A 4-Wainwright Day
Fell n. Scot. And North England - hill, mountain, highland plateau.
Wainwright n. Any one of the 214 fells mapped for fell walkers by A. Wainwright in his series of illustrated guides to the Lake District Fells.
Thursday was a big (big) day - a lot of up and down with some ridge walking between fells. After a hearty breakfast (thanks Amanda!) and armed with a map and a copy of Wainwright’s seventh Pictorial Guide (written in 1966) detailing the western fells (thanks
Mark) I jumped in the car and drove to Buttermere to take on four Wainwrights.
The ascent up Red Pike (2,479 ft, 756m) from Lake Buttermere is quite steep. While steep, for most of the way it is comfortable walking along a well-defined, well-worn stone path. I stopped for a rest at Bleaberry Tarn (a tarn is lake or pool on a fell), before facing the final section of Red Pike.
I soon discovered why it was given the name ‘Red’ Pike. About two-thirds of the way up the last stretch, the stable stone path gives way to unstable red scree - loose and slippery under foot and, when climbing at 45 degree angle, quite the challenge. More than a couple of times, I needed to use my hands (in addition to my pole) to keep from sliding back down the path and by the time I reached the top, I had a thick layer of red dust on both hands. The summit of Red Pike was a surprisingly large, flat plateau from which I was rewarded with magnificent views of Crummock Water to the north and fells in every direction as far as the eye can see.
The ridge walk from Red Pike to High Stile (2,644ft, 806m) is a gentle, undulating trek, but what goes up must come down and the descent to Seat (not a fell) via High Crag (2,443ft, 745m) was a little unnerving with a lot of slipping and sliding. I ended up on my bum more than once between Seat and Scarth Gap. My fear of heights was tested too as the path in places ran very close to the edge of the ridge.
I confess, when I reached Scarth Gap I was in two minds about ascending (or more accurately, descending) another fell, but as Haystacks was Wainwright’s favourite (his ashes were scattered there), and as it was right in front of me, I knew I would regret it if I didn’t give it a go.
Haystacks (1,900ft, 579m) - more scrambling and some unexpected rock climbing. More “don’t look down”. And just when you think you’ve reached the summit, you realise you haven’t, as the true summit is hidden from view when standing at Scarth Gap. I don’t know whether it was because I was buggered, or because I was dreading the descent, but I when I reached the top I was a little disappointed… whatever Wainwright saw in Haystacks alluded me.
It took me a while to get back down to lake-level via (lots more scrambling, slipping and sliding) but once I did and was back on the lovely flat, even track walking through the Burtness Woods in dappled late-afternoon sunlight, I was very glad I’d pushed through.