Coast to Coast Walk 2018

Author: George Tod

This walk is illustrated with photographs. Click on small photo to enlarge in situ, or click caption to enlarge into new window.
Part 2 - Ennerdale to Patterdale


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Day 3 - Thursday 28th June 2018 - Ennerdale to Borrowdale via High Stile & Great Gable - 12.3 miles, 4690ft ascent

Accommodation - YHA Borrowdale in Longthwaite

After a good night's sleep and a good YHA breakfast I set off at 8.45 intending to take the high-level alternative route over Red Pike, High Stile and Haystacks. To me this is the highlight of the walk that most people miss by sticking to the easier route along the valley. The only problem is that it involves a steep 2000ft climb at the start and a lot of scrambling up and down peaks along the ridge. In the hot weather this is more of an effort but at a higher altitude there tends to be more of a cool breeze and somewhat lower temperatures.

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Ennerdale Water from ascent of Red Pike
Ennerdale Water from ascent of Red Pike
Lowes Water & Coast  from ascent of Red Pike
Lowes Water & Coast from ascent of Red Pike
Starling Dod and Ennerdale Waterfrom ascent of Red Pike
Starling Dod and Ennerdale Waterfrom ascent of Red Pike

After a couple of days of walking carrying a heavy pack, I was getting accustomed to the weight, but it was still a struggle up the steep climb. However, by taking it steadily I finally reached the ridge at the summit of Red Pike (755m). The views were stunning and some of the finest that Lakeland has to offer with bird's eye views over Buttermere Lake and Crummock Water as well as a whole panorama of the surrounding fells. After Red Pike, the main peaks along the ridge are High Stile (807m) and High Crag (744m) but there is not a lot descent and ascent between them, making it fairly easy walking especially when being inspired by such amazing views. There then follows some rather slower walking with the the way becoming more craggy and a steep descent down to Seat (561m) and another steep descent to Scarth Gap (450m) before the final climb up Haystacks (597m).

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Crummock Water from Red Pike
Crummock Water from Red Pike
Bleaberry Tarn and Buttermere from Red Pike
Bleaberry Tarn and Buttermere from Red Pike
Crummock Water and Buttermere from Red Pike
Crummock Water and Buttermere from Red Pike

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High Stile from Red Pike
High Stile from Red Pike
Bleaberry Tarn from Chapel Crags
Bleaberry Tarn from Chapel Crags
Bleaberry Tarn and Crummock Water from Chapel Crags
Bleaberry Tarn and Crummock Water from Chapel Crags

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Bleaberry Tarn and Crummock Water from Chapel Crags
Bleaberry Tarn and Crummock Water from Chapel Crags
Red Pike from Chapel Crags
Red Pike from Chapel Crags
Buttermere Village from High Stile
Buttermere Village from High Stile

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High Crag from High Stile
High Crag from High Stile
Buttermere from High Stile
Buttermere from High Stile
Crummock Water and Buttermere from High Crag
Crummock Water and Buttermere from High Crag

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Haystacks and Great Gable from High Crag
Haystacks and Great Gable from High Crag
High Crag from Seat
High Crag from Seat
Crummock Water and Buttermere from Seat
Crummock Water and Buttermere from Seat
Haystacks itself is even more craggy with rocky ridges requiring some scrambling and meandering to negotiate. This makes progress quite slow but it is a fascinating area of tranquility surrounded by high mountains and it is easy to see why it was one of Wainwright's Favourites places. After passing a small tarn and crossing a small ridge, Innominate Tarn could be seen further down. This is a rather strange name in that it means 'not named' so rather than just having no name, like many other small tarns, its lack of a name has become its name! Beside the tarn itself it is even more peaceful and this was where Wainwright wanted his ashes to be scattered. Black Sail Youth Hostel gets its water supply from the stream coming from Innominate Tarn, so it can be said that a lot of hostellers have a bit of Wainwright in them!

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Crummock Water and Buttermere from Seat
Crummock Water and Buttermere from Seat
A small Tarn on Haystacks
A small Tarn on Haystacks
Innominate Tarn from Haystacks
Innominate Tarn from Haystacks

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Great Gable & Kirk Fell from Haystacks
Great Gable & Kirk Fell from Haystacks
Innominate Tarn where Wainwright's Ashes were scattered
Innominate Tarn where Wainwright's Ashes were scattered

Despite the going being slow, I was enjoying it all the way. I now had to decide whether to take my other option of climbing Great Gable. This is nothing to do with the Coast to Coast walk but it is where I proposed to my wife Jean 46 years ago. Whenever I am nearby I try to climb it for old times' sake. It was the first and last mountain that she ever climbed. I knew that this was likely to make me late getting to the hostel and that I might not be in time for a meal, but I was having a good time walking so I went for it anyway.

As I was making my way towards Brandreth, I met a Canadian couple who were also walking the Coast to Coast but with light packs, using one of the baggage transfer companies. They were quite surprised that I had not only walked the high-level route with a full pack but also that I was making a detour to climb Great Gable as well and looked upon me as some 'Old man of the mountains'. They bade me farewell with their best wishes and I headed towards Great Gable whilst they headed towards Borrowdale.

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Green Gable and Great Gable from Brandreth
Green Gable and Great Gable from Brandreth
Buttermere and Crummock Water from Brandreth
Buttermere and Crummock Water from Brandreth
Ennerdale from Brandreth
Ennerdale from Brandreth

The one bonus of taking a detour like this is that I didn't need to carry my pack as I would be going to the summit and back again. The first time I walked the Coast to Coast in 1992 I left my pack by a stone and when I returned it had gone. There was nothing else to do but carry on to the Youth Hostel but on the way, somebody asked me if it was my pack that had been found. Apparently, some chap thought it was lost and had found my YHA card so taken it to Honister Youth Hostel. However, I was not booked in there, so they passed it on to the police. I continued to Borrowdale Youth Hostel and the police eventually brought it back to me there. It still begs the question as to how somebody can think a rucksack is lost. Do they think it just fell off without me noticing it had gone! Now whenever I leave my pack I put a note on it just to be on the safe side.

The ascent of Green Gable then Great Gable was easy from this side as I was already at about 2000ft above sea level and the only fairly steep climbing was on the final part of the ascent of Great Gable. There is a good view over Wastwater from the summit but despite the sunny weather, it was rather hazy, especially looking towards the evening sun. I also noticed that the plaque on the summit has been removed. This was to commemorate those from the nearby area who had lost their lives in World War I and this is still shown as 'Meml' on the latest O.S. maps. However, in recent years such things have been discouraged on the mountain tops, probably to avoid an excessive number appearing.

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Styhead Tarn from Brandreth
Styhead Tarn from Brandreth
Hazy View of Wast Water from Great Gable
Hazy View of Wast Water from Great Gable
Borrowdale Youth Hostel
Borrowdale Youth Hostel

It was apparent that I would be quite late arriving at Borrowdale Youth Hostel by my planned route of re-joining the Coast to Coast route towards Honister. Had I thought this through a bit more, I could have taken a more direct route to Borrowdale to reach there earlier had I not left my pack on the way back to Honister, but it was too late to think about that now and I made my way back as quickly as possible. I later checked on the map and it would only have saved about three quarters of a mile so it was not as much as I thought, and I would have had about 3 miles more carrying my pack. As I approached the slate mines at Honister, a chap greeted me, asking if I had seen a lone walker on Brandreth as he was supposed to be meeting him. On the way back, I had skirted round the summit but had just been able to see someone taking a rest there. The only feature visible from where I was looking was a pair of knees sticking high in the air as he was laying on his back, so he must have been quite tall and slim. There were very few people about at the time, so he may well have been the one he was looking for and the description seemed to fit. He had already been up to the summit earlier and didn't particularly want to go up again unless he had a definite reason to believe he was there.

I hurried along as quickly as I could, but it was rapidly approaching the time when the hostel stopped serving meals, which was 7.30 and it was 7.40 before I reached the hostel. They were, in fact, still serving meals when I arrived but I was stuck at reception behind a couple of women who were discussing a possible future booking for about ten minutes, completely oblivious of anyone else in the queue, so meal orders were well and truly finished before managed to get to the reception desk. I checked in, had a quick shower and had to think about where I could get something to eat.

There were a couple of places not too far away where meals were available, and I chose Stonethwaite as the one that seemed the nearest. It was quite busy with a lot of people ordering meals and drinks for the tables outside as well as those inside. I found a table near the bar and ordered a desperately needed pint of bitter whilst looking at the menu to find that the cheapest main course was 14 with many things nearer to 20. That is the Lake District for you. I ordered salmon at 15 and had quite a long wait because they were so busy. Despite having drunk a lot of water on the way, both from my water bottles and from streams, as well more at the hostel, I was still dehydrated, but was reluctant to pay for more beer when the price list showed it as 2.50 for a half pint (though the full pint was charged at 4.50 on my bill). Water was about 2 or 3 so I decided to go to the gents to get a drink from the wash basin only to discover that the only water in there was a spray of hot water for hand washing.

I returned disappointed to my table and then my meal arrived. In fairness, it was a work of art that would not have looked out-of-place in a Master Chef competition, but this is not what I was looking for at the time. Furthermore, because I was still so dehydrated, I found it very difficult to eat the food and didn't enjoy it at all as I tried to force it down. In different circumstances, I am sure it would have been delicious and perhaps the cost of another pint would have been worth it to make the experience enjoyable. Recently, there has been a big push for establishments to provide free tap water on request but in the past the only water served in many places was mineral water at high prices. I didn't actually ask the question so do not know what the response would have been.

Returning to the hostel I went to bed for a well-earned rest after a strenuous but very enjoyable day.


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Day 4 - Friday 29th June 2018 - Borrowdale to Grasmere - 8.8 miles, 2580ft
Evening - Hostel to Helm Crag and back - 3.6 miles, 1110ft ascent

Accommodation - YHA, Butharlyp Howe

It was quite busy in the hostel with a large school party who were just leaving. I set off up the long valley of Stonethwaite Beck which is a gentle climb at first but gets steeper as it goes along. I had got myself thinking that this was going to be a leisurely day with plenty of time to spare, so that I could rest whenever I felt like it. It may have been more leisurely than yesterday, but was still the equivalent of climbing Snowdon from Pen y Pass in a heat wave on more difficult paths whilst carrying my 12 month-old granddaughter on my back!

I made my way from the hostel, crossing the River Derwent into the village of Rosthwaite, which was the other place I could have tried for a meal last night, then crossed Stonethwaite Beck and followed it upstream along an easy track, then along a steeper path towareds Greenup Gill and an even steeper path up to Lining Crag. Although it was very hot, there was at least some breeze higher up to make things easier.

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Eagle Crag from Stonethwaite
Eagle Crag from Stonethwaite
Sergeant's Crag from Greenup Gill
Sergeant's Crag from Greenup Gill
Looking back down Greenup Gill towards Stonethwaite Beck
Looking back down Greenup Gill towards Stonethwaite Beck

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Back to Eagle Crag from ascent of Lining Crag
Back to Eagle Crag from ascent of Lining Crag
Honister from Lining Crag
Honister from Lining Crag
Scafell Pike from Lining Crag
Scafell Pike from Lining Crag

There were some beautiful views looking back down the valley from higher up, particularly from Lining Crag. Another couple were going the same way and we kept meeting up and chatting along the way. At Greenup Edge, the highest point of the day at about 2000ft (610m), I settled down to eat my packed lunch and did a bit of sunbathing but then fell asleep. I still wasn't worried about the time and made my way onwards. After dropping down to Brownrigg Moss with its small tarn, I opted for the high-level route over the crags as I had done before, rather than down the valley and this takes more effort as well as making progress much slower over the rough, craggy outcrops. The main crags are Calf Crag (537m), Gibson Knott (422m) and Helm Crag (405m) but there are nummerous small ups and down in between. At 6.00 I had just started to come down from Helm Crag, which towers over Grasmere, when my phone rang. It was my wife Jean saying that the hostel had rung wondering where I was and wanting to know what I wanted for my meal at 6.30 (generally evening meals are at 7.00 but this can vary from hostel to hostel. When there are groups of children staying they often opt for earlier times. Orders are required 30 minutes in advance). I rang the hostel and they said they would keep my meal for me if I were late, so at least I was assured that I wouldn't have a repeat of yesterday with another expensive meal in this very popular tourist area.

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Grasmere Common and Far Easedale
Grasmere Common and Far Easedale
Calf Crag from Brownrigg Moss
Calf Crag from Brownrigg Moss
Tarn at Brownrigg Moss
Tarn at Brownrigg Moss

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Gibson Knott, Helm Crag and Grasmere
Gibson Knott, Helm Crag and Grasmere
Grasmere (telephoto shot)
Grasmere (telephoto shot)
Gibson Knott
Gibson Knott

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Helm Crag
Helm Crag
Rocks on Helm Crag
Rocks on Helm Crag
Rock Formation on Helm Crag overlooking Grasmere
Rock Formation on Helm Crag overlooking Grasmere

I then started going on my way but realised my GPS was nowhere to be seen. I must have dropped it when I was fumbling in my pocket to answer the phone. I was on a steep bracken-covered hillside and I just couldn't find where it had gone despite going up and down the path and rummaging around in the bracken. I couldn't afford to search any longer so had to press on to the hostel without it and arrived at 6.50.

After having my meal I wasn't ready to give up on my GPS, so I decided to go back up Helm Crag to have a more thorough search, which involved about 4 miles of walking and a steep climb of over 1000 ft (305m). This was a lot easier without the weight of my rucksack and in trainers instead of boots, so I was able to climb quite quickly without many rests despite the steep path. I searched even more vigorously going up and down the path and hunting through more and more bracken but still had no success. I suspected that it may have bounced along down the steep hillside under cover of the bracken and may have gone a long way before coming to a halt. Eventually I had to abandon the search and headed back to reach the hostel at 10.00.

I had a pint and then decided to wash all the sweaty things I had been accumulating since the start, as the hostel had a good drying room. I eventually got to bed at 11.00. So much for a leisurely day. Despite it all though it was a very enjoyable day's walking.

Fortunately, I was not dependent on the GPS as I had a full set of maps, guidebook and compass but the GPS does make route finding a lot easier, especially with GPX files of the route loaded. I had not had this GPS for very long, having upgraded from my old Garmin etrex only a couple of years previously, but Jean didn't mind me losing it as it solved her problem of what to buy me for an anniversary present!


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Day 5 - Saturday 30th June 2018 - Grasmere to Patterdale via Helvellyn - 10.1 miles, 3090ft ascent

Accommodation - YHA, Patterdale

The hostel had a large school party in, so it was suggested that it would be wise to have breakfast at 7.45 to avoid the rush at 8.00. I then went to get everything ready and couldn't find my camera so unpacked everything to make sure I hadn't missed it. After losing my GPS yesterday I wasn't prepared for losing my camera as well. The last time I remembered seeing it was when I hung it on a peg in the shower, but it was no longer there. Fortunately, someone had handed it in to reception which was a great relief, but it helped to delay my start to 9.45. It was another hot day, but I was quite used to that by now and I had planned a different strategy with water. Rather than waiting until I was very thirsty before drinking, knowing that there would be plenty of mountain streams along the way, I would drink my fill whenever I felt like it and top up from a stream, keeping some in reserve for where there were none. This way I would avoid dehydration and would feel a lot better. This seemed to work well and I also carried a small bottle in my hand so I could have small sips at regular intervals without having to take my pack off each time.

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Towards Grisedale from Thorny How Bunkhouse
Towards Grisedale from Thorny How Bunkhouse
Back to Helm Crag from Tongue Gill
Back to Helm Crag from Tongue Gill
Back down Tongue Gill towards Grasmere
Back down Tongue Gill towards Grasmere

There is more than one optional high-level route, the other option being over St Sunday Crag, which is the one to take if you like peace and quiet away from the crowds that head for Helvellyn. However, as I was more or less following my 1992 route, I stuck the Helvellyn route, crowds and all. The initial climb was up to Grisedale Tarn and was quite steep in parts but a steady plod with frequent short rests got me up there and I was now saved from constant thirst despite the heat. I mistakenly took a slightly different route to Grisedale Tarn (now feeling the loss of my GPS), going up the west side Great Tongue instead of the east side so I started to get slightly confused but soon realised what had happened, which didn't make a lot of difference. There were lots of people about as it was Saturday, so all the weekend walkers were out heading for Helvellyn which is a very popular mountain, being one of the few Lake District mountains over 3000 ft as well as having the challenging ridge of Striding Edge which is akin to Crib Goch in Snowdonia. Helvellyn it is not as high as Scafell Pike, being 950m as opposed to 977m, but I think the views are better and access is quicker and easier for people, which adds to its popularity.

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Grisedale Tarn and Dollywaggon Pike
Grisedale Tarn and Dollywaggon Pike
Back across Grisedale Tarn from ascent of Dollywaggon Pike
Back across Grisedale Tarn from ascent of Dollywaggon Pike
Mountain Biker ascending Dollywaggon Pike
Mountain Biker ascending Dollywaggon Pike

As I came over the ridge to Grisedale Tarn there was a lovely cool breeze giving welcome relief from the heat. A few people were headed for other mountains, but most were heading the same way as me. After walking past the tarn came the steep zigzag path to Dollywagon Pike which is at the start of the Helvellyn ridge. With anything like this it is just a matter of taking plenty of small rests and eventually the summit comes into sight. I was passed on the way up by two chaps carrying mountain bikes which, strange as it may seem, is quite common these days.

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Grisedale Tarn from Dollywaggon Pike
Grisedale Tarn from Dollywaggon Pike
Grisedale and Ullswater from Dollywaggon Pike
Grisedale and Ullswater from Dollywaggon Pike
St Sunday Crag from Dollywaggon Pike
St Sunday Crag from Dollywaggon Pike

The views on the way up were good but on the ridge there are even better views over Ullswater and down Grisedale to Patterdale and there was an easterly wind coming over the top which was most welcome. As I got to the top a couple waved at me. I had met them several times previously, so I joined them on the fine spot they had picked with a view down the valley. They had had a swim In Grisedale Tarn and said it wasn't too cold despite being over 1500 ft above sea level. It was time for lunch, so I had mine whilst they went on ahead.

Once on the ridge of Dollywagon Pike (830m), it is quite an easy walk over the other summits of High Crag (884m) and Nethermost Pike (891m) to reach Helvellyn which is very flat topped, so much so that small aircraft have landed and taken off from there. There were a lot of people around but because there was plenty of space to spread out it was nowhere near as bad as Snowdon is on a sunny weekend. On the ridge there was a cool refreshing breeze, which made a pleasant change from all the heat.

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Fairfield from Dollywaggon Pike
Fairfield from Dollywaggon Pike
Striding Edge from Dollywaggon Pike
Striding Edge from Dollywaggon Pike
Grisedale from Dollywaggon Pike
Grisedale from Dollywaggon Pike

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Helvellyn Summit
Helvellyn Summit
Red Tarn and Striding Edge from Helvellyn Summit
Red Tarn and Striding Edge from Helvellyn Summit
Swirral Edge and Ullswater from Helvellyn Summit
Swirral Edge and Ullswater from Helvellyn Summit

There is a bird's eye view of Red Tarn in the middle of the Helvellyn horseshoe with Swirral Edge on one side and Striding Edge on the other, both of them being very steep sided ridges. As I looked down on Striding Edge quite a way below the masses of people looked like a swarm of ants crawling all over the ridge and trying to pass each other in tight places. This is one of the drawbacks of being here at a weekend in glorious weather. From the top it looks quite daunting as there is an almost vertical drop of a few hundred feet but there are lots of good hand and foot holds so it is not too difficult so long as you have a good head for heights. The rest of the ridge has numerous possible paths, again with plenty of things to hold on to, so apart from being slow going it is neither difficult nor dangerous.

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Shelter near Helvellyn Summit
Shelter near Helvellyn Summit
Red Tarn and Striding Edge from Helvellyn Summit
Red Tarn and Striding Edge from Helvellyn Summit
Walkers far below on Striding Edge
Walkers far below on Striding Edge

It was still quite a way to Patterdale but the long path to there wasn't too steep. Having been caught out by meal times in other hostels, I was trying to avoid any problems with dinner, so hurried as much as I could to arrive at 6.00 only to find that there was no rush as it was served at 7.00. I sat with a group of four other hostellers who were all very keen mountain climbers, so the conversation was very interesting with a couple of them having climbed large numbers of the Munroes in Scotland as well as many others.

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Red Tarn and Catstye Cam from Striding Edge
Red Tarn and Catstye Cam from Striding Edge
Red Tarn and Helvellyn from Striding Edge
Red Tarn and Helvellyn from Striding Edge
Path down Grisedale towards Patterdale
Path down Grisedale towards Patterdale

Once again this had been a very enjoyable day in brilliant weather, though the heat took its toll in places where there was no breeze to help keep me cool. However, up on the high ridges it was somewhat cooler and very pleasant.


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