Walking the Birketts, Seathwaite Fell, Allen Crags and Glaramara

9th June 2018

There was no fell walking last weekend which had been pre-planned to celebrate my wife's birthday which also allowed if you followed my last walk the blister on my right foot to heal and to be honest it was great to spend time with my family but as the saying goes 'absence from the fells only makes the heart grow fonder' With the dry weather continuing into June we had a green light for a walk so midweek I sent both David and Rod e-mails containing suggestions for upto half a dozen Birkett walks and, after about ten e-mails (yes it took that long to make up our minds!) we agreed on this walk which collects seven Birkett summits from the valley of Seathwaite.

One of the main reasons why we chose this walk was because of its low mileage which would allow us to catch up after Davids holiday in Scotland and not to mention the fantastic views the route had to offer whilst not generally touching the highest peaks. The sting in this walks tail had to be the steep ascent of Seathwaite Fell from the start and the descent of Hind Gill at the end of the walk but we knew that and had prepared well, it was such a shame the forecasters got it slightly wrong but we weren't complaining, a little light rain never hurt no one.

The Complete Lakeland Fells
By Bill Birkett

-Bare right, following its stony course back to the cobbled yard and distinctive aroma of a working Lakeland hill farm.


Ascent: 2,900 Feet - 899 Metres
Birketts: 7, Seathwaite Fell - Great Slack - Allen Crags - High House - Lincomb Head - Looking Stead - Glaramara
Weather: A Warm Bright Start Turning Cloudy With Haze and Light Showers Across The Summits. Highs of 24°C Lows of 18°C
Parking: Parking Spaces, Seathwaite Farm, Borrowdale
Area - Group: Southern - W/BOW
Miles: 7
Walking With: David Hall & Rod Hepplewhite
Ordnance Survey: OL4 - OL6
Time Taken: 6 Hours 10 Minutes
Route: Seathwaite Farm - Stockly Bridge - Aaron Crags - Seathwaite Fell - Great Slack - Sprinkling Tarn - Esk Hause - Allen Crags - High House - Lincomb Head - Looking Stead - Glaramara - Hind Gill - Seathwaite Farm

Parking Details and Map
Nearest Post Code: CA12 5XJ
Grid Reference: NY 235 712
Notes: I guess it's fair to say that Seathwaite is to Lakeland what Times Square is to New York. Set within the heart of Borrowdale in the heart of the Lake District Seathwaite is the walkers hub of Lakeland. Seathwaite is the starting point for many a walker heading for the highest ground in England when during the Summer hundreds of 'Three Peakers' visit Scafell Pike. There is room for ample parking yet it's quite difficult to put a figure on how many cars and mini buses park in the valley at any one time but it is recommended to arrive early if you want to secure a parking space. During peak seasons such as Summer the farmer has known to allow parking on both sides of the valley with a small charge close to Seathwaite Farm. Please park courteously and do not block any gates, remember Seathwaite Farm is a working farm meaning the land owner will require access to any gates by any means, you have been warned! Parking is free.


Map and Photo Gallery


Seathwaite Farm, Seathwaite 08:10am 18°C

We had arranged to meet at 08:00am as close to Seathwaite Farm as possible, this was made slightly more difficult by how busy it was with Rod who had arrived earlier than myself and David finding a parking spot close to the farm. With myself and David parked back up the valley I drove down to meet Rod and told him we'd be with him in ten minutes or so. David and myself had parked 'backed in' on a grass verge which we knew would soon fill up. Todays forecast was meant to be overcast with rain arriving late in the afternoon although as you can see it's a perfect warm blue sky morning with temperatures already creeping into the late teens. We estimated we would be well down (and possibly on our way home) by the time the showers would arrive but we packed our waterproof jackets just in case.

Rod was patiently waiting for us by the time we arrived before striking out towards Seathwaite Farm while sighting groups of walkers already heading for Stockly Bridge and more in ascent alongside Sourmilk Gill to our right, these walkers Rod had got talking to before we arrived who explained their route onto Base Brown via the Hanging Stone, The Gables, Kirk Fell then a return via the Gable Girdle, a silent Wow! entered my head. It's a beautiful morning and already despite Seathwaite being in shade, the sun is beating down and I'm starting to sweat already.

Seathwaite Fell.
As always we'll be following Bill Birketts original route with Seathwaite Fell being our first summit of the day which we will ascend via a steep gully which you may be able to make out between Aaron Crags and the ridge leading down over on the right, it's a route I've used many times before but only in descent.

Seathwaite Fell from Stockly Bridge.
There's already a few walkers on the path seen over on the right but we won't be following them for long.

Base Brown seen over Taylor Force Gill as we begin our ascent on Seathwaite Fell.
The whole valley was a sun trap today, great if like us you wanted to top up your tan! Hard going though in the heat.

The gully right below Seathwaite Fell summit.
This is the grass gully Birkett chose to ascend Seathwaite Fell by, there actually is a part grass/stone path to the right of the gully which helped with the steep ascent. Conversation stopped during this ascent, we're all used to steep ascents but in this heat they always seem much harder but at least the many stops we made we were able to get great views back through the valley.

Here looking back through Seathwaite as far as Derwent.
With haze affecting the northern fells such as Skiddaw and Blencathra, we're not too far from the top of the gully now.

Great Gable, Aaron Slack, Windy Gap and Green Gable from Seathwaite Fell summit.

We topped out on the shoulder of the fell and broke out again for a rest while taking in the fantastic views over the Gables. Disappointingly I could feel the blister on my right heel again, this was after a week off the fells and with another set of new insoles fitted to my boots, the blister on my right heel mustn't have healed as well as I thought it had which is odd because with the same insoles I have no problems with my left foot. Oh well, another walk carrying a blister.

From our rest stop the gully narrowed and we continued onto a fainter path until the summit cairn was in sight. The coolest of breeze met us at the summit and I think we each lifted our arms aloft to feel the full effect. Our next summit is also on Seathwaite Fell known as Great Slack which is directly above Styhead Tarn. Bill Birkett recommends to follow the summit plateau in an anti clockwise manner enabling sublime views over the Gables and the valley below, he wasn't wrong about the views, the Gables just looked incredible today as we all reminisced over our last visits.

Great End and The Band from Great Slack.
With Broad Crag and Scafell Pike in the distance.

Great Gable, Aaron Slack, Windy Gap and Green Gable from Great Slack.

Lingmell and Piers Gill seen over Styhead from Great Slack.

Lingmell from Great Slack summit cairn.
We followed the grassy knoll's passing a semi-dried tarn close to Seathwaite Fell summit. Keeping to the right, Styhead Gill flowed steeply below before arriving below Great Slack summit. A quick knolly ascent soon saw us at the summit with incredible views over Styhead, Great End, the Gables and Lingmell. I, and we have been here before and had forgotten just how central Great Slack is to the districts highest peaks, especially on a morning as clear as today.

The Band and Great End from an unnamed Tarn below Great Slack.
In the distance, Scafell Pike.

Great End reflections.

"Beyond and below a larger tarn (unnamed on the OS map) lies hidden in a rocky hollow, pause here to admire the reflection of Great End before continuing to Sprinkling Tarn" Bill Birkett.

Great End from Sprinkling Tarn.
Sprinkling Tarn was just a few yards away and minutes later we were stood on its banks watching the fish rising across the waters surface. It's still early morning as the tempreature continues to rise as some of us found 'other ways' to cool down...

Mr Hall cools down by pouring the contents of Sprinkling Tarn over his head.
"It's warm enough to swim in" Blinking Eck Rod he's not gonna strip down is he!!

Big skies over Sprinkling Tarn.
With Glaramara on the horizon.

Esk Hause from the top of Ruddy Gill.
With Sprinkling Tarn behind us we joined the path below Great End passing Central Gully to our right. We were joined by groups of walkers most of whom had ascended from Seathwaite via Ruddy Gill before they broke away in their own separate groups, some finding the humidity a bit too much.

The Gables from lower Esk Hause.

We reached lower Esk Hause just below Alan Crags summit passing a solo walker who was bombing along like a mad man, a chap not quite kitted out for the fells but presumably had spent the night on the fell judging by a rolled up mat and sleeping bag that was attached to his pack, it wasn't the last we would see of him.

We had ascended Esk Hause in low light, this due to the now troublesome cloud which by now was fast approaching the Scafells and indeed the Esk Hause Fells, with little to no wind the cloud was pretty slow moving but its density was a different matter.

The view back towards Esk Pike, Hanging Knotts and Bowfell.
You can see the light changing over Hanging Knotts and Bowfell prior to the cloud arriving, an unusual sight with strong sunlight still over our shoulders on Allen Crags.

And in the other direction, Great End.

III Crag over Esk Hause.

With Great End next.

We really felt sorry for anyone who was making a trip on Scafell this morning especially if it was their first ascent, from such a bright start to low cloud in just a few hours isn't uncommon at this time of year, I could only imagine how humid it must feel over that way as the cloud would trap the heat in.

The forecast did say there would be a chance of a isolated thunderstorm which we understood did arrive early evening (breathes a sigh of relief)

Meanwhile back at Allen Crags summit.
Sun, sun sun!

Glaramara from Allen Crags summit.

We'll be collecting three Birkett summits between here and Glaramara summit all found quite easily between Allen Crags to Glaramara ridge starting first with High House which is found close to the tarn in the foreground, then we ascend slightly to Lincomb Head before descending again along a hollow then ascending again on Looking Stead before our final summit of Glaramara. As the crow flies between here and Glaramara only measures around a mile and a half, yet due to the up and downy bits this ridge can feel slow and shouldn't be under estimated.

Which is all part of the fun I guess.

Looking down on High House Tarn(s) from High House (Alen Crags) summit.

We descend from Allen Crag and lose the light while doing so which can only mean the cloud is at our heels. After half a mile the ground levels where you are given the choice to go around High House or climb towards its summit, we of course left the path and soon found ourselves looking down on High House Tarn below.

Next is Lincomb Head which is the large craggy outcrop in the distance (seen centre left) with Looking Stead beyond.

Looking back over High House Tarn towards High House (Allen Crags) with Allen Crags summit beyond.
We didn't expect to find the ridge as busy as we seemed to pass walkers every five to ten minutes or so most of whom we felt a little sorry for as they were heading into the cloud.

Murky views towards Great End.
The last time I saw a view like that it was in a Lord of the Rings film.

Looking Stead from Lincomb Head.

Lincomb Head was just a short distance (right) from the path, this was the highest point and on the other side of this boulder lay a cairn which presumably had been either kicked away or had succumbed to the elements.

Next is Looking Stead seen in the distance, it's between here and Looking Stead there is a more significant drop before the re-ascent on Looking Stead with the summit of Glaramara just beyond and still out of sight.

The view back towards Lincomb Head from the ascent of Looking Stead.
By which time bellies are starting to rumble, much like that cloud over our heads.

Looking Stead summit.

Much like Lincomb Head the summit of Looking Stead is found just off the main path to the east (when travelling from south to north) where a cluster of large boulders marks the highest point, by now the cloud was almost upon on us and we could feel little droplets of rain carried within a light breeze. Is it actually going to rain on us...

The threat of which was never far away.
Here looking towards the distinctive summit of Pike O'Blisco.

The twin summits of Glaramara as we descend Looking Stead.
That's Glaramara summit over on the right only separated by its twin summit by just 26 feet.

Glaramara summit.

By the time we reached Glaramara summit those little droplets that were being carried in the wind had started to fall as rain, evidence of this was seen as we pass a semi-dried out tarn except those tiny splashes over the waters surface weren't dragon flies it was actual rain, rain this part of the country hadn't seen since the end of April.

Descending the rock wall on Glaramara north summit.

The rain seemed to hold a little while still being carried along by the breeze, it was time to leave the summit and descend via the rock wall, this wasn't a "lets just do it decision" we all spoke about it first making sure everyone was comfortable with the scramble before hand.

The top half (seen here) was the easy bit with the lower half (out of shot) being more hands on, Rod collapsed his poles while David and myself lowered ours down onto the path below, after a few hand manoeuvres we were soon down and looking back up at the rock wall feeling pleased the rain had held until we were at the bottom.

Speaking of rain...With our poles back firmly in our hands we located the top of Hind Gill by sight and started to make our way across before being forced to stop as what was light wispy rain started to fall vertically, it was a 'do we or don't we reach for the waterproofs' moment as the rain continued to fall so we each de-shouldered and added waterproof jackets which for me created that sauna effect, the rain could continue to fall, in fact we all could do with a few gusts thrown in too.

We reached the top of Hind Gill and followed a faint path through boulder before realising that it had stopped raining AND we were sure it was starting to clear, by now bellies needed feeding and thirst needed quenching, it's lunch time. At the top of Hind Gill we found a cluster of boulders and each chose somewhere to sit and feasted into some much needed energy. With lunch packed away we re-shouldred still wearing our waterproofs, why I'm not sure but soon, we stopped again and de-layered.

You do get a descent prospective of Hind Gill from the summit shoulder as it falls away into Seathwaite below.

Hind Gill.

We all knew that the descent of Hind Gill was a steep one (please note we did not descend in the Gill but via a path alongside) and it was worth keeping a bottle of energy for the descent alone, this alongside concentration was key to not a technical descent but a steep and winding one where a slip on the dusty twisting path was just a step away. Silence followed.

It might have seemed longer sometimes tucking into the undergrowth if only to ease pressure on the soles of the feet but at least the descent took away the niggling pain of the blister as my feet were firmly tucked forward in my boots.

Back at Seathwaite Farm.

We were right it was starting to clear and by the time we reached the valley floor we had a glorious hot afternoon sun on our backs although the rain did nothing to relieve the haze which by now obscured near summits such as Seathwaite Fell at the head of the valley. At the foot of a dry Hind Gill we reached the intake wall and rejoined the track back to Seathwaite Farm where we were asked by the chap we'd seen rushing about earlier this morning "had we had second thoughts" as he pointed back at Hind Gill, "second thoughts mate, no that's the way we've just come down" we replied; oh...he said. We followed a group of girls who held the gates for us before arriving back at Seathwaite Farm, we arrived at Rod's car who after arranging plans for our next walk thanked us with a handshake for a great day on the fells.

All that was left was for myself and David to walk the short distance back to our cars which were now nestled between half a dozen others, we each lifted our tailgates and began to kit down, midges and horseflies were rife and I'm sure they're making my car home as I write this. I'd normally drive home in my boots as I'm comfortable with this but after my foot injury I try to change back into my mids which I did whilst sat on a cheap stool from Pound Stretcher as I eased my right sock down and watched David's face squint as I show him my new blister.

Flippin eck, not again!


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