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Monday, 24 January 2011

The Buttermere Horseshoe

Date: 25th September 2010
Who: Me and Si
Hills Climbed: Red Pike, High Stile, High Crag, Haystacks, Dale Head, Hinscarth, Robinson
Map: OL4
Distance walked: 14 miles
Ascent: 1900 metres

I'd been wanting to venture out and do the Buttermere Horseshoe for some time after a few of us had been up in that neck of the woods (hills) in the January of 2009. So a few of us put the weekend to one side and in normal style two of us ended up digging our boots out for the yomp. With little info apart from the knowledge that it was supposed to be incredible on a good day and took in Haystacks, Mr Wainwrights fave fell, and Inominate Tarn (where his ashes were scattered). I ventured onto google to get a concise route along the hiking trail that I could figure out on the OS. Walking Britain came up trumps for this one with just the very thing only having not been out in the hills for a while it wasn't such "the very thing" we'd been looking for - this walk turned out to be the only walk in the area (the Lake District) categorised as very difficult - oops.


View Buttermere Horseshoe in a larger map
We blazed up to Buttermere where the hiking trail began and walked past the two pubs in Buttermere hugging the northern edge of Lake Buttermere itself. From here we ascended through the trees heading for Bleaberry Tarn and continuing up the aptly named Red Pike suitably named presumably due to its colour underfoot. The weather was spectacular and we were lucky enough to take in some awesome views as far as what we thought was the Isle of Man and the Galloway Forest Park in the Scottish Borders.
Crummock Water from Red Pike

High Crag from Red Pike
We stopped off here and had a bite to eat before heading off along the ridge line to High Crag. this was an easy trek between the two summits with little change in altitude. You get an awesome view of Crummock water and Buttermere from up here.
Red Pike, Bleaberry Tarn (in the very bottom of the photo) and Crummock Water from High Crag
The route then takes you over the spiny ridge, which from afar looks pretty intimidating, and across the top of Eagle Crag and Comb Crags. Today was a pearler of a day but last time we were up here it was a touch of a different story - the wind was howling so fiercely we were crossing crouched so that the wind didn't tear us off the hillside, that was in January mind.
Haystacks from High Stile (with Green Gable and Great Gable in the distance - top right of the photo)
Once over High Crag and we kicked off the zigzag descent to Seat and then to Scarth Gap before starting the pretty steep and rocky ascent up Haystacks, which at an ascent of 597 metres was lower than I'd expected. That said it is such a significant rocky mound to see from afar it can't be mistaken for any other hill.
Inominate Tarn
Once at the top you can't help but cast your eyes in search of the Inominate Tarn - where Alfred Wainwright's ashes were scattered but you can't actually see it until you get off the top and when you do first see it it looks deceptively small. As you near it you get a true feel for it's size, not that it is a large tarn but it's bigger then it initially appears.
As you cast your eyes to the left (or east) you can see the slate mining still going on which is the direction we took, heading towards Honister Pass and the museum.
From Haystacks to Honister pass is a hop, skip and jump really, but along this "hop, skip and a jump" we had to decide if we were going to take the easy route back into Buttermere via the road or to press on up the other ridge initially summitting Dale Head and continuing on to Hindscarth and Robinson to complete the Butteremere Horseshoe. No decision was made until we got sat down and had a drink and a bite to eat at the Honister Pass slate museum and visitor centre. Needless to say it didn't take us long to come to the punishing decision that we'd go for the monty and fire uphill to feel the burn. We didn't realise at this point, in fact we didn't realise until a couple of days later that in fact at this point we had surreptitiously missed one of the Wainwrights on the Buttermere Horseshoe and that is Fleetwith Pike, it is a bit of a detour and can be taken in on this walk - probably for the best that we'd left it for later however.
We set off uphill heading for the summit of Dale Head. We eyed the fence we were to follow far into the distance where it seemed to coincide with the hill top. It wasn't until we got to where the fence was no more that we realised that the fence didn't go to the top, in fact it went nowhere near. I think there were another four false summits before we actually got to the top. This was starting to seem like the wrong choice however the panorama north from Dale Head was incredible.
With tired thighs, and calves, and but-tocks we headed off for Hindscarth's top more focused on the floor that on the horizon at this point and after what seemed like an eternity we hit it. Not hanging around we only had one hill left before we could head for a pint and home. From the top of Hindscarth you can pretty clearly see the top of Robinson so with heavy legs and everything else for that matter we trudged on for the final summit which we achieved some time soon after.
As it was now starting to get dark so we decided to make a swift and safe exit from the hillside and take a longer route along the road. Well the exit wasn't swift, nor was the route off the marked hiking trail dry. Being that it was such a glorious day we'd gone in trainers which definitely helped us cover the ground and didn't sap the energy like boots would have however they are far from waterproof and before long our plates of meat were ringing. We kept to the high ground as heading too far right at this point could have seen us toppling over Moss Force waterfall - not a great way to finish the walk. We intercepted the steep hiking trail descending to the car park at 193177.
We stuck to the road and followed it back to down to Buttermere, my feet were giving me a touch of grief now with every step which was all forgotten about when I saw a shape which looked like a kind of fat squat dog bolting across the hillside above us, as my eyes focused on it I realised it was a badger. It then crossed the road in front of us and shot off down the hill like a missile on steroids. A great way to finish an awesome walk - the first time I'd ever seen a badger in the wild.
All said and done this was an incredible day out that should really have been done following with a couple of warm up walks but the weather was impeccable and the views were for as far as the eye could see, definitely one for the "To do" list. At 14 miles (Satmap clocked it just short of 14 miles) it's not hugely long but with a total ascent of over 1900 metres it's that that saps you. Still very rewarding. Sadly due to the time constraints the pint had to wait until I got home.

2 comments:

The Odyssee said...

1900 metres! Is that all it is! It seems a lot more than that when i did it. But i guess that you have to believe satmap. Its a damn fine walk all the same especially on a day like you had.
Nice pics.

The Weekend Dude said...

Yeah that was the info satmap furnished us with, although being honest it did seem a lot more, we were pretty shot at the end!

We were so lucky with the weather too, short sleeves all the way - you just can't plan for that! The views from either ridge were staggering just a shame the camera ran out of battery half way round ha ha.

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