Lake District Walks
Fleetwith Pike & Haystacks
Date: 8th August 2014
Distance: 5.2 miles
Ascent: 2600 feet
Time: 4 hours 30 mins
Start Grid Ref: NY194150
A wonderful ascent of Fleetwith Pike and a visit to the minor tops of Black Star and Green Crag before a very wet crossing of Haystacks.
Route Summary: Gatesgarth Farm - Fleetwith Edge - Fleetwith Pike - Black Star - Dubs Quarry - Green Crag - Haystacks - Scarth Gap - Peggy's Bridge - Gatesgarth Farm
Photos: Click on the photos below to enlarge.
Walk Detail: Just over a year ago I'd taken my nephew Liam camping to Hadrian's Wall country for his birthday. He'd really enjoyed himself including the walk from Housesteads to Steel Rigg. This time, for his ninth birthday, he wanted to go camping somewhere that he could 'climb a mountain'. I decided almost immediately I'd take him somewhere in the Lake District and eventually decided on a couple of days based at the Sykes Farm campsite in Buttermere.
The first walk on our itinerary was Fleetwith Pike from Gatesgarth Farm. Nine years before this classic ascent was my second ever walk in the Lake District and the one that more than any other set me off on my path to completing the Wainwrights.
I have to admit I also had other motives than merely introducing Liam to one of the most scenic walks in the Lake District. I'm also in the process of trying to visit all the English Deweys - hills over 500m. Unknown to me at the time of my first visit to Fleetwith Pike and Haystacks was that Green Crag, a rocky knoll just off the path north of Blackbeck Tarn, qualifies as a Dewey. Therefore in addition to reliving one of my favourite ever walks I wanted to bag a top that I had inadvertantly ignored on my earlier visit.
Whilst I had hardly chosen one of the easiest introductions to the Lake District for Liam the climb up Fleetwith Pike from Gatesgarth has just the right combination of steepness, wonderful retrospective views and a bit of exposure to be exciting without being dangerous. It has to be said that Liam took to the climb wonderfully well and as we neared the top he was even scrambling up some of the rockier sections far easier than I was.
After eating lunch at the summit we made our way east to the top of Black Star, the highest point of Honister Crag, before descending to Hopper Slate Quarry. From there we dropped down to the ruins of Dubs Quarry. After crossing Warnscale Beck we then continued on the path heading for Haystacks. Along the way we made the small detour to the top of Green Crag. The summit featured a small cairn overlooking Blackbeck Tarn, even better was the view just to the north of the cairn down to Warnscale Bottom and across to Haystacks to the west and Fleetwith Pike to the north-east.
Thus far the weather had been okay, we'd had some sunny spells on the climb on to Fleetwith Pike and a brief but light shower whilst we'd eaten our lunch and another crossing Warnscale Beck. Certainly we'd not seen or heard anything that prepared us for what we were about to experience. Just as we were about to ford Black Beck a flash of lightning was followed by an ominous rumble of thunder followed by a deluge of rain that by the time we'd reached Innominate Tarn had made a mockery of the term 'waterproof'. In over ten years of hillwalking I don't think I've ever got so wet. Much to his credit Liam took this in his stride and we were awarded a certain amount of respite when the rain temporarily abated when we reached the top of Haystacks.
Apart from a few visits to the Outlying Fells this was my first Lake District since completing the Wainwrights on St Sunday Crag over a year earlier. Whilst the climb had reminded me so much of what I love about the Lake District the initial descent from Haystacks, on a rocky path favouring the Ennerdale side of the fell, brought back to me how difficult it can be on the knees. Indeed over the course of the two walks we did during our stay this was, I think, the only bit that Liam didn't enjoy so much.
Things got a bit easier underfoot once we reached Scarth Gap for a straightforward, if wet, descent to Peggy's Bridge and back to the start. Despite the downpours Liam enjoyed the walk and indeed talked incessantly during the course of the walk asking questions about the surrounding fells. Hopefully his first mountain walk will live as long in his memory as my first visit to Fleetwith Pike has done with me.