High Stile Ridge

Outline of Route
Buttermere - Scale Force - Red Pike - High Stile - High Crag - Haystacks - Warnscale Bottom - Buttermere (Grid ref. NY 173169)
Total Distance 9.7 miles, Total Ascent 3100 feet, Equivalent Distance 16.0 miles

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Escape Routes

  1. From the summit of Red Pike descend to Bleaberry Tarn and follow the clear footpath down through Burtness Wood and back to Buttermere.
  2. From Scarth Gap descend the pass to Peggy's Bridge and rejoin the route at Gatesgarth farm.

Details of Route
There is a car park located down the road to the right of the Fish Hotel which costs £3.00 per day on my last visit. It has an attendant, at times, and no meters. Return to the front of the Fish Hotel and take the lane to the left of it, signposted "Buttermere Lake & Scale Bridge. After a sharp left-hand turn and another 100 yards two lanes go off on the right, one marked Scale Bridge. Go through the kissing gate and follow it to Scale Bridge. Once over the bridge, turn right and follow the path which continues, at a distance, along the side of Crummock Water. Look out for the path turning to the left, at a large cairn, then right again on a clear path leading around the flank of Red Pike. You will spot Scale Beck ahead flowing down the valley and into Crummock Water. If you've missed the zigzag the proper path becomes very clear before you reach Scale Force so you are bound to find it. After going through a gap in a wall notice a steep path up on the left-hand side of the ravine but walk down to the footbridge and explore the ravine where the narrow torrent of Scale Force tumbles down (photo). The footbridge is stained vivid red from the surrounding rocks, so if you ever wondered how Red Pike got its name...

Return to the path that goes up alongside the ravine and follow it. You gain height very rapidly with the ravine dropping very steeply to your right. In places the edges of the path are breaking away and falling down into the ravine, which provides the walker with rather more excitement than would otherwise have been anticipated. On my most recent trip, 24 June 2003, the path was safe, provided care was taken. Some of the preliminary chutes of the waterfall can be seen from up here. The path reaches a sloping rock slab on the left, about ten feet high, which is easily negotiable by its right hand edge. Several paths lead up the fellside from here, through the heather and away from the beck, southeast towards Lingcomb Edge. It's better to take the first clear one of these. On reaching the Edge bear left to the big cairn from which there are excellent views of Crummock Water, the Solway Firth, and Scottish hills beyond. (Photo of Crummock Water and beyond.) Turn back and ascend the ridge to the summit of Red Pike. From here the first glimpses of the Scafells, peeking through between Pillar and High Stile, are obtained. Continue along the ridge, where the fierce crags down to the left draw one's attention, to the top of High Stile.

This summit is flat and rock-strewn, and it's worth visiting various edges for the views down to Buttermere, and into Burtness Comb. Follow the western escarpment and the path to High Crag. (Photo of Buttermere from the path.) Along this narrowish ridge Ennerdale opens up, showing the widespread afforestation, Ennerdale Water, and across the valley, Pillar, Scoat Fell, and Steeple, now in profile. From the summit of High Crag there is a bird's-eye view of Haystacks, giving some idea of the summit plan. There is a long and steep descent to Scarth Gap. The paths were very badly eroded and at the top, and it can still be difficult to keep one's feet in places; but lower down, where it was much worse, a few man-made stone staircases have produced a vast improvement.

There is now an interesting ascent of Haystacks ahead, with several scrambles on the way to the top and its tiny summit tarn. From here the path to Innominate Tarn is seen (I see a certain irony here, in that "innominate" a word that means "having no name" has become its name). Follow this to the left of the tarn and continue along the well marked path - some of it paved - almost to Blackbeck Tarn. Cross the beck emanating from the tarn and climb the stone staircase to continue on one's way. Eventually the path joins another coming in on the right from Great Round How. Turn left to follow this path for a few yards, until it bears to the right. At this point, instead of following the main path that way, keep going straight ahead down a narrow valley. You will see the popular path down to Buttermere across the beck ahead but there is a quieter path down on the left before you reach the beck. Soon this path becomes easier to follow and provides good going, with an easy gradient, lovely views of Buttermere and Crummock Water, and peace and quiet, because everyone else is on the main path way across the beck. (Photo from the path.) You have to join them later, however, after crossing a footbridge. Keep going to the main road down from Honister.

I try to avoid having my routes use public roads but in this case it is unavoidable. Follow the road towards Buttermere for about half a mile until coming to the well-signposted Lakeshore path. The picturesque promontary of Crag Wood is on the route (photo). There is a dark tunnel along this path, at Hassness, which is quite eerie - those carrying torches in their packs will find them useful. You can now follow the path contemplating the day's route over the felltops opposite, and seeing Burtness Comb etc. from a totally different perspective.

Rev. 02 September 2014

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