This is a fantastic circuit around the head of Wasdale on generally quiet fells, Great Gable being the obvious exception, with equally fantastic views both towards Lakeland and out across the Irish Sea.
The first two thirds of this route is part of the very first recorded long distance walk in the Lake District by the Reverend J. M. Elliot in 1864. This is considered the first step of the various long distance walks that eventually led to the Bob Graham Round.
One December when training for the Bob Graham, four of us headed to Wasdale to recce this section. It was raining heavily as we set off and it's the only time I've started a run wearing full waterproofs. As we gained height on Yewbarrow the rain got colder and colder and at the summit wet snow lay on the ground. By the time we got to Red Pike it was dry firm snow. Getting out to Steeple was positively Alpine, or would have been if there had been anything to see rather than the white out we were experiencing. The only people we saw all day were three walkers on Pillar, there was no-one on Great Gable and by the time we got to Brandreth we'd had enough of being battered by the wind, hail and rain and cut back along Moses Trod.
As we headed down to Wasdale via Gavel Neese someone piped up: "If I'd been on my own today, I wouldn't even have set off", "Neither would I" the other three of us replied. Sometimes you just have to put the effort in.
Pillar sunrise on a winter Bob Graham Round
metres / Distance
NY1824207502 From the car park head out to the road, turn left, then go through a gate marked 'private' and exit the field by a stile in the fence next to where the beck flows down.There now follows a party political broadcast by the steep party! Just keep heading upwards, keeping to the right of the beck until the angle eases and you can head for the summit.Head along the ridge towards Stirrup Crag.
NY1750508706 At the depression in the ridge there's a small cairn marking the start of a vague path leading down and left towards Dore Head. This avoids the rocky steps of Stirrup Crag so follow this then begin another long pull up to Red Pike the summit of which seems to sit on the edge of nothing.Skirt round Scoat Fell on grassy slopes to head out along the narrow ridge to Steeple.
NY1573811688 From Steeple head back along the ridge and follow the edge northwards to a broad grassy area just before Black Crag. The easiest way here is to take a very vague trod on the Wasdale side which leads to Wind Gap. If you can't find it just go over the top. There's now a steep pull up to Pillar before a long descent to Black Sail Pass.
NY1915411370 The climb up to Kirkfell is easiest if you follow the line of the old fence up the ridge though there is one tricky step at the top. Once on the plateau it's easy going until the rocky descent to Beck Head.The last big climb of this section is perhaps the roughest but once the summit of Great Gable is gained then it's (nearly) all downhill.
NY2115110378 Head down to Windy Gap and make the short climb up to Green Gable. The ground now becomes much easier and more runnable and the climb to Brandreth is easy in comparison to what has gone before.Now follow the fence to Grey Knotts, the summit is on the rocky outcrop to the east of the fence.Rather than follow the fence down to Honister, bear left on to grass and descend easy ground until you can join a narrow ridge descending by a beck. This leads to the quarry track about 200m west of the YHA building at the top of the pass.
Start National Trust car park at Brackenclose at Wasdale Head, NY181075; Finish Honister Pass, NY224136
Nearest town: Gosforth
Terrain: This section offers the full range of Lakeland terrain - grassy ridges and the occasional bog to boulder fields and airy rocky ridges.
Most of the climbing is done on the first two peaks and once Dore Head is left the only time you drop below 600m is at Black Sail Pass.
Navigation is generally straightforward, the only difficulties are likely to be around Brandreth in mist.
Seasonal variations: The best running lines can become very tricky in winter conditions and slight variations will be necessary.
Public transport: There is none to Wasdale Head but there is a bus service (#77 - http://www.cumbria.gov.uk/roads-transpor... ) to Honister.
It is possible to make a loop of this from Honister by heading to Wasdale via Moses Trod and Gavel Neese then heading back by the described route.
Definitely not. Even though my excuse for not entering the Lakeland 100 was that I'd rather do a BGR. And I figure that the rate my knees are wearing out, if I'm ever to do one it'll need to be soon...