Friday, 3 June 2016

Walk Around Buttermere Including Dodd, Red Pike, High Stile And High Crag

A beautiful walk around Buttermere including Dodd, Red Pike, High Stile, High Crag and three classic Wainwrights. This has to be one of the most picturesque Lake District walks and certainly one of my favourites.

Stunning views of Buttermere and Crummock Water offer a dramatic backdrop from more than 800 meters ascent. The terrain is good overall bar occasional descents on scree. Each peak has its own character and theres a 4th Wainwright opportunity, Haystacks, should time allow. We walked the waters edge to finish passing through Buttermeres little known underground pass.

Walk Around Buttermere Including Dodd, Red Pike, High Stile And High Crag Route

Starting point: Car park in Buttermere on roadside right as descending Newlands Pass before Saint James, nearest postcode CA13 9UZ 
Distance: 8 miles (Certain its longer but displaying GPS measure)
Time: 6 hours to 7 hours
Highest point: 806 meters
Difficulty: Moderate
Terrain: Two descents on scree and harsh climb at start, but largely good going
Highlights: 3 Wainwrights (Red Pike, High Stile and High Crag) stunning views of Buttermere and finish along the waters edge.
GPX Route: Download here

Below is a map of the route, its fully interactive. If you download ViewRanger simply click 'view route in full..' and from there 'get this route' and enjoy. You can sync to your phone app and just follow the route with no stress or navigation. Alternatively download the GPX route to upload and use with other apps.

Walk Around Buttermere GoPro Video

This video is best watched in high definition.

Blog & Photography

Months back Phil attempted this walk on a wet and windy day. Completing some of the hardest ascent he came undone before the approach to Red Pike, driving rain and gale force gusts forced him behind shelter with the sheep. Below you can see the approach to Red Pike's final ascent and the tarn he took shelter near, this time on a glorious Sunday morning.

I knew this circuit of Buttermere to be on Phil's bucket list and I have an itch to finish all the Wainwrights, so we both eagerly anticipated last Sunday, praying for good weather. Driving along the A66 mist shrouded the tarmac ahead, but within minutes we seemed to pass through a cloud into bright sunshine and (almost) clear blue skies.

Car abandoned roadside in Buttermere, we made tracks through town to the treeline and began our ascent. Some Wainwrights are a steady climb and great for breaking you into a days jaunt, but Dodd and Red Pike are the opposite. A steep, unrelenting ascent with few breaks until you reach the first summit plateau.

Above you can see the treeline we left behind, climbing stone stairs a steady flow of water trickled down the mountain side, birthed from Bleaberry Tarn.

The day was young and a light morning haze brought the feeling of an endless days walk ahead. Our view out to Buttermere and Crummock Water was spectacular, fluffy white clouds lined the sky with dancing white lines and the ever rolling visage of Lake District mountains.

Below you have our approach to Bleaberry Tarn, the first break in our ascent and a welcome rest. To the right our walk toward Dodd, the red mountain behind me is Red Pike, a tough ascent we'll cover soon. After climbing yet more stone steps we veered right along the track and followed its steady climb to Dodd summit. Rarely climbed in its own right this may not be a Wainwright but offers brilliant views to Red Pike and Buttermere.

Dodd summit is a small plateau but a grand panoramic of Buttermere, we settled down to rest and absorb the view before our attempt on Red Pike, the first of three Wainwright.

Red Pike, named for the colour of its dusty, scree ascent is a short distance from Dodd but could be a world away in appearance. The ascent sharpens quickly, grass turns to rock and rock to scree making for a tough climb and verging on dangerous in wet weather. Parts of the climb feel like Frodo's approach to Mordor, rocks line a dusty path sitting upto waist height on either side, the ascent hides a never ending peak.

Of course no volcano awaits, only a summit marker. Red Pike is a grand old peak, featuring a small shelter and more stunning views of Buttermere as seen above. From here we started out toward High Stile, a largely flat walk, the terrain a mix of grass and stone.

One mile separates Red Pike from High Stile and just 51 meters ascent. This was by far the easiest stretch and most enjoyable, while I remember decent views my GoPro failed to do them justice so we are left with just the summit. I am not 100% sure which marker is High Stiles, the pictures below were very close together and my map was not clear but I believe the smaller collection of stones bottom right is the official Wainwright summit.

In the background you should make out High Crag, the picture below shows our final Wainwright in all its glory. A gorgeous stretch of decent ground which offered the illusion of a ridge walk. Our views from here on out were brilliant to either side and approaching lunch the mist was clearing providing great visibility across the park.

The picture below is my favourite, it captures what made this day great. Good weather, great company and just two wondering soles hogging Buttermere. We would of course bump into the usual tourists with noisy kids and teenagers prating about, but the hour was still young and our ascent too high.

After more than one mile and a small descent we found High Crag summit, very similar to High Stile.

We had planned to complete four Wainwrights, our last being Haystacks, but grossly underestimated the track from here on out. I assumed the track would be level before making our final ascent, however, the picture below is what greeted us. After descending High Crag we had to pass over a false summit before descending almost all the way to ground level and only then start up Haystacks.

Descending High Crag was tedious but the false summit ahead (or behind going from the picture below) was worse. I slipped twice and Phil's knee was all but gone, the scree had taken its toll and we had to admit defeat. Haystacks could wait for another day.

The collection of rocks below marks our way back to Buttermere or start to Haystacks depending on your direction. Just before Buttermere bluebells try to grow, a stunning site when in full bloom I'm sure.

Now back on level ground we could pick up the pace as our disappointment washed away with the stream of water to Haystacks and Fleetwith. We made tracks across the far side of the lake and walked the waters edge. I'd heard of an underground pass below Buttermere and we experienced it for ourselves, the entrance pictured right below. Only a short pass but another feature to the day.

I leave you with two pictures across Buttermere lake showing both the Wainwright we missed and the three we completed. To the right you have Dodd, Red Pike, High Stile and High Crag. The left image shows Fleetwith and Haystacks as well.

Walk Around Buttermere Route Directions

 1) Park up in a small car park to right of road as descending Newlands Pass before Saint James. Nearest postcode CA13 9UZ. See picture below.

 2) Follow road into village veering off onto path near Bridge Hotel. Carry on taking track opposite 'The Fish' restaurant carrying on past gate.
 3) Turn right at fork passing over bridge and through gate, follow track into woods and start ascent.
 4) Pass through gate when woods end and follow path to left which starts ascending in a zigzag.
 5) After Bleaberry Tarn follow steps up to fork in track and turn right to towards Dodd summit.
 6) At Dodd summit marker turn back to fork in step 5 and turn right to ascend up the red scree of Red Pike.
 7) At Red Pike summit turn left and follow track keeping the view out to Buttermere on your left.
 8) Keep course for some time, this track will lead to High Stile and then take you away from the view of Buttermere toward High Crag.
 9) After High Crag you will descend to then ascend a false summit and descend once more. This final major descent will bring you to the foot of Haystacks. If time allows you may want to bag another Wainwright but this is a tough, timely ascent. To avoid simply turn left at the fork to descend toward Buttermere.
 10) As the treeline to your right ends, turn right toward the bridge, cross this and follow path to a farm. You will eventually open out onto Honister Pass, turn left to follow this main road back.
 11) Keep an eye to your left as the road branches off onto track, this is a much better route as it walks the waters edge, following this will take you back toward Buttermere itself and navigating back to the car park should be straight forward.
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