The Eskdale Horseshoe

19th September 2020

It's been sometime since I last put so much prep and physical effort into a walk just 24hrs before I was second guessing did I still have the legs to take on such an arduous route. One of my main arguments was which direction do I take, clockwise, or anti-clockwise. Walking the route in a clockwise direction seemed the obvious but the next hurdle was how to traverse the Scafells. Descending Lord's Rake or Foxes Tarn gully just didn't appeal to me, they are both steep and cumbersome plus the re-ascent from the base of Foxes gully to Mickledore would have been a real thigh burner. I opted to walk the route in an anti-clockwise direction meaning I would take on the Crinkles first by the gruelling ascent of Adam-a-Cove from a start point at Cockley Beck.

From Crickle Crags I would take in the contours of upper Eskdale collecting Bow Fell, Esk Pike, Great End, III Crag, Broad Crag, Scafell Pike, Sca Fell and finally Slight Side from which I will descend back to Great Moss by means of traversing below Slight Side's mighty Horn Crag which requires the perfect exit point from Slight Side south ridge, get it wrong and I could find myself in the shallows of Rowantree Crags or worse, on Horn Crag itself, that exit point was critical at a point when aching limbs and fatigue was at its highest. The Eskdale Horseshoe isn't for the faint hearted, it will test both your physical and mental fitness with eye watering scenery while traversing Lakelands grandest and highest peaks.

Wainwright Guide Book Four
The Southern Fells

Why does a man climb a mountain? why has he forced his tired and sweating body up here when he might instead been sitting at his ease in a deckchair at the seaside, looking at girls in bikinis, or fast asleep, or sucking ice-cream, according to his fancy. On the face of it the thing doesn't make sense.


Ascent: 5,320 Feet - 1,622 Metres
Wainwrights: 7, Crinkle Crags - Bow Fell - Esk Pike - Great End - Scafell Pike - Sca Fell - Slight Side
Visiting: 2, III Crag - Broad Crag
Weather: Cool to Start Remaining Bright Throughout With Gust Over The Summits. Highs of 20°C Lows of 8°C
Parking: Roadside Spaces, Cockley Beck
Area: Southern
Miles: 14
Walking With: On My Own
Ordnance Survey: OL6
Time Taken: 10 Hours
Route: Cockley Beck - Moasdale - Adam-a-Cove - Long Top (Crinkle Crags) - Three Tarns - Bow Fell - Ore Gap - Esk Pike - Esk Hause - Calf Cove - Great End - III Crag - Broad Crag - Broad Crag Col - Scafell Pike - Mickledore - Rake's Progress - Lord's Rake - West Wall Traverse - Deep Gill - Sca Fell - Long Green - Slight Side - High Scarth Crag - River Esk - Lingcove Beck - Moasdale - Cockley Beck

Parking Details and Map
Nearest Post Code: LA20 6EQ
Grid Reference: NY 247 101
Notes: It is often the most smallest parking places in Lakeland which offers the most grandest of walks and parking at Cockly Beck is just that. With access to some of Lakelands most secluded and wildest valleys yet there is room for around half a dozen well parked cars at Cockly Beck therefore arriving early is key to the start off a great day on the Eskdale Fells.

Found directly in between Wrynose Pass and Hard knott Pass parking at Cockly Beck can be difficult at the best of times and it pays throughout the Winter months to check the forecast before due to the icy conditions which affect the pass, even of the roads are not icy the valley temperatures fall dramatically along the pass so please check before you leave. Parking is free.


Map and Photo Gallery


Sunrise from the top of Wrynose Pass 06:28am
I'd set my alarm clock for 3am and by 4am I was northbound. Feeling nervous and completely focused on the day ahead I'd totally forgotten about the sunrise until I caught a glimpse of pink hue through my rear view mirror and that was it, I had to stop to take it all in. That's Little Langdale Tarn below.

Esk Pike, Great End, III Crag, Broad Crag, Scafell Pike and Scafell from Moasdale 06:52am

I was a tad nervous about not being able to park at the limited spaces by Cockley Beck but upon arrival besides a dozen inquisitive sheep I had the place to myself. I was running 10 minutes ahead of schedule which meant I could check through kit without rushing which worked wonders and helped calm nerves. Some deuschbag however, had left a pair of undies at the parking spaces and my eyes couldn't exactly strain away from the site of them, I mean why?

Besides the 2.5ltrs of hydration in my Camelbak I'm also carrying two 1ltr bottles of Lucozade Sport plus an empty bottle which I can fill along the way should I run dry. It's a cool but clear morning and after a quick pat down I lock my car and head into Moasdale. Despite the lack of rain over the recent week Moasdale is still like a sponge and just ten minutes into the walk I find myself making detours around the bogs. On the higher sections of the path the ground is dry and soon the view opens out to the Scafell massif and six of the summits I'll be peaking, aside the beautiful view I put them to the back of my mind and instead I concentrate on reaching Black Crag seen in the foreground over on the right. It's from Black Crag do I start the gruelling ascent on Adam-a-Cove from.

Crinkle Crags, Adam-a-Cove and Black Crag.
I leave the valley path and start my ascent on Black Crag by means of a narrow trod (out of shot) over on the left.

Great End, the Yeastyrigg Crags Ridge, Pike de Bield and Bow Fell.
Gaining Black Crag was a delight and opened up the views into Yeastyrigg Gill below the grandeur of Bow Fell and the Yeastyrigg Crag ridge. I find myself captivated by the hint of sunlight over Pike de Bield which intensifies as the sun climbs higher.

Slight Side, Cam Spout Crag, Sca Fell, Mickledore, Scafell Pike, Pen, Broad Crag and III Crag from Black Crag.
While in the foreground we have Pianett Knott, Low Gait Crags, High Gait Crags and Scar Lathing.

Great End, the Yeastyrigg Crags Ridge, Pike de Bield and Bow Fell.
I'm finding the views far too distracting this morning!

Sca Fell, Cam Spout Crag, Mickledore, Pen and Scafell Pike seen over High Gait Crags.

Broad Crag, III Crag, Great End, the Yeastyrigg Crags Ridge, Pike de Bield and Bow Fell.
More light is starting to streak over Ore Gap now illuminating Pike de Bield and the Yeastyrigg Crags ridge. Note the angle of ascent.

Crinkle Crags (Long Top) from Swinsty Gill.

From Black Crag I ascend steeply and pathless sometimes crossing narrow feeder streams or troughs which seemed to make my ascent double hard. Soon Swinsty Gill comes into view which I cross at its head before making my way over Adam-a-Cove,

Crinkle Crags (Long Top) from Adam-a-Cove.
The initial hard work was behind me for now and all that was left before I reached Long Top was to make a pathless traverse of Adam-a-Cove. I'm heading for what appears to be a col on the skyline which is actually a steep rock/grass gully. For geographical reference should I steer right towards the far crags I would have found myself at the base of the Bad Step/Long Top.

Grass/rock gully west of Crinkle Crags (Long Top) summit.
At approximately 2,300ft ABSL I reached the rock/grass gully, had a quick breather then gathered myself and began the steep ascent.

Looking back on Adam-a-Cove over Moasdale towards Hard Knott, Yew Bank and Eskdale Green.
With Harter Fell (Eskdale) and Black Combe in the distance.

Crinkle Crags.

Panting like a Labrador on a hot day I reached the top of the gully and to my delight had the grandest of views over the Crinkles where morning light was beginning to streak over the Crinkles. I'm still a short distance away from Crinkle Crags summit but at least I can breathe a sigh of relief that I was almost upon the days first of nine summits.

Great End, Esk Pike and Bow Fell command the view for now.

Slight Side, Cam Spout Crag, Sca Fell, Mickledore, Scafell Pike, Pen, Broad Crag and III Crag and Broad Crag.
Taken from the un-named tarn north west of Crinkle Crags summit.

Crinkle Crags summit cairn.
A short pull was required in order to reach the summit cairn and after passing the un-named tarn I arrived blinded by brilliant sunlight.

Great Langdale and Windermere from Crinkle Crags summit.
It was positively delightful to have Crinkle Crags to myself and not only that I was being treated to some gorgeous views over Great Langdale towards a golden Windermere nearly ten miles away.

The view further south.
Towards Great Knott, Pike O'Blisco, Cold Pike, Wet Side Edge and Wetherlam.

Windermere close up.
Seen over Pike O'Blisco and Loughrigg Fell.

Bow Fell from Crinkle Crags.
There was no need to summit all the Crinkles so when possible I detour around.

Crinkle Three seen over Mickle Door gully.

Bow Fell.
From the un-named tarn below Shelter Crags.

Bow Fell and Bowfell Links seen over Three Tarns.
Incredibly I am still yet to see anyone.

Slight Side, Sca Fell, Scafell Pike and Broad Crag from Three Tarns.
This Tarn (the largest of the three) is one of my favourite tarns in the whole of Lakeland mainly because of this spectacular view. It's time to stop sight seeing now and get on with the ascent of Bow Fell.

Crinkle Crags seen beyond Three Tarns.

The Langdale Pikes from The Great Slab, Bow Fell.
I couldn't quite put my finger on it but between Three Tarns and Esk Pike I had lost my ebb, my pace seemed off and I started to dwell on it. I had given myself 10 hours to complete the round but as my place slowed I started to wonder could I complete the round at all.

Scafell Pike, III Crag, Great End and Esk Pike from Bow Fell summit.
With Bow Fell reached I stood in the wind after well and truly giving myself a good kick in the backside. With Crinkle Crags and now Bow Fell behind me the realisation of the route opened out and I was starting to love every minute of it.

Great Moss, Slight Side, Sca Fell, Mickledore, Scafell Pike and III Crag seen over the Yeastyrigg Crags ridge.

Sca Fell, Scafell Pike, III Crag and Esk Pike seen over Ore Gap.
I started the descent off Bow Fell and crossed the path of three fell runners close to Bowfell Buttress, all three cheery and 'Mornings' are shared. I had given myself treat breaks and during the crossing of Ore Gap I had planned to restore any lost energy by gorging on half a dozen fruit pastels which I washed down with Lucozade Sport.

Bow Fell summit cairn.

I crossed Ore Gap and and began the steady ascent on Esk Pike. It was here I'm passed by a larger group of fell runners one of whom had a close call with the ground after jumping over a large boulder only to stagger his landing, it happened feet away from me and I held an imaginary card with 10 points for recovery, that guy should have gone down hard!

I reached the summit finding a young girl there who was taking pictures and more 'mornings' were shared, it wouldn't be the last I'd see of her but more on that in a wee while.

Great End, Great Gable, Green Gable and Seathwaite Tarn from Esk Pike.
I guess it was during the descent of Esk Pike did I find my rhythm again and despite a few creeping aches my confidence was back and in full flow,

Calf Cove.
With Esk Pike behind me I crossed a very busy Esk Hause finding walkers approaching from Great Langdale, Seathwaite and Sty Head. Esk Hause is a popular resting spot and this morning it was no different.

Looking down on Calf Cover towards Esk Pike, Bow Fell, Crinkle Crags and the distant Coniston Fells.
It's Great End next, the farthest point away from my car, from here on in I'm on the outbound leg of the walk.

III Crag and Scafell Pike from Great End.

I had already watched four fell runners head up the scree onto Great End prior to reaching Calf Cove and I wondered should I follow the same route, I was trying my best not to make this into a competition against myself but I guess the competitor will always rear at times, more so on such a challenging route. I decide against and instead continue ascending the stone steps towards the top of Calf Cove.

Great End was a tad busy with four fell walkers already at its summit and we stopped before being joined by the young girl who I had seen back on Esk Pike. We sat opposite each other for a few minutes and found we were heading for the same summits before I left smiling "you may well see me later" and with that I started my descent from Great End back the same way I had ascended.

Views from the top of Calf Cove towards Lingmell, Red Pike (Wasdale) Scoat Fell, Pillar, Kirk Fell and Great Gable.
I couldn't but help give Rod a thought who today was walking Great Gable and Kirk Fell from the top of Honister Pass so I though about giving Rod a shout "ROD CAN YOU SEE ME!!?!!?"haha

Looking back over the top of Calf Cove towards Great End.
As you can see I've joined the 'motorway' path III Crag bound which was streaming with walkers all heading towards Scafell Pike.

Scafell Pike, Rough Crag Sca Fell and Slight Side from III Crag summit.
I left the 'motorway' path and diverted towards III Crag summit which upon arrival had two people sat down at its summit.

Broad Crag from III Crag.
I'll be over there soon thats if I can pull myself away from all these wonderful views.

Scafell Pike, Broad Crag Col and Broad Crag from III Crag.
I wondered over to the western cairn and started to take in the views before being joined by the young girl who I'd been talking to on Great End, as it turns out her name is Lotti from Stoke.

The Gables and Great End from III Crag.

Peering down into Great Moss and the mighty River Esk.
Talking about all things mighty, there's Pen over on the right.

Scafell Pike and Broad Crag.
By now I was just a few steps ahead of Lotti and seeing as we were ascending the same summits in the same order Lotti and I thought why not do them together. It's Broad Crag next which we ascend via the scree path seen right.

Looking back on Great End.

It was during the lower half of Broad Crag ascent did cramp strike my left calf so much so had I been alone I would have screamed the place down with f-word after f-word but somehow I concealed the pain and after a brief stop, continued in ascent.

Nothing like a little pain to keep the manners in check!

Scafell Pike from Broad Crag.
With the summit of Broad Crag reached we spent a few moments taking in the view but the one thing that struck most was how busy Scafell Pike looked which I guess can only be expected on such a nice day.

Lingmell with the Mosedale Horseshoe appears from Broad Crag Col.
After summating Scafell Pike Lotti plans to summit Lingmell via Lingmell Col before returning to Styhead via the Corridor Route which can be seen below.

Broad Crag over Broad Crag Col.
For a sugar boost and by pure coincidence we both pull out packets of fruit pastels before taking on the ascent of Scafell Pike.

Lingmell, Piers Gill, Great Gable, Green Gable, Kirk Fell, Pllara and Scoat Fell from Broad Crag Col.
With the High Stile ridge and the Grasmoor group in the distance.

Broad Crag, III Crag and Great End from Scafell Pike.
We took advantage of the path on both sides of the crags leading towards the summit and topped out over boulder into a waiting crowd. I've been here when it's busy and each time seems busier than the last but today it was just manic with space few and far between.

Styhead, Great Gable, Green Gable, Seathwaite Fell and Base Brown to name a few.
We agreed to head onto the summit cairn where I took a few photo's of Lotti using her mobile phone camera to celebrate her first Scafell Pike summit.


Broad Stand and Sca Fell seen over Mickledore.
We left the crowds and followed the path northwards until it was time to thank Lotti for her company and say goodbye. I then steer west and begin my descent towards the Mickledore ridge, the crowds of Scafell Pike now a distant memory.

Broad Stand, the East Buttress and Sca Fell from the Mickledore Stretcher Box.
It was around 13:20 in the afternoon by the time I reached the Mickledore ridge and again I recognised my pace was slowing down, not just that I had a serious lack of energy but the last thing I need right now was to ascend Lord's Rake on a full stomach. I pop three fruit pastels down followed by three more and wash them down with a long gulp of Lucozade Sport then begin the descent onto Rake's Progress.

Looking back on Scafell Pike from Mickledore.

Climber on Central Buttress.

Pulpit Rock from Rake's Progress.
Making the descent from Mickledore onto Rake's Progress was as slow as expected finding the path just below the ridge heavily eroded.

The 1903 Memorial Cross found at the foot of Scafell Pinnacle/end of Rake's Progress.
It is not known exactly what happened to the four experienced climbers, they were found roped together in a scree run far below Lord’s Rake three of whom were all ready deceased by the time help arrived, the fourth member of the group died during the descent back to Wasdale Hotel.

Lord's Rake.
Two walkers had just exited the rake looking sheepish both bearing the markings of descent by backside.

Looking down Lord's Rake.
From the location of the fallen chock stone.

Scafell Pinnacle from the start of the West Wall Traverse.
It wasn't my intention to gain Sca Fell via the West Wall Traverse and Deep Gill and despite my aching limbs and my empty belly I just couldn't pass up on the opportunity on such a nice day.

Scafell Pinnacle from the start of the West Wall Traverse.
It's funny how you don't notice the exposure until you look back on the photos and think "oh yeah" that's pretty damn exposed.

Climber emerges at the top of Scafell Pinnacle.
Crikey rather him than me.

Scafell Pinnacle from the West Wall Traverse.
Loving the light at the top of Scafell Pinnacle.

Scafell Pinnacle from Deep Gill.

Looking down on Deep Gill.
The grassy rampart seen lower left marks the end of the West Wall Traverse and where Deep Gill is accessed.

Looking up Deep Gill.
Yeah we have daylight!

Scafell Pinnacle from Deep Gill.

Looking down Deep Gill.

The Pinnacle (left) and the Oracle (bottom right) from my lunch spot.

Deep Gill was starting to take its toll on me, resting more times than I was on the move but with daylight ahead I persevered and came to one last stop half a dozen steep steps from the top of the Gill, suddenly a chap pops his head over then disappears and with each stop kicked forward he emerges again as my view widens, I couldn't believe it, it turns out that a crowd had gathered around the top of Deep Gill no doubt to watch the climbers on Scafell Pinnacle but all of a sudden all eyes were on me.

The last few feet required a upward thrust Leo Houlding would of been proud of and somehow I didn't cock it up, not even with legs that were starting to feel as heavy as lead. The crowd disbanded except for two walkers lingered around the top of Deep Gill while I de-shouldered at the side of the rock that Alfred Wainwright made famous (Scafell 9) and tucked into a well earned lunch.

Sca Fell from the top of Deep Gill.
Feeling slightly energised I packed up and made my way towards todays eighth summit, Sca Fell.

Scafell Pike, III Crag, Esk Pike and Bow Fell from Sca Fell.
Sca Fell was much less busy and as I approached the summit cairn two walkers moved aside and I thanked them. My intention was to take a few photos then be on my way but I was gripped by the view and indeed the summits that I had stood on earlier that day,,,By now the Crinkles looked so far away.

Slight Side seen beyond Long Green.
With tiring limbs the descent of both Sca Fell and Slight side would put me to test but I remained focused while enjoying the distant views of the Irish Sea while under a hot afternoon sun.

Looking back on Sca Fell, III Crag and Esk Pike from Long Green.

Scafell, III Crag, Great Moss, Esk Hause, Esk Pike Ore Gap and Bow Fell from Slight Side summit.
I made the best contour along Long Green taking care I don't descent too far right from which I will only have to re-ascend no matter how slight. Tired minds still have to think logically I guess. I reached Slight Side summit and was greeted to strong gusts from which I struggled to stand upright in, it was barmey where did this wind suddenly come from! I dropped down from the summit and descend through the 'squeeze' then later looked back and realised I could have descended by an alternative route which wouldn't have left my feet dangling over no mans land! I pass a young couple who are adding layers no doubt due to the increasing wind.

Bow Fell, High Scarth Crag (foreground) Crinkle Crags and Little Stand.
I continued my decsent of Slight Side until I reached the grassy slopes then continued a little more, it was here I checked my GPS and found I was at the 1.500ft contour, exactly the height from which I needed to leave the path and traverse northwards to the grassy col seen centre left.

III Crag, Esk Hause, Esk Pike, Great Moss and Bow Fell from the flanks of High Scarth Crag.

Reaching the grassy col came with a huge relief and it was from here did I spot the bend in the River Esk below and not to mention a full panoramic view of the Eskdale Horseshoe. I could relax, I could feel my shoulders slum a little and now all that was left was to enjoy the walk back to Moasdale and my car thereafter.

Horn Crag.
The grassy col from where I have just descended can be seen far left.

Sca Fell, Sca Fell Pike, III Crag Great Moss and Esk Hause.

Scafell Pike, III Crag, Esk Hause, Esk Pike, Great Moss and Bow Fell from the un-named tarn below High Scarth Crag.
I picked up a faint path but spotted this un-named tarn before making my way over, my head wanted to dive in and have a swim around but the remnants of an almost empty bottle of Lucozade was suffice, what a view though.

Sca Fell, Scafell Pike, III Crag and Great Moss.

Bow Fell and Crinkle Crags seen over Scar Lathing, Low Gait Crags and Pianet Knott.
I'm heading for the footpath seen in the lower half of the photo which after leaving the River Esk will take me through to Lingcove Beck and Moasdale.

Crinkle Crags and Little Stand from the River Esk.

The River Esk was soon reached and from my previous elevation I was able to pick out the best place to cross which worked out well and I managed to hop my aching limbs over dry stone without so much as getting my boots wet.

Talking about getting my boots wet...

Looking back on Scar Lathing.

The Yeastyrigg Crags ridge and Bowfell from Moasdale.

I left Scar Lathing behind and continued to follow the footpath between Throstlehow Crag and Pianett Knott which required some slight ascent which didn't bother me as I seemed to regain a second wind, however it was the bogs underfoot which slowed me down and caused me to curse.

By now not only were my boots soaked but so too were my trousers right up to the knees. In my tired state I started to curse the bogs, I cursed them for ruining the final stages of the walk and I cursed them for using what little energy I had left in me, once clear I regained composure, told myself nothing could have ruined this walk but it didn't feel that way a few minutes ago.

Slight Side, Sca Fell, Scafell Pike, III Crag, Esk Pike and Black Crag from Moasdale.

Adam-a-Cove domineered my return through Mosedale, it had been my first ascent and what wonders it had brought. Heavy footed under a unusually hot September sunshine I take in the last mile back to the car as I reflect on what can only be one of the finest walks I have undertaken whilst walking the Lakeland fells. Somehow I manage to overtake a trio of walkers, crossed a stream and planted my feet firmly on tarmac. With my car just around the next bend I dodge traffic and sense I'm slowing down, I can ease off, slip my body into neutral and roll to a stop.

With my car reached I de-shoulder, unlock my car and head straight for the boot where the last bottle of Lucuzade awaits and this time like a cold pint on a hot day I neck the whole lot in one long continous gulp until the plastic bottle is squeezed into submisson, its late afternoon and I know I have a long journey ahead of me and I know my body will ache for days to come but boy, the Eskdale Horseshoe was worth it.

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