Four Passes from Seatoller

16th June 2013

This walk had been laying in the wings for a very long time…so much so that when I penned a series of walks to traverse over 2013, this walk was walk number 1

Its status at the top of the table did it no gratitude as week by week I over looked it for more ‘thrilling’ walks so to speak, if you’ve ever seen the children’s film Toy Story (lets face it who hasn’t as an adult) then this walk was Andy & Andy had just discovered football & girls.

You kind’a get my drift now I suppose…

This walk shows the diversity of the fells & valleys of Lakeland like no other walk can, not only does it take you through some of Lakelands most stunning scenery & landscape but it also takes in the ‘Big Guns’ of Lakeland in Great End, The Scafell’s, Lingmell & Pillar just to mention a few…without setting foot on their lofty summits.

The Four Passes takes in the south western fells that travellers of old used as trading, & even coffin routes, now we more commonly know them as the Styhead Pass, The  Black Sail Pass, The  Scarth Gap Pass & finally, The Honister Pass.

It was the setting where the camera did the walk hardly any justice – especially throughout the murk of the morning where swirling cloud gathered, lifted & gathered some more…you just cant capture that type of atmosphere when one minute it is there, & gone the next – almost as if the cloud was pulling at your heart strings but not long enough for you to grasp it before it disappears & re-groups on some other distant fell side.

It all started in the Hamlet of Seatoller on a gloomy June morning.

Wainwright Guidebook
The Western Fells



Ascent: 3,625 Feet 1,105 Metres
Wainwrights: Hay Stacks
Weather: Overcast To Start Turning Warm & Sunny Highs Of 18° Lows Of 12°
Parking: Seatoller Village – Borrowdale
Area: Western
Miles: 13.5
Walking With: Fr Shaun Church
Ordnance Survey: OL4
Time Taken:  
Route: Seathwaite Bridge – Seathwaite Farm – Stockley Bridge – Styhead Gill – Styhead Tarn – Styhead Pass – Moses Trod – Wasdale Head – Black Sail Pass – Black Sail Hut – Scarth Gap Pass – Hay Stacks – Innominate Tarn – Blackbeck Tarn – Little Round How – Old Tramway Path – Honistor Hause – Honistor Pass – Seatoller

Map and Photo Gallery



07:22am 12°C Seatoller Bridge.

It was only due to some rather dodgy weather forecast that we are here in Seatoller at all this morning, I couldn’t help but feel the guilt as I dragged Shaun away from a tour of the Coledale Fells together with six plus new Wainwrights for a route he had never heard of, never mind pieced together only twelve hours previous…

I got the impression that my proposed route looked good on paper judging from Shaun’s email reply so this eased the guilt a little.

So here we are on a dank low cloud muggy morning & for the first time I appear to be wearing walking trousers & not shorts, my arms are not open to the sun due to the jacket that I am wearing because after all, it is July & this is England.

The walk started in the hamlet of Seatoller or more to the point at Shaun’s front door…well it isn’t really a door, its a double antique barn door held together with a brand new barn conversion that Shaun (the lucky git) shall be calling home for the next two weeks, you’ve guessed it Shaun is on Holiday & staying in Seatoller & there isn’t a hint of jealousy in that last line…sarcasm yes, but not jealousy.

After an eventless drive north I soon found myself in Seatoller, here Shaun was ready & raring to go, all I had to do was kit up & lock the car.

I forgot to lock the car…they’re good folks in that Seatoller.

Here we take a right sign posted Seathwaite & more importantly, The Styhead Pass.


Base Brown & Seathwaite Fell from Seathwaite Bridge.

We soon catch up on each others gossip as we take in the mile & a half to Seathwaite Farm, the air has a mugginess feel to it & sits on the back of my throat. Shaun is querying which fells he is going to climb during his visit in Lakeland so here we share new & previous routes as Shaun makes mental notes of the area.


Seathwaite Farm.

Seathwaite Farm was soon reached, much quicker than I actually thought as normally the lane between here & Seatoller does tend to take a while to drive along, I put this down to that we are early & that you can actually walk quicker – than dodge the badly parked cars that are usually found along the narrow lanes during the middle of summer.

It feels like its going to rain but it holds off…


Stockley Bridge with Grains Gill below.

One of the first things that became evident was just how much rain had fell the previous night, here Grains Gill flows at full flow cascading noisily down the valley, the paths are wet with overflowing water & the puddles are deep.


Looking back into Seathwaite as we gained more height.

Still deep in conversation when Shaun & I came across a middle aged woman sitting on the path above Stockley Bridge, when I passed on my good morning & naturally asked ‘are you ok’ which was more of a kind gesture than a question…well I’m waiting for some large groups to follow to Scafell Pike as I’ve forgotten my map.

There are lots of things wrong with the answer she gave me & I’m not going to go into them…okay I will, you need to admit you are not going to climb Scafell Pike today, admit it & go home because forgetting your map & relying on the kindness of strangers should be the least of your worry’s.

I say nowt, smile & keep stum.


Styhead Gill breaches the pathway.

More evidence of the previous nights rainfall was waiting as we headed for Styhead Tarn, only two weeks ago Styhead Gill was just a steady flow of a narrow band of water, here you can see where the beck has breached the grassy bank in the right of the photo.

We press on towards Styhead Tarn.


Styhead Tarn wild camp.

We passed more walkers possibly wild campers heading back down into Seathwaite as we approached Styhead, the cloud was magical as it floated over the rough crags of The Band & across huge sections of The Corridor Route.

We didn’t need a rest at all but being witness to the beautiful effects that a camera could just not grasp was more than reason to find a dry rock & perch for a few moments.


The Band & Skew Gill from Styhead.


Cloud stretches deep into Skew Gill & memories of just three weeks ago come flooding back.


Within minutes the cloud had lifted & the sun came out to reveal Piers Gill & Lingmell.


I don’t suppose anyone might have been over there on The Corridor Route so early in the morning but if they were they were in for a real treat as the cloud rolled in & out like the tide.


Here looking down on Lingmell Beck, Wasdale Head & Yewbarrow from the top of The Styhead Pass.


The Great Napes.

More magic moments as I pointed my camera vertical towards the Great Napes which towered above our flanks.

Here with the zoom out a fraction, its hard to believe that there is a path that runs right through The Great Napes & even harder to believe is that I & many before, & no doubt after me, have traversed it.


The Great Napes with no zoom taken from The Styhead Pass.


Yewbarrow as we head through Wasdale Head via Burnthwaite & Burnthwaite Farm.


Looking back on Great Gable, Styhead & The Styhead Pass seen as a faint line flanking Great Gable lower left as we pass through Burnthwaite.


Looking over Wasdale Head & Illgill Head & a tiny glimpse of Wast Water as her waters appear, a murky grey.


Here I took a close up of St Olafs Church surrounded by a coppice of ancient trees.


Mosedale & The Black Sail Pass.

We soon passed through Wasdale Head & found ourselves on our next pass of the morning, but first we had to take on the delights of the Mosedale Valley, here we head along a narrow track until we pass through the stone wall & make our first crossing of Gatherstone Beck, but that is a little while away so we share our experiences of an ascent on Yewbarrow via Stirrup Crags, for anyone who has done this ascent then you may well know the topic of our conversation, for anyone who hasn’t ascended Yewbarrow via Stirrup Crags it’s a heart thumping affair to say the least, all I can say is I’ve tried it once & will not be trying it again, Shaun could only agree.


Sunny Mosedale & cloudy Pillar & Scoat Fell.


Yewbarrow’s Stirrup Crags can be seen to the left of the Scree slope (Dore Head) Most definitely not for anyone who suffers from exposure or vertigo.

Incidentally the steep rise of Yewbarrow’s north east crags are known as ‘The Wasdale Slope’ I didn’t know that until a few moments ago.


Crossing Gatherstone Beck, it was here we took a quick five minute break followed by Satsuma’s & Mars Bars…a wicked combination if ever there was one.


Yewbarrow, Mosedale & Mosedale Beck as we start to take on only the second ascent since leaving Seatoller this morning.


Pillar taken from beneath the summit of The Black Sail Pass.


Kirkfell Crags from the top of The top of The Black Sail Pass.

Here Shaun amusingly demonstrates how not to be in the picture…too late Shaun!


The iconic disused gate & post found at the top of Black Sail Pass, more walkers will confirm that this is truly the summit of Black Sail than the actual cairn in the previous photo.


Descending into Ennerdale via The Black Sail Pass.

Shaun takes the lead for he is in familiar territory as he used The Black Sail Pass as a means of gaining Loft Beck (Seen on the opposite side of the valley) for his Coast to Coast walk back in June 2012 almost a year ago to the day.

This was a section of the route that I had been looking forward to, so much so that it was the first thing I touched upon ‘dropping into Ennerdale’ is going to be the highlight of the whole route for me… and it was.


The Ennerdale valley with the High Stile ridge stretching as far west as Great Borne. At the col over on the right is Scarth Gap Pass, our third pass on the route, but first we had to reach Black Sail Youth Hostel or ‘Hut’ from here we could see it was bustling with more Coast to Coast walkers.


The Ennerdale Valley.


The Gables looking into Stone Cove.

From here should you need it was the quickest route back to Styhead Tarn & Seathwaite, but we weren’t in the mood for quick, we were in the mood for lunch.


Amongst the masses at Black Sail Hut.


After lunch we soaked in the Ennerdale sunshine & people watched as more Coast to Coasters arrived, we let them have their time at Black Sail as we took on Scarth Gap Pass, not before a quick joke with some Americans seen in the photo ‘Is Black Sail this direction’ no I’m sorry your travelling totally in the wrong direction I replied, some laughed & some faces dropped all at the same time, but seeing as Shaun & I were laughing with them they soon got the joke.

More Howdy’s later & we were soon on our travels again taking in the ease of the Ennerdale side of Scarth Gap Pass


The Scarth Gap Pass…on a personal note this was the more enjoyed out of the four passes we walked in todays route.


A close up of Ennerdale Water & Crag Fell from Scarth Gap Pass.


The top of The Scarth Gap Pass as we look on towards Hay Stacks.

Ascending Hay Stacks was a no-brainer, yes it meant that we were leaving the pass but that didn’t mean that we hadn’t walked it & I was more than happy to take on the extra ascent. Hay Stacks was also a new summit for Shaun & one of my favourite ascents because they include the little scrambles like this one…



Taken from just beneath the summit looking over the dominance of Grasmore & the north western fells, not to mention through a slight null in the sunshine, Buttermere & Crummock Water.


Shaun poses as his Wainwright tally leaves three figures for double figures…what better fell to celebrate.


High Crag from the summit of Hay Stacks.


The sun came back out as we reached Innominate Tarn.


But went back in again as we headed for Blackbeck Tarn. On a good day this is the best platform to view Buttermere & Crummock Water, sadly with aspects of my camera today is not that day.


Blackbeck Tarn, notice the low cloud rolling back in devouring the Gables once more.


More great views from Blackbeck Tarn, this time towards Hay Stacks rugged north face together with Scarth Gap & High Crag far right.


Dubs Hut, above Warnscale Beck.

As we passed through Little Round How we met more & more walkers heading up to Hay Stacks, why not, it was a great day for an early evening walk I thought, after all this is summer.

Crossing Warnscale Beck wasn’t the usual wade through without thought, today we had to choose careful footing as again, the previous nights rainfall had caused the beck to breach its banks in places.


Heading for our last pass of the day via Lakelands straightest mile.

A man made track used to carry the slate tubs via pulley wheel back down to the mine by means of gravity.


Along the track can be found the foundations for the huge drum that carried the cables thus allowing the tubs to be carried to & from the quarry.


The Honister Pass at its steepest as it travels back down to Gatesgarth Farm, Buttermere & eventually The Newlands Pass.



We arrived back in Seatoller with sore pads on our feet & signs of sunburn on our faces, I have walked many walks but can’t remember feeling as satisfied as I did when we arrived back in Seatoller.

This route is not one of my own, it is one of old not from some magazine or paperback of when It first got implanted in to my jotter & long forgot about. This route was a trade route used by dwellers of the Borrowdale & Ennerdale valleys, even the legend that was Moses who once Trod these passes to peddle his distilled whiskey, (they even named a section of the path about him) he might have been drunk when he peddled it & that’s why a certain stage of todays route was named after him ‘Moses Trod’

A small cog in a big clock… that’s how I felt after arriving back in Seatoller, a walk in time, a walk through history….That is the Four Passes from Seatoller.


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