View north from Red Pike

View north from Red Pike. Mellbreak to the left of Crummock Water.

Date completed: 21st October 2019.

Weather conditions: Despite the usual ‘cloudier and cooler for a couple of hours after lunch’ thing — such a prevalent weather patten in the Lakes — a very good day, for the time of year. Excellent walking conditions.

Summits bagged: High Crag (2443 feet above sea level, number 228 of my second round), High Stile (2644’, no. 229), Red Pike (Buttermere) (2479’, no. 230).

Fleetwith Pike

Fleetwith Pike (right), and the back end of Hindscarth, from the ascent of High Crag

All three fells were first bagged on walk 60a, 28/7/12. There are 330 Wainwrights in the full round, so after Red Pike I have one hundred to go.

Start and end point: Started at Gatesgarth. Finished in Buttermere village.

Both points are connected with Keswick by the #77 bus. This only runs from Easter until the end of October — this is its last week of running in 2019. I have said before, and doubtless will again (look, I’m doing it now), how this should run as a weekend service through the winter, but direct one’s comments via an email to Stagecoach and/or Cumbria County Council.

I started the walk at 11.20 or so, when the 10.30 service from Keswick finally hauled itself over Honister. I finished at 15.00, with twenty minutes to spare before the return bus, which arrived in Keswick about 16.15.

Lingcomb Edge

Looking down to Lingcomb Edge, from Red Pike. The moorland in the background is Mosedale.

Distance walked: According to Wainwright I should have covered about 5.5 miles by this route. However my phone pedometer registered nearly 8 miles today. Bearing in mind it measures steps, not distance, some allowance can be made for the rough and steep ground of the walk, but the discrepancy still needs explanation.

Compare the first and second editions of the High Crag chapter, and particularly page 5, today’s ascent route. In the first edition the route is shown as heading straight up Gamlin End, and cutting out the corner of Scarth Gap. The figure of 1.75 miles at the top of that page seems to correspond to this route, even though in the second edition an easier, more pleasant but longer way has been specified over the ridge of Seat (see the route notes below). Going this way adds at least a mile to the declared distance between Gatesgarth and the summit of High Crag.

All in all, 7 miles seems a fair compromise distance for the walk.

Total ascent: 2600 feet approximately.

Gatesgarth and the refreshment van

Gatesgarth, and its refreshment van: the starting point of the walk.

Pub at end: There is little to choose between the two pubs in Buttermere village, the Fish and the Bridge. To keep it democratic, I went in the Fish Inn today. It served a fine pint (and a half). It has a nice seating area out the back, although from there you can’t see the buses come in.

Route: This is a popular walk, and rightly so. It takes place along one of the District’s most dramatic ridges, one largely free of hazard, at least compared with similar walks in the vicinity (e.g. Scoat Fell to Pillar on the other side of Ennerdale). The only difficult and unpleasant bit is the first part of the descent off Red Pike. Most of the paths are clear, dry and not too stony. It is safe enough in mist, and I speak from experience — see walk 60a.

The only downside is the need to schlep all the way to Buttermere to do it. Of all the Lakes walking destinations that can be attained by public transport (from Easter to October, anyway), this one takes the most time to reach. From leaving home in West Yorkshire, to starting from Gatesgarth, took five hours this morning. A couple of months ago it took less time to travel from home to Cheltenham in Gloucestershire, and bag Cleeve Hill.

Ascent to Scarth Gap

On the ascent to Scarth Gap.

So be it. Once you finally get off the bus at Gatesgarth, patronise the refreshment van according to taste then head down the right hand side of the farm, towards the obvious ramparts of the High Stile range ahead. Once across the flat alluvial plain, head up the steeper of the two paths ahead then bear left for the ascent of Scarth Gap. Wainwright calls this (on page Haystacks 5) “one of the pleasantest of the foot-passes”, and he’s right, as with so many other Lakeland matters.

Once the crest of the pass is reached, look right for the start of the newly engineered way up the subsidiary height of Seat — it is not necessarily clear. Once found, there should be no difficulties with route finding all the way to the top of High Crag, and beyond. The path is decent, though towards the top deteriorates into ashy scree, only for a short section however.

High Crag from High Stile

Looking back to High Crag, from the walk to High Stile

From High Crag the route is obvious, though High Stile is further away than it seems. As its summit plateau is surmounted, there is a choice of route, with the cairns of the north-west spur lying to the right. These may as well be bagged en route as the effort it takes to do so is minimal. Then, bear back left around the rim of Bleaberry Comb below and keep going over High Stile’s other candidate summit and on to Red Pike.

From this side, the third and last summit of the day really lives up to its name, with its scree runs appearing vividly red. However, don’t admire them too much as once you’ve made it to the summit, you are going to have to come down this way, and the first few minutes of the descent are quite unpleasant. Heavily eroded, loose, crumbly scree isn’t fun, however luridly coloured it might be.

Buttermere from the descent

View from the descent (dog not mine)

Beyond this, things improve with a more solidly engineered path going down to the tarn and onward to Buttermere, though the descent is longer than it looks as if it will be, as the path takes a detour to the east (this is obvious from looking at the maps in Wainwright). Some sections are likely to be slippery. But eventually you come down through Burtness Wood to the (now repaired) footbridge over Buttermere Dubs, and can follow the lane to the village, its pubs and bus stop.

Robinson

Robinson, with Blencathra in the background

Winter is coming commentary: It’s half-term week. Meaning it’s the last week in which the summer bus services run, including the essential #77 that snakes round the narrow lanes of Whinlatter, Lorton, Buttermere and Honister from Easter until late October each year. This is, at least, something that has improved slightly from Wainwright’s day, as he notes clearly in his “Personal Notes” at the back of The Western Fells that in 1965, summer services ended in mid-September. It’s always worth keeping an eye on the forecast at this time of year as there’s usually a couple of good days here and there, of which today was definitely one.

Gatesgarth

Gatesgarth Farm — the starting point.

Worktober is not as pressing as usual in 2019, because I have, for the first time in a decade and a half, shrugged off managerial responsibilities. I did a bit of work on Sunday and took the time today to get round to Buttermere and catch up on those awkward Western fells. Other than the descent off Red Pike, which is very awkward at first and generally did start to bother my knees, this is a fine walk. Even the public transport connections worked well enough: it still took me a long time to get there, but on the way home, for a change, things meshed well and I was back before 8pm, not bad going at all from Buttermere.

Still, there is something bothering me. The walk I did nearest to the Brexit referendum on 23rd June 2016 was walk 112 in the Langdale Pikes. Since then I have done nearly sixty walks and bagged 181 Wainwrights, or well over half a full round.

Walkers below Seat

Walkers below Seat. Haystacks in the left middle distance, Great Gable on the horizon.

In all that time no one has ever actually established what ‘Brexit’ means, what it will practically entail and what the consequences will be for your average person. Three years and four months have passed and we still do not know these things. And the reason why is simply because the Government — not the EU, not the Labour or other UK parties, but the Conservative Party, the party in power — have been too incompetent and too reluctant to clarify a goddamn thing. Following their disastrous (and, at the time, hilarious) attempt to solidify their power base with the election in 2017, where they managed to go from majority to minority government with a quick squirt of hubris, they have been vulnerable, and they (and their backers in the media’s lunaatic fringe) would rather take the whole country to the dogs than risk either another general election or referendum.

But there is a fundamental problem. There has been no resolution on Brexit because you can’t polish a turd. Brexit is a turd. It was a turd in 2016 and it is a turd now, a monumentally stupid idea that Britain has been led into like it was one of those awful Lakeland swamps, Mosedale say: by the time you realise you are surrounded by shit, you are out of reach of dry land — and your guide’s fucked off, been airlifted out to leave you to face the music.

High Stile and Ennerdale Water

High Stile, from the ridge. Ennerdale Water visible behind.

Brexit will take us out of a bloc in which we had rights, voting power, a mutual and vested interest, and throw this country and its land to the wolves. If you voted Leave — what did you think you were leaving to? What was the destination of your noble journey? I do not know what impact this pile of poo will have on the Lake District — possibly none. But there are also many futures in which the deletion of social, employment and environmental rights (those pesky things that Johnson and his cabal consider ‘red tape’) will have a devastating impact on the landscape that we love and our ability to enjoy it in the way we choose. And for what it’s worth I don’t necessarily think a change of governing party at this point would make a great deal of difference. Probably it would just lead to further rips in the social fabric.

Red Pike

View to Red Pike, showing why it lives up to its name.

As a landscape, I love this country, or perhaps I could say this island (and its satellites). And I like living here, on the whole. Believe me, my career has given me plenty of opportunities to leave in the past, and I’m still here. To express dismay at the current farce — led by an unelected buffoon, who has been sacked twice from (well-paid) jobs for lying, and is losing vote after democratic vote — is nothing more than bemusement, at the fact that my generation has now made it to power and is making such an enormous cock-up of it.

The next walk may or may not take place in the European Union. November some time.

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