Red Pike to Haystacks

19th February 2012

I’m sat here sucking on a throat lozenge, its quite tasty in that; it takes away the taste in my mouth from when I just gargled with crushed Paracetamol, never more have I suffered with a sore throat in one month than I have in February this year, I take that back, I did suffer with a sore throat the evening before my last outing in Lakeland on the 30th January, which was a whole eighteen days or over two weekends ago.

On the evening before a hugely anticipated Lakeland adventure, I again, was at the mercy of Sainsbury’s own “Dual action throat lozenges” I find these work the best…

The past 24hrs has been a little testing, but nothing was going to stop me this weekend from throwing my kit in the car on a clear, cold, dark freezing Wigan morning and hitting the M6 Groove all the way up to Penrith.

While were on the subject of testing… I’ll take you back to 5:30am on Sunday 12th of February, this was also a testing day for yours truly. February for reasons I wont go into has just been a landmine of ifs, buts & maybes, right up until now, as I sit at my desk writing this for the foreseeable, its quite difficult to pin my next trip to the Lakes & I can put this down to work.

End of, I shall not mention it again…

So, we couple this with the doom & gloom of winter, hugely inspired weather watching ranging from – its going to be dry & fair on the only free day I have, to FOG & SLEET not eight hours before embarkment.

I find it difficult to put into words the disappointment I felt last Sunday morning knowing for yet another weekend I was confined to the Xbox with my son, some ironing (yes you read correctly!) & the usual stuff you do on a Sunday.

So your kinda getting to know where I am right about here.

So why choose Red Pike Paul? Red Pike incorporates for me one of the best Ridge walks in Lakeland (The High Stile Ridge) I’ve had Helvellyn on the back burner for some weeks now, its customary I summit Helvellyn in the Dead of winter, each winter.

But not yet, and sadly, I fear I may have missed the dead of winter…

Today I am returning to a place that holds dear in my heart, a place where the North Western fells merge with the Western fells, a place called Buttermere, a place where Alfred Wainwright held in such regard, he chose to have his ashes scattered on Haystacks.

As I have been stuck in work mode, with nothing but my work blinkers on, when your kit has been packed & assembled for nearly a whole month, there’s only a certain walker with a certain special place in his or heart is going to return to, to get the Lakeland juices flowing again, we all have special places where we know where we want to climb…

This walk is just one of mine.

Wainwright Guidebook
The Western Fells

- Haystacks :

The actual height has not been definitely determined, but is often quoted as 1750” This does Haystacks much less than justice. Haystacks fails to qualify for inclusion in the authors “best half-dozen only because of inferior height, a deficiency in vertical measurement. Another thousand feet would of made all the difference.

But for beauty, variety and interesting detail, for sheer fascination and unique individuality. the summit-area of Haystacks is supreme. This in fact the best fell top of all – a place of great charm and fairyland attractiveness. Seen from a distance, these qualities are not suspected: in on the contrary, the appearance of Haystacks is almost repellent when viewed from higher surrounding peaks: black are its bones and black is its flesh. With its thick covering of heather it is dark and sombre even when the sun sparkles the waters of its many tarns, gloomy and mysterious even under a blue sky. There are fierce crags and rough screes and outcrops that will be grittier still when the authors ashes are scattered here. Yet the combination of features, of tarn and tor, of cliff and cove, the labyrinth of corners and recesses, the maze of old sheepwalks and paths, form a design, or a lack of design of singular appeal and absorbing interest.

One can even forget a raging toothache on Haystacks.


Ascent: 4,000 Feet, 1,220 Metres
Wainwrights: 4, Red Pike, High Stile, High Crag & Haystacks
Weather: Beautiful Clear Blue Skies, Turning Slightly Overcast Towards The Latter Of The Afternoon, Little To No Wind, Highs Of 5° Lows Of -2°
Parking: Off Road Parking, St James Church, Buttermere (room for six cars)
Area: Western
Miles: 10.5
Walking With: On my own
Ordnance Survey: OL5
Time Taken:  
Route: Old Burtness – Bleaberry Tarn – Red Pike – High Stile – High Crag – Gamlin End – Seat – Scarth Gap – Haystacks – Blackbeck Tarn – Warnscale Beck – Warnscale bottom – Gatesgarth – Buttermere

Map and Photo Gallery



Sunrise over Fleetwith Pike.

Its -2° & the sky is awash with a crisp deep blue as far as the eye can see, events such as this in February are rare as I capture the sun as it rises above the Western fells click by click


Through the trees.


By the waters edge.

I guess It showed as early as an hour previous as I drove along the M6 past Howgill territory that today was going to be a special one, the way I very nearly came of the motorway at Junction 37 to take a picture of a deep red sunrise engulfing the whole of the Howgills & North Pennines. Days like this come very few & with a run of bad luck weather wise, today felt as if someone up there was telling me to seize the day.

I did just that.

In anticipation to get to Lakeland I left un-usually early this morning, a whole hour in fact; this on my behalf for once was beneficial on two accounts; one, This sunrise, & two, I was lucky enough to get off road parking right next to St James Church, something I have never had the fortune to do whilst parking in Buttermere.

The pound coins Paul, can stay in the centre console woo hoo! …. cheapskate.


Crossing Buttermere Dubs.

Taking the path along the head of Buttermere & across Buttermere Dubs shown here brings you neatly out in Burtness Woods, or to me & you ‘The lake path’ Ahead lies the steep steps through Burtness Wood. The path although finely maintained is steep & reminds me of the steep staircase in my brothers old terraced house which indeed, you did need, not just a banister, but also a three day camp half way up to acclimatize & finally; if fit enough, a gang of Nepalese Sherpa’s to finally reach the bathroom at the top of the stairs!

Its not that bad really, but you do get my drift.


Views opening up as I leave Burtness Wood below me, towards a whole host of North Western fells.


Looking across Buttermere, here we have (L) to (R) High Smockrigg, Robinson, Hindscarth & finally Dale Head at the far end of the ridge.


More North Western fells from my ascent.

The morning was warming up nicely but not forgotten is a slight breeze with a devil of a winters chill, this is called perfect winter climbing weather in my books, its not chilly enough for hat nor gloves but its cool enough to don the Bloc Billy shades.


My first view of the summit of Red Pike (C) as I reach the top of Sour Milk Gill.

The stone path first diverts you in a zig zag fashion away from Sour Milk Gill and then back again, the sound of cascading water really is great company & takes my mind away from the steep climb, ahead lies another steep climb in that of ‘The Saddle’ or the last push towards Red Pike’s summit, but for now that is a little while away.


Chapel Crags.

Ahead lies Chapel Crags & Bleaberry Tarn, the path towards Red Pike summit starts at the end of the stone wall over on the right of the picture.


Looking down on Bleaberry Tarn as I hit a light dusting of fresh snow.

I don’t waste time in reaching for the summit, my first thoughts were to collect myself at the stone wall I had just mentioned, instead I gun for it (or rather try) up the steep path pausing only for camera breaks, or more commonly know to me & you as; trying to catch ones breath back breaks.

Its not long before I reach the summit brow & I’m treated to spectacular views of my surrounding peaks.

Not before another camera break I might add!


Almost within reach…


A not so close up of Blencathra, the outlined fell on the right is that of Cat Bells.


Pillar, The Scafells & High Stile from the summit of Red Pike.


I head North West from the summit & look upon the Ennerdale Valley on the left, with Starling Dodd & Great Borne on at the far end of the High Stile Ridge on the right. It was here I have a “change of plan wobble” I mean, how spectacular does the ridge walk look from here?


Looking South towards Pillar, Steeple, Scoat Fell & Haycock.


Searching for something special & knowing I’m going to find it.

Ahead lies High Stile & some of the finest Lakeland walking I have ever undertaken for a very long time.


Pillar Kirk Fell & The Scafells in monochrome.


The North Western fells & Bleaberry Tarn from the top of Chapel Crags.


Looking back on Red Pike Crummock Water & the Western Fells, from just beneath the summit of High Stile.


The Southern Fells as I near High Stile’s summit cairn.


High Stile summit cairn with a South Lakeland backdrop, over to the left is my next destination of High Crag.


Rogue clouds start to gather as I make my way down towards the North East Ridge & High Crag bound.

The ground underfoot has been tremendous, never have I been at such height with a glorious coating of no more than a 3” coating of soft crunchy snow beneath my boots. It feels this is what Mountain walking is all about, it feels like this is that perfect day & maybe after today the rest just wont compare.

I’m not too sure whether conditions will repeat themselves – I am sure they will for all walkers alike but for now, despite the sore throat, the wheezing chest, I am in Lakeland at its best & I might add, up to now I am yet to see another soul.


A Scafell silhouette.


And a little closer.


A Helicopter roars above – while Green Gable & Great Gable domineer the views every inch of the way.


Looking back on Seat, Gamlin End & High Crag as I make my final ascent of the day on Haystacks.

I meet my first walkers while descending Gamlin End, a couple not much older than me spending the weekend on the Western Fells, I am asked how is it on the summit, I think my smile says it all, I roll my thumb & forefinger into a circle smile & say, its absolutely perfect, enjoy.

Scarth Gap Pass is also the place I de-clothe, its way overdue, I had the jacket off so I tie it in summer style under my hood pack, the legs are showing signs of tiredness & I’m putting this down to the time I’ve recently spent away from the fells doing little to nothing over the past few weeks, with this I am still in high spirits as I approach my last fell of the day.

Being as Haystacks is as popular as ever, especially on a day as good as it today, I am a little puzzled to were all the people are? I can spot four hikers on the path, what looks like a couple somewhere near the top & a bloke & his daughter clothed head to toe in pink, including a pink bobble hat, I think cute – you soppy sod Sharkey.


The small un-named Tarn just below the summit on Haystacks.

It is here just before I reached the Tarn on a small scramble of Crags a bloke waits for me to reach the top of the Crags, it was less than a minute, but a minute of courtesy, he could of found an alternative around, he indeed, could of made me wait while he made his descent but he doesn’t, he pauses for me as I smile & say “Cheers Mate” no problem he replies, we both look out over Buttermere in awe of our surroundings & the inevitable comes out “what a glorious day” we take in the views in silence once more until he says “well have a great day” this is not awkward silence, this is two strangers, who had only just met enjoying Lakeland at her grandest.  Before he leaves he gives me warning, “be careful as you may well be aware, the paths are extremely icy” oh and Innominate Tarn was deserted when I left it.

You may well have it all to yourself…


The North cairn on Haystacks summit.

Ahead lies the Gables & Kirk Fell towards the right, to left of the picture is where I’m heading, Innominate Tarn, Alfred Wainwrights final resting place.


Innominate Tarn.


Innominate Tarn with a Pillar backdrop…

I speak a few mortal words whilst I sit on the frozen ground & gaze upon Innominate Tarn that only the great man & I will ever know.

It’s also lunch time & time to rest my aching bones, I digress in my Tuna sandwiches in solitude, in Wainwrights company…


Blackbeck Tarn.

A favoured spot for many a wild camper.


The perched boulder as I head for Dubs Bottom.


Warnscale Bottom, Buttermere & Crummock Water from Dubs Bottom.


Mellbreak, Buttermere & Rannerdale knotts taken from Warnscale Bottom.

I make my way down to Warnscale Bottom via the Old Quarry Road, a path non the less but painful underfoot in many ways, it is always the way I will remember a descent from Haystacks, despite this rugged uneven, unforgiving path this is the only way to descend Haystacks in my eyes, this way you have the grand views of the jaggered edges of Big Stack & the buttresses that give Haystacks its name.

My walk is far from over, from here I have just over two and a half miles back to Buttermere Village, But first I had one more special place I needed to visit.


St James Church, Buttermere.

St James dates back to the seventeenth century with the original chapel dating as far back as 1507 but I had my own reasons for being at St James.


A unique feature to St James is the Shepherds Gate to the entrance of the church.



The Alfred Wainwright Memorial window looking over Wainwrights final resting place, Haystacks.

It reads…


A perfect way to end a perfect walk.


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