Extended Hayeswater Circuit

15th October 2023

The trio is back together again on what was promised: an extended circuit of Hayeswater from Hartsop. David came up with this walk two weeks ago, but I had to cancel at the last minute to cover a sick colleague at work, and I've been thinking about the walk ever since. The initial plan was to walk Saturday on what was supposed to be a bright day, but the forecast deteriorated with rain arriving around lunchtime.

This walk deserved the best forecast, and that's what today provided. It was the type of autumnal day when everything fell into place, from near-perfect clarity to the perfect combination of experiencing summer, autumn, and winter all in one day, topped off with the distance and sometimes the not-so-distant sounds of deer rutting in the Hayeswater valley below.

It was the type of day that had to be embraced - a day when you walk that extra mile because next time, well, it might be grey, damp, dismal, and full of regret.

Wainwright Guide Book Two
The Far Eastern Fells
"A striking range in grandeur and wilderness"

Ascent: 3,140 Feet - 957 Metres
Wainwrights: 8, The Knott - Rampsgill Head - High Raise (Martindale) - Kidsty Pike - High Street - Mardale III Bell - Thornthwaite Crag - Gray Crag
Weather: Bright Sunshine Throughout. Breezy Across The Summits. Frozen Turf & Pools from 2,000ft. Highs of 13°C Lows of 2°C Feels Like -4°C
Parking: Car Park, Hartsop
Area: Far Eastern
Miles: 10.5
Walking With: David Hall & Rod Hepplewhite
Ordnance Survey: OL5
Time Taken: 5 Hours 30 Minutes
Route: Hartsop - Hayeswater Gill - Hayeswater - The Knott - Rampsgill Head - High Raise (Martindale) - Kidsty Pike - Straights of Riggindale - High Street - Mardale III Bell - Top of Hall Cove - Thornthwaite Crag - Gray Crag - Hayeswater - Hayeswater Gill - Hartsop

Parking Details and Map
Nearest Post Code: CA11 0NZ
Grid Reference: NY 410 213
Notes: A very popular car park in the hamlet of Hartsop giving access within the heart of the east and far eastern fells just a few minutes stroll away from Brothers Water. The car park is situated at the end of a narrow lane which provides the backbone to the village. An honesty box can be found next to the gate at the far end of the car park.


Map and Photo Gallery


First light over Gray Crag from the ruined barn, Hartsop 8:15am 2°C

Autumn has officially arrived in Lakeland, with temperatures plummeting below zero for the first time in months and as a result, the trio has hung up their shorts and dusted off their long walking trousers. The stars were out when I left home, and the dark, clear skies continued that way until I reached Tebay where dawn broke revealing cloudless skies as far as the eye could see. Due to Kirkstone Pass being closed for resurfacing during October, my journey was extended by around 23 miles, but given how much I was looking forward to today's route, I hardly gave it any thought. It was just me and half a dozen rabbits who darted off in every direction as I drove onto the car park at Hartsop, shattering thin layers of ice that had formed over the puddles.

After reversing my car in towards the back of the car park, I left the engine running, the idea being that after I had laced up I would return to the car for a quick warm-up before the guys arrived, but that idea was thwarted when Rod pulled up soon after. We still had plenty of time before we were scheduled to set off stepping from one foot to the next trying to keep warm while I caught up with Rod; blimey, it felt much colder than it actually was. A few minutes later, David arrived, by which time I'd added my windproof, new Rab beanie, and gloves and was ready to go. A young girl and her dog pass through the car park as Rod and David finalise their kit, and I give her a morning nod and got one in return. She had disappeared beyond the large sheep pens by the time we set off, and after a clunk from the catch latch, we were off.

Thornthwaite Crag and Gray Crag seen beyond Hayeswater.
The sun had only climbed high enough to enlighten our surrounding summits as we made our way alongside Hayeswater Gill, the ruggedness of the path underfoot causing us to change direction by the minute, not helped by the sometimes steep incline. While the guys chatted up ahead, I would often turn around to see the progress of the sun as it inched its way up the fells over our shoulders.

Our view back towards the Eastern fells.
Here we take in the view towards Hartsop Dodd, High Hartsop Dodd, Hart Crag, Hartsop above How, Hart Crag, Dove Crag, Fairfield, St Sunday Crag, Birks, Dollywagon Pike, Nethermost Pike, Helvellyn, Catstye Cam, Lower Man, White Side, Raise and finally Brock Crags.

Looking back on Rest Dodd and The Nab from our ascent on The Knott.
After crossing Hayeswater Gill by the familiar footbridge, we began the steady ascent on The Knott's broad flank while listening to the bellowing of deer first from the shores of Hayeswater and then from below Rest Dodd's summit, where we could see two walkers and their dog ascending. The deer bolted, but we could still hear them as they dropped into Ramps Gill below. We hadn't reached our first summit yet, and this walk already had contender of the year written all over it.

The wider view.
This time including Brock Crags, Angletarn Pikes and Place Fell.

Rampsgill Head and High Raise (Martindale) from The Knott summit.
We had ascended The Knott via the steep stone wall with David reaching the summit first, where we were all treated to brilliant sunlight, and with it came the slightest rise in temperature. Eyes blinded by the sunlight, noses dripping in the windchill - if this was our first proper taste of Autmun 2023, then bring it on. Putting the poetry aside, it was bloody chilly - the kind of cold that settles in quickly—and after a few moments spent absorbing the views, we left, setting our sites on Rampsgill Head.

Looking back on The Knott.
With the eastern fells in the distance.

Caudale Moor, Red Screes, The Coniston and Eastern fells from Rampsgill Head.
With the exception of High Street our ascent on Rampgill Head would be the last main ascent of the walk give or take the odd incline here and there.

Next, High Raise (Martindale)
After gaining Rampsgill Head direct from Ramps Gill valley I don't think there'll ever come a time when we don't cross the summit without thinking of the torture we put our calfs and lungs though back in June this year, what a great day that my calfs remembered for days afterwards.

Wether Hill and Loadpot Hill from High Raise (Martindale) summit cairn.
After descending Rampsgill Head, we joined the grassy trod linking Kidsty Pike with High Raise before beginning the gentle incline on to its summit. It was somewhere along here that we encountered frozen turf underfoot with ice layering any pools that we encountered.

Looking back on High Raise (Martindale)
With Great Mell Fell and Souther Fell in the distance.

Kidsty Pike summit.
Besides the woman walking her dog earlier and the couple ascending Rest Dodd, we had not passed anyone nor could we see anyone on distant summits, which we found a tad unusual given the location and forecast. It wouldn't last, but it was nice while it did.

Short Stile and Long Stile (High Street) seen beyond the head of Riggindale.
Not forgetting Thornthwaite Crag, Stony Cove Pike and Caudale Moor.

Looking back on one of Lakelands more distinctive summits, Kidsty Pike.
With Haweswater Reservoir seen beyound.

High Street and Thornthwaite Crag from the Straights of Riggindale.
We began the short descent onto the Straights of Riggindale, where I stopped to admire one of my favourite views of High Street while at the same time discussing with David and Rod which path we should take onto High Street's summit.

By the wall it is then...

The view back over the Straights of Riggindale...
...towards Kidsty Pike, The Knott and a distant Place Fell.

High Street summit.
We crested the shoulder of the summit and walked alongside the stone wall, eyes splitting in the bright sunlight, where memories always flood back from my third ascent during the depths of winter when I used the stone wall as a shelter. It was a day of piercing winter sunshine and snow so deep only the top two stones of the wall were visible.

Mardale III Bell with Harter Fell (Mardale) beyond.
There had only been one chap at High Street's summit, who left as we arrived. Like our previous summits, standing still only egged the windchill on, and despite my fondness for the summit, I left after patting the trig point with my gloved right hand. We strode out, continuing to follow the wall south-westerly via the grassy worn trod bound for Mardale III Bell.

The view towards Long Stile (High Street) Caspel Gate, Kidsty Pike and Low Raise.
With Blea Water sadly out of view in the hollow below.

A distant Thornthwaite Crag beacon from a semi-frozen nameless tarn close to Mardale III Bell summit.
We soon joined the rocky path linking High Street with Mardale III Bell and we were glad that for now, the wind was behind us.

Harter Fell (Mardale) from Mardale III Bell summit.
A few minutes from the tarn lies Mardale III Bell summit where David and Rod explored the views while I ventured off to locate the path that navigates around the top of Hall Cove from where we will gain Thornthwaite Crag.

Yoke, III Bell and Froswick.
More commonly known as the III Bell ridge.

Thornthwaite Crag seen beyond Hall Cove.
This is a fantastic path, all be it narrow (but never exposed), that navigates the head of Hall Cove, which is commonly used to complete the Kentmere Horseshoe. We will only walk as far as where the cove narrows in the centre of the photo before heading out towards Thornthwaite Crag.

Views into the Kentmere valley.
With Kentmere Reservoir shimmering in the sunshine below.

Gray Crag, Hayeswater, Place Fell, The Knott, Rampsgill Head and the Straights of Riggindale.
We left Hall Cove via a narrow grassy path and joined the masses on the path that links Thornthwaite Crag with High Street, a truly spectacular stretch of path given where you have left and what you are approaching. It was from here that we heard the bellowing of deer again in the Hayeswater valley below.

Looking North...
This time the view includes High Street and Kidsty Pike.

A distant Windermere from Thornthwaite Crag.
We were walking against the traffic, meaning when we arrived at Thornthwaite Crag, we had the summit to ourselves and therefore had a world of choices as to where we would break out for lunch. Behind the wall facing High Street, shielded from the wind worked splendidly.

Stony Cove Pike, Caudale Moor and a host of Eastern fell tops from Thornthwaite Crag summit.
While David and Rod broke our lunch I hopped over the wall to grab this photo noticing that distant cloud was starting to build.

Brock Crags, Place Fell, Gray Crag and The Knott as we begin our Gray Crag descent.
Lunch over we shouldered packs and for the first time all day experienced the odd moment when cloud would momentarily obscure the sunshine.

Views over Pasture Bottom...
towards Hartsop Dodd and distant views so clear they looked close enough to touch.

Not far from Gray Crag summit now.
When the bellowing from the deer got the better of us, we left the path and scoured the valley below. The bellowing was so clear that the deer had to be directly below us, which would explain why we couldn't see them.

The Eastern Fells from Gray Crag summit cairn.

A little further on after passing a young couple on their way up to Thornthwaite Crag we arrived at Gray Crag summit cairn with the eastern fells never far from the skyline.

Peering down on Hayeswater below.
Once again the sound of the deer bellowing below got the better of us and we left the path for a closer look this time confident we'd spot the deer but again, nothing.

View over Hartsop towards Brothers Water and those Eastern fells.
We continued to descend, but not as far as the northern tip of Gray Crag, which is often referred to as the nose of the fell. To avoid the steep descent down the nose, we divert east and descend more or less in line with the footbridge that crosses Hayeswater Gill below. It was a steep, pathless, but quick descent, which Rod descended in double quick time. After questioning this, Rod simply said, "Once I fixed my eye on something, whether it be a boulder or patch of grass, I just went for it." All of this while David and I dawdled behind.

Crossing Hayeswater Gill at the Pump House.
Five good minutes passed before David and I joined Rod, who had been patiently waiting on the footpath below, before we continued our descent, flanked by Hayeswater Gill to our right. A few moments later, David noticed that all the sunshine was on the opposite side of the gill and suggested we enjoy the last half mile of the walk in the afternoon sunshine. What a grand idea!

Pump House, Hayeswater Gill.

Gray Crag from the sheep pens, Hartsop.

After crossing Hayeswater Gill, we passed the Pump House where we spotted what looked like a caravan actually inside the pump house. As odd as it seemed, we continued our descent, joining the tarmac track that once provided access to the Pump House, today, it was a fantastic alternative to the rough track on the opposite side of the gill. Under bright afternoon sunshine we took in the views into Pasture Bottom towards Threshthwaite Mouth while watching sunlight glisten off Pasture Beck below. It was one of those heartwarming end-of-walk views, but sadly, the light was too bright to capture it with my camera. The track joined the lane back to Hartsop from where we took in the last views of Gray Crag and The Knott, our first and final summits of the day, respectively.

A woman passed through the gate as we approached, and Hi's were shared as we entered the car park, feeling pleased that no one was double-parked, something that had been on our minds after David mentioned sometime ago that he had been boxed in for the best part of an hour and a half which by all accounts is more common than you think. I locked the gate behind me and passed a chap reading a book, one leg in his car, the other out, totally oblivious to our passing. We reached the cars and began our kit down, easing boots off whilst sitting on mini fold-away chairs, still not quite believing the perfect walk had come to an end while secretly hoping autumn would bring us more days like today.


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