3 Wainwrights from Wasdale
This walk from Wasdale Head visits 3 Wainwrights; Allen Crags, Glaramara and Great End, before returning by a little used shortcut through the Scafell Range. At just short of 13 miles with over 4000 feet of ascent it is long but varied throughout and gives contrasting views of much of central Lakeland.
Leaving Wasdale Head in the cool of early morning, I passed the small church of St Olaf and followed the lane between stone walls to Burnthwaite half a mile up the valley. Here the path was signposted left around the farm building before reaching the gap in the wall that marked the open fellside.
Studiously avoiding the rough and stony path that climbed to the left - the usual route to Sty Head - I kept to the right after the footbridge followed a quiet grassy path that kept close to the river of Lingmell Beck. The map shows this path keeping to the left or north of the beck and you can go that way but I crossed the stream just after a small copse of trees which is the old valley route to Sty Head.
The winding path climbed gently below spectacular views of Lingmell with its craggy ramparts falling to the deep cleft of Piers Gill while on the opposite side of the valley the scree slopes of Great Gable rose steeply past the Napes Crag to a jagged skyline over 2000 feet above. Several parties now slogged their wayb up the stony pathway opposite though I had this pleasant grassy walkway to myself.
My route curved up to the left of a rocky bluff and there was the summit of the pass with the stretcher box just ahead. Here I turned right and followed thewide track up past Sprinkling Tarn - the wettest place in England - to the wall shelter below Esk Hause passing en route the sombre northern crags of Great End. Where the path forks after the tarn take the left - the other goes directly to Esk Hause and Scafell Pike and going up there now would cause you to miss half of this route.
The views north down Borrowdale to Skiddaw and Blencathra were all of a sudden replaced by the jagged outline of the Langdale Pikes ahead as I reached the shelter. (Note - if in mist - this path passes just to the left of the shelter and not straight to it!) Turning left, a short easy climb brought me to the first summit of the day, that of Allen Crags.
Despite the infamous climate of this region, the sun shone warmly tempered only by a pleasant cooling breeze that gave almost perfect walking conditions. From allen Crags the path led at first downhill winding its way round rocky bluffs and across grassy swathes until I reached High House Tarn which is actually about 3 small pools facing an interesting perspective of the Langdale Pikes. Beyond, the route went up a small rocky groove and crossed a minor summit before a final depression and a steep climb to the right of crags ahead. Now 2 summits were seen ahead - the highest of Glaramara's several tops, the summit of the fell being the last one which also provides the best views.
The central position of Glaramara gives a unique perspective on the Central Lakes andhaving left the Wasdale fells behind I was now looking down on the green depths of Borrowdale and Derwentwater while behind the rugged peaks of Bowfell, Esk Pike and Great End made the skyline.
The return is by the same route and makes a round trip of three and a half miles with 1000 feet of ascent despite the 2 fells being of similar height - Deceptive but worth it for the views.
From here the quickest way back to Wasdale is to retrace one's steps to Sty Head but a more interesting though harder route is the one I now took. In what seemed no time at all after the up and down path I'd been on I was down past the stone shelter and almost up to Esk Hause on its far side - the wide path to Scafell Pike being completely without difficulty here. The pass actually links Eskdale and Borrowdale whereas the shelter which is sometimes referred to as Esk Hause is on the much more popular path from Langdale to Borrowdale or Wasdale. Sty Head links Wasdale and Borrowdale and yes - there are many people wandering these hills completely ignorant of these facts!
Once at the pass the view opened out into the wilds of upper Eskdale ahead and I followed the trail up to the left in the direction of Scafell Pike. The greatest joy of this motorway of a route is the look on the tourists' faces when they realise how far away the Pike still is! I consider heading there myself - but not for very long. Seven times is enough for anyone so I leave the path at the ridgeline and briefly head north again to the much nearer stony top of Great End. You can visit Scafell Pike - England's highest summit - on this walk by following the main path and descending by either Lingmell Col or Mickledore to Wasdale.
Great End has 2 summit cairns - the north western one with better views across Sty Head to Great Gable and the other which is considered the official summit. Both are about the same height. From the main summit - a rough tangle of boulders - I walked north a short way to where the best view was to be had. Overlooking the precipitous top of Great Gully the ground opens up to reveal Sprinkling Tarn a thousand feet below backed by the wooded vale of Borrowdale and the familiar outline of Skiddaw beyond Derwentwater - one of the finest mountain prospects in Lakeland. I watched the ant-like figures of walkers below on the path I'd ascended earlier before returning over the rough plateau to col above Calf Cove where I had left the main track.
There is a faint path down the far - or western - side of the ridge and it led down to where the ground steepened considerably though the steepness was walkable to where I met a stream on the right. Carefully I picked my way down the slope pausing to replenish my water bottles from the strem before continuing down to flatter ground in the grassy hollow of Calf Cove below.
A good spot this was - an unexpected pasture watched over by soaring crags and hidden from below. I followed faint traces of path over easy grass to the left of the rocky feature called Round How and skirted a marshy level at its foot then there just below was the Corridor Route path which I followed around the rocky head of Piers Gill, the vast ravine I'd observed from below that morning - seemed a long time ago now!
Where the main path climbed off up to the left, I followed a lesser trail which soon climbed beside a ruined stone wall to end up at Lingmell Col a wide expanse of rough tussock country between the Pike and Lingmell and crossing it brought me within sight of Wastwater sparkling in the West under the bright afternoon sun. joining the main path descending ahead there were views of the sublime rock walls of Pikes Crag above and Scafell Crag across the rocky combe known as Hollow Stones. These stony fastnesses took on a harsh aura inthe sunlight as if deprived of their customary garb of damp grey mist.
The descent from Lingmell Col is simply a matter of following the constructed pathway downhill - it is knee jarring and unpleasant after a long day though not as unpleasant as ascending this way in the hot sun. Near the bottom of the incessant gradient just after the path crosses the river where 2 streams meet the track splits in 2. If you are based at or near the National Trust campsite in Wasdale then you want the left one as that is where it duly leads. I wasn't so took the right which rounded the ridge and led down through scattered trees to Wasdale Head.
Pete Buckley June 2010
Summits >>> Allen Crags 785m/2575ft >>> Glaramara 783m/2569ft >>> Great End 910m/2985ft
Essentials >>> 12.5 miles or 21km of walking >>> 4100 feet or 1250m of ascent >>> Start and finish at Wasdale Head