Tom Green | The Buttermere Horseshoe: Buttermere - Hay Stacks - Fleetwith Pike - Fleetwith Edge - Buttermere

The Buttermere Horseshoe: Buttermere - Hay Stacks - Fleetwith Pike - Fleetwith Edge - Buttermere

August 14, 2014  •  Leave a Comment

About 2 years ago I discovered a (previously unknown) love for hiking, or fell walking as it's also known, and I've since become something of a fell walking enthusiast with my main location of choice being the beautiful Lake District National Park. I have ventured to Snowdonia, The Brecon Beacons and the Peak District a handful of times, but the Lake District remains the default choice if a free weekend comes around and the weather forecast looks good. It's an interest which has sort of gone hand in hand with my passion for landscape photography and the great outdoors. 

To start with I had no idea of where to go and where walk - I honestly didn't know that you could essentially walk anywhere you wanted, so I found reports online and started off picking routes from written descriptions and photos people would include in blogs or walking websites. I found this really useful and have enjoyed some spectacular hikes and views I had no idea existed in little old England. The time is perhaps right then for me to write my first report.

Last weekend we did what I've termed the 'Little Buttermere Horseshoe'. I say little, because there is a route already known as the Buttermere Horseshoe, and it's a lot bigger than the route we've just done. It's a worthy candidate for my first photographic fell walk report though, as the area and views are genuinely spectacular and as such the Buttermere / Borrowdale area has shot to the top of the list of my favourite parts of the Lakes.

I'll perhaps add in a route map at a later date, but for now I'll just have to describe the route as best I can and let the photographs do the best to illustrate the route.

Photography wise I do tend to take a DSLR and tripod with me wherever I go, I find it hard not to, even though I rarely use it and it weighs a ton with the tripod to boot - but on this occasion I did get it out more often that usual and when I didn't, I used my iPhone instead. The photographs that follow then aren't exactly long thought about compositions, I've not set up the tripod (despite carrying it) or dropped any filters in, I've just sort of snapped away along the route.

On to the report then; the route starts at Gatesgarth Farm car park at the bottom of the Honister Pass, you can't miss it on your right as you drive into Buttermere from Borrowdale. The path starts here and crosses the flat valley floor heading over towards High Crag over Peggy's Bridge, where you get a nice view down the valley and over the lake.

Warnscale Beck running under Peggy's Bridge and into Buttermere. The Lake District.

The path then goes up the fell side and bears left quite gently up the slopes of High Crag and carries on up to Scarth Gap, where it flattens out at the seat between High Crag, now behind over your right shoulder and Hay Stacks ahead left. There is the first noticable change in the landscape at this point (at least in summer) with the appearance of a surrounding carpet of heather.

Wild heather at Scarth Gap. Fleetwith Pike seen in the distance covered in shadow.

The route now gets a bit more interesting and scramble-y. Scarth Gap sits at around 1,150ft. altitude and you now need to do a bit of clambering up rock and scree to get up another 800ft. or so to the peak of Hay Stacks, which sits at 1,959ft. You pass lots of wonderful rocky outcrops and pools with the view down Buttermere eventually opening out in front of you as you gain height. 

Panoramic view of Buttermere from Hay Stacks. High Crag to the left, Fleetwith Pike (in shadow again) to the right.

The peak of Hay Stacks sits next to a little pool between crags that I assume is too small to be named as a Tarn. Tom Tarn it is then...

Unnamed Tarn at Hay Stacks summit. Tom Tarn perhaps? Pillar (right) and Kirk Fell (left) just about visible in the distance.

This rugged and pretty little pool sort of holds your attention and distracts you from the great views the summit of Hay Stacks offers. Once you're up and around the summit cairn, you realise that you can see right down to Ennerdale Water and further still, right on and out to sea.

Ennerdale Water just visible in the distance between Pillar (left) and High Crag (right). Seen from the summit of Hay Stacks.

The landscape now changes again, becoming a wide open expanse of boulder and crag strewn heather fields with dotted ponds and pools. The remote head of the Ennerdale Valley, the Black Sail Pass, disappears right in front of you, towered over by the giant peaks of Great Gable, Kirk Fell and Pillar. The route takes you winding through this landscape and on to a very famous (around the Lake District at least) spot; Innominate Tarn.  

The Black Sail Pass / Ennerdale Valley sitting below Great Gable under cotton wool like skies.

The path to Innominate Tarn. Wainwrights resting place of choice.

Innominate Tarn seemed a fitting place to stop for lunch. The wind was up and the clouds moved quickly, letting the sun through and then shutting it off again just as quickly. The famous author and fell walker, Alfred Wainwright, whose name is written into Lake Districk folklore and who must of walked the entire Lake District over and over, chose this spot above all others as his final resting place. I can easily appreciate why. Photographs can't really illustrate just how beautiful the surrounding are sat up here, 1,700ft. up.  

Unsettled cotton wool skies above Innominate Tarn. The Lake District.

It's only a short walk onwards from Innominate Tarn to Blackbeck Tarn. Black Beck itself runs off the edge of Green Crag here (good name) and down into the valley below. The view opens up between the rocks just slightly here but quite spectacularly, and offers a quick glimpse of Buttermere and the valley below. 

A glimpse down into Buttermere between the rocks of Green Crag at the top of Black Beck. The Lake District.

The route now returns to the open expanse of rock and heather before entering another change in landscape to the slate mines and quarries of Honister.

The path can be taken back down into the valley at this point, be we wanted to descend along Fleetwith Edge, which first meant climbing Fleetwith Pike. Unsure of exactly where the path went at this point we wandered over to Dubs Hut, an old mining hut that now serves as a Bothy, basically a place away from it all for anyone who fancies it, as long as you leave the place as you find it. Those are the Bothy rules as I understand them anyway.

Dubs Hut, and old mining hut now Bothy on the slopes of Fleetwith Pike above Buttermere. High Crag looms in the distance.

Taking 5 at Dubs Hut. An old mining hut above Buttermere, The Lake District.

With nothing but a general sense of direction at this point, we followed the mining track that skirted the slopes of Fleetwith Pike and on to the giant piles of spoil and mining equipment we could see in the distance. From there we found a faintly warn track that went up and in the general direction we were after. This path though soon disappeared, so we just carried on heading up through the heather and bog, making our own path hoping to reach the summit.

Rach summits the slate mine spoil.

Pressing on pathless and making our own way to the summit of Fleetwith Pike, through heather and bog.

This is it now, the end of the 'up bit'. We were approaching our reward and high point of the day. At 2,125ft. up - the summit of Fleetwith Pike. The route chosen doesn't give you any glimpses of the views you can expect from the top, which is good in a way as it really does just hit you. You come up on the summit and bang, it's all suddenly out in front of you in all its spectacular glory. Buttermere below you, the Honister Pass and Derwent Fells to the right, Crummock Water in the distance and High Stile and High Crag towering up on the left. Hay Stacks and Green Crag below and behind complete the panoramic feast for the eyes. What a view.  

The spectacular view from the summit of Fleetwith Pike. Looking down on Buttermere, Crummock Water and the surrounding fells.

We like to take our time when we peak things, we're not the fastest up or the fastest down, but we take time to absorb and enjoy our surroundings when we get up there.

Rach enjoying the view and a Mars Bar at the summit of Fleetwith Pike, The Lake District.

The final section of the walk is where things take a change again; Fleetwith Edge.

Fleetwith Edge is a striking feature, a narrow and steep plunge back down into the valley. At several points along the descent here, I found myself stopping to look up and out to take in the view and realised that everything I was standing on below left my field of vision as I did, so you're sort of left with the feeling that you're suspended in mid air, unable to see what you're actually standing on below.

The path along and down Fleetwith Edge dropping off and disappearing into oblivion. Looks fun.

Working my way back down to Buttermere along Fleetwith Edge. From the summit of Fleetwith Pike.

An almost aerial view down onto the Honister Pass road below. From Fleetwith Edge, The Lake District.

The descent is sharp and fast, and you're soon back down below the fells in the valley below. All that's left at this point is a short walk along the road back to the car park with a wave to the locals to round off a thoroughly rewarding day out.

A Buttermere Cow

That pretty much concludes my first photographic fell walk report then. If you're here and you've read through it, thank you and I hope you enjoyed it. Please feel free to leave a comment so I know you have and to encourage me to do it again!  

My photograph of the view from the summit of Fleetwith Pike can be purchased as a Canvas Print here, and soon to be available as a framed print too. Watch this space.








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