Nether Wasdale Gathering – Day 1, Pillar   6 comments

It was that time of year, time for the annual May Day gathering of the old Manchester University Class of 86/78 etc and accompanying families. The Tartan was washed, old stories dusted down and rehearsed and we were ready to go. After last years epic weekend it was a done deal that we were to return to Chapel Stile in Nether Wasdale. As lovely a “proper” campsite as you can get and as it’s slightly away from the main walking areas, reasonably quiet and unspoilt. To be honest I wasn’t looking forward to it as much as usual. The weather the previous few weeks had been so appalling that I wasn’t really enthused with the idea of spending a weekend cooped up in a tent with some grumpy kids (and a grumpy Jane). I need not have worried, whilst it was unseasonably cold at night with frosts there was plenty of sunshine on hand and little rain. The kids as always disappeared off to play and I barely saw them all weekend. Gave me a chance for some proper Lake District walking.

I’d seen a blog post recently about the High Level Traverse on Pillar – I’d not been up that way for several years so I thought it was time for a revisit

8.1 miles, 3,900 feet of ascent

After a leisurely breakfast and extended period of faffing about we were ready to set off. We convinced ED that he should join us although having been out of action for the past few months with a damaged Achilles he wan’t suer he could keep up. In the end he was in fine shape and only a daft and unnecessary steep descent caused him any grief. The eponymous Uncle Fester also joined us together with GM and S to make a happy gang of 5 setting of at the early hour of 11:30

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Kirk Fell & Great Gable

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Mosedale Beck

We parked up just south of the Wasdale Head and enjoyed the first stroll along the river under blue skies but a keen and cold wind. Me and GM decided it was time to air the winter whites of our legs which makes the weather look somewhat warmer than in fact it was. Still it was great to feel the sun after weeks of rain and we lapped up the delights of Mosedale in the morning – sorry, afternoon – warmth.

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Mosedale, Scafell behind

As we approached Black Sail pass the path crosses the stream and makes an ideal first lunch stop. I took out my little Jetboil for a brew while ED assembled his portable range cooker. I didn’t know gas burners came that big! As always lunch was an epic affair – we just don’t believe in a basic fuel stop. Out of the wind it was warm so make the most I say.

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Lunch over time to move on

As always there were hills – well, hill to be climbed. Nice thing about Black Sail pass is the ascent is gradual with no steep slopes so you can plod upwards, chat and take in the views. On reaching the pass the views north and west were stunning, across to the Buttermere Fells and Ennerdale and Skiddaw and around to Hellvellyn.

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High Stile from Black Sail

From here a broad ridge climbs steadily to the summit of Pillar but we had a different objective. After climbing a short distance up the ridge a cairn marks the spot where the famous Pillar High Level Traverse leads off. A stunning narrow path that weaves amongst the northern crags of the mountain.

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Start of the high level traverse

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UF, Great Gable behind

The first few hundred yards are pretty eroded but it’s passable with care and eventually becomes a glorious easy walk amongst stupendous rock scenery. We did at one point lose the path that involved a greasy slimy down scramble for those too lazy to re-trace steps with the downside of a soggy bottom balanced by finding a nice icicle to play with (cue the usual SnS comment that Bruce Willis once killed someone with an icicle in a Die Hard movie)

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“…..and then he stabbed him like this”

The path continues to the prominent Robinson’s Cairn where the hardy are treated to one of Lakelands treasure views – Pillar Rock. Set in amongst dramatic crags it’s a fabulous place, almost feels manufactured for perfection.

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Pillar Rock from Robinsons Cairn

The sun was out and we were out of the wind, only one thing to do.

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” Lunch II – this time they mean business!”

I brewed up while ED launched the Space Shuttle and we settled down for another long stop. We were slighty bewildered by a couple of walkers deep in conversation who walked pretty much right through us almost treading on my sandwiches without so much as a “Hi” – where does this rate in hill etiquette I wonder. Onward and upward, we left our new friends behind with a slightly OTT cheery ta-ta (their turn to look slightly bewildered) and heading into the magnificent rock amphitheatre that holds Pillar rock.

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ED & UF on the traverse to Pillar Rock

The path traverses a broad rocky ledge that gives a real mountaineering flavour without ever being difficult, to reach the narrow neck between the rock and the crags behind.

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The ledge

GM gave us all some sport by climbing the little fore-peak of Pisgah while we tried to spot the famous Slab and Notch route to the top without success.

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GM showing off

From here its a steep walk/scramble to the top with some superb situations and views emerging dramatically on the vast summit plateau with a spread of grass large enough play a footy match on (your turn to fetch the ball).

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GM nearing the summit

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S on the skyline

The views were magnificent with the Isle of Man holding centre stage like a battleship ready for war in the Irish Sea.

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S poses on the summit

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Isle of Man

We didn’t linger as it was busy – Pillar is one of Lakelands finest and unsurprisingly popular – and as it was 4:30pm (we’d promised to be back by 4pm) we though we’d better head off. The day finished with a pleasant stroll along Pillars west ridge and an unecessary descent of some ludicrously steep grass to cut off the corner as alluded to earlier. The walk back along Mosedale in the evening sun was enchanting as we picked out wild camping spots.

Back to the campsite for that peculiarly British occupation of BBQ outdoors even though it’s freezing cold as we’ve bloody well brought the stuff so were going to enjoy it – right!

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“In the summer-time, when the weathers fine……”

You can read ED’s account of the day here and there are more Wasdale adventures to follow in the next post. For now enjoy the musical photo ensemble

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6 responses to “Nether Wasdale Gathering – Day 1, Pillar

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  1. It’s was a good day out that. We bloody well did enjoy the BBQ, just not the chilblains that followed.
    As ever I loved the slideshow.
    I once heard an interview on the radio with the captain of the Indian football team, I think he was in the reserves at Bolton, or Bury, or…..well, one of those Lancashire towns with a name beginning with B. He had grown up in the Himalayas, playing on a football pitch on a flatish area on the side of a very big hill. He said they lost a lot of balls…

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    beatingthebounds
    • Be a great, if exposed spot for a summit camp or bivvy in Pillar. Really had forgooten what an absolutely cracking mountain it is. This weekends BBQ was much warmer but hey, I’m a bloke and I love playing with fire

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  2. A superbly photographed report, it’s not easy to capture the nature of the high level traverse path (why is it called that?). Brilliant rock scenery that I barely remember now, hmm, just maybe worth another visit in spite of our recent disdain for the Lakes in general.
    Any plans to tackle Pillar Rock then?. We did it back in 1995 with a guide, wasn’t cheap.

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    • Thanks Geoff! Yeah it’s not exactly “high” but it is superb. I was surprised how quiet it was consdering how many people were on the top. I assumed it was a very well known and very popular route by now – perhaps our fashionably late start left it empty for us. I’d love to tackle Pillar Rock but even the scramble needs rope-work and I’m not sure I’d want to solo it or carry the climbing gear all that way!

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  3. Superb looking views there 🙂

    I was wondering what ED stood for – now I know!

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    • Thanks Chrissie! That nickname goes back nearly 30 years, so far I can’t actually remember why we called him that. I suspect it involved a very left-field, childish and beer influenced conversation in which we specialised back then. Safe to say the responsible father I know today is a world away from the original ED!

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