Church Outing

Kirk Fell direct ascent from Wasdale, the second resting place by Andy Wallace Andy Fellwalker Not really a church but a Kirk, and the kind of outing that gets done once a year just to show the mountain that you are not afraid of it.

The weather was dry and quite bright at Wasdale Head and I was wearing tee shirt and shorts as I set off on the daunting direct route up the front of Kirk Fell. The initial climb on steep grass is hard enough but my calf muscles still haven't quite recovered from the climb up Dore Head Screes earlier in the week. By the time I reached the first of Wainwright's resting places I had fallen into a pattern of shorts rests in between spurts of walking.

After that point the climb seems endless, looking upwards is demoralising because there you can't see anything but grass as far as the horizon. It has to be said though that it seems to be getting easier each year, the footmarks in the grass that were becoming obvious last year are developing into a slightly zigzag path. I wonder how long it will be before more and more footmarks erode this grassy climb into a much more challenging scree slope. The gentle breeze has a cutting edge to it and although the weather is still bright I had to put my jacket on.

Kirk Fell direct ascent from Wasdale, how steep it is by Andy Wallace Andy Fellwalker Eventually you feel as though you are making progress as you reach the grassy horizon to find the second resting place at a slight pause in the gradient. There in front is the rest of the climb, grass turning to scree and the gradient even steeper if anything. As the scree takes over there is a short section where you have to paddle on all fours to overcome gravity on the slippery loose stones. There is an obviously used way up the scree that I have done before that is really quite uncomfortable so today I chose a slightly different route.

With the rocks being dry I made may up the steep slope over the larger rocks, hoping that the football sized and larger boulders were firmly attached to the mountain. It was a much easier passage than struggling over the path but I wouldn't do it on a wet day, there is also the constant worry that the larger rocks might start to slide with you on them. I wouldn't recommend this way up the mountain to anybody, especially if they were inexperienced or unfit, but to those people I wouldn't recommend Kirk Fell at all and certainly not the direct route.

View of Great Gable from Kirk Fell by Andy Wallace Andy Fellwalker Eventually you reach the scree horizon and there is a much more conventional path leading to the third resting place. A delightful grassy ledge, a lawn in the middle of fantastic mountain scenery, the direct steepness of the slope means that you still have a bird's eye view of Wasdale Head. The size and rugged nature of Kirk Fell is now apparent, from a distance this is an innocuous looking fell, but close up the sheep's clothing turns out to be steep rocks and scree. Then you reach the summit and looking across the extensive plateau, everything is green and gentle again. At the summit the breeze is decidedly stronger and cooler and gloves are required for the time being.

As you cross the flat top and pass the two tarns called Kirkfell Tarn there is one object that grabs your attention. Great Gable looks fantastic from Kirk Fell, for once in good visibility you can see the stripes of red scree and green vegetation amongst the grey rock. As you get closer Great Gable looks better and better until you reach the north east cairn above Beck Head and my next destination is no longer in any doubt. There was not one other person on Kirk Fell to share this magnificent view.

View of Kirk Fell from Great Gable ascent by Andy Wallace Andy Fellwalker The descent to Beck Head is obvious, an eroded rocky path that provides interest without being awkward, although you need to be careful on the loose stones in a couple of places. Make a beeline across the flat, damp in places, grassy surface of Beck Head to the obvious start of the path upwards toward Great Gable. The climb up through the boulders to Great Gable is my favourite route of all, not the most strenuous or exciting or beautiful but I love it.

After the rocky climb you cross stony ground to the top of Great Gable, my favourite summit. With the unusually good visibility I took the opportunity to visit the Westmoreland cairn. The cairn is nothing special in itself but its location and the views below just add to the magic of Great Gable.

Wasdale seen from the Westmoreland cairn by Andy Wallace Andy Fellwalker I made my way back to the summit for the start of the Breast Route, a long descent over mainly reconstructed paths to Styhead Pass. Towards the bottom of the path I began to warm up and was able to take my gloves off and by the time I reached the stretcher box it was warm enough to remove my jacket. From the stretcher box I made the crossing from Western Fells to Southern Fells and the start of the Corridor Route at Skew Gill.

The Corridor Route is a splendid path, without danger, as long as you take reasonable care, but with a couple of interesting little scrambles. I can't think of the last time I had such good visibility on this route, even in the places I visit often there is so much to see.

On the Corridor Route by Andy Wallace Andy Fellwalker Shortly before reaching Lingmell Col, there is a cairn where you can see a wall on the right hand side and a faint path bears off towards it. If I had been going to Scafell Pike I would carried straight on and scrambled up a rocky outcrop but today I followed the path alongside the wall. This little path avoids having to climb up the to col and back down again. Follow the wall and as the gradient flattens out there is a cairn on the other side of it that indicates the start of the path to Lingmell summit.

Lingmell has a lovely summit, there is a substantial cairn on a rocky tower with fantastic views of Scafell Pike, Great Gable and the length of the Corridor Route. There is a delightful subsidiary summit, a chaotic jumble of rocks and boulders that has to be visited. The view from between the two towers is an equally chaotic array of jagged rocks and small pinnacles on Lingmell Crag.

View of Lingmell summit with Scafell's Pinnacle Crag in the background by Andy Wallace Andy Fellwalker From the summit the descent to Wasdale is straightforward in good visibility, make a beeline for a smaller subsidiary summit in the direction of Wastwater. At the smaller summit you cross a wall and there is a grassy path that goes all of the way down the nose of the fell. At one point there is an unexpected rash of erosion and scree but generally it is down on grass all the way, the crags of Scafell on the left keeping you company for most of it.

Eventually you reach a crossroads of paths, turn right for Wasdale Head, the path going over fields almost to the car parking area at The Green.

Andy Wallace 20th June 2003

© 2003 - 2018 By Andy Wallace. Reproduction of this work in whole or in part, including images, and reproduction in electronic media, without documented permission from the author is prohibited.

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