Fleetwith Pike, Haystacks and High Stile 28.05.2016

We were keen to get going as early as possible for the punishingly steep ascent of Fleetwith Edge, but even though we left Gatesgarth at 8.30 am (OK, I know it’s not very early, but the hostel didn’t serve breakfast till 7.30), the sun was already high in the sky.  Luckily one or two of the steeper sections were still in the shade, but we were still pretty warm by the time we arrived at the summit of Fleetwith Pike (2126 ft).  At least the heat gave us a good excuse for regular stops to take in the view – and what a view it is.  This must be one of the finest routes up any mountain in the Lakes.


The view to Buttermere, shortly after leaving Gatesgarth


Haystacks from the ascent route


Pausing for breath on the ascent – the haze was already starting to build up


Buttermere from the summit cairn

While admiring the view from the summit cairn, Georgina spotted a ring ouzel nearby.  Given that I’d only seen my first one two weeks previously, I was pretty pleased to see another one so soon.  I was even happier when another two came to join it!


Ring ouzel (photo by Georgina Collins)

We were soon joined on the summit by a chap who asked us if we’d seen anybody wearing a red sash – the first of several people to ask us this question.  I gather that they were participants in the Lakes Hunt, a cross between hide-and-seek and tag for grown-ups.  We never saw any of the ‘hares’ (the people who wear the red sashes and who are pursued by the ‘hunters’), but we were to hear their horns several times throughout the day.

Beyond Fleetwith Pike, I made a detour to visit the summit of Honister Crag (2077 ft), a Nuttall summit that was only ‘discovered’ fairly recently – too recently to feature in the book, in any case.


Fleetwith Pike and Buttermere from Honister Crag

Heading now for Haystacks, we dropped down to pass Dubs Hut, one of the few MBA bothies in the Lakes.  It seemed that there was a work party in for the weekend, though they were out when we arrived.  It was impressively clean and well maintained, so if any members of the work party read this, thanks guys!


Dubs Hut with Haystacks behind


The spotless interior of Dubs Hut – the loungers were labelled as MBA property, so I guess you normally have to sleep on the stone bench or the floor


The entrance to the bothy

The climb up to Haystacks was a delight; nowhere steep, but a succession of heathery hummocks, small crags and infant becks.  It’s easy to see why it was Wainwright’s favourite.


Admiring the view back to Fleetwith Pike from one of the many knolls


Another view of Buttermere

The path also passes a couple of delightful tarns, both of which would make idyllic camping spots.  Innominate Tarn is of course famous as Wainwright’s final resting place, but I thought Blackbeck Tarn was just as attractive.  No doubt it is less popular too!


Blackbeck Tarn.  The increasing haze made photography difficult.


Innominate Tarn

We stopped for lunch on the summit of Haystacks (1958 ft), which also boasts a lovely tarn.  It also gave us chance to boost our energy levels for the second big climb of the day, from Scarth Gap to the summit of High Crag.


High Crag from the summit of Haystacks


Pillar from Scarth Gap

The ascent of Gamlin End wasn’t as bad as it looked from below, though it was unpleasantly loose at the top.  Still, somebody has done an amazing job of repairing the lower two thirds of the route.


Heading up Gamlin End

The summit of High Crag (2441 ft) is the beginning of the fabulous High Stile ridge, a lofty promenade that offers vertiginous views down into Burtness Comb, with Buttermere below.


Buttermere seen below Burtness Comb

The ridge leading to High Stile gave us great views of Grey Crag, home to some classic climbs.  That we only saw one pair of climbers on the crag on a warm and dry bank holiday weekend I think speaks volumes about current trends in climbing – increasingly, traditional mountain crags are seemingly being abandoned in favour of sport climing, bouldering and indoor walls.


Climbers on Grey Crag (photo by Georgina Collins)


Looking back along the ridge to High Crag from the summit of High Stile


Bleaberry Tarn and Buttermere from High Stile

High Stile (2631 ft) is the literal and metaphorical high point of the ridge, with stunning views down into Buttermere and Bleaberry Comb.


Bleaberry Comb and Tarn from the ridge leading to Red Pike


Looking back to High Stile

Our final summit of the day was Red Pike (2477 ft), an accurate if unimaginative name for the peak.  It’s another stunning viewpoint, and one that we were lucky to have to ourselves for a few minutes.


Looking down to Buttermere from Red Pike, with the Robinson – Dale Head ridge in the background

We didn’t fancy the look of the horribly loose and eroded path leading down to Bleaberry Tarn, so opted for the longer but more forgiving descent via Scale Force.  This is perhaps a less dramatic route, but it is quiet and does give good views towards Mellbreak and Crummock Water.


Looking towards Lingcomb Edge, our descent route, from the summit


Crummock Water from the end of Lingcomb Edge


Red Pike from Lingcomb Edge

The highlight of our descent route was Scale Force.  This was a popular spot with Victorian tourists, and still seems pretty popular today.  Today’s tourists have to walk though, unlike the Victorians, who were ferried across the lake in boats to the foot of the waterfall.


Scale Force


Fleetwith Pike seen across Buttermere from our return route to the village.  Our ascent route was via the edge in the centre of this photo. 

The return to Gatesgarth via the lakeshore was a beautiful walk, as always, and I was lucky enough to see a family of goosander enjoying an evening swim.


Goosander family

Luckily the haze that had been so prevalent for much of the day began to shift as evening began, allowing me to enjoy probably the clearest view of Fleetwith Pike I’d seen all day, a beautiful end to a fabulous day.


Fleetwith Pike from Gatesgarth

Some photos by Georgina Collins


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