Walking the Birketts, Mosedale Horseshoe

4th September 2018

For no particular reason I found myself walking quite a few of Birketts Horseshoe routes and with just over twenty walks completed I need to make sure that I don't complete all the best walks first which so far has seen me shy away from alot of the more popular Lakeland fells including my beloved High Street, this I aim to fix sooner than you think.

The last time I climbed Pillar was two years ago as part of my Wainwrights in 30 walks project when back then I was eating the miles and ascent away for fun, subsequently this damaged my foot which meant I had to curb down the miles meaning I wasn't taking on these 'big' walks as often as I'd like too which, I missed. Weather permitting I had planned two or three walks over the week starting in the far east of the district with the Crookdale Horseshoe but at the very last minute the forecast changed but this wasn't all bad, during the same forecast it had predicted that the area around Wasdale would receive the brightest of the weather so I took the gamble and travelled to Wasdale.

I've had some great Birkett walks this year but every now and again I need to climb high and push myself more than I would on any other walk and Birketts tour of Mosedale does this perfectly.

The Complete Lakeland Fells
By Bill Birkett

-Dorehead Screes

The result is a steep and hard surfaced gully offering little grip. Do not take it directly but first descend the flank of the open hillside to the north.


Ascent: 3,430 Feet - 1,046 Metres
Birketts: 6, Looking Stead - Pillar - Black Crag - Scoat Fell - Steeple - Red Pike
Weather: A Cool Start, Turning Warm and Mild for the Duration. Highs of 20°C Lows of 13°C
Parking: Car Park, Wasdale Head
Area - Group: Western - W/PIL
Miles: 8.1
Walking With: On My Own
Ordnance Survey: OL4
Time Taken: 5 Hours 40 Minutes
Route: Wasdale Head - Mosedale - Gatherstone Beck - Black Sail Pass - Looking Stead - Pillar - Wind Gap - Black Crag - Scoat Fell - Steeple - Red Pike - Dore Head - Dorehead Screes - Mosedale - Wasdale Head

Parking Details and Map
Nearest Post Code: CA20 1EX
Grid Reference: NY 186 708
Notes: Probably one of the more popular car parks in Lakeland due to proximity to Scafell Pike meaning that the car park at Wasdale Head is very popular all year around and is large enough to accommodate around forty cars and mini buses. Despite its popularity you may only struggle to park here during mid Summer or late into the afternoon.


Map and Photo Gallery


'That view' Yewbarrow, Kirk Fell, Great Gable and Lingmell from Wast Water 08:50am 13°C

Well, my last minute gamble with the forecast had paid off after arriving in Wasdale under clearing blue skies, to add to this Kirk Fell, Gable and Lingmell all had a bank of cloud blanketing their summits which also extended into the Mosedale Valley. The sun hadn't risen high enough to breach IIIgill Head seen over on the right but that was only moments away. The valley felt cold in the morning shade not helped by a cooling wind which swept down the lake from the head of the valley which is where I'm heading next.

Kirk Fell and Great Gable from Wasdale Head.
After crossing Down-in-the-Dale bridge I was surprised to find an almost deserted car park with the exception of a few camper vans parked neatly against the grass verge. Wrapped up tourists where pointing away with their mobile phone cameras while I kitted up some of whom rear up behind my car and in broken English, pass on their 'mornings' .

Pillar seen towering above The Inn, Wasdale Head.
With the car locked I walked down to the corner of the field were I stopped to take a few photos, the summit cloud was mesmerising to say the least and because of this I was feeling apprehensive knowing I might be in that same cloud if it doesn't burn away first.

A close of Great Gable and the Napes from Wasdale Head.
Outstanding !!

Pillar seen above The Mosedale Valley.

With the camera strapped away I left Wasdale Head and passed The Barn Door Shop which was just opening for business, on the left employees from The Inn millied about carrying bedding sheets preparing for the day ahead. Behind The Inn I pick up the path first passing Row Bridge which is a Grade II listed Pack Horse bridge and dates back to the eighteenth century. The path steepens slightly with the steep nose of Kirk Fell occupying my only view where a gate is passed through before I head left into the Mosedale valley.

For now it appears I have the valley to myself but unbeknown to me there is a couple hundred yards or so ahead who I pass prior to crossing Gatherstone Beck, but that's a while off yet, so for now It's just me, and the tranquility.

A close up of Black Comb below Little Scoat Fell.
Aye, by the looks of it the cloud is breaking just nicely, and beautiful to watch mind.

Looking back over Mosedale towards Stirrup Crag, Dore Head and Dorehead Screes.
Effectively Stirrup Crag forms the northern tip of Yewbarrow where some great scrambling ground can be found in order to gain the summit by; but Stirrup Crag isn't going through my head right now, what's going through my head is the descent of Dore Head via Dorehead Screes, that's the light coloured scree run to the right of Stirrup Crag. From this side of the valley I reckie the scree which has a vivid channel which descends from Dore Head to half way down the scree slope, this channel was caused by erosion which is best avoided, instead I'll keep to the left until the channel is clear then jib right where I'll re-join the scree.

Looking back on Red Pike (Wasdale) as I near the top of Black Sail Pass.

Having over took the couple I mentioned earlier I picked up the Black Sail Pass after crossing Gatherstone Beck, the beck was in a good spate and care had to be taken during the crossing hence no photograph. A steep path rises from the beck then steadily rises again towards the top of Black Sail Pass, it was here I am passed by a group of Mountain Bikers where 'Hi's and Mornings' are passed.

Incidently the couple who I had overtaken earlier are by now making a pathless ascent (on the Kirk Fell side) of Gatherstone Beck, I'm not sure if they had missed the path or not, either way their ascent looked like unnecessary hard work.

The iconic ruined gate, summit of Black Sail Pass.
Having reached the top of Black Sail Pass I head left towards todays first summit of Looking Stead but there's a favourite Tarn that I know of which I'd like to visit first.

Dramatic views over the top of Black Sail Pass towards Kirkfell Crags, Kirk Fell and Great Gable.
The cloud is still lingering over the summits but I'm not sure for how long as the wind starts to gain in strength.

Pillar from the unnamed Tarn at the top of Black Sail Pass.
I'm sure we all have those special little hidden gems in Lakeland, well,, this one is one of mine.

More views back over Kirk Fell and Great Gable as I approach Looking Stead.
I probably spent ten minutes too long back at the tarn and by the time I rejoined the path the sweat on my back had started to freeze. Ideally at this point I should have added my windproof if only to take the edge off but soon I'll be ascending Pillar which I know will get the blood pumping once again.

The cloud is starting to break over Kirk Fell now.

Seat, and the High Stile Ridge from Looking Stead summit.
Looking Stead is easily gained from the path after a short burst over grassy ground, a second option to gain Looking Stead is to follow a line of ruined fence post from the tarn I had visited moments earlier, this higher route maintains the 'ridge effect' ...of course I had forgotten all about it having used the lower path D'oh!

Ascent on Pillar.
This photograph shows the ruined fence post I have just mentioned which ascends almost as far as the summit itself but while not necessarily keeping in line with the path, in poor weather however, the post can be used as a navigational aid but please be advised the post do come perilously close to Hind and Pillar Cove (s) prior to the summit being reached.

Passing the entrance/exit to Pillar's High Level Traverse.
Which brought back fond memories of my ascent on Pillar Rock back in May 2016

Here looking back over Gatherstone Beck and The Black Sail Pass towards Kirk Fell and Great Gable.
There's no mistaking the silhouette of the Scafells seen over on the right.

I'm joined by more drifting cloud...

...which soon faded into nothing.
Revealing Kirk Fell, Wasdale Head far below, Lingmell, Scafell Pike and Scafell.

The summits of Kirk Fell and Great Gable peaking out above the cloud.

Looking over Hind Cove back along the summit shoulder.

There are effectively three false summits to this route, the first was seen from Looking Stead earlier, the second at the end of the ridge in this photo while the third is just after Hind Cove is passed (if travelling from the direction of Black Sail Pass) I couldn't remember if there was two or three false summits...it was three!

To help me along with the ascent I often get ear worms in my head, you know those songs that just loop around and around and for whatever reason my ear worm for today is 'Turn' by Travis a song that I don't particularly mind at all whose chorus goes like this...turn, turn, turn turn, turn, turn turn....turn turn turn...turn

Yep...on loop in my head the whole ascent !!

Pillar summit.
Instead of heading straight towards the summit I detoured slightly to take in the view over Pillar Rock and the Ennerdale valley.

Pillar Rock and Pisgah.
With the cloud well clear now I was able to look down on Pillar Rock seen here with Pisgah in the foreground. It's going to be year or so away but I'll be making another ascent of Pillar Rock as part of my Birkett project, let's hope it will be as good as the first time.

Views over Windgap Cove towards Black Crag, Scoat Fell and Steeple from the descent of Pillar.

Scoat Fell, Mirk Cove and Steeple from Black Crag summit.
Having reached Wind Gap I took in the view over Windgap Cove which extended all the way to Ennerdale Water with the Irish sea beyond on one side and the Mosedale valley on the other. Feeling composed I prepared for the short burst on Black Crag and reached the summit after a scurry over rock.

Steeple and Long Crag seen over Mirk Cove.
That's the Ennerdale valley below with Great Borne and Starling Dodd occuping the western tip of the High Stile ridge while beyond, the Loweswater Fells.

Red Pike (Wasdale)
I'll be over on Red Pike soon after summating Scoat Fell and Steeple, I sure am ready for some lunch right about now.

Epic views looking back over Mirk Cove towards Black Crag, Windgap Cove and Pillar.
Taken below the summit of Scoat Fell.

Delightful Scoat Fell.
I'm going to touch base here at Scoat Fell then return for lunch after summating Steeple which is just a short distance away.

The view over Mirkiln Cove and Great Cove towards Haycock, Little Gowder Crag and Caw Fell.
How I miss lonely Caw Fell.

Looking back over Mirk Cove towards Black Crag, Windgap Cove and Pillar.

Well, despite agreeing with myself to eat lunch back on Scoat Fell I decided to have a few minutes down time while at Steeple summit, I couldn't resist the views disturbed only by two squawking Ravens and the odd b'ahh from the sheep back on the ridge.

The view from Scoat Fell summit over Mirkiln Cove towards Tewit Howe, Iron Crag (Ennerdale Fell) and Ennerdale.
While on the distance, Lank Rigg, Crag Fell, Ennerdale Water and Bowness Knott.

Here looking over the Ennerdale Valley towards Starling Dodd, Great Borne and Herdus.
In the distance Gavel Fell, Burnbanks and Carling Knott with Mellbreak over on the right...Ok, rest time is over, it's time to return to Scoat Fell.

Back at Scoat Fell with views over Red Pike (Wasdale) and the Scafells in the distance.
It was right here I bumped into a couple who were staying at The Inn , Wasdale who where from Lincoln, we got chatting and they explained they were on route to Pillar but just wanted to see what Steeple looked like from the ridge, we returned chatting back to the summit wall together before parting our separate ways.

Lunch with an amazing view.

Red Pike (Wasdale)
With my belly fed I re-shouldered, hopped over the summit wall and took in the slight descent over boulder towards todays final summit, Red Pike, it was here I bumped into a fellow who I had last seen in July 2017 during the ascent of Skiddaw.

A meeting with a not so stranger on route to Scoat Fell.

This gentleman had just descended Red Pike when our paths crossed, I spark up a conversation starting with "afternoon" when the chap looked and said in a quaint English ascent "the half mile over Red Pike has to be the finest in Lakeland" I agree before realising that I was sure I'd bumped into this gent before, his speech about the fells just flowed like pure poetry "We've met before I say, two years ago I think" "Have we he replied?" "Yes on Carl Side, you were heading up on Skiddaw and we stopped to chat" "In that case he asked, did I ascend via the Ullock Ridge?" "you sure did I replied"


Seen here back in July 2016 on route to Carl Side.

He stares at me as if to recollect that day and says "I was climbing all the summits over 2,000ft (I didn't let on during that time I was half way through my Harry Griffin project also collecting the Lakeland summits over 2,000ft) "I wanted to climb them all and today, at the age of 82 I will have completed them all" This was such a monumental day for him he ended our conversation with these words "I won't be back after today, but, If I could design heaven, I'd design it to look like this"

I am somewhat overwhelmed.

Seatallan seen over Scoat Tarn.
That's the Nether Beck valley below.

Red Pike (Wasdale) summit.

There was quite a gathering at the summit so I didn't hang around and instead crossed the shoulder while remembering what the old gent had said about this being the best half mile in Lakeland.

He was right, it certainly ranks up there amongst the best with epic views in every direction.


Descending Red Pike towards Dorehead.
With commanding views over Mosedale towards Kirk Fell, Great Gable, Great End, Broad Crag, Scafell Pike, Scafell, Lingmell and finally Yewbarrow.

Stirrup Crag and Yewbarrow from Dore Head.
Another favoured Lakeland spot of mine is this pool at Dore Head, I'm really fond of the view over Stirrup Crag and Yewbarrow from here.

Looking back up Dorehead Screes.

From Dorehead I look down on the scree from where the vast majority of my view is taken up by a wide rock strewn, deep sided channel. I am sure this can be negotiated, especially in ascent but a descent would prove slow and tricky. I follow Birketts advice and keep left then pick up a steep grassy shelf path, so steep, full concentration is required so as not to tumble forward, I repeat to myself to keep my weight back and switch. I still have the channel to my right and from my position as I continue descent the channel is widening, although its sides are still up to three to foot in height.

At this point I am half way down the scree and to keep to the route I need to get into the channel/scree, I veer right keeping my weight into the hillside and descend slightly into channel, my first thoughts are that of how incredibly steep and loose the channel is and If I'm truthful, was to get out of there - on the other side of the channel the main scree run appears more stable and with caution I pick my way across the channel and climb out the other side. I am now at the top of the scree you see in this picture. With controlled slides I descend the scree, the rock is incredibly loose and with each slide I release that earthy smell you only get in loose, unspoilt scree, this scree is seldom used. I continue my descent and I start to control my slides switching my feet from right to left only stopping to flick the stones from the tops of my boots which have spilled over. My three week old boots have turned chalk white and are scored from front to back "that's the boots bedded in" I muttered to myself.

The base of the valley gets nearer but between me and it, a steep grassy descent, the scree comes to an abrupt halt between grass and bracken where I stop once more to empty my boots of stone, my arms and legs quiver slightly and feel like forty year old shock absorbers. On reaching Mosedale Beck below I wade through the water and give my boots a good soaking, my body will return to normal soon, but my boots, I don't think they'll ever forget Dorehead Screes!

From the wooden gate between Wasdale Head and the Mosedale Valley.
I take one last look into Mosedale before making my way back to The Inn at Wasdale Head.

Spectacular Great Gable from Wasdale Head.

With the Mosedale valley behind me I drop in alongside Mosedale beck which reflected the afternoon sunlight through a canopy of trees and despite looking, and probably smelling like no one owns me, I pass folk eating and enjoying afternoon drinks on the benches behind The Inn. There is no greater feeling than feeling slightly battle torn after a day on the hill as I reached the back of my car and pulled out one of those three legged collapsible chairs, plumes of dust escape into the air as I untie my boot laces before tipping my boots upside down tapping the sole making sure I'd gotten all of the stones out...I hadn't.

The car park is rammed and in every direction I look I could see folk going about their own business, at the opposite side of the car park a young lad massages his sockless feet whilst sat in the boot of his car while I right now could do with one of those foot spa's you see on the telly. I look around at the vast amount of cars and wondered which was the old gents I had spoken to on the back of Scoat Fell, I wondered where he was and what it felt like where at the age of 82 he might be returning to his car after his final fell walk.

The thought alone was enough to bring a tear to my eye.


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