Irton Pike, Whin Rigg, Illgill Head and Burnmore Tarn. 13 miles above and around Wasdale.

December 25, 2015  •  Leave a Comment

Hi folks,

This weeks hike was literally born the week before when Mandy, Steph and myself hiked Middle Fell in Wasdale. When we were up there, the view across Wastwater to the screes of Whin Rigg and Illgill Head really is incredible and you cant help but want to climb up there and take a look the other way to see what its like. So todays Summits will be:

  • Irton Pike (750ft)
  • Whin Rigg (1755ft)
  • Illgill Head (2000ft)

To give you a feel for it, here is the view we had last week in the snow. Todays route is the huge imposing ridge behind the girls.

Heres an image from ground level taken with my Canon 5D MK3 on a photography trip in better weather. Today we will walk this ridge from right to left. we will ascend from behind her at the right, and then descend again far left and walk along a river behind her for the 6 miles back to our start point.

So... the scene is set. As you can see, its an awesome looking piece of rock and we cant wait to get on and do it. Here is the route we actually walked. This is downloaded from my Suunto watch. We really wanted to do the screes and return via the front but with the recent serious rainfall there is a strong possibility that the scree is quite unstable and as its a scene of many a rescue even in good weather I decided we should stick to the easier route which is round the back of it. We started and finished at the pushpin and did it clockwise.

On Wednesday I get up at 5am, fire up some flasks, load the car and collect Steve at 6am. Its a long drive to Wasdale from Blackpool but we make it in a little over 2hrs 15mins. Our intention is to get up to the first summit to watch the sun come up, but we need to get a move on as its getting light!

The route was wet and muddy from the first footstep. This wasnt unexpected, its been raining a lot and large parts of Cumbria are still flooded which is one of the primary reasons we chose the Wasdale area as it seems to have escaped the worst of it.

Our first view of Irton Pike.

Its a pretty steep hack up this side of it, but its the fastest way up and we are running out of time. The suns already on its way!

Phew.... we made it just in time! What the images dont show you is the incredible wind up here. It was howling and very cold, but it was quite welcome as we had worked up quite a sweat on this fast ascent. (Well, I had!)

The view the other way shows todays route quite nicely. We are going to follow that ridge all the way as far as you can see, and beyond.

Moving on, we drop off Irton Pike and make our way through this forestry.

Another muddy, but very pleasant walk. Its rare we get to walk through a forest and we both enjoyed it.

As we exit the forest, the task ahead comes into view.

I notice an outcrop to the left and suggest we head off our track and go over to it in the hope of a decent image opportunity. I wasnt disappointed. What a great view of the valley! Yewbarrow, Kirk Fell and Great Gable dominate the already huge 3 mile long Wastwater. Incidentally, at 79m deep, Wastwater is Englands deepest lake and a favourite with divers.

Moving on, the route got wetter and wetter. Steve was well equipped with his gaiters, something I dont have, so while his pants lived to fight another day, mine ended up a right mess later in the hike!

As we moved onto Irton fell about 9:40am we decided it was time for some breakfast, and of course plenty of coffee.

Steves always on the look out for good hiking food and tends to have something new to try each hike. Today was no different, Porridge! And very nice it was too. Steve tried a new ground coffee but apparently it was erm, less than to his taste shall we say.

10am and moving on. Nice easy terrain but very boggy.

Looking back to the west coast now and Sellafield nuclear power station actually looks quite good lit up by the sunshine.

Whin Rigg comes into view.

Steve and I are keen to explore the outer edges of this ridge today. The views available are amazing. Here is Steve with Middle Fell and Seatallan to his left. He is stood at "Pens End"

Whin Rigg summit. We hung about here for a brew and it was blowing a gale!

I took some wind and temperature readings with my new toy... The Kestrel 2000. The average wind speed was 34mph with peaks of 46mph. The wind chill factor was -4 Deg c. Nice and cool but still good for late December really!

Looking over at Buckbarrow and Seatallan towering over the tiny village of Greendale.

Steves moving on - Destination, Illgill Head.

I will catch him up after a couple more snaps! What a view!

From Whin Rigg you have to descend a couple of hundred feet before the ascent up to Illgill Head begins. Here is an image looking back up to Whin Rigg.

And another of Middle fell. Every time I looked at this fell it brought back great memories of my hike up it last week in the snow with Steph and Mandy.  (Trip report here - opens in a new window)

In this image you can see the most trodden path straight along the middle of the ridge. We had no intention of setting foot on that one, we wanted to stay near the edge for the views. Location now is "Broad Crag"

Having drank plenty of coffee, we needed a top up for boiling later. This looked a great place to get some.    

Finally, at "High Adam Crag" the mighty Yewbarrow is coming into view. Now that is an ascent I will never forget. Painful that was... but we went on to do the whole 12 mile, 5 summit Mosedale round and had an awesome day up there. (Trip report here)

Mother nature shone her torches on Middle Fell and Seatallan almost begging me to take another image. Who am I to resist?

Steve surveying the perilous drop on the screes.

But what a view they afford those brave enough to stand and take a look!

Its not the nicest of places in a wind though and this outer edge path should be treated with the upmost respect. We were sheltered from wind here but make no mistake, this is not a place for a trip even on a still, dry and sunny day.  

But if you want views like this... then the edge is where its all happening. From the official path you will literally see nothing at all.

From "Bell Rib" the only way is up... we leave the edge here and make our way up to the summit. Its steep for a while.

So for health and safety reasons I stop and grab a last image of the mighty Yewbarrow...

Once you reach this cairn it levels out to the summit ahead.

Behind us, the weather seems to be turning and the winds getting a little stronger.    

But ahead you cant really tell. We hope that it passes us by very quickly. Up ahead to the right is the well known Scafell. Englands second highest peak at 3163ft. Right now she is shrouded in cloud. The only way I have ever seen her. Clear days up there are rare!

Scafell zoomed in. Hidden out of sight behind her is Scafell Pike, Englands highest at 3209ft.

12:15 is lunchtime. I was working until gone 10pm the night before so all I had been able to get myself was a prepacked sandwich and a large Bakewell tart for todays lunch. Regardless, it tasted might fine at 2000ft after a 4hr trek. For the next ten minutes it rained, but only lightly.

On looking at Viewranger I realised my battery was down to 30%. Thats unusual for my phone and I realised that I had left Tom Tom, Syvic and also Apple Maps running and tracking my route by accident. We had used them to find the parking location. Doh... silly error. No problem though, I carry the simply amazing Anker Powercore+ 10050 USB powerpack that will charge my phone about 3x and also my head torch on a single charge. A great little device that even has a power level indicator on the front. No serious hiker reliant on power should be without something similar. (Link to Ankers product site here)

After we ate, we started the descent down into the saddle that runs between Scafell and Illgill head. Quite a steep descent but nothing complex requiring hands. And the views are amazing.

As we descend, the sun starts beaming through gaps in the cloud and making some pretty interesting light for the next 30 mins or so.

This image brought back memories of our Mosedale round where we walked all the peaks visible here. Yewbarrow, Red Pike, Scoat fell, Steeple and Pillar. We ran out of light and energy to add Kirk fell onto the round sadly.

Steve taking 5 mins. From here we can now see Lingmell to the left of Scafell. The views up there must be amazing on a clear day. I went up in a snow storm on my Scafell Pike hike and saw nothing. Rarely even my feet!

Beautiful. Rarely does a descent offer views like this.

Looking down on Bowderdale and Overbeck Bridge.

Whats this...? The cloud seems to be moving off the summit of Scafell!

We keep on moving, but our path takes us right now, away from the views so we certainly arent in any rush.  

As we descend further, natures gives us another light show, almost begging us not to turn right and ignore her show! Wasdale head has never looked so dramatic! Just to the left of centre stands the Wasdale Head Inn, a great pub offering accommodation. Steve and I ate there after the Mosedale round.

And as if the light show over Wasdale Head wasnt enough, I finally had my first ever view of Scafell clear of cloud!

What a treat this light is. Such a great reward for our efforts.

But our viewing pleasure has to end or we will never get home. 6 miles in, with at least 6 to go, we need to head towards Burnmore tarn, another place I have always wanted to visit. Not just because I like Tarns, but because there is, on the map, a LODGE on it! I cant wait to see it, and we start moving that way.

As expected, being the saddle between two very large fells, this bit is going to be very wet and boggy and we knew it.

Hmm... now thats interesting. I point this waterfall out to Steve which I hadnt noticed as listed on the map. Checking later, its not on the map. I suspect it looks so good because of the sheer volume of water flowing through what is normally quite a tame Gill. We decide its worth a look as its not far.

Not far maybe, but the ground was so bad it took us almost 30mins just to reach this stream which is about halfway, but it was worth it.

As soon as I caught this angle of it I knew it was a winner. What an awesome little Gill this is.

I had Steve pose here for me. I used the little Canon G7X's built in digital ND filter and balanced it on some rock for a 1/2 second exposure. It came out well.

There are many locations here on this Gill that I could spend a few hours at with my proper gear and some filters. I did what I could with my pocket camera and am happy with the results, this little G7X is very versatile in full manual mode.

Moving on, we finally tredge our way across and reach the waterfall we were actually aiming at. It was a little disappointing really compared to the one we just crossed that we initially couldnt even see. But thats always the way... We stopped here for a brew and a rest anyway.

And we topped up on fresh water for our tea later.

Onwards... from here I can see the lodge! Its not obvious but its perched in the upper left hand corner of the image, just above the furthest left part of the tarn. Im excited to see it, but the suns getting low now! The path onwards was all tall reeds and bog. It was hard going.

A quick snap of Steve with Scafell behind him.

Burnmore tarn. Its pretty big when you get up to it! I suspect most of the year you can walk across here and stay pretty dry. On the OS map its called Boolat Footbridge.

And there it is. Burnmore Lodge. Its going dark though so we need to hurry up!

The view back the way we have travelled. Looks like we had the best of the weather.

Finally... we reach it. I have to overexpose these images to get any detail from them as its getting dark. But what a building. It even has a garden, a wall, planted trees and a shed. What on earth is it doing up here at least 3 miles from the nearest road?! 

On the side of it is this plaque.

As we walk away from the tarn and lodge, I vow to research its history. Today I discovered that originally it was a 19th Century hunting lodge, Burnmoor Lodge spent the latter half of the 20th Century and the first decade of the 21st as the property of two generations of the Foote family, who used it variously as a holiday cottage for family and friends and as a base for volunteer-run youth activities. Since 2012, the Lodge has been the club hut of the Burnmoor Lodge Club. (Link here)

From here we need to descend along the Gill that will take us back down to ground level.

Here is a great view of our descent path in the dark as the sun set and our day turned to night.

We had a full moon to keep us company.  

And of course our powerful Led Lenser H7R.2 head torches.

But it was a long, dark slog this one due to the ground being so waterlogged. In many cases it caused us to stop and re-evaluate our position as we were sure we were walking through a river at times and not walking a path.

Eventually we had to stop for tea. Steve as always cooked up a storm on the Gas burner!

Lancashire Hot Pot for Steve and the trusty King Size Pot Noodle for me. :) 

As we dropped into Mitterdale, we surprised some resting Sheep. They started a stampede and nearly flattened us!

My final image of the day, Steve checking our position on his GPS under a full moon.

And thats all for this week. This is a great hike offering perhaps some of the finest views the Lake District has to offer, but if I were to offer any advice it would be to wait a few months until it dries out a little before venturing up there. The boggy ground on such a long hike is hard on the legs.

Here is a Suunto video of our route.

The Ups and Downs.

And some data. 

Finally, here is the route via Viewranger.

 

**Route Completed on 23rd Dec 2015**


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