Route: Haystacks

Area: Western Lake District

Date of walk: 24th November 2023

Walkers: Andrew and Phil

Distance: 5.6 miles

Ascent: 1,900 feet

Weather: Mostly sunny, bitterly cold on the tops

Haystacks was the favourite fell of Alfred Wainwright and it’s mine too – it’s a fascinating place and there’s always something new to see. We parked in the car park at Gatesgarth Farm (note the parking fee is currently £4, cash only). We walked through the farm and crossed Peggy’s Bridge at the head of Buttermere. The climbing starts below a small triangular shaped copse, and from here we followed the easy path up to Scarth Gap

Beyond Scarth Gap the going gets much steeper and rockier, and there are are five or six scrambly sections up rock steps where hands are needed. There are no dangers and it’s an enjoyable clamber. A final steep section brought us to the summit. We both felt a sense of achievement – Phil has happy memories of this place, but hasn’t been here for many years and I was relieved to be back again having undergone a knee replacement in February. It was wonderful to be here after having doubts that I’d ever see this place again. The summit area is a fascinating place full of bumps and hollows, with different views from each, though the wind chill today made conditions bitterly cold so we didn’t linger for long

A direct descent from the summit is impossible and it’s necessary to walk across some complicated knobbly terrain – Haystacks is a bad place to be if lost in mist. As Wainwright puts it ‘the only advice that can be given to a novice lost on Haystacks in mist is that he should kneel down and pray for safe deliverance’. There was no mist today and so we aimed for the contradiction in terms which is Innominate Tarn and continued to follow the path in the direction of Dubs Quarry. Eventually we arrived at the first of the two possible descent paths to Warnscale Bottom, and chose this for the descent. The alternative path is easier but a little further on and follows the far side of Warnscale Beck. Both paths meet up at valley level, and both provide a safe way down, with lovely views ahead along Warnscale Bottom and Buttermere for most of the way

It was another wonderful visit to this special place 

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