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Wast Water - Wander
Wast Water - Scafells
Wast Water
Patterdale - Helvellyn
Looking up Wast Water to Great Gable
Looking up Wast Water to Great Gable with its head in the clouds (Kirk Fell to the left)
Kirkby Stephen
Danby Wiske
Ingleby Cross
Clay Bank
Lion Inn

I had fairly big plans for today at the start of the trip (a traverse of the southern side of the Ennerdale valley over Great Gable, Kirkfell and Pillar) but the depressing weather put a stop to that. I emerged from my tent to low clouds swirling around about halfway to the tops. There would certainly be no views and the weather did not look like it would improve. Luckily it was not raining with only the occasional patch of drizzle sweeping up from the lake. So it was out with the map and soon I had an alternative walk planned out - a nice wander along the lake side with a ridge walk back to take advantage of any improvement in visibility.

Wasdale Head Type Phone
Wasdale Head Inn Hotel 019467 26229
Wasdale Head National Trust Campsite Campsite 019467 26220
Wasdale Head Campsite Campsite 019467 26229

I followed the country road to Wasdale Head back between it's stone walls and down to the head of the lake at Brackenclose. There I took a path that runs to the southern slopes of the dale and then forks - straight ahead, it climbs up the slopes (I would return this way) and the right-hand branch leads onto the lake shore. The shoreline is followed quite closely and interestingly all the way to the foot of Wast Water. A lot of the route is along the foot of the Wastwater Screes that fall down from Iligill Head (see the picture from the other side of the lake on this page Wastwater Screes ).

The best section is where a massive rockfall has left gigantic house-sized boulders piled up at the waters edge. The path climbs up and threads its way around them (and over a few smaller rocks) before regaining the shoreline. The rockfall has a bit of significance to me - I first saw it looming over the waters from the other side of the lake in 1988 in my first adult visit to Britain. I had stopped off in Windermere (staying in the Windermere Youth Hostel at Troutbeck) and had taken a mini-van tour of some of the remoter places in the Lakes.

The path reaches a meadow at the foot of the lake with a small stone building next to the water (maybe a pumping station) and the lake outlet just a bit further along the shore. This is a good spot for lunch even on a dull, overcast day. I could see the lower slopes of Great Gable rising up into the clouds at the head of the lake. From the back of the meadow, a path departs up the side of the ridge inside a green gully. This quickly breaks out into the moorland on top of the ridge (Whin Rigg) where good views await you. The Irish Sea looks just a stones-throw away over the patchwork of farmlands on the coast.

Wasdale, Kirk Fell and Great Gable from Ilgill Head
Wasdale, Kirk Fell and Great Gable from Iligill Head

The path climbs up the ridge through short-cropped grass - mostly sidling along the ridge side - until it reaches a small rock outcrop. At this point the ridge widens out and you can see the first top of Iligill Head before you. The path descends slightly to pass a tiny tarn and then climbs gently up onto Iligill Head. It is worthwhile to try to keep to the northern edge of the ridge for the panorama down to Wast Water's slate-gray water. The lake looks deceptively tiny from this lofty ridge. On the far side of Iligill Head, a long, sudden drop awaits you as the ridge dives down into a valley before rising steeply to Scafell.

In the valley there is a slight temptation - the long slopes rising to Scafell are in front of you. I do not remember seeing any paths climbing up these slopes but there seemed few difficulties on the grassy rise up onto the stony summit. However the final slopes to the top were hidden in cloud leaving a bit of doubt in my mind. Also this would not be the most dramatic approach to Scafell since you would miss the high crags on its other sides.

I took the path back down into Wasdale, soon reaching the fork where my lakeside walk started. A nice stroll up the dale got me back to my tent and a great meal at the inn.

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