however, that he was in fact John Hatfield, an undischarged bankrupt, who was already married. After conning some local residents out of money, he scarpered, but the law caught up with him and he ended up being tried in Carlisle and hanged. More detail can be read on the Fish’s website.

Famous visitors to the Inn have included the Lake Poets, Wordsworth, Southey, and Coleridge.

The circuit of the lake is very popular as it’s quite an easy walk, but very scenic, so on a fine day the route gets busy. It was quieter today, but I wasn’t the only one braving the wind and rain.

Carrying on I soon reached the lake to be greeted by choppy waters and an atmospheric view down towards Fleetwith Pike.

The waterfalls of Sourmilk Gill were in full spate

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I carried on through the woods down the west shore of the lake

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Looking across towards High Snockrigg (great name that!)

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I continued down the path . Another view of Fleetwith Pike

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and to my right High Stile visible through the cloud

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and High Crag

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Getting near to the top of the lake

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There’s Haystacks. Glad I wasn’t planning on going up there today!

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An atmospheric view of Fleetwith Pike and Haystacks

I crossed over, past Gatesgarth farm, to the east side of the lake. A walk down a short stretch of road and then back on to the path along the lakeside.

Looking across the lake to High Crag and High Stile

Getting closer to Buttermere village, the path goes through a tunnel excavated through the rock.

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Looking across to the waterfalls of Sourmilk Gill and Red Pike

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It had taken me just over a couple of hours to circumnavigate the lake . My coat had kept me dry but it was time to get out of the rain. There are 2 cafes in the village. Unfortunately one pf them was closed for the week for renovation but the other, at Sykes Farm, was still open, so I popped in for a brew and a nice bowl of hot pea soup. In fact, I ended up having a couple of brews as I whiled away the time for an hour and a half, drying out and deciding on what to do in the afternoon. There were signs that the cloud was beginning to clear, so there was a chance of a drier walk in the afternoon.

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!