Right Back Where I Started…

Earlier this evening I had an idea as I stared at my chart of Lake District Fells. I was taking a break from planning my assault on the Cambrian Way and was instead thinking about how I could put together a walk that would be good preparation for that project and which would also help propel me further onwards towards completion of the Wainwrights. As I’m going to be spending 3 solid weeks in Wales, I don’t want to do my warm up walk there, so the Lakes is the obvious place. It’s also an area I know fairly well which means I can (a) craft a trip that meets my training needs quite closely, and (b) allows me to focus a bit more on the physical demands and a shade less on working out where the hell I’m going.

My 31 remaining Wainwrights, to which I’ve added the 19 I want to repeat because I didn’t do them solo and car free, are however, strung out on the periphery of the Lakes, making them awkward to do by basing myself in one place and knocking them off in day walks. But they do lend themselves to linear walks, especially those in the south and west, and I’d already semi-worked out a multi-day route that would cover the bottom left hand corner of the map. This route would give a decent distance, some big ascent and about the roughest terrain it’s possible to get in the area.

Then I thought: “What if I were to extend the walk so that I covered all of my outstanding Wainwrights, not just the ones that naturally fit into one long walk ?” And so I started playing with Anquet.

I also recalled that I’m down to the last few Nuttalls in the Lakes too, so remembered to pick these off where they could conveniently be done. In all, the walk I came up with included 16 of the 18 remaining Nuttalls (one of which is Pillar Rock which is a different kettle of fish altogether), and 49 of the 50 Wainwrights. This then leaves my designated final Wainwright as a special walk, although it’s not too far off the big route, so could conceivably be tacked on the end if I wanted to.

The route ended up being 172 miles long, including just under 11 miles of ascent and estimated as nearly 100 hours walking (or call it 16-17 days which fits in roughly with what I thought I was looking at to finish them all off).

The Route

GrandLakesCircuit-49 undone Wainwrights route map

The 5 letters on the map indicate the main options for starting/finishing the route, being the towns or villages with bus connections and all the other infrastructure needed. They are:

A = Ambleside, my most likely actual start point.

B = Buttermere, buses from Keswick. The route over High Stile could be taken down alongside Buttermere instead, and in my case I don’t need any of that ridge, but it’s a convenient way to link Haystacks and the Blake Fell set.

C = Coniston.

K = Keswick.

P = Patterdale.

Summary of the route

I’m undecided as to whether to do this clockwise or anti-clockwise, and I don’t think it matters. Anti-clockwise would give the opportunity to climb one of the more interesting ridges of Blencathra rather than sneak up from behind, and it may also tackle Yewbarrow the easier way around. But against that I think some of the views work better clockwise, and clockwise also allows me to revisit a number of memorable walks I’ve done. So it’s a personal choice.

[The outstanding Wainwrights I’ve got, and which this route is built around are in bold – this includes the 19 I’ve done but want to revisit solo].

From Ambleside, head along the lanes to Black Fell then drop onto the Cumbria Way to Coniston. Climb up to Walna Scar, taking the optional detour to Walna Scar and White Maiden (Nuttalls), before heading up onto Brown Pike and following the ridge up onto Dow Crag. Next head up onto the Old Man and then follow the ridge over Brim Fell and Swirl How to Great Carrs, descending to the Three Shire Stone.

Climb up onto Cold Pike, detour right for Great Knott and left for Little Stand (two outstanding Nuttalls I’ve got) before heading up onto Crinkle Crags. Three Tarns is then followed by Bowfell and Esk Pike before arriving at one of my favourite places in the Lakes – Esk House. Head up onto Great End, then head for the top of England (Scafell Pike). A descent to Mickledore then up onto Scafell (I’ve mapped it as going via Foxes Tarn, but clearly other routes are available). Descend to Burnmoor Tarn and then reascend to pick off Illgill Head and Whin Rigg. Descend to Wasdale, passing by Murt Camping Barn.

Next it’s up onto Buckbarrow on the way to the top of Seatallan. Then a return to Wasdale by Middle Fell for a walk along the road to Overbeck Bridge. Straight up the nose of Yewbarrow, scrambling round to the left at Great Door, before the clumsy (in my case) descent at the Stirrup Crag end. Next up and over Red Pike and Scoat Fell and then onto Pillar, descending to Black Sail Pass. Descend into Ennerdale.

Climb up onto Haystacks via Loft Beck (alternatively Scarth Gap) and walk along the top of the fell to the summit before, heading for Scarth Gap. Now, there’s the option of a low level route in order to stop off in Buttermere, or instead to head up over Seat onto the ridge and pick off High Crag, High Stile, Red Pike, Starling Dodd and Great Borne. A descent to Floutern Tarn follows.

An up and back down trip to pick off Hen Comb is followed by the main block of Gavel Fell, Blake Fell and Burnbank Fell, before descending to Waterend. Walk below Loweswater Fell so as to climb Fellbarrow, then heading back along the fell for Low Fell. This way round makes the crossing to the next fell group a little easier. From Loweswater, walk around to Lanthwaite Green and climb up onto Whiteside, following the ridge to Hopegill Head. I haven’t yet done Ladyside Pike, so would do an out and back to bag that, before heading around onto Grisedale Pike, for another out and back to bag Hobcarton End, another stray Nuttall. Descend to Braithwaite and walk via Portinscale to Keswick.

Climb up to Skiddaw Little Man, optionally visit Skiddaw itself, and then descend over Sale How to Skiddaw House, following the Cumbria Way to the bottom of Carrock Fell. A climb left up Grainsgill Beck to Great Lingy Hill and then turn back on oneself to walk along the ridge to Carrock Fell, descending afterwards to Mosedale.

Climbing up onto Bowscale Fell via the tarn, the route then heads onto Bannerdale Crags, dips down to Mungrisdale Common and then climbs back up onto Blencathra itself. In my case I’d be walking along the ridge to pick off the 3 Nuttall summits, before descending over Scales Fell to Mousthwaite Comb ready for a climb onto Souther Fell. From the top of Souther Fell, the route zig zags down the side and then heads through the farmland to Troutbeck.

Great Mell Fell is followed by Little Mell Fell and Gowbarrow Fell before descend to Dockray and Dowthwaitehead. Up onto Great Dodd, then an out and back to Clough Head before heading the other way to Watson’s Dodd and Stybarrow Dodd. It would be rude not to do the rest of the Helvellyn ridge too – Raise, Whiteside, Lower Man, Helvellyn, Nethermost Pike and Dollwaggon Pike, before descending to Grisedale Tarn.

Climb up to Deepdale Hause then over St Sunday Crag to Birks and Arnison Crag, descending to Patterdale. Climbing up to Boredale Hause, the route heads via Angletarn Pikes to Satura Crag before skirting Rest Dodd by following the wall. Down onto The Nab then into Martindale before climbing back up onto Steel Knotts and Hallin Fell, before a further descent and reascent onto Place Fell. It’s a lot of up and down, but there’s no easy way to link this combination of fells. Descend from Place Fell to Patterdale and head for Deepdale Bridge, where the path up onto Hartsop Above How starts. Follow the ridge up to Hart Crag then chuck a left onto Dove Crag and head down to Little Hart Crag and High Hartsop Dodd. Descend to Hartsop Hall.

Climb up onto Hartsop Dodd, continue up onto Caudale Moor then climb up from Threshthwaite Mouth and do an out and back onto Gray Crag before heading for the summit of Thornthwaite Crag. Take the path heading for Froswick, breaking off to descend to Troutbeck Tongue. From there it’s a matter of finding the route back to Ambleside, which I’d probably do over Wansfell and Wansfell Pike.

Then it’s just the small matter of a day walk to pick off Lingmoor Fell, my final Wainwright.

GrandLakesCircuit-49 undone Wainwrights-annotated

I should point out that this route is designed to pick off the Wainwrights I need to bag, and so misses out some good nearby fells which could easily be adapted into the route. But for me 172 miles is quite long enough and so I didn’t feel the need to add in further detours to fells I’ve already visited. Good fells such as Great Gable, Grasmoor, High Street could be added in quite easily if desired. The walk passes through 6 of the 7 Wainwright areas with only the Central Fells missed out. If desparate to do some Central Fells, a side trip from Esk Hause  is the best option.

What next ?

Having thought this route up, I’m now seriously considering doing it, not necessarily in one go, as a means to pick off my remaining Wainwrights. Provided I start and stop at any of the 5 lettered places, then it’s easy to do. Three trips to the Lakes is what I reckon it will take to do and it’s seriously tempting as a target to do this year. But first I need to think about the Cambrian Way, which is my main priority, and it’s likely that I’ll only get one trip in as training before that. It’s then a matter of how things pan out.

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