A Mosedale Round - Pillar to Red Pike

30th January 2014

I’ve entered the first month of unemployment & I guess you could say things have calmed down a little within the nervous system, with this, without a doubt the job search continues which can be monotonous & even a little soul destroying at times to say the least, only adding to this is the continual band of nasty weather fronts that the whole country is experiencing.

During the week I penned two walks within the Western Fells, walk one was Steeple from Bowness Knott (Ennerdale) from which I would take in as much as the ridge to Caw Fell as daylight would allow, in fact, during the early part of the week ‘walk two’ (Pillar from Wasdale Head) was going to be walked sometime in the near future.

I have a healthy fascination with the more desolate of the Lakeland Fells & a midweek summit of Caw Fell would more than have suited my needs I thought…that was until I noticed a weather window on Thursday which almost looked like the eye of the storm & almost certainly too good to be true, but true it stayed.

With this I scuttled my Caw Fells plans & switched my concentration back to Pillar, my route is a simplified version of the Mosedale Horseshoe, a walk not run routine where I would miss out on Kirk Fell & Yewbarrow, instead, today I could walk at my own pace over deep snow under blue skies.

I simply couldn’t ask for more out of a winters walk than I had today.


Wainwright Guidebook Seven

The Western Fells


Pillar, in fact, far from being a spire of slender proportions, is a rugged mass broadly based on half the length of Ennerdale, a series of craggy buttresses supporting the ridge high above this north west face; and the summit itself, far from being pointed, is wide and flat. The name of the fell therefore clearly derives from a conspicuous feature on the north face directly below the top, the most handsome crag in Lakeland, originally known as the Pillar Stone, and now as Pillar Rock.


Ascent: 4,011 Feet – 1,223 Meters
Wainwrights: 4, Pillar – Scoat Fell – Steeple – Red Pike (Wasdale)
Weather: Overcast To Start Turning Brighter Throughout The Day. Highs Of 4°C Lows Of 3°C Feels Like -6°C Across The Summits
Parking: Car Park, Wasdale Head
Area: Western
Miles: 9.6
Walking With: On My Own
Ordnance Survey: OL5
Time Taken: 6 Hours 10 Minutes
Route: Wasdale Head – Mosedale – Black Sail Pass – Looking Stead – Pillar – Wind Gap – Black Crag – Scoat Fell – Steeple – Red Pike (Wasdale) – Dore Head – Overbeck – Yewbarrow South Ridge – Down in the Dale – Wasdale Head

Map and Photo Gallery


‘That view’

I couldn’t help but jump out the car as I reached Wast Water.

The wind blew a cold chill down the lake as my hands started to feel the cold almost as soon as I left the car, a day for wrapping up but, those skies do look promising which can only lead to good things

Great Gable towers behind Lingmell House B&B – Wasdale Head 08:16am 4°C

Todays journey has taken me almost three hours after leaving Wigan around 05:00am but, despite this I am ready & raring to get my kit on.

Wasdale Head is deserted & has that ‘ghost town’ feel to it which is a little sad seeing as usually during the peak months this place resembles Covent Garden, this morning it’s just me & the Crows who are awaiting what the sunrise will bring.

Pillar & Mosedale seen from Wasdale Head Inn.
My route will see me walk through the grounds of the Inn from where I can pick up the path for Mosedale which runs alongside Mosedale Beck.

Pillar & Mosedale seen from the old Packhorse Bridge behind Wasdale Head Inn.
Despite the ground being frozen underfoot there’s plenty of water coming off the fells judging by the amount of water flowing in Mosedale Beck this morning.

Pillar, Mosedale & Mosedale Beck.

A section of the Pillar ridge takes a hint of morning sun.
This photo was taken around half way through the valley, the ground underfoot is frozen although there’s still an amount of side streams gushing down the fells side in full flow.

Yewbarrow’s Stirrup Crags together with Dore Head dominate the valley.

Crossing Gatherstone Beck.
I soon reached the first of three crossing’s with Gatherstone Beck, this the first one being the more prominent. I hadn’t noticed the sheep taking on the crossing until I reviewed the photos, although I will say we both paused at the same spot.

Black Comb.
Mosedale was getting full treatment of the morning sunrise here illuminating Black Comb.

Gatherstone Head.
Gatherstone Head marks the top of the Black Sail Pass, there’s a little relief before taking on the ascent which will allow you to get your breath back before the next initial climb. Here the water spilling over the path had frozen so some care was taken not to go head over heels.

The old iron gate post found at the top of Black Sail Pass.
There is quite a substantial stone cairn found at the top of the pass but for me & many others the old remains of the gate is the true top, so much so, the iron fence post still line a route all the way to Pillar’s summit.

Kirk Fell Green Gable & Wind Gap taken above the Black Sail Pass.
I guess this was the point the whole walk changed in character, since leaving Wasdale Head I had been walking in the cold of the shade through the Mosedale Valley, now I had a spectacular sunrise just over my shoulder bringing some much appreciated warmth too as I took on the ridge towards Pillar’s summit.

Here I was treated to grand views of the ridge ahead incorporating Looking Stead.

As far as fell walking goes this view was for me the most iconic of the whole day, here I was treated to my route ahead under bright morning sunshine.

The frozen Tarn doesn’t really deserve any exploration, but it got one anyway.

Views back down the ridge towards Kirk Fell & the Gables as I left the main path to take on the slight ascent & summit Looking Stead.

Yewbarrow’s North Ridge together with Dore Head from Looking Stead.
I must say that Looking stead took my breath away considering the small effort needed to gain its reaches it certainly packed a punch in the way of views, sadly for me however I seem to be encountering a problem with haze.

From Looking Stead I was treated to more views over Kirk Fell, Kirk Fell north top & the Gables.

Also from Looking Stead; looking north west over the Ennerdale Valley towards the High Stile ridge & the Grasmoor Fells.

Ascent on Pillar via the first of three rocky crags to negotiate.
The summit ridge now takes on a route via three craggy separate ridges to gain before reaching Pillar’s main summit.

Entrance/Descent to the Pillar’s High Level Route.
The steep descent to the High Level Route is passed just before my climb, this route is a really popular high level traverse across Pillar’s northern crags & leads a direct route to Pillar Rock via Robinsons Cairn with an adding twist to reach the summit by the Shamrock Traverse, as hugely tempting as it was today, I keep to my plans.

Encountering the snowline around 640 Metres.
I was quite surprised that the snow line was at such a lofty height knowing that snow was falling as low as 400 metres and lower in other parts of the district. Here evidence of more substantial snow was all around but confined to areas away from the main paths. At this stage the snow that lined the summit path had thawed & frozen not leaving any print from my boots so a little care was taken over sections such as this.

Pillar summit is within sight once the first crags are gained.
Pillar’s summit can just be seen beyond the second crop of crags, in all, if it wasn’t for the approaching cloud coming in from the west I would have found some time to do some exploring here, but I guess needs must so lets get to that summit.

Footprints in the snow.

When walking alone it is common to come across footprints across the fell tops, but here today I had just the one set to keep me company walking in the opposite direction no less. I guess I’m not alone when I say that somebody else’s footprints can almost make the lone walker feel as if he/she isn’t walking alone which can be of comfort at times.

Strange eh?

Looking back along the ridge.

Here as I mentioned earlier a route can be followed by the old fence post which make excellent way points should the cloud come down.

The snow at this point although deep in drifted areas remains stable & pact enough to hold my weight & was just a delight to walk over every time I heard that reassuring crunch.

Large snow cornice close to the summit.

Pillar beckons.

The sun breaks through illuminating the whole ridge in brilliant white.

The power of snow & wind, too delicate to touch, impossible to ignore.

Pillar’s summit Trig Point beautifully coated in Rime Ice.

Pillar’s main stone shelter wasn’t up to much sheltering.
I almost felt guilty as I walked around the summit disturbing the fresh snow, it was time to take a sneaky peak at the main attraction.

Pillar Rock.

This, as dare close I get to the Snow Cornice before taking my shot of the iconic Pillar Rock.

I couldn’t help but be reminded of one summit occasion when it was so hot we lay down to do a little sun bathing, here my teeth start to hurt because of the sheer cold…think warms thoughts, think warm thoughts…

My boot prints leading from the summit, the snow looks too nice to spoil to walk back.

Time for one last photo.

Descending Wind Gap.

If I had one thing on my mind it was the descent from Pillar to Wind Gap,  my fears were laid to rest the crampons managed to stay in the pack although I did slide one or two times further than I would have liked to.

I never did like my heart in my chest anyway!

The Ennerdale Valley from Wind Gap.

Black Crag awaits.

Pillar & Wind Gap from my Black Crag Ascent.

Black Crag summit cairn.

Scoat Fell & Steeple over Mirk Cove come into view shortly after leaving Black Crag.

This I can say was my favourite, & most memorable part of the whole walk as I reassuringly crunched my way over to Scoat Fell with little or no effort.

Just fantastic winter fell walking now that all the hard work was behind me.

Steeple over Mirk Cove.
I managed to photograph a walker I later would meet up on this summit of Steeple.

Red Pike (Wasdale) now dominates my left flank.

Scoat Fell summit almost lost in snow drift.

It was time for a re-fuel but I couldn’t decide to eat now or leave it a little later, by the time I reached Scoat Fell I was joined by the walker I photographed on Steeple, an elderly gent who lived just outside Ennerdale Bridge, we shared our routes & as it turned out he was walking the same route that I had opted out of hours earlier from Ennerdale – Steeple – Haycock – Caw Fell.

I couldn’t help but notice this gents Ice Axe with wooden shaft, I bet that could tell a few stories I thought to myself.

Anyway…I’ll leave you to have Scoat to yourself as I’m heading over to Steeple I say, with this he downs pack & takes out his sandwiches.

Descent on Steeple & more important…Lunch

Haycock & Caw Fell seen before I take on my tricky descent.

Steeple summit & lunch time.

I must say I think I reserved the gruelling stomach churning descent until last, the path from the summit plateau is at best narrow in the best of weathers, today I had to contend with snow cornice so the traverse was done with some care making sure I stuck as far ‘into’ the rock as I could, thankfully my predecessor had cut foot holes together with a string of Ice Axe holes to give the paths position away as best he could.

Cheers O’l chap.

Scoat Fell snow drifts where in places almost covered the summit wall.

Red Pike (Wasdale) together with a glimpse of Scoat Tarn.

Middle Fell & Seatallan seen over Scoat Tarn.
It almost looked as if I’d seen the best out of the sunshine as things started to look on the dark side, I cant complain I guess.

Almost at my final summit.
That reassuring crunch wasn’t so anymore as my footprints punched straight through the deep snow making this, my final ascent a little more tiring than I would have liked.

The summit of Red Pike (Wasdale) however did not disappoint offering superb views over Kirk Fell & the Gables.

Views over towards Lingmell & The Scafells.
Here Lingmell remains cloud free but I can’t say the same about The Scafells, I guess it’s time to leave Red Pike & make my descent to Dore Head for the final part of today’s walk.

Stirrup Crags over Dore Head.
Stirrup Crags form the north ridge of Yewbarrow are quite formidable to ascend & descend if your not used to a little scrambling & don’t have a fear of heights as the scramble can be quite exposed in parts.

Yewbarrow & Stirrup Crags from Dore Head.

‘Like the hull of an upturned boat’ –A.W

My exit from the fells is via Overbeck seen flanking Yewbarrow, a valley I was much looking forward too as I hadn’t used it before.

I couldn’t leave without taking one last photo of Yewbarrow, this time from the frozen Tarn at Dore Head.

A lovely & very secluded valley with faint paths that cross & negotiate the bogs within it, my path sticks to the left of the valley where upon it will finally meet up with the Yewbarrow’s south ridge path.

Illgill Head, Whin Rigg & Wast Water from Yewbarrow’s south ridge.
The sun thankfully made a last chance appearance as I descended Yewbarrow’s south ridge, so warm I had to down layer & adapt the sunglasses… a fitting end to the days proceedings.

The Scafells from my descent.
Although still topped in cloud, The Scafells still managed an appearance.

This time with a little zoom.

Looking back up the south ridge towards Yewbarrow & Bell Rib.

Sunburst over Wast Water bringing the walk to an almost end.

Wast Water as the evening draws in.

What a wonderful way to round off what can only be described as a perfect winters walk in amongst the wonders of the western fells.

I now have just under a mile & half back to Wasdale Head which gave me some great reflection time…if only every winters walk could be done in such conditions all the way through to spring, I guess we can dream which is why this walk will go down as one of the best winter walks I’ve done through out my walking career.

Now, it’s time for that three hour drive home, I guess you cant have it all.


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