A common man marvels at uncommon things. A wise man marvels at the commonplace. CONFUCIUS

Wednesday, 30 July 2008

Half A Horseshoe




On the Wednesday I picked an ambitious high level route: The Mosedale Horseshoe. This classic walk began at the Wasdale Head Inn just beyond my campsite. I set off at 10 am, passing this shapely, old stone bridge on the way (1st pic). At the foot of Kirk Fell you join a bridleway which heads north into the remote and beautiful valley of Mosedale (2nd pic). At once you feel that you've left civilization behind. Mosedale Beck meanders along the valley floor to your left and a semi-circle of fells towers above. Soon I forded Gatherstone Beck - an easy stream crossing - and climbed to the summit of Black Sail Pass, where some other walkers were pausing for a rest. Then it was onwards and upwards - to the first 'nail' of the horseshoe: Looking Stead at 627 m. From here you could see the lonely Black Sail Youth Hostel at the head of steep-sided Ennerdale - which is now being stripped of its ugly conifer plantations, thank goodness. Just beyond the Youth Hostel you could make out very clearly in the shadowed sunlight an area of domed glacial moraines. I think these are called 'drumlins', or 'basket of eggs topography' - because they look just like eggs in a basket.

Not long after this there was a choice of routes up to Pillar (892 m), the next and the highest summit of the horseshoe: the direct path up the ridge (steep at first but then the angle lessens) or the much longer and more arduous High Level Route via Pillar Rock. On the spur of the moment I recklessly went for the latter, more difficult route. You really had to concentrate on where to put your feet on this high, vertiginous path clinging to Pillar's northern crags. It eventually deposited you at Robinson's Cairn and at the foot of a scree slope which led steeply up to the Shamrock Traverse and Pillar Rock (3rd pic shows part of Pillar Rock and the view down into Ennerdale). I was pausing more and more often to regain my breath, it must be said. I rested for quite a while overlooking Pillar Rock and watched some climbers preparing for an ascent. The final scramble up to Pillar was exhilarating but tiring. Again I made frequent stops. The summit was wreathed in mist - and mist enveloped the next part of the route across Scoat Fell and Red Pike. I felt my energy draining away. So I abruptly changed my plans and decided to descend the ridge back to Looking Stead rather than carry on round the horseshoe. And this I did - and half-way down all the mist evaporated, and it became a perspiringly warm and clear afternoon.

6 comments:

Blabberon said...

Very nice post. Very interesting country you are hiking in.

Great photos.

Thanks

The Solitary Walker said...

Thanks so much for your comments and glad you liked the post. I fear my photos are just snaps really compared with many of those on your own blog.

The Lake District in NW England is stunningly beautiful and I never tire of going there.

GeoffC said...

A great day out there, and a reminder to me to revisit the high-level route next time I'm in that part of the Lakes. No doubt there's a good reason why the high-level route is so called when it's lower than the main route...

Actually the full Mosedale horseshoe includes Kirk Fell, as it must, since the monstrous slopes of the mountain form one whole side of the valley. That direct climb to Kirk Fell from Wasdale Head is a right bruiser with no respite at all.

The Solitary Walker said...

I contemplated that Kirk Fell route, Geoff - for a few seconds! Then I thought - no way! Also I was following the Nuttalls' route from their 'Mountains of England and Wales' book. That's my excuse, anyway. If I'd done Kirk Fell first, I don't think I'd have had the energy for that short but energetic gully scramble up to Pillar..!

Mark Alvarez said...

My daughter and I did the Mosedale Horseshoe a few years ago, and it was one of our great days out. Thanks for bringing back the memories...and the fatigue!

The Solitary Walker said...

Though often the fatigue seems to get mysteriously eradicated in one's memories, doesn't it Mark!?