Around Dubs Bottom

As I was driving through the Lake District it didn't seem quite as brown as it has been and the hawthorn hedges on the roadside in the Borrowdale Valley were showing green shoots, maybe spring is on the way at last. I went over Honister Pass and parked the car at the last lay-by before Gatesgarth Farm.

A short walk along the road towards Buttermere brings you to the bottom of Fleetwith Pike, no mistaking it with the white cross memorial visible from the start of the path. The path starts off easily enough zig zagging upwards past the memorial until you reach a neat little cairn on the top of the crag above it.

From here everything is up, Fleetwith Pike begins to feel like a big hill and there are increasingly good views behind of Buttermere and Crummock Water across to Mellbreak. It also got increasingly warm; the walk up the ridge to the summit was done without my jacket on.

The ridge provides an interesting climb, rocks to be handled and scrambled over but without any feeling of exposure if you don’t look backwards. The only real difficulty was provided by some of the rocks being greasy because they were damp. It is also a teasing ridge, you think you are almost at the summit a couple of times but then suddenly the hill looks bigger than ever as it reveals more of itself.

Finally at the top and there are good views all round, I was surprised to see Causey Pike to the north, but the highest fells were capped with mist. Follow the ridge of Fleetwith Pike until you get to a point where it looks easy enough to go downwards in a bee line towards the remains of the old Drum House. There is not really a path but it is a way down without having to go too far out of your way.

When you get to the old quarry, the pieces of slate tinkling as you walk over them, you have to follow the path downwards a little, the spoil heaps are a bit too jagged to walk over. Someone has gone to a lot of effort to place some of the larger slate pieces on their end to form a corridor of six feet high standing stones, very artistic. After passing the standing stones you will find a small cairn on the right showing where to cut across the grass to the Drum House.

From there is an obvious straight path heading south avoiding Grey Knotts and heading towards Brandreth. I followed the first obvious path to the left thinking I was heading towards Brandreth summit but this path took me past the summit and I had to double back to get there. From the summit you get a good view of Seathwaite, Gillercomb including a profile of Raven Crag, and Base Brown looking exceptionally insignificant.

Following the old metal fence posts towards Green Gable you get one of my favourite views, looking down to Buttermere, Crummock Water and Loweswater. The Buttermere Fells, Kirk Fell and Pillar look handsome from this direction, a splendid mountain scene. Carry on following the fence to the col between Brandreth and Green Gable, past the closed gate standing all by itself.

The start of the path going up to Green Gable is obvious and you can walk through the middle of two tarns to reach it or around them. The path to Green Gable summit is rocky to begin with and then when it straightens out is like a gravel path laid almost all of the way to the summit. Once you reach the gravel path on the ridge you can see Pike o’ Stickle standing up like a sore thumb.

At the summit of Green Gable and on the steep eroded path down to Windy Gap you are made aware of the size and strength of Great Gable immediately ahead of you. The steep scramble up to Great Gable is one of my favourite ascents, the rock is mainly dry and the patches of snow are not difficult to walk over. As the gradient eases Great Gable has a rocky crown and the way to the summit is marked by a line of substantial cairns, not that you could miss the summit any way, just go upwards.

By the time I reached the summit the mist had come in and was going to make it more interesting to navigate my way down to Beck Head. I know there are two cairns in the direction of Beck Head and I know that I should avoid the one on the left hand side because it only leads to steep scree. I was pretty sure I was on the right path towards the right hand cairn but soon after I started to descend I realised I didn’t recognise where I was.

It took me a while to realise that once again I had ended up at a place that I had really tried not to get to. So once again I knew what I had to do, cross over scree and boulders to find the right path. The boulders are very greasy and in spite of being extremely careful I managed to fall off one of the rocks but fortunately didn’t fall down the hill.

The proper path was where I expected it to be, all I had to do was avoid the climbers traverse path that leads to a horrible scree descent. Well at least I got that bit right and got to the cluster of fence posts that I always think of as Beck Head even though you are still some way above the tarn of that name.

I walked through the mist over the pathless flatness of Beck Head and found the tarn then followed the path back to the fence posts to join the Moses trod path. The mist is still down and the next trick is to not go to Honister Pass, there is a left turn to be found somewhere to get to Blackbeck Tarn. There a stile for the path to cross a fence but there is some doubt in my mind as to whether I should follow a faint path down to the left just before the fence. In the mist I decided to carry on ahead rather that risk getting lost again.

Eventually below the mist Dubs Quarry came into view at least I know where I am now, should I follow the path all the way round to the quarry or make a bee line for it? The ground didn’t seem to be too steep and there were no obvious ravines in the way so I set off towards Dubs Bottom.

The slope wasn’t too steep and the grass wasn’t slippery but the heather tried to trip you up and there were many foot sized holes to be avoided. Eventually at the flat bottom of the Dubs the ground was not surprisingly very wet in places. I had to climb a little bit to bypass the worst of the swamp and found a way over to Little Round How, having to clamber through large boulders that had fallen from the cliff face at some time. I got to the main path again and it is debateable whether I saved any time or effort in not following the path all the way but it was definitely a bit more interesting.

It is reasonably straightforward and not too steep now along a very obvious path, past the head of Warnscale Bottom and on to Blackbeck Tarn which does indeed look very black. The path is stonier now but the surroundings are wonderful, steep crags on every side of the steep fall down to the valley.

Finally the scramble to the summit of Haystacks, surrounded by bigger brothers but it is an impressive summit in its own right. Downhill all the way from here but it isn’t the easiest downhill I have done and at the bottom of Haystacks the path from Scarth Gap down to Buttermere seems endless at this end of the day.

Fortunately after twelve and a half miles the walk back along the road to the car involves no climbing.

Andy Wallace 27th March 2004

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