Buttermere Banana

View from Causey Pike by Andy Wallace Andy FellwalkerThere are lots of Outdoorsmagic members camping in Buttermere this weekend and I was expecting to meet a few of them at the large layby between Uzzicar farm and Stoneycroft but for reasons of illness, disinterest or the weather only Lorraine turned up. It had been raining since I left home at seven o'clock but had stopped as I got to the Lake District, now it was damp underfoot and misty even on the lowest of the fell tops.

From the layby you have a short walk up the Newlands Valley road before you cross the road bridge over Stonycroft Gill and get to the path rising steeply up the lower slopes of Rowling End. The path continues at a reasonable gradient towards Sleet Hause but a faint path goes off to the left to climb the steep ridge up the nose of Rowling End. For a small hill, a subsidiary of Causey Pike, it asks some interesting questions of the average hill walker. It is quite steep and rugged and the several rock outcrops are even more interesting with being greasy in the damp conditions.

View along the ridge of Causey Pike from its summit by Andy Wallace Andy FellwalkerYou get to what you hope is the top, calf muscles complaining, and all you can see is Causey Pike, looking steep and fearsome directly ahead. There is a brief rest from the steepness as you cross Sleet Hause but soon you are climbing a steep rough path upwards to Causey Pike. The final knob of rock is a hands on scramble over twenty feet of rock up to the cairn, a splendid viewpoint if it wasn't for the mist.

Then you follow the ridge, up and down, you can visualise the ridge as you see it from afar but looking back at other walkers it does make you feel small. The ridge broadens and consequently becomes wetter, autumn is a bad time time to walk this ridge but it isn't too bad today. Almost without realising it you have climbed to the top of Scar Crags and passed the summit, in the mist it isn't easy to judge when you are at the top.

Wandope Moss by Andy Wallace Andy FellwalkerThe descent to the col is obvious as is the path up to the summit of Sail. A wide stony path takes you up, the gradient isn't too bad it is just the fact that it looks as though it goes on forever, the mist makes it easier not being able to see very far. As you get towards the summit of the path there are a couple of apparently meaningless cairns but at the second one you should veer to the right to find the summit of the hill. Neither cairn nor summit deserve their respective titles.

Then things do get more interesting, the ridge named The Scar is quite interesting in itself, in the mist it is fairly reasonable but when you can see how far down and how close the valley is either side it does feel quite exhilarating. In these conditions the climb up to the summit of Eel Crag is reasonably easy and the view from the summit shelter is non existent. From the triangulation point at the summit I knew which direction to go but I got teased for not taking a compass bearing, I knew where I was and I found the line of cairns I was looking for.

View from Whiteless Pike by Andy Wallace Andy FellwalkerThere is an easy descent to Wandope Moss, walking around the edge of and looking down at the hanging valley of Addacombe Hole, why on earth would anybody build a sheepfold in that remote place? At least now there were some breaks in the mist and it was possible to look down into Addacombe Hole. The climb up to the summit of Wandope was easy enough, I walked along the edge of the crags above Addacombe Hole and wondered where Wainwright's path down to it was, it must be there and I will find it one day.

There is an easy walk over to the cairn or man at Third Gill Head before you start to descend Whiteless Edge, much easier when there is no wind and you have no idea how far down the valley is but not half as interesting. The climb up to the summit of Whiteless Pike is interesting without being strenuous, a view would make it better. The descent is littered with one ton bags of stones brought in by helicopter to repair the badly eroded footpath.

Path repairs on the descent from Whiteless Pike by Andy Wallace Andy FellwalkerYou finally get to a flatter area, the path changes direction and you can see all the way down to Buttermere and there are lawned footpaths between the dead bracken. You follow the path downwards hoping there are no mountain bikers speeding down the easy slopes, they surely couldn't stop and you couldn't get out of their way. Take the left turn that takes you through a kissing gate to a path between the woods on the steep bank of Mill Beck and you eventually get to Buttermere just across the road from the Bridge Hotel.

Turn left past the small church and you have to walk upwards along the Newlands Valley road for a while, it is hard on the feet and legs. As the road levels out there is a fence going down towards some waterworks (I presume WCWB is West Cumbria Water Board) and shortly afterwards a small footpath leaves the road to follow Mill Beck. You can see along the path up the valley to Knott Rigg and the green path that goes steeply up it, that climb is going to hurt.

The steep green path to Knott Rigg by Andy Wallace Andy FellwalkerAs you cross Swinside Gill the path up Knott Rigg doesn't look quite as steep but it does look a long way to the top. Steep green climbs are the most difficult of all for me, as I got higher the the spurts of walking got shorter as the rests in between got longer. It took me thirty minutes to climb the steep slope and when I got to the top Lorraine was already there and had been for five minutes.

You then follow an undulating ridge and eventually get to a small cairn that you think is the summit of Ard Crags. As you carry on along the ridge you begin to descend and there is an obvious looking descent on the right but that is the wrong way, it would take you to Keskadale Farm. Taking the path to the left takes you up to a small subsidiary summit and then you realise that the cairn you passed was the summit of Knott Rigg, Ard Crags lies ahead.

Looking along the ridge towards Ard Crags summit by Andy Wallace Andy FellwalkerThe two fells are completely different in character, Knott Rigg is all grass but the obvious path up towards Ard Crags is through heather. In autumn the peaty ground on the path through the heather becomes very slippery and is awkward to descend but the ground is quite dry today. Ard Crags is one of those hills that teases on the last stage of a walk, as you reach what looks like the summit there is just a little bit more climbing to do. One of us was ready for some downhill after racing up Knott Rigg but Ard Crags kept teasing with several more small climbs until the summit cairn eventually came into view.

At this point the mist cleared from Causey Pike just across the valley, it is a uniquely shaped hill. The descent from Ard Crags is over Aikin Knott, just as steep as Knott Rigg but through heather and bilberry so there is something to stop your feet from slipping. Eventually you get to a metal gate in a wall, go through the gate to cross a field with cattle in as well as sheep, there is always some doubt in your mind whether cows will approach you, they look at you very intently.

Rigg Beck, the purple house in the Newlands Valley by Andy Wallace Andy FellwalkerCarry on downwards and you come to a track alongside a fence, turn right along the track to pass behind some cottages and you get to the road. Turn left for the final mile and a half along the road, passing the purple house called Rigg Beck that looks very dilapidated from close quarters and as though no one cares for it.

We got back to the cars seven hours after setting off, almost twelve miles exceeds my usual speed of about one a half half miles an hour, what (or who) could have made the difference, maybe it was the banana shaped route that is more economical.

Andy Wallace 8th May 2004

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