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Date: 08 Mar 2005
Start / Finish: Bleach Green - free car park at the West end of Ennerdale Water, 085513.
Maps: Explorer OL6 & OL7: English Lakes South West & South East.
|Day 1||Crag Fell and Red Pike||8 miles / 3630 feet (12.9km / 1106m)|
|Day 2||Pillar and Haystacks||5 miles / 1890 feet (8.1km / 576m)|
|Day 3||The High Stile group||10 miles / 1960 feet (16.1km / 597m)|
A reduced version of the Ennerdale trip we did last year to take account of the snow on the high mountains, which made progress slower and more laborious with the winter gear but gave us a superb round with magnificent views. The schedule gave us time to explore the South section of Haystacks.
Walking S towards Crag Farm, the track turns half-right to a gate, cutting off the field corner. Turning R on another track, we watched for the unsigned grassy path slanting back L into the trees, which climbs through the forest to the open hillside. The path crosses Ben Gill and climbs to Crag Fell, where there was a grand view of Ennerdale Water and ahead to the snowy peaks.
Descending S then SE, the path enters the forest at a stile and drops to a track and small cairn. Turning L a few yards to another cairn and R down a grassy ride to the wet col, we turned L along a rough track which is now nearly blocked by fallen trees, but there is a way to clamber through on the L and gain the stile. It was now a simple matter of following the wall on the long ascent to the snow line and the first mountain of the round, Iron Crag. There are three cairns spread along the flat top on the far side of the wall and accessed by a gate adjacent to the centre one.
Progress to the next top Caw Fell became increasingly arduous as the snow deepened despite the gradual gradient, and the total lack of wind made it feel very warm. The wall crests the rocky summit of Little Gowder Crag and onto Haycock, which was a much easier climb by using the protruding rocks and avoiding the deep snow. The views from here to Scoat Fell were even better than our last trip which covered the same section of the ridge.
Descending SE to the col, we pitched the tent and made an easy climb to Red Pike, where the view from the cairn on the edge of the drop was superb. Returning to the tent, we descended SW to collect water at the head of the stream and admired the snowy slopes above Scoat Tarn, which were bathed in the soft glow of the sinking sun.
There was a hard frost overnight and the morning was overcast but clear. A path contours back NE to the adjacent col and an easy climb gained Black Crag, where the clarity of the early air was immediately apparent from the distant views of snow capped peaks in southern Scotland, while the early sun illuminated Red Pike and the sky cleared. The climb to Pillar was a long toil on the steep snowy rock and we took a good break to admire the extensive views from the summit windshelter. Descending E to Looking Stead, the little visited tarns above the main path were gleaming white with ice.
We took the main path down to Black Sail Pass and the hut in the valley, with the impressive Kirkfell Crags towering darkly above. Crossing the footbridge and turning R, a path weaves SE through the moraines and curves NE to the foot of Loft Beck, where a path climbs on the R side. Collecting water at the head of the beck, there is a choice of three stiles: we chose the centre one and set off NW to explore.
This is a delightful area of bold rocky knolls, pools and gullies set amid the grander mountains, and for anyone already familiar with the well trodden highway past Innominate Tarn and Blackbeck Tarn, a half day of exploration here is highly recommended - in good conditions that is, it must be very confusing in mist. An intermittent and sometimes wet path brought us neatly to the main path close to Innominate Tarn. Climbing to Haystacks, we made our second pitch not far from the summit.
It rained in the night and we opened the door to a lurid world of swirling veils of mist, which began to clear as we descended to Scarth Gap. There is a pitched path up Seat which made easy work of the climb, and a short descent to the frozen tarn leads to the steep path up High Crag, which is never easy!. We finally reached the summit and the snowline but the mists were gaining hold again, coming and going to give intermittent views. Following the edge to a plethora of cairns on High Stile and the final top Red Pike, there was a yellow rescue helicopter hovering by the summit and the views had improved.
Descending WSW over trackless grass to the head of Gillflinter Beck, we replenished water and followed the path that materialises on the L side. Lower down at a cairn, the path crosses the beck and swings R to slant down to a stile into the forest. A track zigzags down to High Gillerthwaite, where we joined the shoreline track that gives a pleasant return to Bleach Green (at 112151 where the track starts ascending to Bowness Knott car park, leave it to follow an unsigned shoreline footpath around the small headland which joins up with a continuation track).