The Road goes ever on and on; Down from the door where it began;
Now far ahead the Road has gone; And I must follow, if I can;
Pursuing it with eager feet; Until it joins some larger way;
Where many paths and errands met; And whither then? I cannot say.

[JRR Tolkien, Lord of the Rings]

Saturday, 8 April 2017

6/7 April 2017: Around Wasdale

I had a trio of Marilyns outstanding around Wasdale, Mick needed to do a pre-TGO Challenge backpacking trip, and the weather forecast was looking pretty good, so our backpacks were packed for the first time since last August and off we set at an unreasonably early hour of Thursday morning. Arriving at Wasdale Head by quarter to ten, the sunny morning that had accompanied most of our drive had been hidden by cloud, exactly per the forecast for the western Lakeland fells, and most of the tops were hidden:20170406_102134

As Friday’s forecast was for clear tops, it made sense to leave Scafell Pike until last, thus our intended circuit was reversed, giving us a start with a couple of miles on tarmac, to get us down to the obvious starting point for Seatallan.

A quick digression: because we were only going to be out for one night, I’d packed minimalistically and as we went through the backpacking checklist, a debate was had about my decision not to take a spare handkerchief. Mick insisted that it was a serious omission; I disagreed. I’ve never lost a hanky in my life, so why would I need more than one for a 24 hour trip? You know what’s coming, don’t you? Within an hour of setting out, my hand went into my pocket and came out empty. A quick retracing of my steps didn’t find it and thus I had the dual annoyance of having dropped litter on a hillside, and of having to beg Mick’s spare off him. I don’t think he actually uttered the words “I told you so”…

I’d plotted a conservative route to get us to the top of Seatallan, but as we progressed we could see no reason why we couldn’t cut up sooner, so that’s what we did. The steepness soon had us glowing, although the excess heat dissipated when we paused for second breakfast. It was during that period that a whole flock of Herdwicks came running past us, only to return and run past us again a few minutes later. Odd behaviour, we thought, but soon explained when we heard the shepherd’s shouts a few moments later and he and his dogs appeared over the rise.

An area of bog soaked our feet (the downside of doing the circuit in this direction was that we got the boggy ground at the start, rather than the end), but we sped up the final steep pull to the top, being chased by an unladen twelve(ish) year old, who abandoned his family in his quest to beat us to the trig.


As you can see, we had clear air up there, and there was so little cloud covering our next objective (Haycock), that I had optimisim that it would clear before we arrived:


Haycock is the cloud-covered lump on the left

No photo was taken on Haycock. By then I was wearing two pairs of gloves and was fearing that the blocks of ice enclosed in my shoes were going to last for the rest of the day. Happily, the extremities did warm up, but unhapilly we didn’t see much on Pillar either. That was a real shame, as the approach gave all appearances of being a stunning walk in fine conditions.


The trig point is apparently the summit feature of Pillar, but it looked to me like there were a couple of lumps of rock (including the one on which I’m standing in this snap) that are higher.

Our vague intention had been to make it to Styhead Tarn for the night, but by the time we had bypassed Kirk Fell (I went up there in appalling visibility last September and felt no need to experience it in the same conditions again) the lack of backpacking hill fitness was showing and I declared a halt. A nice pitch it was too, even if the cloud soon descended to cover us:


I fully expected to open the door yesterday morning and find us still within the cloud, but the forecast had held true and the base had lifted, albeit not far enough to clear the tops. Accordingly, I wasn’t moved to repeat Great Gable, so we went around it instead, which allowed us to see our surroundings, but only saved something like 140m of ascent.


Styhead Tarn, where we didn’t spend the night

The hills were all our own (save for a few sheep) as we made our way down to Styhead Tarn and then sought out the Corridor Route.


Mick strides along the Corridor Route

In fact, it wasn’t until we were almost on the ridge, at the top of Piers Gill, that we saw another person. That wasn’t a situtation that persisted after we reached the top of Scafell Pike!

Alas, having had clear visibility until about 50m below the summit, by the time we stood at the high point, there was little to be seen:


We duly sat around for ten minutes or so, until I suggested that perhaps if we moved on then it would provoke the cloud to break up, for the benefit of everyone else. It worked a treat. this is how far we had got when we looked back and saw the chap to whom we had been talking (who had bivvied the night on the summit) enjoying the views:


Dozens of people were walking towards us up the main path as we descended, but we soon veered off, as Lingmell is so close by that it would have been silly not to nip over it.

The grassy path off Lingmell was generally pleasant underfoot (save for one short horribly eroded section), but goodness, our knees were aching by the time we had descended steeply down the spur to pick up the main path coming in from Wasdale Head.

I was ready to eat a scabby dog by the time we returned our packs to the boot of the car, so we didn’t even take the time to change out of our damp footwear before hotfooting it to the Inn for a bit of sustenance…


…because a big meal is exactly what you want before going out to walk up another hill. I’ll leave that one for another post.

I didn’t record our track, but the map below shows an approximation of what we did (albeit in the opposite direction to the arrows). It came in at around 17.25 miles with around 2300m of ascent, and involved three previously unvisited Marilyns, as well as a couple of bonus Wainwrights.



  1. An excellent first backpack of the season. A bit surprising that you still had some tops to do in this area though.

  2. I quite probably went up Scafell Pike as a child, but as I don't specifically remember it, I needed to do it again. I nearly went up there last June, but was determined to save that one for when Mick was with me. He's not interested in many of the Marilyns I visit, but Scafell Pike was one he wanted to do, for obvious reasons. And, I nearly went up Pillar twice last year, but on both occasions put it off for better weather (hey, at least it was calm this trip, even if we didn't get the views!).

    This trip leaves me with just two unvisitied Marilyns in Cumbria to the west of the M6, but Mick is showing an interest in Wainwright bagging, and we've lots of those still to visit, so I anticipate more Lakeland trips in due course.