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