A Mosedale Round - 5 Summits and 4500ft of ascent in 12 miles.

October 07, 2015  •  4 Comments

Hi folks,

This week we wanted something a little more challenging. Shorter, but harder, so I scoured my maps and decided it was time to do whats known as the "Mosedale Horseshoe" A pretty hard route that should see us nice and tired by the end of the day.

The only downside to this route is its location. Located in Wasdale in the western Lake District, its some 2.5hrs from my house so with 5hrs of travelling time, the route has to be worth it.

My planned route was to take in 5 Summits:

  • Yewbarrow - (2'060ft)
  • Red Pike - (2'710ft)
  • Scoat Fell - (2'759ft)
  • Steeple - (2'687ft)
  • Pillar - (2'927ft)

With an option at the end to take in Kirk Fell at 2'631ft. Lets see how we feel later... ive plotted routes for both options.


So, the final route we took. Once downloaded from my Suunto Ambit Peak 3 after the hike... it looks like this when viewed in Google earth.


And here are the "Ups and Downs"


So, I got up at 5am, made sandwiches and flasks and picked Steve up at his house for 6am. We stopped off at McDonalds for our customary Breakfast Wrap and a coffee and hit the M55 then north up the M6. It was pleasantly quiet as always at that time of the morning.

We managed to get parked up at the National Trust car park near Wasdale Head for about 9am. I am a NT member so parking here is free and as an added bonus, its one of the few lakeland car parks with toilets. I parked close by... and blame McDonalds entirely!

I chose this starting point for my route for two reasons as there is a car park closer than this to our first ascent. 1) There are toilets on this one. 2) Its closer to our descent point.

The path out of the car park also gives great views of Yewbarrow and allows us to warm up our legs for the challenging ascent ahead. Here is Steve pointing to Yewbarrow. We should be up there in a couple of hours.

The path to its foot is nice. The weather isn't much good, and the air quality and visibility is poor, but its still an incredible place to be!

To our left, the mighty Scafell and Scafell Pike. England's number 1 and 2 in the height charts.


When we reach Overbeck bridge, we turn right and walk through Bowderdale car park. From here, the ascent begins.


And after crossing a stile, our destination, Yewbarrow is dead ahead. It has to be said, I remember thinking this doesn't look like much fun from here!

Initially the path is nice, good solid steps to climb up.


And the views open up very quickly to reward us for our efforts. Wasdale screes are just incredible... flanking Illgill head and Whin Rigg summits. Two I have yet to visit.


A quick snap of Steve and Yewbarrow as we stop for one of many breathers.


Bell Rib straight ahead. We will soon have to decide whether to take the easy path, or the hard one. I already know which Steve will vote for...


Beautiful Wastwater. Englands deepest lake. Almost 3 miles long and 80m deep!

Interestingly, the famous Wasdale Lady In the Lake, Margaret Hogg was murdered and disposed of here. She was recovered almost 8 years later with her body preserved very well due to the lack of oxygen down there!

This lake also supplies the nuclear power plant, Sellafield, with around 4 million gallons a year of water for cooling.


We continue the slog up dropping Cragg to Bell Rib.


This is where it starts to get really tough, as we choose to take the scramble route up to the top.

We rest here for a few minutes then head to the right. Steve loves it... me not so as I am scared of heights, but I must admit it was a lot of fun. (I decided this afterwards...)


See my big smile for the camera?



And that was the easiest bit. It got worse. (Or better?)


Gaining height now. This is about 1'500ft. A great place for a breather and to enjoy the view.


Eventually after a little more effort we are almost at the top of Bull Cragg



We made it... and what a view as a reward! 1800ft and views to die for!


Just amazing... I took this quick panorama of the view on my phone.



Looking back down Wastwater from Bull Cragg.

Looking across to the mighty Scafell's and Lingmell



The smile is back!



Looking down on Wasdale Head Farm and across to Burnmore Tarn, which, according to the map has a Lodge on it? We will visit soon to find out!


A shot I like with Steve taking pictures of the view.



So, onto the summit of Yewbarrow. Its nothing hard now, just a nice easy couple of hundred feet ascent up to the top in the distance here.


Steve on the final stretch after I went ahead to take pictures.



Yewbarrow Summit Cairn at 2'060ft.


The wind has picked up and its cold up here so while Steve set himself down and got out his stove to make Coffee....


I decided it was high time I tried out my new winter down jacket! No complaints at all, its absolutely incredible. Its actually hard to believe just how warm this thing is!

I have never owned a down jacket but after some research learnt they are better than I thought, so I invested in one and am very pleased indeed. Its actually too warm for the current climate, but will be a luxury I will really enjoy as winter sets in and the crampons and ice axe come out.


So, from here we can see a lot of todays route. The first peak up on the left is Red Pike, and hidden behind that is Scoat and Steeple. Right in the middle of the image is the mighty Pillar, a summit I have wanted to do since my first ever ascent of Haystacks where you can see Pillar standing tall over Innominate Tarn.


I will share that memory with you here. I took this on a previous hike and vowed one day to visit her... (This was shot from just below Haystacks... which is behind Pillar today as you will see later)


After a rest, some coffee and a bite to eat we pack up and move on. We met a lovely couple on the summit who arrived shortly after us. They had two dogs with them who were obviously also having a fabulous time. Here they are behind us on the descent of Yewbarrow towards Stirrup Cragg.


The Cairn of which is directly ahead of us... but the path looks like it just stops dead there?


Hmm... it almost does stop dead at Stirrup Cragg. This is the harder option of the descent paths down Yewbarrow. It looked very steep on the map. In reality, I found it steeper than expected.

Steve of course loved it. Here he is surveying the descent ahead with Mosedale around 1'600ft below him... 


And down we go!


Brilliant idea Steve. But we have a problem... I left the ladder in the car! 


After a few derogatory comments from Steve about my new found apparent femininity... I put on my best false smile for the camera and started to clamber down.


Looking back, I saw the couple we were talking to up on the summit, and I had to get this pic because of the excitement in the dogs faces! Just look at that collies ears!


And then I too finally made it down.



Once down on Dore Head, the view back up to Stirrup Cragg is amazing. Its a nice feeling to have descended that.

My steepest descent to date. I would definately rather go UP that one, than down it though.


Red Pike ahead... (the bit that kind of sticks out near the middle of the image) quite an ascent to go yet to reach waypoint two.


Its nice easy terrain though, and some of it quite steep so we find height quickly.


A nice view back over the Stirrup Cragg end of Yewbarrow with Lingmell, Scafell Pike and Scafell behind. Some of lakelands giants.


We bumped into a couple of ladies who had stopped for lunch to enjoy the scenery here. After a brief chat we moved on.


We are finally on the last leg of the hike up to Red Pike.


Steve at the 2'710ft summit of Red Pike.



The views from here are just awesome... looking down the Mosedale Valley.


And the view forward to Scoat fell... Waypoint 3 for us.


As we descend Red Pike towards Scoat fell, I looked back and noticed that Red Pike looks far more impressive from this side!


I also grabbed this quick shot of Scoat Tarn as we passed.


As we reach the flanks of Scoat Fell, it isnt Scoat fell itself that catches my eye, but waypoint 4 - Steeple!


Scoat fell Summit! Random... I have nothing much else to say about it.


Now Steeple isn't technically part of the usual Mosedale Horseshoe, but I cant imagine anyone standing on this unremarkable Summit and not wanting to go and visit this one while they are here... Steeple!


So off we go! The ladies have caught us up now and while we are chatting Steve has headed off into the distance, magnetically drawn to Steeple, which made for a great shot.


The path off Scoat and onto Steeple is a great one.


The ladies joined us for this one and kindly took a summit shot of Steve and I. Steeple Summit - 2'687ft. Done.


Then its back to Scoat where we say our goodbyes and go our separate ways. Its a left turn for us, and a right turn for them.


Our next destination is the one I have been looking forward to. Pillar... (High up in the left hand corner)


Looking back I see two more hikers descending from Scoat towards Steeple and think they add a nice perspective so grab a shot.


Onwards... it looks nice and flat along here. Its a nice simple stroll now to "Wind gap".


And when we get there we find out why it was called "Wind Gap"... the wind is strong here.


But the views straight down the Mosedale valley to the Scafells are amazing. How I wish that the weather was better. This location would make for some incredible images.


As we reach the edge of the "flat bit" we find it isnt flat at all, there is a cairn and then a steep descent through... 



A full on boulder field! And its cold too, with that wind howling up the Mosedale Valley and accelerating up the flanks of Pillar and through Wind Gap.


But with these views down Mosedale, who cares about a bit of wind? What a place!


Pillar ahead!


And the Scafells to our right...



Steve having just passed Wind Gap and starting his ascent up Pillar


The path up Pillar is nice and rocky, and pretty steep.



Pillar Summit ahead.



We stopped on pillar for 30 mins or so and had some food and drink. Afterwards, we went to explore the northern face of it as I wanted to find and see the famous "Pillar Rock".

This is quite a famous rock in lakeland, largely because it was referenced by Wordsworth:

"You see yon precipice—it almost looks
Like some vast building made of many crags,
And in the midst is one particular rock
That rises like a column from the vale,
Whence by our Shepherds it is call'd, the Pillar.

— Wordsworth, The Brothers"


The views from here over to my favourite ridge walk are just amazing. Here is Steve sat opposite "High Cragg" with Hindscarth and Robinson in the background. The sky is taking on some colour now as the sun gets low on the horizon behind us.



The view east of our descent path towards Kirk Fell.



We spent a lot more time exploring the upper areas of Pillar.

The sun had finally broke out just before sunset and was starting to give us the views we deserved after a hard day. We had done around 4500ft of ascent at this point.


I love this image Steve took of me. I am looking up to the head of Ennerdale valley here and over to the left is one of my favourite fells (And indeed Wainwright himselfs favourite) Haystacks. Just behind it, his final resting place, Innominate tarn.

If you look closely you can see right across to Dubs Hut in the Honister mining area on the back of Fleetwith Pike. (A grey patch just about an inch above center)


But now...  its time to go home. We have about 5 miles to descend back to the car, and its going to be a killer for my knees. This image shows the path off Pillar, down to "Black sail pass" where we will make the final decision on climbing Kirk Fell, that imposing craggy lump in the image just after the lowest point of the path. We both agree it doesnt look too bad from up here. But then what does from 3000ft?

We start our descent. Its steep, and my knees are complaining quite a lot already.


The suns going down so I grab a quick Panorama to show the sunset with Kirk Fell in the middle.



Steve approaching Black Sail Pass. Our decision making point for the ascent of Kirk Fell. Erm... is it me, or has it grown?!


Finally, Black Sail pass. We stop here, sit down and discuss climbing up and over Kirk Fell and descending via Moses Trod which is a descent path on the opposite side of Kirk fell.


Kirk looks a lot harder from down here, and we are tired and hungry. The path behind Steve is Black Sail Pass and it takes us pretty much all the way back to the car park.
Do we climb Kirk fell at this late hour, or go home? We could do with a second opinion....


"Go Home... dont spoil your great day with a hard fell now" Says a very woolly and cuddly looking young sheep. Hes right of course... its home time for us.


The path down is a lot better than expected, with great steps a lot of the way and a nice waterfall called "Ritsons Force" to cross en route.


We continued downwards for what seemed like a very long time. It probably was as it was quite a few miles. This was my last shot of the route before it went dark.


And then, at the foot of the valley, a surprise that we had totally forgotten existed... A PUB!


And amazingly, it was open too! So of course we made very good use of it! Steak and Ale pie and a shandy. What an awesome end to the day!! 


Suitably rested, fed and watered by the very friendly staff, we said goodbye to the Wasdale Head Inn and headed for the car. The last mile was done in complete darkness. Just how all good days on the fells should end. We made it back to the car via head torch at about 9pm, some 12hrs after we left it!


The route back wasnt exactly uneventful. Lucky I was wide awake and paying attention. Twice we were stopped dead by sleepy lakeland residents. First a sheep...


And then an OWL of all things!



I finally climbed into bed at midnight. What a fabulous  day. I have missed Wasdale and wont leave it so long next time. I have an itch to scratch called Burnmore Tarn... watch these pages!

I will leave this blog with a couple of images of Wastwater and Wasdale in better light, taken on a trip here purely for photography with all my "proper" gear instead of today's point and shoot. Yewbarrow is the first full fell on the left at the waters edge.


The Wastwater screes in Summer... just Incredible!

Waswater - Lake DistrictWaswater - Lake DistrictAll images are available as either simple prints or framed, installed on canvas or even supplied as Jigsaws. My images are all processed and delivered to you without any Copyright watermarks.


All images in this blog were taken with my Canon G7X point and shoot pocket camera. My camera of choice when hiking any distance. The Canon 5D3 SLR stays at home and only comes back with me if I come across any location really worth coming back for with time on my hands to make the best of it.


Here is a little Suunto movie of the trip, showing the route via Google earth.


And finally, some data aquired by the Suunto Ambit 3 peak watch too. Interesting for ascent, descent and mileage etc. (calories are pretty accurate as I wear the Suunto Smart HR monitor too.)  




Stewart Sanderson Photography
Thanks Neil, was very hazy over Ennerdale that day sadly... but im sure I will return! Red Screes and her neighbours for me this weekend.
Neil Taylor(non-registered)
It's a great walk , the "Best Horseshoe" in Lakeland . Stunning mountain country . Steeple is a gem , with views over Ennerdale and out towards the Firth of Forth .
Stewart Sanderson Photography
Many Thanks Andy, kind words. I am pleased you enjoyed the blog.
Andy Keeble(non-registered)
What a fantastic read and made even better by the excellent images!

Many thanks for taking the time to write this blog entry Steve, it's a truly inspirational article.
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