Pillar and Ennerdale water

Pillar, with Crag Fell and Ennerdale Water in distance, viewed from Haystacks

Height:  2927 feet above sea level.

Volume: Book 7 (The Western Fells).

Date climbed: 31st May 2010 (walk 16).

Bagged as number:  55 out of 214. [ << Grisedale Pike (54)   (56) Sale Fell >> ]

Rock climbers near the summit of High Man (Pillar Rock)

Rock climbers near the summit of High Man (Pillar Rock)

Route of ascent and descent: I did not do it by the method pictured here… I ascended from Gatesgarth, via Scarth Gap, the Liza Memorial Footbridge, Pillar Cove, the High Level Route and Shamrock Traverse (see pages 13-14 of Wainwright’s chapter).  I do not think that a descent down to Robinson’s Cairn and/or Ennerdale would be at all safe, despite AW implying at the bottom of page 15 that it could be considered. I descended to Black Sail Pass, Black Sail YHA and back over Scarth Gap to Buttermere village.

What Mr Wainwright says (from page 2 of his chapter): “Pillar… far from being a spire of slender proportions, is a rugged mass broadly based on half the length of Ennerdale, a series of craggy buttresses supporting the ridge high above the wild north face, and the summit itself, far from being pointed, is wide and flat. The name of the fell therefore clearly derives from a conspicuous feature on the north face directly below the top, the most handsome crag in Lakeland, originally known as Pillar Stone and now as Pillar Rock. The Rock, despite a remote and lonely situation, had a well-established local notoriety and fame long before tourists called wider attention to it, and an object of such unique appearance simply had to be given a descriptive name… The Pillar was an inspiration of shepherds. Men of letters could not have chosen better.”

Pillar summit

Pillar summit

What I say:  I think it is fair to say this was the hardest single ascent of all 55 so far; indeed, probably the hardest walk of all so far notwithstanding the fact I bagged only one fell on it. The climb up from the Liza footbridge to the summit was the steepest climb of all 135-ish miles to this point. Yet I am very glad I went up the route I did. I have no proof of this but I would guess that 90% or more people who climb Pillar never see Pillar Rock, at least not properly, yet in my (recently formed) opinion this is surely the finest crag in England.

Looking down Ennerdale Water, to Pillar

Looking down Ennerdale Water, to Pillar. Picture taken on walk 43a.

The views of it all the way up Pillar Cove, from below, and then from above as I climbed up Shamrock Traverse, were extraordinary. Indeed, Shamrock Traverse is named by Wainwright at the end of The Western Fells as one of the ‘six best places for a fellwalker to be (other than summits) because of their exciting situations, and which can be reached without danger’, and there can be few other places in the country which put the average ordinary bloke, like me, in such a dramatic position. But you really have to make an effort to get there.

After that the fell risked being a bit of an anti-climax: the view is good, but the top is too flat to get the full effect; and the slopes on the way down to Black Sail Pass are very average. But for Pillar Rock alone I will give it top marks.

[ << Pike o’Stickle      Place Fell >> ]


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