The Harry Griffin 2,000 footers Walk 22 -The Mosedale Horseshoe

8th August 2015

With only five walks remaining my two thousander footer challenge is closing in which is why I now find myself organizing said walks the way I would want them to draw to an end. Harry Griffin respectively completed his two thousanders with a rock climb on Pillar Rock which after quite a lot of thought about climbing Pillar Rock myself I came to the conclusion that I am a fell walker and not a climber and I don't fancy putting myself in danger or 'out of my comfort zone' just to prove a point which is what I told myself at the beginning of the campaign, although deep down...I'd love to give Pillar Rock the finale it so deserves.

Anyway, all that is some weeks away yet which is why this morning I find myself not only blessed amongst some of Lakelands finest fells, but under glorious morning sunshine too. Todays walk or Harry's version of the Mosedale Horseshoe is a shortened one because Kirk Fell is missed out on as I made its summit back in April this year within my Griffin campaign. Today I pick up a round of ten two thousand summits three of which are to be found on Scoat Fell. But, I have an apology to make if I have to be honest in that today I also have to collect the lonely summit of Little Gowder Crag found close to Haycock, why you may ask? well it seems back in March when I walked 'Seatallan and Outliers' as part of my project I missed out on Little Gowder Crag for some reason, instead summating Scoat Fell when I needn't have as Scoat Fell as mentioned, is collected in todays walk, I could have said nothing and maybe no one would be non the wiser but that's not how these things work, and at least, once completed, I can rest easy on the subject.

So let me talk you through my route, from Wasdale Head I pick up the Black Sail Pass via the Mosedale Valley before heading for my first two thousander in Looking Stead then continuing to collect Pillar and Black Crag from where the three two thousand foot summits on Scoat Fell are collected, not before a good lay of the land I might add. From Scoat Fell I then pick up Steeple after which I would then continue onto Red Pike, but through my absent mindlessness I now trek west one mile to collect Little Gowder Crag, then of course the one mile back to Scoat Fell's flank before summating my three remaining summits of Red Pike, Stirrup Crag and finally Yewbarrow bringing my collective total of summits to eleven, the final sting in todays walk would be the brutal descent off Yewbarrow via the Bob Graham route back to Wasdale Head, but all of that is a while a way in both body and mind.

Todays walk starts under glorious skies on the shores of Wast Water.

Freeman of the Hills
'The Mosedale Horseshoe'
Only the evening drive over the passes remained of memorable day in which many familiar scenes had again been enjoyed and many old memories recalled. Little, I decided -except the Ennerdale Forest - had changed in fifty years. And the Mosedale Horseshoe - even of you miss out Kirk Fell and go the 'wrong' way around - must be one of the best walks in Lakeland.
Harry Griffin

Ascent: 4,922 Feet - 1,501 Meters
Summits Over 2,000Ft: 11, Looking Stead - Pillar - Black Crag - Little Scoat Fell - Scoat Fell (NY 158 114) - Steeple - Scoat Fell (Summit) - Little Gowder Crag - Red Pike (Wasdale) Stirrup Crag - Yewbarrow
Weather: Dry and Sunny, Brisk Across the Summits, Highs of 21°C Lows of 12°C
Parking: Car Park, Wasdale Head
Area: Western
Miles: 10.8
Walking With: On My Own
Ordnance Survey: OL4
Time Taken: 7 Hours 30 Minutes
Route: Wasdale Head - Mosedale - Black Sail Pass - Looking Stead - Pillar - Wind Gap - Black Crag - Scoat Fell - Steeple - Little Gowder Crag - Red Pike - Dore Head - Stirrup Crag - Yewbarrow - Bob Graham Relay Descent off Yewbarrow - Road Back to Wasdale Head

Map and Photo Gallery


Yewbarrow, Kirk Fell and Lingmell over Wast Water 8:00am 12°C

Any walk that involves a start from Wasdale Head means an early get up and this mornings was no different, having left Wigan at 5:30am I arrive at Wast Water on schedule feeling a little weary after the long drive. The shore road is partially blocked by stubborn sheep who refuse to move not even after a pleasant pip from the horn, meaning I have to drive around them.

After a short while I stop the car at a passing point leaving the engine running as I quickly spot the chance to take this photograph, further down the road close to Countess Beck Bridge a photographer snaps photos from a tripod as I start to make my way back to my car.

Once Wasdale Head is reached I find the carpark unsurpringingly busy as I ease my car into less than a handful of empty spaces, such my enthusiasm to get boot onto fell I have premeditated my kit up which flows well meaning within moments I am all but ready at the fell side, as I am about to leave a car pulls along side mine and a young couple get out, they too are almost ready as we almost lock our cars simultaneously, not after we pass our 'mornings' on to one another.

I head out towards the Barn Door Shop and Ritson's Bar from where I will pick up the Mosedale Valley.

Kirk Fell under glorious morning sunshine.

Pillar and Wind Gap seen domineering over The Inn at Wasdale Head.

Great Gable from Wasdale Head.

Pillar, Wind Gap, Black Crag and Mosedale Beck from Mosedale.

Having passed behind the Inn to be greeted by large groups of campers congregating behind Ritsons Bar (no doubt waiting to use the loo's) I then pass the Old Pack Horse Bridge who's view was somewhat obscured by overgrown trees, nevertheless the sun shimmered over the surface of Mosedale Beck having broken through the tree canopy. Behind me I can still hear the groups of campers but their voices lessen the further away I walk. I climb steadily over uneven ground before coming to a stop at a wooden gate, ahead, the brutal steep climb of Kirk Fell domineers my view while off to the left, is the Mosedale valley.

I am flanked largely by the vast shadow of Kirk Fell as I take on the steady rise of the Black Sail Pass, here the ground is dry and despite the previous rainfall any mud on the path, has now started to crack. Ahead my path is gentle underfoot for now but will rise steadily once Gatherstone Beck is reached, but for now I take it all in, after all, not all walks start off with views and weather as good as this.

The northern mass of Yewbarrow from Mosedale

Today wasn't just about completing the Mosedale Horseshoe, today was also about burying one of my demons with an ascent on Stirrup Crag seen as the pointy summit which domineers over Dorehead Screes. It was while completing the Mosedale Horseshoe back in 2011 did I first encounter an ascent with Stirrup Crag where I was taught what getting to grips with scrambling and a little exposure felt like before I had climbed the likes of Jack's Rake or even Skew Gill.

Today I needed to bury those demons for good.

Crossing one of three crossings at Gatherstone Beck.

The Mosedale side of the Black Sail Pass, with Pillar to my left, and Kirk Fell to my right.

It was debateable what route I should take here as I am left with more than one option, when Harry climbed these fells he ascended Pillar directly from this point scurrying over loose scree, a route of which I am a little reluctant to follow, instead I steadily flank left leaving Black Sail Pass for a faint path which spits me out somewhere in the centre of this photo, the conventional route of the Pass flanks right before bringing you out at the Col seen in the far very right of the photo.

Another reason why I didn't choose to follow Harry up the scree was because I didn't want to miss out on this next view...

Looking Stead and Pillar.
Having gained the ridge I double back to this small pool found close to the top of Black Sail Pass, which, for me, is one of the finest platforms from where to view Pillar from, today I wasn't to be disappointed even though it now seemed, I maybe loosing light due to a large covering of cloud heading my way.

Looking Stead and Pillar.
Behind me the young couple who had parked up besides me at the car park are now making their way to the top of Black Sail Pass, behind them a solo walker wearing a bright red jacket. Ahead of me I have this fantastic short ridge walk before gaining Looking Stead seen in shadow on the right at the end of the ridge.

Kirk Fell and the Gables seen from Looking Stead summit cairn.
It is only a short diversion from the main approach path in order to reach Looking Stead where sadly more dark cloud was approaching from the west, shortly after taking this photo both Kirk Fell and the Gables summits were under cloud, I appear to have the upper hand for now, but for how long, I don't know.

Ascent on Pillar.
After leaving Looking Stead behind I follow the remains of the old iron fence post from where the start of the High Level Traverse is passed by descending steeply into Green Cove seen in the right of the photo, however, my route today is to stick with the main approach path which ascends over three craggy rises, this one in the photo being the first before my path will level out somewhat before tackling the second and third from where the summit, is then easily gained.

Looking back along the ridge towards the top of the Black Sail Pass.
Notice the cloud dropping down on the Gables, my fellow walkers who are tailing me can be seen below.

Pillar with disant views of Wind Gap, and Black Crag.

Once the first of three shoulders were gained here my path levels out before the rise of the second and the third, now clearly seen ahead. It was whilst here the wind had whipped up bringing with it a sudden drop in temperature causing me to second guess do I add more layers or put up with the cool winds and just roll my sleeves down.

Feeling notably chilled, I go with the latter.

Pillar summit trig point and shelter.

This was my second attempt at taking a photograph of the summit as my first was scuppered by incredibly low light caused by a large dark cloud that had blocked the sun, thankfully it was windy enough up there in the heavens for the cloud to pass, but still, an imminent downpour looked on the cards, thankfully, resulted into nothing.

Time for a little explore.

Pillar Rock from Pillar summit.
Pillar Rock is the only thing stopping me collecting all 203 summits over two thousand feet, do I eager for a summit? yes of course I do but (and it's a very big but) am I able to climb to the summit safely? here I spot myself a route up from the right of the rock, I'm sure this route has a name but sadly, I'm not sure if its mine.

Distant views over the High Stile ridge from Red Pike to Great Borne, beyond, the Loweswater Fells.

Red Pike (Wasdale) seen together with Yewbarrow as I descend onto Wind Gap from Pillar.

Black Crag over Wind Gap.

Despite my explorations and dreams of climbing Pillar Rock summit time was kept to a minimum due to just how brisk it was and the one base layer that I was wearing! Descent from Pillar on to Wind Gap was as always a little tricky in places but nothing that even the inexperienced among us couldn't handle.

Soon I had descended onto Wind Gap which was more than living up to its name, even at the beginning of August, a pair of gloves and a woolly hat wouldn't have gone a miss here.

Steeple over Wind Gap, and Mirk Cove.

Having bottomed out on Wind Gap the best way to keep the cold from biting I guess was to keep moving, ahead of me is a nice but steep ascent on Black Crag from where I spot a walker descending having earlier spotted him leaving Red Pike, I couldn't blame the chap, and could only look on with stubborn envy at his gloves, hat, and hood, he sure looked toasty but maybe a little too excessive for my liking.

I tramp on.

Here, looking back over Wind Gap towards Pillar from my ascent on Black Crag.

Scoat Fell and Steeple from Black Crag summit.
This is without doubt some of the finest walking territory found in the Lake District and above all, a personal favourite ridge of mine. From Black Crag I take on the lay of Scoat Fell and its three two thousand foot summits, ahead at the peak of Mirk Cove Little Scoat Fell can be seen, while beyond the main summit itself followed by the third two thousand foot summit found just a short distance away.

Little Scoat Fell (left) seen with Steeple.

The three summits of Scoat Fell were by now all falling into place which meant I didn't have to rely on my map having already planned there whereabouts whilst planning the walk earlier during the week.

From out of no-where a fell runner appears, she's just a young lass who's legs are red raw from both mud and the biting wind, nevertheless we share a morning as she heads towards Black Crag while me, Little Scoat Fell.

At 841 meters, Little Scoat Fell summit
Once I had breached the shoulder of Scoat Fell locating one of its subsidiary summits was made easier as Little Scoat Fell was located at the end of the stone wall from where, the fell side drops sharply, here a makeshift stone cairn marks the summit but I guess if you weren't on the look out for it, can be easily missed.

Scoat Fell summit.
Having collected two of the three summits found on Scoat Fell and after another rather unflattering photo of Scoat Fell main summit I head out over stoney ground towards Steeple.

Descent/Ascent on Steeple.
The wind had whipped up again causing me some cold discomfort, beyond the ridge I spot Haycock and further still, Little Gowder Crag who by now were both draped in sunshine, despite my error months ago I feel lured to get other there, perhaps, the sunshine had something to do with it.

Haycock and Little Gowder Crag seen from Steeple summit.
Steeple summit was soon reached with hindsight of maybe an early lunch, momentarily I am blessed by sunshine but this does not fade the biting wind. From the summit I spot my two fellow walkers who had been tailing me since leaving Wasdale Head having just left Scoat Fell, they start to make their descent on Steeple, we cross along the ridge and exchange pleasantries once more and share a joke on where had that sun gone!

Haycock and Little Gowder Crag seen from Scoat Fell (NY 154 111)

After leaving Steeple I reascend to the ridge by traversing right where I make up a small amount of ground from where I will pick up Scoat Fell third subsidiary summit where I de shoulder pack before finding a spot out of the wind beneath the subsidiary outcrop, here I take in views over Great Cove towards my 'out and back' in Little Gowder Crag.

From here Little Gowder Crag looks further than the one mile I had measured but I was confident in my calculations, one mile there and one mile back should be done in no time at all, not forgetting the ascents and re-ascents involved I figure my out and back might cost me around the one hour mark, but for now beneath the rocky outcrop off Scoat Fell third subsidiary summit I decide to break for an early lunch whilst sat against a rock taking shelter from the cold wind.

Haycock and Little Gowder Crag.
Instead of summiting Haycock despite its lure my plan is to shoulder the fell side until the left turn in the stone wall is reached, from where I will skirt across the top of Great Cove, a faint path can be found here which is more prominant at the begining and at the end, yet over the top of Great Cove the path becomes fainter and fainter which just shows how much it is used, best to use ones own judgement across here which is easily followed.

Little Gowder Crag ahead.
I really need to stop using sheep as marker, or objects to fix on! these guys didn't let me down not even as I walked passed them.

Caw Fell from Little Gowder Crag summit.

Despite Little Gowder Crag not being on route today and gaining its summit was a mistake from my own part, summit time here was pleasant and peaceful, made more so as I had commanding views of one of my favorite summits in Caw Fell. The stone wall builders didn't stop for nothing when they built this wall, not stopping at the summit, instead building the wall right over and down the other side which, when on a brisk day as today, provided a great windbreak from where I could find myself a perch and while listening to the wind howl over the stone wall feeling fully protected all the while gazing upon Caw Fell.

These special times make me almost glad I'd missed out on Little Gowder Crag that April day.

Time to head back to Scoat Fell by again, flanking Haycock.
Still, at least the sun was out now and providing me with a little warmth at last.

Views back towards Haycock and Little Gowder Crag.

During my re-ascent on Scoat Fell I step over the familiar path and use the path on the Netherbeck side of the ridge. My legs told me I needn't to crest the summit all the way but my head told me this wasn't true, there was no mistaking it, I did have to almost summit Scoat Fell again in order to gain the best 'lay of the land' from where I will take on Red Pike.

Ahead, and just before the summit was reached I break away hard right over tufts of grass while a walker I was about to pass gives a wave, I wave back. Scoat Tarn is visible and I wonder do I make the excursion to visit but resist knowing that the height that I will lose will only have to be re-gained.

Red Pike (Wasdale)
Having spotted Red Pike approach path from my Scoat Fell flank I soon meet up with it not before bog trotting over swollen ground. It's a steady ascent from here which I gain with walking poles at my sides.

Black Crag and Pillar now under brilliant midday sun.

Great End, Broad Crag and the Scafells from Red Pike summit.

Red Pike was quickly gained as I stop to admire my surroundings, below Red Pike's summit Mosedale Beck shimmers in the midday sun while two groups of walkers are seen heading up Black Sail Pass, a dog barks loudly followed by the owners shouts, all of which seem to be coming from the direction of Pillar, something tells me the dog is loose chasing sheep, but that's just my guess.

You can't but help feel the gulp in your throat when presented with views such as these, such a lot to take in, no photograph could ever capture.

Dore Head, Stirrup Crag and Yewbarrow from Red Pike.
Time to take out that stone you've been carrying in your right boot, and while your at it, that's Stirrup Crag down there in case you've forgot!

Wonderful surprise views of Wast Water, Illgill Head and Whin Rigg seen from Red Pike.

After passing a group who had stopped behind a large boulder to eat lunch my thought turned first to my Red Pike descent which can be tiresome after a day summit collecting, but this proved to be wrong as I took in the descent twist by twist sometimes going off path if not only to ease boot pressure.

Stirrup Crag loomed though, and I could feel its presence as if it was looking at me, strange how some things get you eh.

Commanding views over Kirk Fell, Great Gable, Styhead and Great End from my descent.

Bearing down on Dore Head and Stirrup Crag.
Having collected nine of todays eleven summits all that remained was to summit both Stirrup Crag and Yewbarrow collectively, although in saying this, it's still a long way back to Wasdale Head.

Stirrup Crag from Dore Head.
From my Red Pike descent I eargerly pick out a proposed route even spotting a worn grassy ledge highlighted here in red, the start of the scramble is by means of ascending a steep stone rake hidden within the rock between lower dot one, and lower dot two.

Yewbarrow from Dore Head.
Soon after taking this photo I meet two elderly walkers who have ascended via Overbeck, we smile and pass on our 'fine day for it's' but this couple don't appear to be fell walkers from the way they were dressed, nevertheless, it would seem my Stirrup Crag ascent would now have an audience.

The stone rake found at the start of the ascent.

Having gained the steep ground below Stirrup Crag I find myself at the base of a stone rake, this I do not remember from my last ascent and maybe the reason why I found it to be difficult.

With my walking poles strapped away I take a few moments to compose myself, giving my calf muscles a good stretch before taking on the scramble (I couldn't think of a worse place to get cramp) This pitch was very enjoyable and done with relative ease, the next however was still enjoyable, but a little trickier.


The second part of the ascent was a little trickier.

After topping out from the first scramble I was met by various options, the main ascent was clear to see while alternative routes broke away in order to avoid the scramble.

From here. I rattle my way up to the top only stopping when I realised my foot purchases had ran out, but this was not the case if I first climb right, then step over onto the left wall above, thus giving me amble purchase for manouvere, had I not turned around and thought 'now where' I wouldn't have spotted the alternative route.

Looking down on a job well done.

This may not seem much to someone who rattles things like this off every weekend, but to me, and a certain Mr Tim Oxburgh it feels like a pretty good achievement seeing as I have avoided Yewbarrow all these years because of this ascent.

Celebratory views over Kirk Fell, Great Gable, Great End and Lingmell.
Time to pop open another Satsuma.

The same view yet this time from Stirrup Crag summit cairn.

The Scafells are enjoying some afternoon sun as I make my way towards Yewbarrow summit.

Kirk Fell and Great Gable from Yewbarrow summit.
The morning haze had now cleared leaving the surrounding fells looking, well, as clear as day.

The Scafells and Lingmell from Yewbarrow.

My last summit of my two thousander footer campaign can be seen in this photo, but I wonder does anyone know which one it is, sorry for teasing.

I now had the decision on how to descend Yewbarrow by as Harry had used the direct route back to Wasdale Head often referred to as the Bob Graham route, however, I was a little hasty with this as from Harry's description this route wasn't for the faint hearted on account on just how unforgivably steep it was, with this days earlier I had spoken to David who I knew had used this route with Andrew Leaney sometime ago, David's reply was positive 'it's steep Paul, but do-able'

I now had to locate said path.

Finding the path was much more easier than I first assumed as I spotted a faint path running west away from the summit, this could not be mistaken for a sheep trod, this was a path where only the fittest of athletes would run, and..they had left a good path behind.

Lakeland giants.

Descending Yewbarrow directly via the Bob Graham Relay route.
I kept a vigilant eye on the path all the way to where it seamlessley dropped off the edge off Yewbarrow's shoulder, here I was surprised to see (for now) I wouldn't be descending via scree, instead, steep pitches of grass for much of the descent. I get my bearings as I find that the path is almost parallel to the campsite situated at Brackenclose.

My view of Wasdale Head was a great moral boost during my steeper than steep descent.

Descending the scree.

Soon the grassy fell side gave way for unavoidable scree, it is said that to keep a direct descent you should stick to a beck that flows off to the left of this picture, off set of the scree run. Here however, the path was unavoidably steep, too steep and too tricky for descent which is why when a fell runner would take over me, here, he too used the scree as a means of descent, not before stopping to take handfuls of water from the beck.

The scree was incredibly loose yet worked to my advantage allowing me controlled slides all the way to the bottom, the only thing I had to remember was to make sure I switched feet much like a skier would turn in order to avoid my boots filling up with stones, which at times, was just unavoidable, this descent was possibly the most fun I'd had while descending any scree run for a long time and took me no more than a couple of minutes before reaching the bottom of the scree.

Illgill Head over a shimmering Wast Water.

Worth the steep descent? I think so.

After the scree slope however my fun was over, below me I could now see cars travelling along the lake road, I could even spot the colour of the drivers eyes I felt so close to the road yet this wasn't so, the last 200 ft of descent were by far the steepest matched with swollen bracken that totally obscured the beck I was following at the time, here I was in danger of twisting an ankle or worse. I refer to an article that I had since read about how steep this path is when one fell runner competing in the Bob Graham Relay wrote that his only means of ascent was by clutching at grass all the way to the top, I can only second that.

Keeping a positive attitude works wonders when dealt with such a descent, the fell runner who had passed me had just bottomed out on the lake road and had disappeared off in the direction of Wasdale Head, all that was left was for me to carefully pick my way down all the while keeping my eye on an that ever nearing wooden sty, and further out the infamous 'Private Property' wooden gate.

Kirk Fell and Great Gable seen from Wasdale Head.

Both sty and gate were hastily reached, my feet bearing the toll of over five hundred feet of some of the steepest descents I've ever encountered, still, I can now claim that I have used the infamous route off Yewbarrow.

The car park is unsurprisingly full to bursting point as I make my way towards my car, my fellow walkers who I had chatted with on Steeple are still out, or enjoying refreshments at Ritsons Bar, I go with the latter, which is where I should find myself too much like Harry had after his encounter with his Mosedale Horseshoe who that day had forgotten to take any hydration with him, when ordering his drink at the bar back at Wasdale Head Inn it was with more of a croak than a voice he wrote.

I feel like I've made good time today, in total under eight hours of which I am pleased with, even if as Harry put, we did miss out on Kirk Fell.


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