Red Screes and I didn’t get off to the best start. Back in 2006 on the day I was due to travel home, I woke early and so decided to go for a walk to pick the fell off before breakfast. 6am saw me heading up the Kirkstone Pass road out of Ambleside which I stayed on for a short while before taking a footpath on the left.
Later I wished I’d read Wainwright’s instructions more carefully or even just been more alert to distance covered on the ground v the map. This was beacuse rather than take me up the ridgeline of the fell, it actually took me past the back of some houses and dumped me on the Scandale side of the fell, never actually gaining the crest of the ridge and hence missing the summit. So instead of a summit before breakfast that day saw Scandale Pass at breakfast via an out and back walk along Scandale Bottom. Not that I didn’t enjoy the walk, but it wasn’t quite what I’d intended.
Four years later and I did the walk properly by staying on the road for longer and turning off onto the correct path – which is very obvious.
This ascent up the south ridge from Ambleside is my favourite way up the fell. I know that a steeper, shorter and more difficult ascent lies on the Kirkstone side of the fell, but there is something about a walk up a ridgeline. It’s probably why High Pike and Low Pike across Scandale are tolerable – not so much as fells in themselves but as part of the Fairfield Horseshoe.
The ridge-route to the top of Red Screes runs for much of its lower portion between two dry stone walls which channel and guide you onwards. It’s a pleasant stroll gaining height gradually and ideal as a walk to warm the legs up on the first day of a walking trip.
The walls run out as the path climbs over the first crags and up onto Snarker Pike. From then on a more mountain feel takes over – especially on the day I did the walk, as I climbed into the cloud base at about 550-600m.
The summit of the fell is on a craggy piece close to the drop down to Kirkstone and on a good day gives views over the Far Eastern fells, back to Ambleside, west towards Fairfield and chums, and of course down to Hartsop and Patterdale. There’s even a tarn near the summit (extra points).
It’s a steep but not unpleasant descent down northwards to Middle Dodd whose main attribute is the view down to Patterdale, and on the day I did the walk this view was revealed in teasing gaps in the cloud that disappeared faster than I could get the camera ready. The other main route on Red Screes is the path from the summit to Scandale Pass, not remarkable in its own right, but leading me to one of my most frequented places in the Lakes.
So Red Screes is an excellent viewpoint in all 4 directions, mist permitting of course. And with a tarn and a straightforward ridgeline walk (an excellent route of descent if you choose the more challenging ascent from Kirkstone Pass) it’s a winning package overall.
I’d be the first to admit that what’s got Red Screes into my top group of fells is the walk up the ridgeline (and to be frank the first picture in this post) and that there are many fine ridgeline walks in the Lakes – indeed many arguably finer. But Red Screes’ inclusion illustrates perfectly the basis on which I’ve chosen my favourites. I’m sure that out of the 56 fells I have left to do, there will be several that will leapfrog Red Screes, just as there plenty of fells in lower places that are quite likely to improve on a revisit. It may or may not remain in my top 20 long term, but it’s certainly earned its place for now.