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Pillar to Yewbarrow

Pillar to Yewbarrow

Postby nigheandonn » Tue Oct 31, 2017 4:05 pm

Wainwrights included on this walk: Pillar, Red Pike (Wasdale), Yewbarrow

Hewitts included on this walk: Pillar, Pillar - Black Crag, Red Pike (Wasdale), Yewbarrow, Yewbarrow North Top

Date walked: 16/09/2017

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This was my second night ever at Black Sail, and a much calmer one than the first. I slept quite well, but slipped out about 2 in the morning to find the sky full of millions of stars - possibly literally, as the line of the milky way was very clear across the sky.

I had thought about going down the valley and climbing Pillar directly, but I wasn't really feeling up to relentlessly steep, and decided to head for the ridge, still with the possibility of the high level route.

Ennerdale is definitely a sunset valley - it was a lovely morning, but the sun was still only touching the upper slopes as I set off back towards the bridge and up Black Sail pass.

Morning in Ennerdale

I prefer not to retrace my steps too much, but it is quite a nice feeling to start again from where you left off the day before.

The gate at the top of Black Sail Pass

From the top of the pass the ridge starts off fairly gently, along below Looking Stead, and there was a good view from this section across to Red Pike and Yewbarrow, where I hoped to be later on.

The ridge to Pillar

Yewbarrow and Red Pike

Further along, the ridge became a rocky rise, where the high level route apparently went off to the right - it wasn't easy to see where it might go, though, because there seemed to be quite a drop from the crest of the ridge. A bit further on I think I found the start of it, but it still looked like it wandered off quite precariously over the hillside, and I decided that I was saving my courage (and my time) for Yewbarrow.

Up above the slope eased off again, and there was a view along past the main summit of Pillar to the Hewitt summit of Black Crag, looking unapproachable.

Summits ahead

Although it was quite a long walk along the ridge, Pillar turned out to be on of those rare hills whose summit arrives quicker than you think - I came over the curve of the slope expecting to see the next rise ahead of me, and instead found myself looking at the top of the trig point.

Pillar summit

It was a nice summit, flat and smooth and comfortable, with a few shelters scattered about. One a bit to the north of the trig point marked the start of the path running down towards Pillar Rock, where a group of climbers were gathered in orange helmets.

Pillar Rock

I didn't go too far down, though, and instead came back to sit down in the main shelter and eat my elevenses. The views were good in the sense that there was a lot to be seen, but they were definitely the backdrop with the summit area as the foreground.

A Wasdale view

The far side of the summit was more of a definite drop, with a stony path winding down, but it was quite well behaved compared to most of my descents the day before.

The summit of Black Crag looked much less daunting as I got closer to it, and the main path did turn out to lead over the top.

Black Crag

Black Crag was the reverse of some of the more subjective Wainwright summits - a ridge bump which no one would have looked at and picked out as a separate summit, but which must just fit into the right statistics to become a Hewitt.

Black Crag summit

Beyond that the main path avoids the summit of Scoat Fell to skirt round the top of the gap, which suited me as I'd been there before, but did make me wonder who all these other people avoiding Scoat Fell were.

Scoat Fell and Steeple

Red Pike didn't look nearly as imposing now as it did from Scoat Fell - I could perfectly well have gone down over it the last time, although that would have left Yewbarrow a bit stranded alone.

Red Pike

Once again the main path wanders off and avoids the highest summit, which is perched up on the very edge of the hill.

Red Pike summit

The ridge of the hill carries on to a second lower summit at the southern end, and then I set off down towards Dore Head, keeping an eye out for Wainwright's Chair, where I planned to eat my lunch. It was supposed to be visible from the path, but I didn't see it and eventually found myself near the end of the rocky patch, so wandered off to hunt - I was quite a long way from the path and about to give up when it suddenly appeared unmistakably above me. It probably does stand out if you're climbing up past it, just not on the way down.

The Chair

I don't think it was quite as comfortable as it possibly used to be - the arms and back are still in quite good condition, but the slab which forms the seat itself has split in half and slipped a bit. A good job for a mending party! It had a good view, though, and made a good lunch spot regardless.

A good view

Down to Dore Head, with Yewbarrow worrying me a bit by *not* looking particularly imposing - the upper part was rocky, but no more than a lot of other places which turn out to have a decent way up. There was a family group sitting at the foot, which reassured me a bit - if children can do it, presumably I can!

I wasn't feeling hugely up to scrambling - apart from the remains of the cold and general tiredness, and very tired legs from all yesterday's slow descents, it was exactly the wrong time of the month, which often leaves me feeling slightly out of sync with the world for a day or two. But when I had a look for the bypass path I could only see a thin line across the stony hillside which looked even more precarious - at least the rocks were solid. So up I went.

The lower section was a mix of loose stones, and rock and grass paths up the edge of them - loose enough that I was briefly quite glad to find myself climbing up the solid sloping gap between a big rock and the main face. Only above that I came to a place where rocks towered above with no apparent way through, and a tiny grass path ran off to the right and vanished, and I knew I'd hit my limit, even after the family came up and offered to let me tag on as they found the right way up the rocks. Apart from common sense and/or cowardice, it looked like a climbing puzzle I would really enjoy on the right day, and I didn't want to waste it and put myself off by doing it on a wrong one.

Dore Head and Yewbarrow

But I cared about Yewbarrow - both psychologically because it seemed like the hill I was most likely to chicken out of (we won't mention Helm Crag!), and if I didn't do it now would I ever, and logistically because I didn't want to leave odd inaccessible Wasdale hills behind. So now I had to find the bypass path and did, and it was better than I expected - a bit faint in places, but when I was most doubtful I found a cairn, and we had established in discussion the night before that although sheep might make good and therefore misleading paths, they did not, to the best of our knowledge, build cairns!

I think I might have turned up the slope a bit too early - the ground looked good at first, but then turned into that nasty stuff where grass hides loose stones underneath, and the most solid thing is the heather. But above that I suddenly found myself on a higher path, apparently running just under the crags, and made my way up onto the ridge.

A Scafell view

Yewbarrow is another hill with two Hewitt summits, so I turned north again first - not a very dramatic summit, or very well marked. It's all easy walking up here, as if Yewbarrow has given up once you get there, but it was further along the ridge than I expected.

Yewbarrow North Top summit

The main summit is a rocky outcrop, and seemed to have turned its back on the gloom gathering over Mosedale.

Yewbarrow summit

I met the family from Dore Head again at the summit, and although they were definitely having a proper break, it had been quite a quick climb once I'd sorted myself out.

So now all I had to worry about was the way down. The ridge dropped off quite sharply, but was simple enough at first.

The way down

My understanding was that further down I would meet a huge cleft, where a slope on the right would lead down to a gully full of loose stones - I was a bit concerned about that, because I felt my tolerance for loose might have been used up over the past couple of days, but at least it was described as short, and there was a suggestion that there might be a way over solid rock to one side.

I did pass one sharp drop down to Wastwater, but it didn't look anything like a Great Door, or even a 'similar cleft' which could be mistaken for it.

A drop

Instead I found a good path running off down to the right, and despite not matching any description of the route it was obviously the right way, or a right way - not just well made in the sense of well packed stones underfoot, but beautifully engineered in the way the zigzags fitted to the slope. Further down I did meet what was presumably the gully in question, and very much preferred the rocks on the right - even there it was mostly a case of sitting down and dropping my feet to the next ledge, but it wasn't unpleasant, just a place for taking slow and steady, for me at least. And I was obviously in the right place now, with the scrap of wall at the top of Dropping Crag below me.

Dropping Crag

From there the path led down and along below the edge of the crags of Bell Rib - and the rain which had been lurking behind me for most of the afternoon finally came on, although it didn't last very long. I was clearly heading now for the wall up the nose of the hill, where ordinary ground starts again - although the grassy path down through the bracken was a little bit slippery from the rain.

Down the nose

The hill is wonderfully dramatic from below - even if none of the most dramatic parts were actually where I had been.

Yewbarrow from below

I made it down to the road at Overbeck Bridge just before quarter past 5 - despite the Yewbarrow detour and the slow descent, less than 15 minutes behind the morning's aim. So although I still had the long crossing to Eskdale to do, I was quite pleased with my day's work - and the Burnmoor Tarn path is fairly easy going, although I'd forgotten just how wet some of it could be. I possibly slowed myself down going right down to Boot rather than trying one of the short cuts, because I didn't want to end up on dubious ground as the light failed, but I got along to the hostel and back to the pub by 8.30. My plans for a very early night were rather foiled by it taking nearly an hour for my dinner to arrive, though - and as soon as I did settle in bed the fire alarm went off, although we only got as far as the stairs before being told it was a false alarm. Off to sleep at the second attempt...

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Posts: 1602
Munros:19   Corbetts:9
Grahams:7   Donalds:26
Sub 2000:55   Hewitts:133
Wainwrights:214   Islands:34
Joined: Jul 7, 2011
Location: Edinburgh

Re: Pillar to Yewbarrow

Postby poppiesrara » Fri Nov 03, 2017 9:52 pm

Great report as always, Nigheandonn, and looking forward to the next stages - even if it isn't until the spring.

I think we had opposite experiences on Yewbarrow... The direct climb straight up Stirrup Head looked a bit daunting, but was actually not bad at all, challenging but not dangerous and a bit of fun. But I couldn't face the descent to Wasdale, reversing back to Dore Head instead, and (until now) had never seen any reports or pictures that made it seem manageable - maybe you've found a good way that will change everyone's mind!
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Re: Pillar to Yewbarrow

Postby nigheandonn » Sun Nov 05, 2017 2:46 pm

I get the impression that the path has been significantly improved quite recently - the lower part, from the gully to the path by the fence, seems to have been a Fix the Fells project from 2014, and the upper zigzags may be newer still. They've made a good job of it, as far as I can judge.

In between I certainly made good use of what Wainwright describes as a hill walker's second best asset! But yes, manageable is a good word - I'd willingly do it again, unlike the descent off Mellbreak to Kirkstile. (Hopefully I will - I want to do that scramble, now I know that the step round nothing is the worst of it, and I want a proper look at Great Door.)
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Posts: 1602
Munros:19   Corbetts:9
Grahams:7   Donalds:26
Sub 2000:55   Hewitts:133
Wainwrights:214   Islands:34
Joined: Jul 7, 2011
Location: Edinburgh

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