A Wasdale Head Horseshoe

7th February 2016

With yet another storm (I forget its name) we go into the weekend thinking when will all this bad weather end. I simply can't remember the last time we had a run of so consistent wet and windy weather the way the winter of 2016 has turned out that I find myself looking back on past walks reminiscing what a hard frost underfoot felt like. The timings of the forecast are usually reserved for the weekends leaving the weekdays with the odd dry or sunny day when I'm a million miles away tucked up behind a desk in Manchester...right about this time frustrations are kinda running high but I haven't given up all hope just yet as we enter into early spring lets hope the frost arrives before the April showers.

Due to the forecast I was forced to sit Saturday out, in turn I slipped back into family life ferrying my wife and daughter too and from the shops and my reward for this was a free night in with the remote control which is where I planned this walk. Every now and again I like to nip back to the remotest of fells which are usually reserved in the far east of the district, you may already know my fondness for High Street but I also share a similar fondness for the Shap Fells; one in particular is Great Yarlside and everything involved in reaching its lonely summit.

The Wasdale Horseshoe slotted just perfectly with todays forecast, even if it meant getting wet and being blown about the place because lets face it, it's not like were not used to it by now. Please accept my apologies in advance if the images I took appear a little blurry as it was quite difficult trying to keep the camera steady at times.

Wainwright Guide Book
The Outlying Fells


Here is featureless desolation, and solitude, and silence; and if not for that once-busy ribbon of tarmac, the A6, this would seem a no-mans-land, a wilderness relieved by a few stone walls.


Ascent: 1'200 Feet - 366 Meters
Outlying Wainwrights: 3, Little Yarlside - Great Yarlside - Wasdale Pike
Weather: Rain and Hail to Start. Feeling Very Wintery With High Winds Across the Summits. Highs of 4°C Lows of 3°C Feels Like -6°C
Parking: Layby A6 - Shap Road Summit
Area: Far Eastern
Miles: 6.2
Walking With: On My Own
Ordnance Survey: OL7
Time Taken: 3 Hours 15 Minutes
Route: A6 Shap Road Summit - Whatshaw Common - Little Yarlside - Great Yarlside - Wasdale Pike - Wasdale Head Farm - A6 Shap Road Summit

Map and Photo Gallery


Shap Road Summit 09:30am 3°C

Under furious winds I arrived at the deserted layby at around 09:10am but refused to get out of the car until it had stopped raining, the wind was so strong it was rocking the car from side to side while the rain pelted at the car windows.

Have you ever had that feeling what the hell are you doing? Me too, right about now.

Surprisingly I had a full signal on my phone and I was able to view the forecast for Bretherdale Head which at least brought some comfort in that the showers should soon ease. I told myself when the rain stops I'm going to have a quick look up and down the adjoining valleys to make sure more wasn't on its way then start my kit up and not before!

The rain did stop and I was left fighting with the drivers door as if the wind was trying to tell me something...around the back of the car I start to lace up adding my gaiters which are now starting to show signs of some serious wear and tear, having already repaired them once I guess after today I might need to renew but that's the last thing on my mind.

The wind blows a hooley up the back of my midlayer which flaps in the wind, there's more rain in the air but thankfully it doesn't amount to much and passes north towards Shap. I'm layered up but the wind is taking my mind off matters, I close the boot and place the car key within the waterproof compartment in my pack, then I carefully tie in the rain hood before remembering that I have left; not just my walking poles but my camera still in the boot, think straight Paul.

Second time around and I am ready, the skies over my head switch from light to dark grey within the blink of an eye but at least it's stopped raining. I head out back along the A6 towards a gate while all around me I am surrounded by dozens of electric pylons which hum and growl as the wind passes through their structures which was quite an eerie sound.

Pass the old Telephone Repeater Station building found on the A6 Shap Road Summit.
With my car just over my right shoulder I head out through a wooden gate with no latch, thereafter I pass the abandoned Repeater Station under the hum and howl of two huge electricity pylons. My aim is to reach Whatshaw Common straight from the A6 by following the path which is under water although hardly surprising with the amount of rain the District has seen. With this I continue with a crows eye for the highest point soon crossing a gravel access road which ran across the lower waist of the hill, it was tempting to follow the track just in case it would gain me ground further up but I doubted this, instead opting to continue with my crows eye ascent over swollen ground.

Ahead, Whatshaw Common.
The ridge towards the first summit was gained quite easily even over boggy ground, soon I was on a wide path which when I looked back towards the direction of the A6 I could have used myself if I had travelled a little further south from the car instead of north but it was no grand defeat.. Ahead, it's half a mile of easy walking towards Whatshaw Common summit hindered slightly by the detours I had to make in order to avoid the watery bogs.

Thats Lord's Seat over on the left with Little Yarlside over on the right.

Having already summited Whatshaw Common in the past there was no real gain in doing it again today which would have included an out and back, with this I pass the broken wire fence which many before me had used to gain access to the summit plateau, instead I continue ahead by following the stone wall to the right which offered protection against the prevailing winds.

Footnote: Had the weather have been kinder there was no doubt of a summit of Whatshaw Common, followed by a crows eye descent to meet back up with the stone wall.

Up ahead, Little Yarlside.

Views over Long Fell, Wasdale, Wasdale Head and Packhorse Hill from Wasdale Mouth.
Inevitably I had become unstuck while crossing the top of Wasdale Mouth where at some points I was up to the top of my gaiters in unavoidable bog water.

High House Bank and Robin Hood seen over the Crookdale Valley while beyond, the Bannisdale Fells.

Great Yarlside from Little Yarlside summit cairn.
The bogs over the top of Wasdale Mouth gave way for much firmer ground which was widely appreciated especially during the short, but steep ascent of Little Yarlside. Once the plateau had been reached I was forced to leave the comforts of the stone wall in order to visit the summit cairn leaving me wide open to the gales, it was quite a deafening, but brief experience on the summit of Little Yarlside as I took note of a distinctive grass creator found close to the cairn which would have provided me with shelter but instead, I decide to press on with a fight back towards the stone wall.

Great Yarlside.
The ascent of Great Yarlside is far less steeper than that of Little Yarlside which I've just renamed Not So Little Yarlside !!

Views into Wasdale towards a distant A6

Great Yarlside summit stone cairn.

Continuing with the ascent the summit plateau is soon reached but I find myself on the wrong side of the stone wall which I guess is my own fault for using it as a wind break for much of the morning, with this I sight the summit from over the wall and i'm forced to continue towards the familiar gate found on the north east shoulder of the summit making Great Yarlside...a little out and back.

After passing through the gate I scale a taught wire fence before retracing my way now on the right side of the wall, you may ask why I didn't try to scale the stone wall which I might of had it not been for the new deer fence in place.

The stone cairn is sighted well before the familiar circular trig point, the wind is at its highest and I'm being buffeted like a leaf in storm, summit time today, will sadly be kept brief.

Great Yarlside circular trig point.

Memories are cast back when on my first summit of Great Yarlside many years ago I sat here eating lunch while looking back on another favored summit of Harrup Pike, not today, if I stay still for too long I'll end up on the Isle of Man.

Views over Crookdale towards Robin Hood, High House Bank with the Borrowdale Fells beyond.

Sitting the showers out.

I again retrace my steps as I find my way back to the familiar gate where it starts to rain, after a quick look west I can see bands of rain are approaching from the direction of Harrop Pike and indeed the Kentmere Fells and with this wind it will soon arrive as I sit the shower out tucked neatly behind the stone wall, the rain and hail passes over head as a feeling of contempt bears down on me, I had left the gate open which bangs against the gate post close to where I had left my walking poles propped up which by now, have been blown over.

I was in no rush at all to leave the comforts that the stone wall provided, in fact I could have stayed there much longer than I needed to, it was just me and the wind...oh, and the occasional banging gate.


Striking out towards Wasdale Pike.
By now it had stopped raining and with the wind now on my back I could enjoy the walk to Wasdale Pike in relative comfort helped along by strong gust every now and again.

Little Saddle Crag seen with Great Saddle Crag.

An array of colour set against the greying skies.

Wasdale Pike is just ahead.

On a personal note one of the finest paths in Lakeland can be found between Great Yarlside and Wasdale Pike, there's nowt to see except gorse and heather bushes as far as the eye can see, if you like the feeling of remoteness on a bleak winters day this is the place to find it, I was in heaven.

My path follows a newly erected fence although when I quote new, what I actually mean is it's probably a couple of years old now, there used to be wooden stakes dotted about the hill side but I haven't seen any on todays visit, perhaps they have been blown over. The new fence is followed until a gate is reached, here the option to head left for Wet Sleddale or right for Wasdale Pike, I keep right and follow the fence which starts to distance itself from the path only for it to draw back into line once the summit is reached.

Long Fell from the summit of Wasdale Pike.

Views over towards Whinfell and Borrowdale form the summit of Wasdale Pike.
Having left the stone cairn a few paces north for a murky view of the Wet Sleddale Reservoir I retreat back after seeing the shafts of light over the Borrowdale valley, in the grand scheme of things it was nothing too spectacular but I took it as a little highlight from the walk.

Leaving Wasdale Pike for Wasdale Head.

It was noted from the summit of Wasdale Pike that I needed to start my descent quite soon in order to 'drop on' Wasdale Head, after leaving the summit I keep with the wooden fence but only for a short time, soon this fence one way or another will have to be scaled which I do as I arrive at what I would describe as possibly a wooden marker pole which had been treated to a different colour than the rest of the fence poles, beyond that, traces of a path that lead through the heather.

This was my path.

Long Fell over Wasdale Head.

It was bound to happen, the path that I had been following ran into thick heather and with no other way around I pick my way through finally meeting up with a faint path that lead towards a second fence with...you've guessed it, another marker treated darker than the rest of the fence post.

Below, Wasdale Head.

Long Fell complete with Transmitter.

Descending through heather towards Wasdale Head Farm with distant views of Packhorse Hill.

The ruins of Wasdale Head Farm.

There is a certain eeriness contained within old ruins and Wasdale Head Farm was no different. Despite the fact that most of the buildings are lying flat or have trees growing out of their stone work it isn't hard to imagine how difficult life must have been here for the working farmer when the A6 was nothing more than a pipe dream, harsh times.

I leave and head out towards Wasdale Beck via a narrow track.

Pausing to look back on Long Fell and Wasdale Head Farm.

Crossing Wasdale Beck.

I had followed the narrow track until I reached the tree line shown on my map where I am left with two options, one is to continue following the track or two, head east and follow the tree line until Wasdale Beck is reached.

The pines had been cut back enabling me views into Wasdale and indeed the traffic as it travelled along the A6, the noise from their engines bringing the walk back into reality. Wasdale Beck is reached and is much wider due to recent rainfall than I had expected, the narrow parts of the beck are up to three feet deep and making a crossing here would leave me soaked to the thighs. At one point in the beck however, the water is measured and again it reached the handle of my walking pole but on the other bank, the water is stony and shallow, I reckon with a good run I can jump it, the final commitment was when I threw my walking poles like javelins onto the opposite bank.

I walk back about twelve paces never keeping my eye off the opposite bank then make a run for it thankfully clearing the water completely landing in the shale on the opposite side of the bank.

I'm getting to owd for this !!

Observation Tower, Wasdale Beck.
There is a possibility that this tower was once a Fire Tower but has now been reclaimed as a Shooting Tower if you note the padding on the bottom edge of the lookouts, and, like most wooden structures found on open fell side, it is tethered to the ground by two steel cables.

Looking back on Wasdale Head with the Observation Tower in the foreground.

Back at the Repeater Station.

I continue following the forestry trail which at some points began to slow me down due to felled trees that lay across the path or the unstable wet ground that I had to gain in order to reach the summit of the A6. The familiar sound of the humming from the pylons greeted me as did the wind as it passed through their metal work, ahead a car would drive past as I attracted the attention of a passenger or a lorry driver from the comforts of a warm cab.

With the exception of snow, today I have encountered most of what winter can throw at you, my cheeks are red raw and so too are the tips of my ears that my beanie hat just couldn't cover, my eyes and nose are running like a tap yet this was just a small price to pay for three great hours in the bleak of winter on the edge of the Lakeland Fells.


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