Great End via Piers Gill

1st June 2024

On the back of a health scare I took it easy last weekend, and because of this our Dartmoor wildcamp has had to be put on hold until I feel fully fit again. David and I had been planning to cover around 45 miles over 3 days, and it was a stomach-churning decision made worse because we had a brilliant weather window even though we both agreed it was for the best. 

I'm on leave this week, but the forecast is up and down like a yo-yo again, feeling sweltering hot one day and temperatures back into the low teens the next. The more I read about the summer of 2024, the more I want to close the laptop.

Because I'd planned on wildcamping in Dartmoor, I hadn't planned any walks in the Lakes in the event that we didn't go, but one walk that came to mind almost straight away was a route that involved Piers Gill. I've walked this route several times now, and if I'd been feeling fully fit, I'd have continued onto Sca Fell via Lord's Rake, the West Wall Traverse, and Red Gill, but seeing as I'm not quite there yet so I just made it up as I went along.

Wainwright Guide Book Four
The Southern Fells
Piers Gill A thousand foot drop which again is not nearly so vertical as it appears at first sight to the startled beholder.

Ascent: 3,118 Feet - 950 Metres
Wainwrights: Great End
Visiting: Broad Crag
Weather: High Cloud & Sunshine, Light Breeze Across The Summits. Highs of 22°C Lows of 14°C
Parking: Car Park, Wasdale Head
Area: Southern
Miles: 8
Walking With: On My Own
Ordnance Survey: OL6
Time Taken: 5 Hours 50 Minutes
Route: Wasdale Head - Burnthwaite - Moses Trod - Piers Gill - Broadcrag Col - Broad Crag - Great End - Lambfoot Dub - Spouthead Gill - Lingmell Beck - Moses Trod - Burnthwaite - St Olaf's Church - 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


Kirk Fell and Great Gable from Wasdale Head 7:15am 14°C

My alarm woke me at 4:00am, and by 4:45am I was heading north on the M6 from where I witnessed a brilliant sunrise over the west Pennine moors. It was a lovely morning that had been forecast to continue well into the day with the best forecast being in the west of the park which was another reason why I chose this walk. It saddens me that I have to leave so early in order to secure a parking spot at arguably one of Lakelands most popular car parks. Adding to this, there was a time when I'd stop for photo opportunities, but while I was at the rear of a line of half a dozen cars all heading for Wasdale Head, stopping to take photos might be the difference between being able to park and hunting around while anxieties build. After all, once you're here, you're committed.

I had no issues parking, but that's not to say the car park wasn't busy with walkers kitting up or three peakers returning. Once parked, nerves calmed, and I gave off a big stretch, yawning the two and a half-hour drive away. It's a mild morning with just the lightest of breezes in the air, so I add my Rab hoodie to take the edge off; little did I know I'd be keeping it on for the duration. More cars began to arrive, all parking orderly for now. The parking rampage normally starts between 9:00am and 12:00pm but I'll be making my way off the fell by then. Folks are milling about, and I can smell bacon being cooked from a nearby camper van which smelled delicious, I really needed to get a move on.

Pillar from Wasdale Head.
Before leaving I take in the view towards Pillar, little did I know that my friend Karl Holden from was heading up onto Pillar to wild camp. On Sunday morning Karl had woken to a cloud inversion which looked epic over the Ennerdale valley. Be sure to visit Karl's website for the full report.

Great Gable, Sty Head and Great End from the footbridge over Gable Beck.

I left Wasdale Head at the same time as a large family who I quickly overtook and silence resumed. The breeze had turned into a light wind channelled down the valley which when coupled with the direct sunshine was difficult to keep my head up, at least for now. I pass through Burnthwaite Farm and spot a solo walker who had just passed through the farm boundry gate.

The walker pauses to drink from his water bottle like his life depended on it, and I don't think he realised he was emptying its contents as he walked with the bottle nozzle facing down as he squeezed at the same time. 'Morning mate' the guy seemed fine, so I continued concentrating on the task at hand.

Red Pike (Wasdale) Kirk Fell and Great Gable from the base of Piers Gill.
After crossing Gable Beck, I continued until the path forked right for more uneven ground. I was surprised to find how damp it was underfoot, the ground reflecting weeks of rain when really it's been on and off more than anything. I sighted the smooth grassy tongue from where the Piers Gill path starts, but it was still some distance away, and by the time I reached it, my boots were heavy after squelching through waterlogged ground which made the crossing of Lingmell Beck look like a trickle. 

Middleboot Knotts and Lingmell Crag from Piers Gill.
At the head of the grassy tongue Piers Gill ravines at this distinct turn all the while I'm being treated to the sound of cascading water while Lapwings sing overhead.

A wide angle view of Piers Gill.
At the end of the grassy tongue I cross the ford (nameless stream) and ascend steeply from it.

Kirk Fell and Great Gable from Piers Gill.
With Green Gable and Sty Head in the distance.

The scrambly bit.
In recent ascents there had always been a 'painted arrow' from where the walker starts his/her ascent. I scoured the rock wall for a few moments trying to find the arrow (I didn't need it as the route is obvious) I wanted to find the arrow as it's been here for quite sometime and is part of the experience. Sadly it appears that the arrow has succumb to the elements.

Scafell Pike from Piers Gill.
The head of the rock wall signifies the steepest section of the gill where the cliffs fall 230ft into the ravine below. Moments earlier the skies were blue now replaced by cloud and a sudden drop in temperature.

Lingmelll from the head Piers Gill.
The sunshine soon returned but unknowingly I'd accidently changed the aperture setting on my camera which ruined the next half dozen photos until I'd realised my mistake.

Broadcrag Col from Broadcrag Cove.
I had to make a decision at the head of Piers Gill, Great End or Scafell Pike? The numbers I could see crossing Broadcrag Col ahead made the decision for me, Great End it was.

Lingmell Col and Lingmell from Broadcrag Cove.
Aside the people heading for Scafell Pike via Broadcrag Col I didn't expect to see anyone in the cove until these three appeared in descent. It turned out to be a father with his two sons one of whom was struggling with the steep, scree path but with his dads patience he made it down in the end.

Scafell Pike and Dropping Crag seen over Broadcrag Col.
As you can see the path naturally steers towards Scafell Pike so I crossed the col before beginning the rocky ascent on Broad Crag.

Great End from Broad Crag summit.
Red triangular marker flags lined the route from the col all the way to the summit which I assumed were left by fell race organisers. My ascent was incredibly rocky hopping from one boulder to the next before the summit rocks appeared.

Great End from the descent of Broad Crag.

I watched a solo walker descend Scafell Pike only to re-appear as he made his way towards Broad Crag summit, he had ascended much the same route as I had and looked ready for a sit down. We shared routes, mine still not fully confirmed in that I had the decision of two choice descents from Great End via Lambfoot Dub or Esk Hause and Sty Head.

Just in case you're unaware Lambfoot Dub is probably one of Lakelands most secluded tarns which you can just about see in front of Styhead Tarn in the photo. Lambfoot Dub can be reached easily from the Corridor Route or by descending the origins of Greta Gill on the western flank of Great End / Long Pike. I've just realised my mistake and my camera settings have been re-adjusted after a lot of 'shit and bollocks' from yours truly.

Broad Crag and Scafell Pike.

I descended Broad Crag via the path seen in the photo passing a solo walker crouching down fiddling with his camera 'must be in the water today' We shared a 'morning' before I continued towards Great End. On the opposite side of the ridge it was nice to see so many people on III Crag's summit most of whom were taking in the views over Great Moss.

Great End.
Although it looks quiet I'm only taking photos without folk in them. Two large groups have just passed and I can hear the voices of another group approaching.

The Langdale Pikes, Esk Pike and Crinkle Crags from Great End.
With upper Esk Hause below.

III Crag, Broad Crag and Scafell Pike from Great End.
There was only one couple at the summit who keeping themselves to themselves. For the last twenty minutes the cloud had rolled in and with it came another drop in temperature but it looks like the skies are clearing as I finalise my descent via Lambfoot Dub.

Broad Crag and Lingmell before beginning my descent.
This image also shows a section of the Corridor Route with Round How to the right.

Round How and Lingmell from my descent.
The descent is rough, steep and narrow but the views are magnificent stretching as far as the Mosedale valley beyond.

The mighty Broad Crag with Lingmell Col and Lingmell to the right.

Lambfoot Dub appears with the Gables and Kirk Fell beyond.
With the descent via Greta Gill behind me I pass below Long Pike following a narrow trod until Lambfoot Dub appeared.

The Gables from Lambfoot Dub.
It's so peaceful and the views are amazing. Time for an early lunch me thinks.

Broad Crag and Scafell Pike are the subjects of todays 'lunch with a view'
De-shouldered I found a nice boulder and tucked into my lunch whilst taking in the views and absorbing the quietitude. I could have stayed here all afternoon but after twenty or so minutes it was time to leave.

Great Gable and Kirk Fell.

With lunch over I began my descent towards the Corridor Route first sighting a trio of walkers followed by what can only be described as Saturday afternoon in Tesco. I was thrown back by how many folk were on the Corridor Route where it's fair to say I was brought back down to earth with a crash. Not only was it the busiest I'd seen it but there was also a fell race on and the competitors where taking no prisoners on the sometimes narrow, skittish path.

I only had to walk about three quarters of a mile but my patience was wearing thin with the arrogance of folk who screamed and shouted between their groups, where was the fell etiquette, I don't think they'd even heard of it. Prior to reaching Skew Gill I left the path and made a pathless descent towards the point where Skew Gill flows into Spouthead Gill.

Great Napes on Great Gable.
With Kern Knotts seen to the right.

Yewbarrow, Red Pike (Wasdale) Kirk Fell and Great Gable.
A large cairn sat at the top of Spouthead Gill from which a grassy path zigzagged a descent towards Lingmell Beck below. The zigzags gave way for the same smooth grassy I left when I began my ascent on Piers Gill earlier.

Great Gable, Sty Head and Great End.

Back at Burnthwaite Now
In the sunshine now!

Stained glass window, St Olaf's Church, Wasdale Head.

Kirk Fell and Great Gable from Wasdale Head.

Spouthead Gill flowed into Lingmell Beck, which I crossed via a series of large boulders onto the opposite bank. Up ahead, a family and their dog are enjoying the emerald pools, as was a younger family with their daughter. The path was rough and wet underfoot, drenching my now-dried boots as I kicked water onto my calfs and lower shorts. I had somehow forgotten how wet it had been this morning. Two teenage girls cross the footbridge over Gable Beck, who stopped to ask the whereabouts of the pools, and I replied, pointing towards a large tree on the lower flanks of Gable, 'the pools aren't far from that tree'. They smiled, 'not too far then' and went on their way. I was pleased my answer wasn't accompanied by the spite I'd felt on the Corridor Route earlier.

The heat of the afternoon beamed down between the cloud and blue skies above. I should have removed my hoodie, but I was so close to the car that it wouldn't make sense so I sweated it out. Just shy of six hours I had time to have a walk around St Olaf's, England's smallest church, which is raising funds for a £200,000 2025 restoration, of which they have £97,500 left to find. Great work, I uttered. Returning to the track, the windscreens of the cars parked at Wasdale Head shimmered in the heat of the afternoon. Folks sat by their tents at the campsite while cars circle the car park hoping to find somewhere to park, all but the determined leave. I have a niggling regret that now I'm back at the car I didnt include Lingmell but that's just a good reason to come back and do it all again.


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