5th May 2012

Walking the Lakeland Passes - Walk 12 - Black Sail Pass, Scarth Gap, Honister Pass and Styhead Pass


Walk Overview
Time 07.00 to 14.40
Duration 7 hr 40 min
Distance 15.5 mile
Ascent 4,600 ft
Walking with On my own
Wasdale Head - Black Sail Pass - Black Sail Hut - Scarth Gap - Gatesgarth - Honister Pass - Seatoller - Seathwaite - Styhead Pass - Wasdale Head
Fells visited
Directory places visited

Starting Point Information Centre
Car park, Wasdale Head

Wasdale can boast possession of the highest mountain, the deepest lake and the smallest church. What I'd like to do is add the busiest car park onto this list. During the summer months this is an incredibly popular place, particularly in June when the three peak walkers are out in force.

Unbelievable I know, but parking is actually free. This tiny hamlet also has a hotel / pub, a shop, a camp site and all the facilities you expect to find with it.


Route Map

I headed out on another passes walk today and this one took me over four different passes, into four different valleys and gave me a thoroughly enjoyable days walking. The two most notable things today were visiting the head of Ennerdale which is one of the Lake District's most magical places and on the way down Sty Head Pass I spent some time talking to a Lakeland legend.

Two heads in one picture; Wasdale Head and over in the distance is Illgill Head.

You can't have everything in life and on the bottom section of Black Sail Pass I'm afraid I didn't get any sunshine.

Never mind sun hat and sun cream as you'd expect to be using at this time of year, this section of the path actually had ice on it.

Red Pike and the Stirrup Crag end of Yewbarrow, taken just after eventually breaking out into the sunshime.

At the top of Black Sail Pass; the first one of the day.

A close up of Black Sail Hut.

Looking back up the top section of the pass.

Almost down to the head of Ennerdale now and you can see the path up to Scarth Gap over there on the opposite side of the valley.



Crossing the River Liza.

This view back up the pass shows that the distance isn't actually that great on this side. According to the times on the photos, it took about 30 minutes to get from the top of the pass to this point.

This is a view across the side of Pillar.

At Black Sail Hut; a fantastic location at any time, but even more so on a gorgeous morning like this.
I haven't checked the distance, but I reckon if the need had arisen, I could have walked home in about the same time it took me to get back to the car from here.

Looking back down Scarth Gap Pass, , ,
Green Gable, Great Gable and Kirk Fell are the three fells at the head of the valley.
  , , , and now looking up.

Scarth Gap summit in front of Robinson (right) and the Grasmoor fells in the distance.

That's Gamlin End on High Crag.
Sound doesn't half travel on clear days like this doesn't it. . . . as I walked down here I could see, and more to the point hear a couple up there on the path having a right good argument about how steep it was one of them wanted to go back. I needn't give you a full account of things but the air was definitely the same colour as the sky. Shortly after taking this picture I passed a group of walkers who were just as amused by this as I was.

Buttermere comes into view.

Down there you can see Gatesgarth and up above that is Robinson.

It was lovely walking down here today; gradually getting warmer, almost deserted and as for the views; they just speak for themselves.

A view back up towards Scarth Gap.


Thankfully these were much more placid than they look. The gave me a quick glance, stuck their tongue up their nose and as soon as I'd took the picture they lost interest and walked off.

Buttermere seen from Peggy's Bridge. I wonder who Peggy was.


I think this means it's a steep road.


This is definitely Gatesgarthdale Beck and although I've never heard it or read of it does it mean I must be in Gatesgarth Dale?

A long distance look up Honister Pass.

This is the middle of the three crossing of the beck on this side of the pass.

It's hard to think this is a bank holiday weekend. Hardly any cars passed me on the walk up here and to be honest the whole walk was much quieter than I expected. Perhaps the cost of fuel is beginning to keep people off the roads.

At the top.
I'm sure there was a sign on the left hand of the road here when I was a kid. It told drivers how steep the road was, asked them to test their brakes and finally told them "you have been warned". Once you've set off it's a bit late if your brakes don't work anyway !

Looking down the Borrowdale side of Honister Pass.

Ah well, there goes the bus so it looks like I'll have to walk after all.



So this is where all the cars are. I take back what I said about the cost of fuel.

My route took me up to and around the left hand side of the trees you can see in the centre of the picture.

Seathwaite fell is in the centre of the picture and the area of trees are the the ones I mentioned in the previous photo.

Stockley Bridge.

Turning around to take a photo looking back down to Borrowdale.

Just about to cross Styhead Gill, but there's so little water in the beck the bridge wasn't really needed today.

Styhead Tarn.

Rather than head straight down the path that runs from Sty Head down the side of Great Gable, I took what is believed to be the original Sty Head Pass route found further to the south, crossing Spouthead Gill and then down to the point where Piers Gill joins up with Lingmell Beck. If you walk this route there is a good deal of evidence that there has been a zigzag route down here for a very long time. Given that the pass was in use for centuries by packhorse trains, it makes more sense to have used this route then the modern path up the scree.

although the path down here is quite easy to follow once you're on it, from below it's very hard to see and would be virtually impossible to point out to anyone.

If you strain your eyes a little you can make out a figure on the right hand side of the beck. We'd just had a good crack about routes and stuff and I just thought you'd like to know it was Joss Naylor; local shepherd and fell running legend.
This guy has a list of running achievements as long as your arm, and here are just three of them:-
He ran the 271 mile Pennine Way in 3 days 4 hrs
Completed the Wainwrights in 7 days (aged 50)
In 2006 aged 70, he ran over 70 Lakeland fell tops in under 21 hrs covering more than 50 miles and 25,000 ft ascent.

Needless to say he was moving up the fellside at a quicker rate than most people could run down if they were being chased by a hungry wolf.

This is where the original Sty Head Pass route joins up with the newer route which runs up the side of Great Gable. You can see the Great Gable path on the left hand side of the picture.

Looking over Wasdale Head to Yewbarrow.

A final view back to Great Gable taken from the track between Burnthwaite and the church.

Wasdale Head church.

David Hall -
Lake District Walks