Fleetwith Pike, Warnscale Bothy And Haystacks With Steph. A Great 5 Mile Circular

December 29, 2016  •  1 Comment

Hello folks,

For those of you who have read my previous 60+ blogs, this one will seem a little odd. As it's Christmas, I have a little more time free than usual so this blog isn't JUST about our route... Yes, it's still about one of the greatest routes in Lakeland, but it's also about my love for a place called Buttermere and a little building called Warnscale Bothy. Perhaps you should put the kettle on for this one.

With Christmas now behind us and a couple of days still left off work, my daughter Steph and I wanted to get to the lakes for some hiking. I was feeling particularly lethargic as I gave up vaping (Electronic cigarettes) a couple of weeks ago and have been substituting the physical habit of smoking with eating. Christmas was a particularly bad time to do that and I have put on a load of weight. The smoking habit has certainly died now, so I am officially a non-smoker moving into 2017 which I certainly won't complain about, but I need to move some of this excess weight now. There is of course almost no better way to do that than hiking, so lets get a route planned!

This Hike will take us to the summit of two Wainwrights, namely:

  • Fleetwith Pike (2'126 ft)
  • Haystacks (1'959 ft)


Parking Location:

  • Gatesgarth Farm. CA13 9XA (£4 for the day)


Time & Distance Info

  • Distance walked: = 4.8 miles
  • Time Taken: = 6 hrs
  • Total Ascent: = 2'400 ft


Please Note:
All image description text is "above" the image that it is referring to on my blogs.
Some find that odd... But that is the way I like to do it.


This route, when viewed in Opentopo map looks like this: (North / South Orientation correct)
(Walking clockwise from the very top)


And the view of the route as seen on Google Earth. (Walking clockwise from the very bottom)


Here is the elevation profile: (Height on the left axis, and mileage along the bottom)


Lovers of Lakeland will probably know exactly where we are going today... I am of course heading to Buttermere, the jewel in the lake districts crown. The valley where everything just comes together to make you draw a breath and say "Wow" as you drive in and see it for the very first time.

Its incredible, and once you have been here its hard to forget the place. My photography journey started here when an old school friend of mine who does photography workshops (Melvin Nicholson) took me to this very place to teach me how to use a camera for landscapes properly. I could use a camera technically no bother, but I didn't really have the eye for Landscapes.

I was, until that day, one of those folk who thought the lake district was Windermere. This new place shocked me. I couldn't believe a place so incredible existed so close to my home. While we were here, Melvin used this ropey old tree to teach me a little about framing... and it all eventually just fell into place. :)


This is Buttermere at dawn from about 1 mile further up the shore from that tree... I have stood here maybe 50 times and of all those times, this is still my favourite image from there. The two prominent peaks in the middle of the image are todays summits. Fleetwith Pike to the left of center, and Haystacks to the right of center.


Buttermere is a 5 hour round trip for me and sometimes I did it twice a week just to stand there with my camera and enjoy the silence. Eventually I learned more about weather forecasting and how to pinpoint the suns rising and falling positions throughout the year with the use of various tools. This knowledge made my trips more fruitful and I started to come away with more "keepers". Eventually, with the right light I could always get worthwhile images from here which made the journeys so much more fun.

Even tiny parts of this place are photogenic when singled out. Did you see the small white boathouse over there below Haystacks in the image above? Well, that's a subject all of its own on a nice still morning with a good zoom lens...


Ok, You get the picture. This valley is gorgeous, it gave birth to my love of landscape photography and eventually also my love of hiking. (More about that later...) So enough Buttermere, we had best get on with the business of hiking. 

Here is one last image... Today we will be parked up by the house on the left. We will walk directly up the nose of Fleetwith Pike, then we will descend along the right-hand flank towards the center of this image to the building that started my hiking obsession. Warnscale Bothy. You can't quite make it out from here, but its left of centre by a grey triangle of grey slate. Don't worry, I will make it clear later for anyone wishing to go and find it.

From there we will go back up to the top dead center of the image and turn right, walking along to Haystacks summit, the highest point on the right in this image, passing the gorgeous Black Beck and Innominate tarns on our way. Bring it on...


We left Blackpool bright and early and had decided that we would drive through the lakes this time, rather than go up the M6 to Junction 40. That meant that we could call in at cafe Ambio at Ings for one of their great breakfast's en route before running up through Ambleside and Grasmere and along Thirlmere into Keswick. From there we will turn left and drive down to Rossthwaite, along Honister pass and down into Buttermere. There's no nicer drive to start a hike.

We finally got parked up at Gatesgarth Farm at the very foot of Fleetwith pike for about 10:30am. The pay machine was broken and the farm owners had just left the sign off the top of the machine on the floor to serve as a cash bucket. We gladly dropped our £4 in there and wondered how often people just help themselves to the money? I hope they come and empty it regularly!


So, walk out of Gatesgarth Farm car park, turn left onto Honister Pass and walk directly to the foot of Fleetwith Pike. You won't miss it...

As you can see from the image above, this one kicks off immediately. It's steep from the off, and it never lets up. We have stopped for a breather already. My calves are on fire. I like to plan a hike with a reasonably flat warm up, but the next nearest parking slot adds 4 miles to this hike.


There is a memorial here too, perhaps about 80 ft up into the walk.


The memorial is in memory of Fanny Mercer. 

Fanny was an 18 year old servant visiting the lakes with the family of her employer.  On the day of the accident Fanny, and two other servants were given the day off and set out for a walk over the fells. Eventually they arrived on Honister Crag and decided to return to Buttermere via Fleetwith Pike and Fleetwith Edge. It was on their descent, as they neared the road, that the accident happened.

Fanny, who was at the rear, apparently jumped off the ledge on which she was standing, using her alpenstock for support. The effect was to propel her upwards and outwards, so she fell a considerable distance and unfortunately struck her head on a rock, suffering severe head wounds. She was carried down to Gatesgarth Farm where a messenger was sent for a doctor from Cockermouth but, by the time he arrived, several hours later, Fanny had died.

Memorials on fells are a topic of much debate, but I personally think that the occasional reminder that mountains need to be respected is no bad thing. We can all be guilty of complacency at times.

Moving on... Up we go, enjoying the great view of Honister pass flanked by the huge walls of Dale Head.

The path essentially zig zags its way up from left to right.




As we reach the first crag. We get a great view of our second summit of the day. Wainwrights favourite and still mine too. Haystacks.


To her right, one of the finest trios in Lakeland. High Crag, High Stile and Red Pike. One of my favourite walks.


This is probably a good time to show you one of my favourite ever selfies. Taken on a tripod and operated by mobile phone while I am stood up there on High Stile looking right over to where we are stood today... Fleetwith Pike is that sharp ridge above my head.

Onwards... The first false summit dispensed with and we can now see the next two. The top in this image, is far from the top!


What a view back to Buttermere...


I can just about see the car from here Steph!


Just incredible. Buttermere and Crummock surrounded by some of Lakelands finest peaks. Such a shame so many people still think the Lake District is Windermere / Bowness. They truly don't know what they are missing out on by not driving further into the heart of the mountains. I know... I used to be one of them!


Back to the serious business of climbing this peak. Three points of contact needed on a few sections now... Its not difficult, but it's getting windy up here!


Second false summit ahead...


Dale Head was catching some nice light while we climbed today.

As we draw up above 1'500ft the views across to Haystacks start to open up a little so we can see the giants in the valleys behind.


Sometimes... Not often, but sometimes... Portrait orientation is called for!


What a stunning view this ascent provides!


Warnscale Bottom is some 1'500ft below us now. Views like this remind me to regularly check my shoe laces. Ha Ha.


An hour into the hike and a couple of folk were starting to catch us up. As it happens, Steph and I were just considering stopping for a brew and to change clothing. Its getting cold up here now.


Time to get the down jackets out and drink some coffee. Once I had changed, I took a selfie while Steph changed into her down jacket too.


Steph looks nice and warm now.

A quick shot of Robinson.

And Dale Head again.


And the third and final false summit. The real one isn't far beyond that lump.


This is about the last good view of the valley. I think it gets more obscured from here on upwards.


We are about level with Haystacks now and can make out some paths behind her. But more importantly for our immediate future...

Looking down on her flanks and across to Warnscale... can you see the quite famous and notoriously hard to find Warnscale Bothy? We are going there for lunch. If you can't see it, put your finger dead centre of the image, and then move it left until you come across a tiny grey rectangle. That's Warnscale Bothy's roof.

Here is Steph approaching the summit of one of her hardest ascents yet. The 2'126 ft Fleetwith Pike. It's far from her highest, she has done Scafell and Skiddaw with me for example, but they are both easier to ascend than this one.


Fleetwith Pike certainly can boast one of the best summit views though. High Crag, High Stile and Red Pike flank the left-hand shores of Buttermere, with Mellbreak next up flanking the left shore of Crummock water at the back. You can even see right back to Loweswater there. What a valley!


But we aren't staying her to enjoy the views... the wind was howling, it was freezing cold and we just wanted to move on. We took a few images and moved off the summit. As I mentioned before we are going to go and visit Warnscale Bothy. This will be Steph's first visit.

I have been to Warnscale Bothy tens of times as it was, in fact, my first ever Lakeland Ascent. As you now know, I first started coming to the lakes as an aspiring landscape photographer and I had seen other images of this bothy, including the huge one that takes up a whole wall of the Old Keswickian chippy in Keswick and I just knew I had to shoot it for myself. But that involved 1000 ft of ascent.

Armed only with scant knowledge based on Google Earth images and rough directions from a website, I hacked my way up the front from Gatesgarth farm to the Bothy which is situated at 1'300ft, just below Green Crag. I genuinely thought it might kill me, my heart rate was extreme, I couldn't breathe and I had to stop every 30 seconds. I considered just aborting it many many times. Looking back, it's hard to believe that very hike made me want to do this for fun... ha ha.

But then, I found it and this view is what did it for me.

I was devastated that there were people in it. I hadn't considered that being a possibility, but it turns out they made the scene for me as they went and settled here watching the light fade away while some moron climbed about the loose slate in his T-Shirt, huffing and puffing with his heavy camera bag and tripod.

As I sat there, I became hooked on the silence, the peace and the tranquillity. Suddenly all those idiots hiking up and down hills made sense to me. I wanted to do it too. I wanted to climb higher and take images from higher up.  My next ascent was Haystacks from Honister, and I have never looked back. I fell in love with hiking and the Wainwrights all thanks to this old stone bothy.

So how do we get there from Fleetwith Pike?
Well... this image taken from just off the summit of Fleetwith Pike shows you can clearly see the bothy from up there. Well, its clear if you know where to look. Can you see it yet?


If not, this next image will help. As Steph heads down the side of Fleetwith Pike I grabbed this shot with the bothy above her head. So look closely above Steph's head and you will see Warnscale Bothy at the foot of all the grey slate.


From here it's a matter of slowly picking your way down the side of Fleetwith and across to meet up with Warnscale Beck.


Which you then need to cross... remember, keep your eye on the slate trail, the bothy is at the bottom of it. You can still see it from here, if you know where to look.


After crossing the beck, you look back and get this view up to Fleetwith Pike showing the descent we have done. For those who have travelled up to find the bothy from Gatesgarth, you could follow the nice well-travelled path that takes you to dubs hut, and when you see the first signs of quarrying on your left, as seen in this image, cross the beck to your right and follow my images from there.


After crossing the beck, Warnscale Bothy is well disguised. It's no wonder so many people try to find it and fail.
Can you see it? Always follow the slate trail... the bothy sits at the bottom of it.


And here we are. Steph loves it and settles down to eat lunch and make some coffee. I climb above the bothy as always and grab some images.


This panorama shows the path up from Gatesgarth and the mining scars on the side of Fleetwith where you would leave the path if coming from that direction. Or indeed if you wanted to come down from Dubs Hut.


What a magical place.


It's great inside too, it has been recently renovated and has solid benches and some camp beds etc.


There you have it. Warnscale Bothy, the master of disguise.

It's the way that it blends into the surroundings that gives it so much charm for me. If you need a little more help to pinpoint it, use my map at the end of this blog. It should help you figure out exactly where it is on a map too.


But we must eventually leave. Haystacks awaits us. We leave the bothy and head upwards towards Great Round How.


The view up here back towards Fleetwith Pike.


And North East towards the famous Dubs Hut, the king of bothies for interior quality surely?


Moving on, keeping Green Crag to our right.

Green and Great Gable look awesome as always.


As does Blackbeck Tarn. I think I prefer this to Innominate. I kind of feel sorry for it as it's always ignored when talking about the area due to AW having his ashes scattered in the nearby Innominate Tarn.


I usually fill my flask up here too, in case I want a hot drink later on in the day. Its the last fast flowing water source before Haystacks Summit.


These are our first official steps onto Haystacks in my opinion. I feel the terrain takes a change in character here.

And it gives you a quick glimpse of the valley below as you make your way through the rocky terrain.


And up onto Haystacks flanks.

That wouldn't be a great place to trip over a loose shoe lace...


Looking back towards Fleetwith Pike and Green Crag.

Once you have traversed this uninteresting little section, a surprise awaits you immediately beyond the horizon...

Innominate Tarn. 
Made famous of course by the fact Alfred Wainwright had his ashes scattered here on March 22, 1991.

In his book, Fellwanderer, his final words were about Innominate Tarn. 

"A quiet place, a lonely place. I shall go to it, for the last time, and be carried;
someone who knew me in life will take me and empty me out of a little box and leave me there alone.

And if you, dear reader, should get a bit of grit in your boot as you are crossing Haystacks in the years to come, please treat it with respect. It might be me."


To the right of Innominate Tarn, Alfreds favourite summit, and still mine also. Haystacks.

I took a couple more images of Innominate to try and capture what it was Alfred Wainwright liked about it so much. It's certainly an atmospheric area. Almost a little creepy.


Ahead of us now - Haystacks.


The view slightly left. Ennerdale Valley and Ennerdale water.


Steph at the summit of Haystacks.


And the summit view.

In all my trips up here, this is the first time I have descended via Scarth Gap.

Its quite an interesting descent path. Very different to the other side we ascended from.


Ahead of us is Seat, with the huge High Crag behind. But our path is between here and Seat.


Down there in Scarth Gap.


Once you have located Scarth Gap Pass, its easy hiking back to the car.

A great view of Fleetwith Pike. I remember telling Steph how proud I was of her for pushing up it. Not an easy one.


Its a shame we are loosing light now, as the views back to Buttermere are awesome on this path.

But we make it back to the car just before dark to end yet another thoroughly enjoyable days hiking.


Here is some data from my Suunto Ambit 3 peak watch. 
Calories etc are pretty accurate as I use the Suunto Smart heart monitor on all my hikes. GPS data is updated every 1 second so it records every single footstep, thus mileage often looks a little different to most navigation apps as they are usually set to update far less frequently and so miss a few turns here and there. All that wandering around looking at views adds up.    

Here is my Viewranger data.
VR members can sign in and view it on OS maps too. Feel free to scroll around, the map is active.

Finally, here is a 3D representation of the route created by Suunto Movescount.

Author's footnote.
The fells are there to be enjoyed, not endured. When it stops being fun, turn back and go home. Above all, remember
the golden rules:

1) "Getting to the top is optional - Getting back down is mandatory"

2) "Take only pictures, leave only footprints and keep only memories".


Camera Details:
All images in this blog that don't state they were taken on my phone, were taken with my little pocket-sized Canon G7X point and shoot. Its not a patch on my Canon 5D MK3 of course but I no longer lug all that around with me hiking as its just too cumbersome. When I find a scene worthy of the 5D3's talents, I usually return one day to make the best of it.


Route Completed on December 27th 2016 with Stephanie.

New Wainwrights: 0. New total: 158 of 214.
New Birketts: 0. New total 216 of 541.


Val Kay-Dunn(non-registered)
Another wonderful memorable blog, Stewart. The conditions looked perfect! Thanks once again for sharingbit all.
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