Walking the Wainwrights in 30 Walks Walk 30 - Nine fells west of Wast Water

10th September 2016

It doesn't seem two minutes ago when during the descent of Binsey this project was first thought about, that was back in November 2015 and was before I had even put some serious thought into did I actually want to take on the challenge. Back then I thought about completing all 214 Wainwrights in one year but then competitor in me reared and after completing the arduous task of all the Lakeland 2,000 footers I set about the challenge of completing all 214 summits in 30 walks.

The summer of 2015 will always be remembered for this project where as initially stated I would spend full days on the fells sometimes only getting home early evening when the family were settling down for the evening which meant, especially at weekend, I missed out on family time and not to mention, the odd takeaway, but it will be mostly remembered for spending full days on the fells witnessing the scenery change through the seasons as the long Summer days ever so slightly, began to shorten.

It will also be remembered for how focussed I have been when presented with such a challenge for at times my wife would say that I needed to let go when not in Lakeland but put simply, I couldn't, my mind was always taking that one step ahead ready for the next weekend to come and work just featured as the bit in the middle despite the 11 hour days and countless hours in traffic each day.

I had mixed feelings as I knew I would when my alarm woke me at 04:10 this morning, part of me was excited that I had arrived at the end of the project after suffering a busted ankle and injurying my foot and another part of me was as expected, saddened to see the project come to a end.

This is walk 30 - Nine fells west of Wast Water.

Wainwright Guide Book Seven
The Western Fells


It dominates the sunset area of Lakeland superbly, springing out of the valleys of Mosedale and Ennerdale, steeply on the one side, and dramatically on the other, as befits the overlord of the western scene.


Ascent: 5,126 Feet - 1,563 Meters
Wainwrights: 9, Buckbarrow - Seatallan - Middle Fell - Haycock - Scoat Fell - Steeple - Pillar - Red Pike (Wasdale) - Yewbarrow
Weather: Overcast to Start Turning Warm and Sunny After Midday, Highs of 16°C Lows of 12°C
Parking Using x2 Cars: Parking Spaces, Harrow Head, Wasdale - Parking Spaces, Overbeck Bridge, Wasdale
Area: Western
Miles: 13.3
Walking With: David Hall and Rod Hepplewhite
Ordnance Survey: OL4 - OL5 - OL6
Time Taken: 9 Hours 50 Minutes
Route: Harrow Head - Gill Beck - Buckbarrow - Glade How - Seatallan - Middle Fell - Winscale Hows - Pots of Ashness - Haycock - Scoat Fell - Steeple - Black Crag - Windy Gap - Pillar - Windy Gap - Black Crag - Red Pike - Dore Head - Stirrup Crag - Yewbarrow - Bell Rib - Overbeck Bridge

Map and Photo Gallery


Buckbarrow and IIIgill Head from Harrow Head.

It was touch and go early week if the walk would go ahead due to heavy rainfall that had been forecasted from Thursday through to Saturday but thankfully this changed and the showers subsided during the early hours of Saturday morning leaving a very damp Lakeland which was still licking its wounds with isolated flood spots which we all had witnessed during our own separate journeys. I had arranged to meet David at 07:30am at the carpark at Overbeck Bridge where I would leave my car before we would both drive back to Harrow Head to meet Rod. I arrived first and laced up my boots all the while my ears are filled with the sound of Over Beck in spate. At the top end of a car park a mid size tent had been pitched next to a rather old Vauxhall Nova, it soon became apparent who they both belonged to after spotting a young lad eating crisps on the shoreline of Wast Water as I waited for David, nods from afar are exchanged.

I exited the car park and sat on the stone wall and waited for David who passes me minutes later before pulling onto the carpark. It was suggested that I leave my car on the carpark as parking spaces at Harrow Head are compact to say the least, with this, and after a chat I swapped the gear from my car into Davids and we drove out towards Harrow Head where we had arranged to meet Rod at 07:45am. Rod was already there and David was right, there was only room for two cars and we had just filled both spaces. It feels quite cool and without question we all add layers, Rod with his trusted Paramo windproof and David and myself in Soft Shell jackets. Harrow Head isn't a place I have visited before athough I have driven and walked this spot I get a feel for the place as both Buckbarrow and Illgill Head draws the eye through the damp morning air. Kitted up Rod locks his car as we strike out in the direction of Wast Water coming to a stop at Gill Beck which is just up ahead at the edge of the woodland.


Gaining Buckbarrow via Gill Beck.

It's quite a steep and steady climb from the start and just as earlier the sound of gushing water is almost enough to drown out conversation, well, either that or non of us had expected the path to feel so steep!

We perservere.


Buckbarrow summit cairn.
The path flanks Gill Beck for a short while before heading east where the gradient eased and all that was left was a pleasant walk towards Buckbarrow summit all the while dodging the odd bog over saturated ground agreeing that the hill side appeared to have experienced weeks of rainfall rather than the two previous days which went on to prove that quite alot of heavy rain had fallen to leave the fell side so saturated.

Glade How summit cairn.

We spent a few moments taking in the views from Buckbarrow summit but mostly watching the high dense cloud move slowly across the sky. Every now and again a glimpse of the sun might break through but it was soon covered up by more cloud leaving the fell side in a mix of beiges greens, browns and light greys, the only real contrast was the dying bracken which should never come as a shock in how fast it retreats into its autumnal colours but it always does.

Despite this mornings low light, I'm really fond of this time of year.

Seatallan from Cat Bields.

We dropped from the summit of Buckbarrow and followed a prominent grassy path sometimes having to steer around bog before taking in the gentle ascent onto Cat Bields, the light fluctuates and every now and again the wild grasses might light up for a few seconds before the sun disappeared again as our view extended westwards over Caw and the Ennerdale fells both David and I are reminded of our last visit during a project walk when there was still snow on the ground in the month of March, David is also reminded of the moment when his walking pole whacked him in the face to which cracks smiles over all our faces.

We press on.

Seatallan summit Trig Point.

Despite Seatallan summit looking just up ahead coupled with the pleasant walking underfoot it actually felt much further than it should have before we arrived at the trig point where we found a new meaning to the word bleak. By now the cloud had dropped not just on Seatallan summit but the surrounding summits of Caw, Haycock and Scoat Fell, only Middle Fell, our next summit escaped; it quite not reaching the height of its neighboring peaks.

The temperature had dropped and a typical cool summit wind had descended with the cloud which feels cold over exposed skin. David is still unsure about a knee injury that he had picked up a few weeks ago and knowing the ascent and descent of Middle Fell would require a quickening of pace David decides he will meet us below Haycock summit but before we part, we agree on a time and meeting spot.

How long do you reckon Rod...One hour! which is the standard issue time for our 'out and backs' which usually is wrong and has become a bit of a standing joke now.

Haycock seen over Pots of Ashness from Seatallan summit.

Through the passing cloud our meeting spot is agreed as the lower crags below Haycock summit over on the right. It's only been a couple of weeks since David was able to enjoy his 'extended hour' under warm sunshine and it was spoke of that today, David wouldn't have that luxury so we best keep our pace up if only to stop David from shivering to death.

With the meeting spot and time agreed we parted with the words "see you in an hour or so" as David began his descent over Pots of Ashness while Rod and I descended east towards our next summit of Middle Fell.

Middle Fell seen over Greendale Tarn.

We traced a pathless route from Seatallan summit but soon picked up the singular track above the col which divides Seatallan from Middle Fell. The path is steep and our descent, sometimes silent each opting for the quickest way down, I use a short zig zag technique while Rod confidently takes the descent in his stride.

We descend quickly, in eight minutes actually soon feeling the benefits less those summit winds, it's now starting to warm up again as we hit the col, with walking poles extended our sites are set on a quick burst on Middle Fell summit only to be stopped by the boggy ground underfoot which saw us pick our way through sometimes having the bog water seep through the eyelets on our boots, it's going to be difficult to keep up momentum with the added weight of soaking leather boots, but that we do.

During ascent conversation returns at a time when we are passed by a fell runner who was stripped to the waist, his stride so energised and confident he came and went like a flash. He wasn't the only one feeling confident this morning and soon, without pause, we found ourselves looking over Middle Fell summit cairn.

Seatallan from Middle Fell summit cairn.
Despite making what we felt like good time we were still a few minutes behind if our calculations are right, we take in the views over the stillness of Wast Water and the Scafells which are cloud topped as too is Lingmell. Further west the coastline disappears into a wall of haze and we can only just make out Seacale and its distinctive towers. On a positive note however, there are glimpses of blue between the cloud which, if the forecasters are correct, should start to clear as we approach mid morning.

Haycock, Pots of Ashness, Windscale Hows and Nether Beck taken from the descent of Middle Fell.
With our meeting time approaching we waste no time descending Middle Fell almost retracing our footsteps before heading out over more swollen ground over Warnscale Hows as seen in the foreground flanked by the dominance of Great Lad Crag and Nether Beck seen over on the right.

The Scafells now free from cloud seen above Yewbarrow and Blackbeck Knotts.

Haycock, Pots of Ashness, Scoat Fell and Nether Beck from Warnscale Hows.

Not through want of trying we were again slowed down by the saturated ground underfoot as we gained steady ground over Pots of Ashness as once again the defining sound of white water filled our ears this time from Nether Beck, it's a sound that you lose during the dryer Summer months but quickly get accustomed to at this time of year after spells of heavy rain.

Had it not been for the saturated ground underfoot we would have almost certainly walked through, and then ascended out of the depression seen in the centre left of the photo which would have been the 'as the crow flies' route to where David was waiting for us, instead we detour left before climbing our way steadily onto Pots of Ashness.

Seatallan and Middle Fell seen over Pots of Ashness.

After emerging on Pots of Ashness we soon spotted David as a faint outline between the rocky outcrops by which time we were running around twenty minutes behind, more bogs had to be negotiated before reaching David who was sat waiting with his arms resting on his knees...it certainly didn't feel like Eel of two weekends ago.

Nevertheless David was in good spirits and appeared eager to start ascent on Haycock, but before that I needed to take a couple of pain killers as my foot was causing me quite of bit of discomfort and pain, before I re-shoulder my pack I stretch the tendon whilst my foot is still inside my boot, it's not the best method but it does help to ease the pain short term.

Haycock summit cairn.

We strike out in single file as the sun dips in and out above our heads, the brightness is on its way but it hasn't fully arrived just yet. We trace a popular path which flanks around the side of the fell before a sharp pull over stepped grassy footings spills you out at the rocky summit plateau where we are passed by an elderly gent who disappears across the shoulder of the summit.

The air is bright for now and the suns warmth overshadows the cool summit breeze. Haycock is a defining summit in todays walk although no one spoke of it, we all knew quite a lot of the hard work was now behind us and we could relax before collecting the final 'out and back' within the whole campaign where Pillar awaited.

But that was a while away just yet.

Scoat Fell, Steeple and Long Crag from Haycock.
On the other side of the Ennerdale valley the cloud is lifting revealing High Stile and Red Pike (Buttermere)

Stopping to look back on Haycock, Little Gowder Crag, Caw Fell and Iron Crag.


We had crested the shoulder of Scoat Fell but before we take in its summit we first head over to Steeple which in itself, is an 'out and back'. No matter how many times I have summited Steeple I'm always left feeling that I haven't spent enough time there taking in its dramatic landscape and today was no different.

Scoat Fell from Steeple summit cairn.

After crossing the micro ridge we gain ground on Steeple summit and get our first real view of Pillar whose summit for now can only be seen through fleeting cloud. Earlier David had mentioned that he would make his way towards Red Pike while Rod and I collected Pillar but had had a change of heart after his knee didn't seem to be troubling him, this was good news as Pillar would officlaily be the last 'out and back' within the project and I felt more than pleased that David would be joining us.

Back on Scoat Fell we watched a fell runner descend the ridge and head towards us, within minutes he was standing on the summit after passing on our 'mornings' he took one look at the view before starting his descent down the Long Crag ridge.

By now it was nearing lunch time and I for one was building up an appetite, before we left Steeple we all agreed that we would eat lunch on Pillar summit which kinda spurred me on even more.

Bloody starving I was.

Scoat Fell summit cairn.

I have always held fond memories for Scoat Fell yet its summit is another place I never really spend any time at. It always pays to pop yourself up onto a rock to peep over the wall where if the weather is clear you are guaranteed fantastic views over Red Pike, Kirk Fell, The Gables and of course the Scafells, it's a summit that's right in the thick of the action along one of the highest ridges in Lakeland surrounded by the grandest of summits but somehow, if you only look at its awkward summit cairn all of the above can seamlessly pass you by.

Pillar and Black Crag seen over Mirk Cove and Windcap Cove.

We soon left Scoat Fell behind taking in the rock scenery over Mirk Cove and Steeple before descending onto the grassy ridge via rough boulder where we pass a solo walker. Ahead is Black Crag from where another descent via boulder would be required in order to reach Wind Gap. With this in mind we take a singular track on the Mosedale Side of Black Crag thus avoiding its summit and thereafter its rocky descent but halfway along the path opt to gain Black Crag anyway as it seemed at the time that the path was losing too much descent which we would only have to regain afterwards.

A decision that we needn't have made which ended up as one of those 'oh well' moments.

We crack on.

Pillar over Wind Gap.

With the descent of Black Crag behind us all that was left was to cross Wind Gap and start our ascent on Pillar which wasn't by any means the longest 'out and back' within the campaign and at just under 500ft feet of ascent it wasn't the highest, if anything was going to slow us down it was the terrain underfoot.

We stopped momentarily and had one of those 'who's going first moments' as Rod lets out "go on Paul" although I was still feeling somewhat stupid for steering the guys around, then up Black Crag minutes earlier, what you trust me to lead! the last time I lead I laughed, I nearly descended us all into Mosedale! A laugh was shared and I began the ascent with David and Rod in toe.

There are quite a few different paths to ascend Pillar from Wind Gap most of which involve the odd scramble of rock steps yet it seemed I got lucky opting to keep to a singular dirt track just wide of the main path which lead us steeply all the way towards the summit shoulder, progress was made much quicker and it was easier underfoot not having to scurry over rock ledges, in all I estimated it took us just eighteen minutes to reach the summit trig point by which time...

Pillar summit Trig Point.
The cloud had come well and truly down, oh well never mind, it's time to find our lunch spot and we knew exactly where to go.

High Crag, High Stile and Red Pike (Buttermere) from Pillar.

We wandered past the summit cairn only stopping to take the previous photo before finding our lunch spot at the top of the Shamrock Traverse. We each find our own rock and backsides are eased down before breaking out lunch, soon we are joined by a fellow walker who has just emerged from the Traverse path but walks on by without pleasantries and wanders not towards the summit but in the direction of the White Pike ridge.

The cloud drifted up the Ennerdale valley slowly obscurring its features and soon we were looking into a wall of nothing and silence. Every now and again we might catch a glimpse of the High Stile ridge but predominently, we were face on with the scree below High Crag summit which sometimes could only be seen through faint gaps in the cloud, it was one of those surreal moments before the cloud started to lift revealing Pillar Rock which just moments earlier, simply was not there.

Pillar Rock from Pillar.

Rod got up first and began to take a few chance photos before the cloud rolled back in soon followed by myself. It was only back in May this year when we both climbed Pillar Rock, the memories are as vivid as if it was just yesterday.

Good times.

Descending Pillar with views over Wind Gap, Windgap Cove, Mirk Cove and Steeple.
Feeling refuelled after lunch we re-shouldered and left the cloud behind which for now was still lingering above the Ennerdale valley but it wouldn't be for long, we didn't quite know it, or pay too much attention to it for that matter but the skies are starting to clear above our heads and for the first time today, the sun is starting to show through too bringing with it, instant warmth.

Extended views into the Ennerdale valley from Wind Gap.

Red Pike (Wasdale) seen with Yewbarrow in the distance.

After crossing Wind Gap we picked up the singular path on the Mosedale flank of Black Crag and followed its course around the head of the Mosedale Valley, this was the same path that we were uncertain about earlier but had come to the conclusion that it didn't descend into Mosedale, instead it was the alternative path to use instead of summiting Black Crag which offered fantastic views over the Mosedale Valley and indeed our next summit of Red Pike, It's a path as already mentioned neither of us had used before yet seeing that there was no need to go over Black Crag twice in one day it made sense to to use the alternate path.

Glad that was cleared up!

We stop and de-shoulder if only to take off layers as by now the sun was getting increasingly warm and those cold summit winds were starting to feel like a distant memory, time to roll up the sleeves boys, only two summits left now.

Striking sunlit views over the Mosedale Valley towards Kirk Fell, Lingmell and Great Gable.

Red Pike (Wasdale)

By the time we had rounded the head of the Mosedale valley the sun was well and truly out and it appeared that the forecasters had got there timings wrong, nevertheless the sun was going nowhere breaking up any lingering cloud revealing the summits of the Scafells for the first time today.

Despite having good ground underfoot and indeed to follow my foot was starting to give me pain again as I found myself stopping more frequent if only to stretch the tendon, as David has had the same injury he taught me the best stretching techniques by placing my toes on the end of a stone or rock before leaing forward thus causing the calf and foot tendon to stretch. The pain was copeable and with only two summits left there was no way I was going to let my foot pain put a dampener on things, even if it mean't going quiet for a while until the painkillers kicked in.

We press on towards Red Pike.

Views over Scoat Tarn towards Middle Fell and Seatallan with the Cumbrian coast beyond.

Here we stop to look back on Scoat Fell and the path we had used to navigate the head of the Mosedale Valley.
I must say that every now and again you may come across a path that you have never used before which leaves a fresh feeling over already known territory, this is the feeling I personally got and took it as a great highlight from the walk.

Great Gable, Great End, Broad Crag, Lingmell and the Scafells from Red Pike (Wasdale) summit.

No matter how tiring a day you are always rewarded by the easy stroll to Red Pike summit and today was no different soon passing a host of walkers who were heading for Scoat Fell. By the time we reached the summit cairn a couple had just left and by now were making a descent towards Dore Head while we stood a while and enjoyed the views.

It was quite remarkable how quickly the skies were clearing free of cloud and how far we could see into the distance, talk about a day of two halfs the clarity was just getting clearer and clearer by the minute.

"A fitting end as we put it"

Yewbarrow over Dore Head from Red Pike summit.
The excitement is starting to build.

Great End, Broad Crag, Lingmell, Scafell Pike and Scafell seen over Yewbarrow's Stirrup Crag.

Descending Red Pike (Wasdale) towards Dore Head as views open out over the head of the Wasdale Valley.
I had always remembered the descent of Red Pike as a slow one, unusually brought on by tired feet and aching muscles, but this wasn't the case today as we each blazed our own trail with sites now set on the scramble on Stirrup Crag.

The mighty Stirrup Crag over Dore Head.

Great Gable and Great End domineering the head of the Wasdale Valley.

Yewbarrow from Dore Head.
With the descent of Red Pike behind us we could now concentrate on our ascent on Yewbarrow via Stirrup Crag. As a novice walking the Mosedale round with Tim many years ago we almost had to turn around after failing to secure a route up that didn't involve ripping off chunks of skin from our knees, I'm thankful to say that after a few attempts I now find the ascent of Stirrup Crag one of the best that Lakeland has to offer and it still gets the hairs on the back of my neck to stand.

Wasdale Head.

After passing a herd of Bulls at Dore Head both Rod and David shorten their walking poles and attach them to the side of their packs in preparation for the scramble on Stirrup Crag, I use my poles during the steep ascent below Stirrup Crag before stopping at the base where I de-shoulder and pack them away along with my camera.

Rod goes first and quickly ascends a rock ravine soon followed by myself and David where all three of us now find ourselves looking at the summit where a more technical scramble awaits which involves a little thought as to where hands and feet are going to go. There are only a couple of rock steps but they are a few feet apart and making sure your best and strongest foot forward is key to a successful ascent, I guess even the best of climbers have to at one point lose some skin, especially when wearing shorts.

The three of us all made it up safely and before I reached the top I de-shouldered again to get my camera out, the views were just too grand to ignore.

Ascent on Stirrup Crag.
With outstanding views back into the Mosedale valley.

Red Pike (Wasdale) Black Crag, Wind Gap and Pillar from the Stirrup Crag summit.
It was an adrenalin fuelled ten minute ascent as always and after reaching Stirrup Crag summit cairn we all de-shouldered once more and detached our walking poles from our packs, it was also a moment when everything suddenly started to come together and my heart started to sink, this is it, the final summit of the project, the 214th.

Outstanding views over Red Pike (Wasdale) towards Black Crag, Wind Gap and Pillar.

Striking out towards Yewbarrow summit.
Conditions couldn't have been more perfect as we crested the ridge and began to walk towards Yewbarrow summit under a warm afternoon sun where we spoke of memories from past walks and which ones we enjoyed the most, earlier during the descent of Pillar David had asked me to sum up the project in one word and I came up with the word challenging, almost instantly both on and off the fell, I've lived and breathed these fells for the best part of seven months and in a few moments, it will all be over.

Magnificent Scafells seen with Lingmell.
The air clarity is just perfect, it's still hard to believe that this is the same day we summited Buckbarrow and Seatallan on this morning.


Not far from the summit now as I take a look back along the ridge towards Pillar and Red Pike (Wasdale)

The Scafells and Lingmell from Yewbarrow summit.

The guys held back as I crested the summit then joined me as soon as my walking pole tapped the summit cairn where I grazed a scratch into my wedding ring just as I had after completing the 2,000 footers. Wow, that's it, I've just summited all 214 Wainwrights in 30 separate walks, the goal had been achieved and what a journey I have had getting there.

Red Pike (Wasdale) Black Crag, Wind Gap and Pillar from Yewbarrow summit.

Lingmell and the Scafells in brilliant afternoon sunlight from Yewbarrow summit.

Illgill Head and Whin Rigg seen towering above Wast Water as we approach Great Door.

We came to a mutual agreement that we would descend Yewbarrow via Great Door and gave Yewbarrow the descent it deserved. It was a cautious descent due to Davids knee and my foot injury which was quite painful but I tried not to think about it. The mood, however, is high irrespective of what this summit actually means when we have views as good as this to descend by.

IIIgill Head, the Wast Water Screes, Whin Rigg and Wast Water.

Views over Lingmell, Scafell Pike and Scafell.

With Great Door outflanked we descend steeply avoiding the rock steps when possible by using the step grassy ledges that lay along side the path, so steep we throw our walking poles like javelins twenty feet down before making the descent using every available body part at hand watched on by grazing sheep who scarper into the retreating Bracken the closer we got to them. Once the rock steps were negotiated we pull over from right to left and begin to descend towards a familiar wooden sty that somehow, doesn't seem to be getting any closer.

I'm troubled again and I stop while trying to stretch the tendon back in my foot as I use my walking poles as some kind of aid if only to pull my calf muscle back again, David helps by finding a rock for my foot to balance on and I can actively feel the tendon stretching, once finished I kick my foot back into my boot as we round the south ridge, the wooden sty, much closer now.

Views back up Yewbarrow south ridge towards Bell Ribb while on the left, Dropping Crag.
The stretching worked and I am able to enjoy the descent while soaking up on my achievement, from the South Ridge I spot the roof of my car through the trees which when reached, will bring the project to a definitive end, but there's still those fantastic views to enjoy before we get there.

IIIgill Head, Whin Rigg and Wast Water.

At the foot of the South Ridge we pass through a wooden gate and walk alongside Over Beck for a few moments before my car is reached, we had been walking for the best part of ten hours and our aching muscles reflected this, sadly there isn't enough time to have a celebratory pint at the Inn but we have promised to keep that pint on the bar and enjoy it after our next walk which should hopefully be next weekend weather permitting.

David asked me to sum up this project with one word which I still find difficult, yes it was hard and because of that I picked up a career threatening injury which left untreated, could spell an end to fell walking but of course it won't get that far.

From pen to fell I can categorically say that I have enjoyed every single moment of this project which has seen me walk through thigh high snow to thigh high bracken, the most wonderful thing that I have witnessed was to see the seasons come and go, to hear the first Lark of Spring and as today, witness mother nature take the bracken away for another year.

Last December I came up with 30 walks to summit all 214 Wainwrights, but when I dig deep, when I really think about why I did this, was it really to summit all the Wainwrights, or was it just to absorb the Lakeland fells and somehow mask it by calling it a project.

I think it was a bit of both.


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