High Crag via Sheepbone Rake

18th April 2014

Today’s walk has been in the making for well over twelve months yet I still remember vividly the day Tim text me about this Rake that was situated deep within Burtness Comb directly below High Crag’s summit.

Tim emailed me a link which directed me to the famous outdoor writer Mark Richards website of which besides the FRCC (Fell And Rock Climbing Club) was the only other online writer who had catalogued his way up Sheepbone Rake who along with Alfred Wainwright muttered the words that Sheepbone Rake can indeed be seen from Buttermere.

They were right, but only if you know where to look I guess.

Wainwright wrote of Sheepbone Rake as akin to conquering The Matterhorn & I guess it would have been back in the day of heavily clad attire with nothing to protect you from the elements other than your smoking pipe.

A.W still to this day has a point though, Sheepbone Rake is in no uncertain circumstances to be underestimated, yes it’s course is bolder strewn & it’s ascent is difficult & steep but the views are magical & appealing to the nature that maybe like me not so many of even the determined out of us have ever even heard of it…that gave both Tim & myself more than enough reason to be here today.


Wainwright Guidebook Seven

The Western Fells

-Sheepbone Rake

Ordinary pedestrians, having already been warned that direct access to High Crag is virtually impossible, are here provided with a route that, if safely accomplished, will establish their right to be classed better than ordinary.

This breach in the impregnability of the buttress is clearly in view from Buttermere village. The gangway is a safe route, but steep and sensational. Probably more than 50% of those who try it will live to tell a stirring tale of valour in high places. The casualties must accept the fact that they were only ordinary after all.



Ascent: 2,677 feet 816 Meters
Wainwrights: 3, High Crag – High Stile – Red Pike (Buttermere)
Weather: Highs Of 16°C Lows Of 6°C Feels Like 6°C
Parking: Roadside Parking, St James Church, Buttermere
Area: Western
Miles: 7.5
Walking With: Tim Oxburgh
Ordnance Survey: OL4
Time Taken: 7 Hours
Route: Buttermere – Buttermere Lake Path – Burtness Wood – Above Burtness – Burtness Comb – Sheepbone Rake – Burtness Buttress – High Crag – High Stile – Red Pike (Buttermere) – Lingcomb Edge – Scale Beck – Scale Force – Scale Bridge – Buttermere

Map and Photo Gallery


High Crag together with High Stile taken from Buttermere 08:29am 9°C

I don’t think that both Tim & myself had realised that we should have been out of ‘winter mode’ & back into ‘summer mode’ the way we seamlessly added an hour to our arrival time here in Buttermere this Morning..either that or we both could have done with the extra hour in bed…I’m going for the latter.

We thundered up the M6 both knowing but not really stating that we knew we were a little behind our usual arrival time, thankfully for a Good Friday the morning traffic was kind & we inched into the last free parking spaces situated along the Buttermere side of the Newlands Pass.

After a quick stretch we were kitting up in our summer attire…Today Tim has packed light while I meanwhile have ditched the winter kit for a much heavier summer kit which seems odd but we all know that water isn’t the lightest thing to carry…as always, I’ve over-estimated.

With our kits shouldered we both avert our attention to High Crag where through the misty morning light we somehow manage to spot Sheepbone Rake at first glance which was welcoming & cooled the heart rate knowing that from over a mile away – we knew where we should be heading, next we laid plans on how to get there which was a little easier than first expected.

See the picture below which outlines our accent up Sheepbone Rake.


St James Church, Buttermere.
But before all that we decided to pay a little visit to the beautiful St James church of Buttermere where we took a little time out to take some picture’s from inside the church.

The Wainwright Memorial Window.
Here over looking Alfred Wainwrights final resting place on his beloved fell of Hay Stacks.


The Shepherd’s Gate.
At the entrance to the church you have to pass through the Shepherd’s Gate, I can’t walk through this gate without thinking about the significance & the sheer beauty of the iron work, I like to think that everybody feels the same when they visits St James.

The Bridge Hotel, Buttermere.
After leaving St James Church we head off through Buttermere & pass the Bridge Hotel. Today despite it being Good Friday it is bin day as the sleepy hollow is set alight by a bin lorry together with it’s orange flashing beacons, both Tim & I receive a nice friendly morning from one of the bin men as we pass on the Bridge Hotel.

Fleetwith Pike from the lakeshore.
We soon arrived at the Buttermere Lake were we took time out to take a few photos. The direct light from the sun however made for some difficult picture taking hence me trying to block the sunlight with the tree branches.

Burtness Buttress together with a silhouetted Hay Stacks seen from the lakeshore.

Sunlight sparkling on the lake.
It’s always nice to see the sun reflecting on water but I think it’s made so much nicer when you are surrounded by the fells you love all around you.

Quick find me a tree! With Fleetwith Pike never far from view.

We probably spent more time than we should trying to capture a few decent shots, I can whole heartedly put this time down due to the fact that the sun has been a distant memory for quite some time & we’re just glad to see it again under great circumstances.

On with the walk.

Down by the waters edge.
After crossing the footbridge at Buttermere Dubs we hooked a left where we took on the lake path but only for a short while before heading off into Burtness Woods.

Light breaks through the dense woodland.

Every now & again the sunlight would penetrate through the trees & dazzle the eye which if you’ve missed the sunshine as I have was a welcome treat.

We took on the path through Burtness over slight ascent for just over half a mile all the while on the lookout for the less popular path that would raise us above Burtness Woods & into Burtness Comb.

The views were simply magnificent.

High Snockrigg reflecting into Buttermere to our left flanks.

Above Burtness.

As we topped out of the seclusion & faded light of Burtness Wood we again were treated to the morning sunshine at full array, although it hampered our views ahead a little all around us was lit up in brilliant morning light.

The path here was such a delight to follow & the gradient also made this the beginning of our walk a real highlight of the day.

Robinson & Hindscarth taken above Burtness Wood.
I guess no matter where you was walking today all over Lakeland you would get views as good as this.

Here Grasmoor, Rannerdale Knotts, Whiteless Pike, Knott Rigg & Ard Crags all can be seen as we look back over Burtness Woods.
It was time to take a small rest even though we didn’t need one, the views were just impossible to ignore.

Sheepbone Buttress soon comes into view.
After a short while our path traverses over rocky ground the closer we inched towards Burtness Comb, the gradient from here on in took on a more lean ascent which meant it was time for me to get my walking poles out.

Sheepbone Buttress/Burtness Comb.

Burtness Comb was largely in shade & so was our ascent on Sheepbone Rake which due to the strong light was difficult to spot even though we were almost upon it.

If your keen to know our position look back at Picture Two where you can clearly see the stone wall at the base of Burtness Comb.

Comb Beck.

Burtness Comb.

After a steep grassy ascent we soon reached the bouldersome Comb where the path deteriorates almost into nothing, from here we decided on keeping right where we could take a better vantage point of Sheepbone Rake from the other side of the Comb.

We took on more ascent before coming to a stop on a long hilt of rock where we had our best vantage point, even though we were at the best position where we could plan our tricky route up, the sunlight still had a trick up its sleeve by not allowing us to see the route without first holding our hands before our eyes.

The only way we were going to get a full view of Sheepbone Rake was by being in its shadow.

Sheepbone Buttress as the sun does a tremendous job of illuminating its exit point.
After failing to eye up the route from our sun drenched position Tim made a direct crossing across the Comb to the base of the Rake, I however tried (and failed) to find the best vantage point seeking further into the Comb before finally admitting defeat from where I met up with Tim who had climbed a small rocky Buttress of rock while he waited for me.

In the shade of Sheepbone Rake.
After meeting up with Tim we set a route up the Rake, at no point we agreed would we overtake one another despite offering different ascents up as this was a joined effort so the scramble was high on commardary to say the least which was a nice touch considering this was a first time for the pair of us.

The steep ascent is always worth it when you can look down on views as beautiful as this.
Breath-taking views in between rest stops were just an added bonus, here looking down on High Snockrigg, Buttermere & the north western fells.

Here Tim adds scale to the Rake.

Just over half way up our ascent the Rake takes on a slight right curve as it flanks a solid wall of rock forming part of Sheepbone Buttress, here the rake is at its steepest as much care had now to be taken as the rock underfoot was extremely loose.

Here both Tim & I take on the ascent leaving a distance between ourselves should a rock fall occur.

Time out on Sheepbone Rake.

It’s not over just yet.

We named this section ‘The dog leg’ (not its real name but the best we could think off)

As we breached the top of Sheepbone Rake our route took on a sharp right over steep loose boulder’s across the head of Sheepbone Buttress.

Buttermere & beyond.

Before our ascent we took a well earned rest over looking the deep blue of Buttermere & the north western fells, each one looking as if you could touch it such the visibility.

Shall we make a move Tim?

No,I don’t want too…five more minutes it is then.

Ten minutes later.
From my perch Fleetwith Pike, Hindscarth & Dale Head is gazed upon as the Honister Pass snakes far below.

The Gables seen with Kirk Fell.
From the steep scramble our efforts are rewarded with views into the head of Ennerdale commanding Green & Great Gable with Kirk Fell domineering the foreground, the Scafells & Slight Side can be seen towards the distance.

Pillar as seen from High Crag summit cairn, incidentally that’s Scoat Fell & Steeple seen far right.

After the steep scramble we were gifted the last few hundred feet over boulder-less grassy ground which were welcome to the toes indeed.

The march towards the summit was done in almost silence, I guess a conversation at this point just didn’t seem right.

Tim sits himself down then proceeds to take a few photos only to take in the views over Ennerdale & the Gables, I however take a few photos before a couple head our way from the direction of High Stile, after a brief conversation we leave them to have the summit to themselves as we had just found it… a rare occasion in such nice weather.


High Stile over Burtness Comb.
We spotted quite a few walkers at the summit of High Stile some heading for High Crag & some not, after our lonesome ascent on Sheepbone Rake we were back in the normality that this indeed was a beautiful sun spoilt day on a Good Friday, these walkers weren’t the first & not the last we’d see on what can only be described as one of the best days of the year so far.

Buttermere views.
Here looking back on Robinson, Hindscarth & Dale Head with Fleetwith Edge seen over to the right, down below Burtness Comb our ascent via Sheepbone Rake is still in shadow.

Our ascent on High Crag via Sheepbone Rake.
Here our route can be seen across Comb Crags, within the mist of fell walking & what we have both achieved it’s easily forgotten that this ridge is one of the finest amongst Lakeland.

Sheepbone Rake.
I took another photo of the Rake hoping for some more light from just beneath High Stile summit, my hopes again are dashed, the feeling of we’ve just climbed that however…wasn’t.

High Crag from High Stile taken after venturing off a little below the summit path.
The morning heat was met by a cool welcome breeze along the summits tops where Tim couldn’t decide if fleece on or fleece off was the best option, I figure I’ve seen that lads belly so many times this morning I’ve lost count.

Commanding views over Red Pike (Buttermere) with Crummock Water & Mellbreak beyond.
As we reached High Stile Tim’s attention is averted to more views of Sheepbone Rake as he heads off for a closer look. I however find a nice flat boulder to sit on whilst I just watch the glorious views unfold before me.

Ennerdale & Crag Fell as seen from High Stile summit.

Tim soon caught up with me & my boulder where we both took on the slight traverse across the summit plateau to reach the cairn, here people chatted quietly & ate their lunches under the gaze of the morning sun.

From High Stile I spot groups of walkers at Red Pikes summit either heading up, down or across to High Stile, in all my career as a fell walker I have never seen Red Pike as busy as I had today, during our rocky descent from High Stile we pass a couple heading up towards the summit who were very chatty & equally amazed that we had ascended by Sheepbone Rake, not wanting to be big headed we quickly changed the subject of great fells to find yourselves upon in such glorious weather, we all unanimously agreed that today we had found those fells.

Red Pike (Buttermere)
I’ve always liked this section of ridge in-between High Stile & Red Pike no matter what direction you are travelling in, its flat expanse always seems like a kind reward for all your hard work, but that’s just me I guess.

High Stile as viewed from just beneath Red Pike summit.

Standing room only.

We soon reached Red Pike (Buttermere) & wasn’t really surprised that the summit was still busy, it’s now lunch time & the stomachs are howling to be fed, we both agree we should ‘drop off a little’ as the cool summit breeze was a little too cool.

Tim heads off while I pass what I consider to be grand lunch spots as Tim takes in the full descent off the Pike.

I really don’t know if my stomach can take this I’m starving.

Inviting views over Starling Dodd & Great Bourne can be seen at the end of the ‘High Stile Ridge’

Lingcomb Edge as Crummock Water expands out towards Lorton Vale.
It’s lunch time as we take in the tremendous views over Crummock Water & beyond. Both Tim & I are reminded about the time we took the direct route up Grasmoor via a vicious scree slope straight up the front of the mountain during our early fell walking careers, memories are good even more so when you can laugh about them.

Blencathra beyond the plain of the north west fells.

After lunch we shouldered packs where at times the sun hid behind the clouds making Tim (again) don his fleece! and myself roll the sleeves down which felt, not enough as the cool breeze penetrated the base layer I was wearing.

Slowly but surely the sun returned moments later bringing welcome warmth, despite my first suntan of the year there was always a reminder that it is indeed, only April.

Red Pike from Lingcomb Edge.
The view back up to Red Pike was solely the reason why I wanted to include Lingcomb Edge into todays itinerary.

Descending toward Scale Force after leaving Lingcove Edge behind with views of Mellbreak & Carling Knott.

The track underfoot was tough as it descended into Scale Force, the type of path that is best ascended rather than descended came to mind but was non the less forgotten when we bumped into a young American couple, is it far from the peak the handsome young chap asked? I at first though he said pike but then I know I definitely heard peak?

Without wanting to go into a slightly awkward situation we pointed the young couple in the direction of Red Pike (Buttermere)

I however had my own gripes with a stone in my boot, which wasn’t really in my boot as I later found out, it was in my sock & as I’m a man therefore stubborn I wouldn’t stop to take it out until I reached Scale Force.

Scale Force.

On reaching Scale Force Tim immediately disappeared for a closer look after ascending the huge boulder seen left (in fact Tim was on his way down as I took this photo un-be known to the pair of us it seems)

Yes I was a little jealous that Tim had found his way up the boulder & into the mist of Scale Force but I was more at home showing off my new boots as I crossed the Scale Beck to take a few photos of the falls & as you can see next, the new boots.

The Meindl Vakuum GTX

I’ve had to give my trusty Salomon Quest a sad farewell to make way for a more sturdier boot, this had to make the leap from fabric to leather, I simply could not face replacing my Salomon’s every six months, however in saying this, I won’t have a bad word said against the Salomon’s.

Today is ‘first day on’ for the Meindl’s as I was assured by Gooutdoors that I wouldn’t need to ‘run them in’ so to speak, after the steep ascent on Sheepbone Rake only hours earlier I can at this stage agree that the memory foam lined boot is one of the comfiest boots my feet have had the pleasure to slip into.

Of course I know its still early days & blisters can still appear yet for now, these boots are getting 10/10

The Bridge Hotel, Buttermere.

After leaving Scale Force we took in the last few miles back to Buttermere under brilliant cloudless skies as the sun made our arms & foreheads pink whilst dreaming of the pint we were going to have when back in Buttermere.

We arrive at The Bridge Hotel when I spotted the last table, Tim makes a dash for the bar as I am ordered ‘get that last table Paul’.

I walk through the tourist’s, my back is wet in sweat as I de-shoulder my pack much to the bemusement of those eating when I pull myself up a chair facing High Crag beneath the canopy of a couple playing cards & drinking wine.

Tim arrives back with two golden ales, the sunlight beams through the pint glasses as Tim sits himself down then chinks his glass against mine at says…

Cheers Paul.


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