Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Yewbarrow to Steeple

The excellence of the weather was matched by the excellence of this high-level walk starting at Overbeck Bridge in Wasdale.

Height was gained quickly up the south ridge of Yewbarrow towards Bell Rib with plenty of other walkers having the same idea.  But most chose to follow the better path to the ridge, avoiding the interesting gully leading directly to Great Door.  Only the final few metres provided any sport of note, but the top-out is magnificent as it finishes on a narrow ridge with a precipitous drop on the Wasdale side.  Not a place to be recommended in high winds.

Slightly further along the ridge towards the summit, I had a conversation with a couple extolling the merits of the Wainwright guidebooks and they told me of their super week of walking so far – so much so that they were extending their stay.  I told them that today was forecast to have the last of the good weather but I suspect that it wasn’t going to put them off !

The summit ridge of Yewbarrow is an excellent vantage point for views of the surrounding fells.  Superb views of Red Pike, Pillar, Great Gable and the Scafell massif make a wonderful vista of some of the highest mountains in the country.  Add to that the scene of Wastwater and its screes, it is apparent why Wasdale is such a well-loved valley.

Wastwater and the Screes
The scramble down Stirrup Crag to Dore Head has been reported by a number of sources to be a little too challenging for a confident descent.  Those of a more timid nature drop off the ridge to wards Over Beck and then traverse to the col.  In reality the scramble is worn enough to be easy to follow and there is no significant exposure to be had.  The hardest part is probably the equivalent of descending Helvellyn’s “Bad Step” on Striding Edge – with care and sensible footwork it ought to hold no fear.

What I did notice was an older couple descending using their walking poles for aid when the use of their hands would have been much more productive.  I appreciate the need for poles for some walkers to limit wear and tear to the knees, but they appeared to not think that the poles were getting in the way an increasing the risk of a fall.

The south ridge of Red Pike is another excellent route with ever-improving views of the bigger fells.  And it has a bonus of one of the most unusual cairns I’ve ever seen in the mountains.  “The Chair” is 150 or more years old and is a wonderful example of man’s artistry; a comfortable stone armchair from which to view the highest fells in the land.  With my monocular I could easily make out walkers on Great Gable and the Scafells with all of these high summits proving popular in the good weather.

The Scafells
The summit of Red Pike is unusual as it is on the very edge of crags overlooking Mosedale.  I have read that walking around the summit cairn would be impossible – a challenge that I would have to agree with for the ordinary fell-walker.  I continued on to the Nuttall summit of Black Crag where the view down Ennerdale added to the already magnificent setting.  Scoat Fell was an easy tick from here – the summit cairn being rather more unusual than most !

For the previous hour or so, there was a steady stream of people on the summit of Steeple.  My luck was in and I had the summit to myself.  There aren’t too many summits in the Lake District that have ground in all directions falling away so quickly but this is one of those that can genuinely be regarded as a peak.  I took in the panorama before heading back to the Scoat Fell plateau (a marked difference from Steeple !) and then descending towards Scoat Fell and Nether Beck.  I had planned to walk out over the spur to Low Tarn but decided that any extra ascent wasn’t welcome.  Fuelled by jelly babies, I followed the path to Netherbeck Bridge before the final stretch of road-walking to the car.


With only ten Wainwrights left to tick, this walk saw the last of those over 2500 feet bagged.  Only one (which will complete my round) of the ten to be ticked is over 2000 feet.

The end is in sight !