Fleetwith Pike and Haystacks

Walk Date – 15th February 2019

Distance – 6.89

Weather – mild, dry and sunny with a constant strong wind


I was so disappointed and despondent at the end of today’s walk I considered deleting all the photos and consigning the walk to the list of things I wish I’d never bothered with in the first place. However, I had second thoughts today and decided to go ahead with it, warts and all. The photos themselves are fine but what they don’t show is the strength of the incessant wind, and by the time we got back down to Honister slate mine we were both thoroughly irritated and sick to death of being battered and blown every which way by it. Apart from the wind the day’s weather was mild and sunny which should have made for a really enjoyable walk. As things turned out it was anything but enjoyable and the entire walk was nothing more than a constant battle to maintain balance and remain upright. We had planned to return to the slate mine from Haystacks via Brandreth and Grey Knotts but on reaching Haystacks we abandoned that idea. Both of them are higher than Haystacks and Fleetwith with wide, flat summit areas and nothing much by way of shelter all the way across and we were in no mood to undergo a further battering. A good day was not had by either of us.


Honister Slate Mine – Drum House – Honister Quarries – Black Star – Fleetwith Pike – Dubs Quarry – Dubs Bottom – Little Round How – Blackbeck Tarn – Innominate Tarn – Haystacks – Innominate Tarn – Blackbeck Tarn – Green Crag – Little Round How – Dubs Bottom – Dubs Quarry – Drum House – Honister Slate Mine

At the slate mine things were quiet and relatively calm with only about half a dozen cars parked up by the time we arrived. I wandered over to the edge of the parking area high above the Honister Pass to take this shot of the slate figures standing guard above it and eternally gazing down along Gatesgarthdale. There was no hint down here of what the day held in store for us.

A short distance from the car park we leave the mine road and follow this track leading towards the dismantled rack railway. To begin with we thought the three figures on the path were walkers just starting out up the path but as we reached them we saw that they were busy sweeping the path with hand brushes. We have seen this sort of activity once before when we walked up Threshthwaite Cove, there were three people doing the same thing then although I don’t know if these are the same three people. It seems to be an odd sort of activity. We kept meeting up with them here and there during the walk.

The old paths to the quarries on the slopes of Dale Head opposite. We’ve rounded the first bend in the path now and are heading up to the rock cutting beyond which is the path following the line of the old rail track. We always forget how steep this initial part of the path is and the cardio-vascular system definitely gets a good work-out.

Honister Crag on our right as we head towards the old winding house. Having emerged from the rock cutting we are now walking head on into the strong wind up the steep incline. Its a fight all the way along and we get to thinking that if its this strong below the rise what is it going to be like when we reach the flatter area around the old winding house.

We battle on, stopping every now and again to turn our backs to the wind to gain a brief respite from it. A view of Dale Head and its fearsome looking crags from one such stop.

We crest the rise and reach the remains of the old winding house where the wind is even stronger. I scurry down below the old walls to get my breath back for a moment or two after taking this shot. Another walker below us is also bending into the wind and fighting his way up.

We left the path at this point and headed over to the mine road in the middle foreground. Its a short and straightforward route across and we’ve turned side on to the wind so for a few minutes at least we haven’t got to walk straight into it. The solo walker behind us also stops at the winding house to get his breath back before heading over towards Grey Knotts.

We join the mine road and turn steeply upwards, head on into the wind once again. I took a look back, when we reached a flatter area, to where the craggy tops of Combe Head and the summit of Glaramara are peeping up on the right of the shot. There’s a lot of haze around today, the downside to the mild southerly air flow.

We leave the mine road once again and follow the grassy path leading up to Honister Crag. This was the most sheltered part of the whole walk thanks to the undulating nature of the terrain. We were in the lee of the rising ground to the left so we had a temporary, and very welcome, wind free few minutes. J was feeling very overheated by now so we stopped while he removed his jumper and got himself comfortable again. I had started out in just a t-shirt and jacket so I didn’t have the same problem. I’m usually the one who has to remove a layer.

Alongside the path is this weather station so, as  usual, J goes off to inspect it. Its what he does when pieces of machinery/equipment come into view. I’m content to get the camera out and take a shot across Brandreth to where Great Gable and Kirk Fell are dominating the skyline,

Behind me are layers of hazy fells. Nearest the camera is the long slope running between the slate mine and Grey Knotts, behind it are the craggy peaks of Glaramara. On the left of the shot, behind Glaramara is Rosthwaite Fell with Ullscarf in the distance on the left skyline. The weather station equipment having been inspected we carry on up to …..

….. Black Star, the summit of Honister Crag, where we are once again in the teeth of the wind and where nothing anyone could offer us would persuade either of us to stand on the very top of it today.

We retreat to a safer distance for a few shots from the summit area, this one of Robinson, on the other side of the pass, with Grasmoor behind it on the left.

Below us is the path we’ll follow over to the top of Fleetwith Pike.

The lovely view along the Buttermere valley from the summit of Fleetwith Pike. The waters of Buttermere and Crummock below with the High Stile group rising above them. It was much too unpleasant in the strong wind to spend any time enjoying the view though. To the new camera’s credit the image stabilisation/vibration reduction has worked a treat because holding the camera steady was impossible and all I could see in the viewfinder was a wildly shaking image.

J, hooded up for some protection against the blasting wind, on Fleetwith Pike.

We beat a hasty retreat from the summit cairn and found a relatively sheltered spot on the west side into which we scuttled like startled rabbits. Staying upright was hard work so it was with a good deal of relief that we were able to sit down for a few minutes in some degree of comfort and have a more than welcome coffee break. Across from us is the long sweep of Littledale Edge linking Robinson and Hindscarth …..

….. and a little further to the right is Hindscarth Edge linking Hindscarth and Dale Head.

A long zoom across Robinson for this skyline view of Grasmoor and Wandope and …..

….. an even longer zoom for a closer look at Mellbreak and Crummock Water.

Looking over my shoulder now for a close up of High Crag and High Stile with High Crag Buttress between the two.

More hazy fells as I look over my right shoulder for the view, across the slopes of Brandreth, of Green Gable, Great Gable and Scafell.

Another long zoom for a closer look at the distant Causey Pike with its distinctive knuckleduster top.

Time to do battle with the wind once again so we drop down off Fleetwith Pike and make our way down to Dubs Quarry.

We make our way through the old quarry workings …..

….. making for the mine road once again which will lead us over to Dubs Bottom through which Warnscale Beck is sinuously winding its way down to Buttermere.

Remember the path sweepers from the beginning of the walk? There they are again sheltering on the grass below the wall around Dubs Hut. It’ll need a zoom in to spot them though because they only appear as a small dark speck. We had a chat as we passed by, the lady asked us where we had been and when we said Fleetwith Pike she sort of screwed up her face and replied “Ooh that’s high”. Next question, where were we going? Haystacks and returning via Brandreth and Grey Knotts, that being the plan at the time. They were also going to Haystacks but I forgot to ask if they were planning to do any more path sweeping. We drop down to Dubs Bottom, cross Warnscale Beck and begin to climb the path over to Haystacks.

Another shot of that lovely view as we continue to struggle against the wind. I didn’t take as many photos today as I usually do because it was so unpleasant being bashed around while searching for good viewpoints and then finding it difficult to stand still long enough to take a decent shot if I managed to find one. I got fed up with the whole palaver eventually because it was simply too problematic to be bothered with.

A view across to Grey Knotts as we stagger and stumble our way over the Haystacks path.

White tops on the waves indicate the strength of the wind as Blackbeck Tarn sparkles in the sunlight. J and myself are a long way from sparkling now and we’re finding it all very tiresome. J hates being out in strong wind anyway so he’s already sick of it. as for me, I’m continually having to lean into the wind so my back pain is beginning to niggle.

Across the outflow of Blackbeck Tarn now and climbing up the rough path towards Innominate Tarn. A brief pause to allow a couple to come down past us gives me the chance to take another look at the view along the Buttermere valley. No mill pond reflections on either of them today.

J gives me a shout that all’s clear so off we go once more, only to stop again just a little further on to let another walker come down the path. Meanwhile I take a look back to Fleetwith Pike, on the left, and Little Round How on the right.

The wind is unabated as we reach Innominate Tarn and we’ve never seen the surface of the tarn so whipped up. In the distance Pillar is holding on to its familiar necklet of snow as usual.

Still pushing headlong into the wind we carry on up beyond the second tarn with no name and from a suitable viewpoint I take a look back at them. Haystacks is dotted with tarns of all shapes and sizes and one of the smaller ones can be seen just above and behind Innominate. The tarn nearest the camera appears to be lower than Innominate but it isn’t, its just a trick of the eye. Between this shot and the next we were asked for help by two middle-aged male walkers, one of whom had more than a hint of stress in his voice as he asked for directions. After asking him where he wanted to get to, which turned out to be Gatesgarth, where their car was parked, I asked him if he had a map so I could show him the way. No, he didn’t have a map but he’d made a few notes using Google maps on his phone, the main difficulty had been that those big piles of stones (i.e. cairns), which are supposed to show you the way, had disappeared somewhere along the route, and because things weren’t very well signposted they’d gone astray somehow and ended up climbing a lot of steep crags and going all over the place! That’s roughly how all their tale of woe was expressed. I got out our OS map, showed them exactly where they were and the route they should follow back to Gatesgarth and, as a fail safe, got him to take a picture of the route on his phone so he could keep referring to it as they went along.

The second tarn is temporarily out of sight as I look back to Innominate Tarn, Grey Knotts, Brandreth and Green Gable …..

….. and then across to Green Gable, Great Gable and Kirk Fell. Behind me are the last few yards of the path to the top of Haystacks so back I go to rejoin J for the last heave up. There was a solo walker, a retired gentleman I thought, sitting eating his sandwiches just off to the left and when we remarked on the ferocity of the wind he mentioned that it was worse up on the top. He’d been trying to take photos from the summit but had had to give up in the end because it was just too unsafe.

The small rocky ridge on the summit of Haystacks where the old iron fence post and small cairn mark the north end of the summit. On the skyline behind it are Grasmoor, Wandope, Crag Hill and Sail. J was in front of me on the approach path and as he stepped out onto the rocky platform he was almost blown over so he yelled for me not to bother. Too late though because I was just scrambling up to join him so I got a bashing too. We both clambered down again and in the lee of the platform searched for an alternative route up on to it. We managed it eventually but once up there it was impossible to stand up so I took this shot whilst being safely wedged in a gap between two of the rocks.

Below us a pair of walkers had just walked by, the man calling out to us that they were searching for somewhere to shelter from the wind like us. Well we weren’t exactly sheltered from the wind up here but, wedged in as we were, we weren’t in danger of being blown over. I didn’t even care to think about what it would be like on the top of High Crag today. A great deal more boisterous than it was over here I would imagine.

Still seated I looked across to Fleetwith Pike with Hindscarth and Dale Head on the skyline behind it. It was really unpleasant now, despite the lovely sunshine and the blue sky, and not at all inviting to prolong our stay so we crouched down, kept a low profile and clawed our way down to safety a few feet below the platform. We hunted around for sheltered spot to have a break and some refreshment but all in vain so we retreated back down the path where we did eventually manage to find refuge. While we were there we saw a few pairs of walkers head up towards the summit only for them to come back down quite quickly again and head back to the tarn. One of the walkers to go by us was part of the ‘path sweeper’ group mentioned earlier still carrying a small spade and brush in his hands. Up to the summit he went but came back down within minutes and then made his way back down to his two companions who had waited by Innominate Tarn. During this break we decided that Brandreth and Grey Knotts would only give us more of the same treatment so we amended the route to descend via Blackbeck Tarn instead.

On the way down from Haystacks we met the ‘path sweeper’ who had gone up to the top of Haystacks. He asked us if we had seen a rucksack on our way down but we hadn’t. He said he’d put it down beside the path before going up to Haystacks summit and now couldn’t find where he had left it. Fortunately I remembered seeing him coming up towards us on a different path as we were eating our lunch and so I suggested that he would probably find it on the path he used then instead of the one he was now on. The shot above shows where things had gone awry for him. Above the large island in the tarn there is a junction in the path and, as we did, he had taken the right hand path up to the summit. From the top though he had descended back to the tarn using the other path to the left of the junction and hadn’t realised that he had used two different paths, so his rucksack remained on the right hand path while he searched the left hand one. Happily for him we had also come down via the left hand path which was where we found him searching for the ‘lost’ rucksack, and also that I remembered which path he had used for his ascent. In the meantime we had returned to the tarn where his two companions were sitting enjoying the sunshine in a sheltered hollow whilst awaiting his return. We had a word and mentioned the search for the missing rucksack which greatly concerned the lady and brought her to her feet very quickly with anxious looks up the path to see if she could locate her companion. The other member of the party remained in his sunny refuge gazing at the screen of some electronic gadget or other. By the time we were over here the disorientated walker and the ‘lost’ rucksack were back together again and he was making his way back to join the other two members of the group. None of that has had the slightest impact on the wind speed so the tarn still has very ruffled feathers so to speak.

Leaving the tarn behind us we carry on over the rough grass and heathery terrain between Innominate and Blackbeck Tarns following the faint path winding its way around the various boggy bits.

Another one of the many tarns across the humps and bumps of Haystacks. Its a fascinating place and one of these days we ought to just spend a day up here exploring it in much greater detail than we have done so far. It will have to be on a much less windy day than it is today though because the wind is whipping at us regardless of the direction we are heading.

Blackbeck Tarn …..

….. where two of the walkers we saw trying to find shelter on Haystacks seem to have found what they were looking for here beside the tarn and have settled down for their lunch.

Down at the tarn’s outflow with our outward and return path snaking through the heather clad rise over on the right. The path rising to the left of the outflow is the one we followed earlier on the way up.

A very short diversion from the path, just before we get back to Little Round How, leads up to Green Crag from where there’s this view down to Warnscale Bottom and along the Buttermere valley. I had to sit down to take the shot and then shuffle off on my rear end back to the path.

Sunny Grey Knotts from the path leading us back down to Dubs Bottom. One of those big piles of stones, also known as cairns, is marking a junction in the path.

Down at the crossing of Warnscale Beck where the two walkers who were having lunch at Blackbeck Tarn have just crossed over and are heading over towards the path leading down to Gatesgarth. I wondered if the two lost chaps we met earlier had managed to find their way across here and back down to their car at Gatesgarth Farm.

We are back at the site of the old winding house at last and the wind still hasn’t eased one jot. Its been blowing over our right shoulders all the way from Dubs Quarry to here, my head is starting to ache now after the pounding it has taken today and my back niggle has developed into full blown pain with every step I take with my right foot, not a good sign.

Only when we got down to this point, in the lee of Grey Knotts, did we get any respite from the constant battering of the wind and it felt quite strange to be walking normally once again. We were both a bit dispirited, not to mention battle weary, after the constant pounding and more than a little downhearted that the incessant wind, the speed of which must have been in excess of 30 mph, had pretty much spoiled what, for us, would have otherwise been a very different walk on an absolutely beautiful day. A memorable day for all the wrong reasons and one we will be more than happy to forget.