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The High Stile RidgeThe High Stile Ridge
by Derek Cockell - member 13

For much of the day the High Stile ridge, overlooking Buttermere valley, seems to be an intimidating prospect, being cast in its own shadow except for the early part of each morning.  In this case appearances are deceptive as a most rewarding walk can be enjoyed with tremendous views into the valleys on either side of the ridge, particularly into Buttermere and beyond to Crummock Water.

Buttermere village is the starting point for a number of excellent walks and the
day begins with a stroll along the southern shore of Buttermere where the views across the lake can be enjoyed at a leisurely pace.  Passing Sourmilk Gill, which in spate is an awesome sight, the path passes through Burtness Wood where you may be lucky to spot the shy red squirrel.

At the eastern end of the lake, the path rises to Scarth Gap, becoming rocky in its latter stages.  In days gone by, this was a well-used crossing en-route to Wasdale.  The remains of the old estate boundary fence can still be seen in the grassy hollow of the pass. 

The path rising to Scarth Gap

Having climbed up to 1400 feet there is still a thousand feet of climbing to be
done to attain the ridge.  This used to be an unpleasant scramble up the loose screes of Gamlin End, but thanks to the hard work of the National Trust and others, a new pitched path makes the going much easier these days.  In fact, AW so disliked Gamlin End that he searched for, and found, another route of ascent using a narrow rake he discovered in Burtness Comb.

Crummock Water seen from the lower cairn on High Stile

Once the summit of High Crag at 2443 feet is reached, the worst of the day’s climbing is over and the next two miles is a wonderful ridge walk of unfolding views.  Here is an imposing mountain landscape; Great Gable, The Scafells, the Pillar range and the wonderful ridges of the north western fells.  On reaching the summit of High Stile, at 2644 feet, the best views are to be enjoyed by dropping down the fell a short distance to a lower cairn.  In his Pictorial Guide to the Western Fells – High Stile 14,  Wainwright writes that …’the view becomes truly aerial, with an uninterrupted picture in depth from the zenith of the sky to the
rock on which one stands’.

From Red Pike, at 2479 feet, a direct descent can be made back to Buttermere if conditions have deteriorated, but there is one last delight in store.  By taking a descending path down the north-west ridge and arriving at Scale Beck, the impressive Scale Force waterfall can be seen – a favourite Victorian tourist spot.

Looking north-west from Red Pike

A boggy path leads to firmer ground by the eastern end of Crummock Water,
which returns to Buttermere where welcome refreshment can be found at the
end of a splendid walk.

The walk described starts and finishes at The Bridge Inn, Buttermere (NY 174169) and is 9.5 miles in length involving 3100 feet of ascent.  The three fells climbed
are described in detail in Book 7 The Western Fells. 

back to the Classics Walks index