Rosthwaite – Stonethwaite Beck – Stonethwaite – Big Stanger Gill – Bessyboot – Tarn at Leaves – Rosthwaite Cam – Coombe Door – Coombe Head – Glaramara – Looking Steads – Lincomb Tarns – Allen Crags – Sprinkling Tarn – Great Slack – Seathwaite Fell – Styhead Gill – Stockley Bridge – Grains Gill – Seathwaite – Black Sike – Strands Bridge – Folly Bridge – Longthwaite – Rosthwaite.
Big Stanger Gill.
Be warned – there are an awful lot of photographs in this post, which doesn’t really reflect the quality of the photos, which were hampered by overcast skies and flat light all day, so much as just how much I enjoyed the walk. The idea for the route germinated after our ascent of Scafell Pike, which left me with a hankering to visit Sprinkling Tarn again after a gap of many years. Then, when I started perusing the map for a suitable circuit, I was drawn to the rash of blue dots across the hillsides south of Borrowdale, and the plan for this route duly emerged.
I’m not sure that I’ve ever been up Bessyboot before, and unusually for me, it actually occurred to me to take a peek in Wainwright prior to my walk, rather than doing my research afterwards, when, frankly, it’s a bit too late. The route up Stanger Gill is one of Wainwright’s routes, but no path is shown on the OS map at all. There is a path on the ground, clearly quite well used, and pitched with stones for much of its length. It climbs steeply through the trees, but there was a good variety of moss and toadstools to distract me from quite a warm and humid climb.
One advantage of a steep climb is that good views behind rapidly emerge…
The view back down to Stonethwaite.
Waterfall in Big Stanger Gill.
When the ground finally begins to level out the path emerges into an area of rocky knolls and boggy hollows…
The path seemed to lead me very circuitously, spiralling in on the summit of Bessyboot (which Wainwright calls Rosthwaite Fell).
Looking north from Bessyboot: Tarn at Leaves, the knobbly top of Rosthwaite Cam and Coombe Head behind.
Looking south from Bessyboot along Borrowdale to Skiddaw.
Tarn at Leaves and Bessyboot.
“Tarn at Leaves has a lovely name but no other appeal”
I think this kind of rough and complex terrain is really satisfying, and have no idea why Wainwright, the old curmudgeon, should be so negative about Tarn at Leaves.
Rosthwaite Cam was a big hit with me: a splendidly rocky and isolated little top, with nobody about and an easy scramble required to reach the summit.
Looking north from Rosthwaite Cam – on the left the double bobble which Birkett anoints as Stonethwaite Fell and on the right Coombe Head.
Looking south from Rosthwaite Cam: Tarn at Leaves, Bessyboot, Derwent Water and Skiddaw.
Looking west from Rosthwaite Cam. From this vantage, Fleetwith Pike looks rather odd; like some powerful giant has taken great scoops out of the sides of the mountain.
This is brew-stop number one, under the sheltered side of the enormous chunk of rock which forms the top of Rosthwaite Cam.
Rosthwaite Cam from Stonethwaite Fell.
And again, with a less wide-angled setting on the zoom.
This tiny cairn is on the minor hummock which forms the eastern edge of Coombe Door.
Small tarn at Coombe Door, Coombe Head on the right, Glaramara behind on the left.
Crags of Coombe Head.
This was a walk across very rocky terrain; that rock was coarse and knobbly, and extremely grippy under boots. I was intrigued by these crags below Coombe Head where the rock, which surely must be volcanic, was neatly layered as if it were sedimentary.
The view from Coombe Head along The Coombe and then down Derwent Water is an absolute cracker. It would be a shame to bypass it to head straight for Glaramara, but that’s precisely what the main path from Borrowdale does.
Tarns near Coombe Head and Glaramara.
The twin tops of Glaramara, viewed from brew-stop number two on Looking Steads.
Esk Pike, Allen Crags, Ill Crag, Great End and Lingmell from brew-stop number two.
Brew-stop number two turned out to be an ill-advised affair. After the warm and sticky climb up Bessyboot, it had been quite cold on the ridge: the wind had a real edge to it. I’d hunkered down behind a large boulder to make my mug of tea, and put on all of my spare clothing, but this was the only time all day when it there were drops of moisture in the wind, and the boulder didn’t provide as much shelter as I’d hoped. By the time I’d slurped the last of my char, I was uncomfortably chilled.
Bowfell and Esk Pike across a small tarn.
Tarns abound on this ridge and I felt that, although the ground is often boggy, there must be some scope for wild-camping.
The rocky lump on the right here, in front of Allen Crags has a spot height of 684m on the OS map and is another Birkett (High House).
Great End, Great Gable and Sprinkling Tarn from Allen Crags.
Looking back to Glaramara from Allen Crags.
Brew-stop number three, just off the top of Allen Crags, was much more successful than the previous halt. I found a natural hollow amongst some shattered rocks where somebody had even built a small, untidy wall to raise the shelter a little higher. This turned out to be a very comfortable seat, well out of the wind and with excellent views.
Langdale Pikes, Windermere, Lingmoor, Pike O’Blisco and Bowfell from brew-stop three.
Piek O’Blisco, Wetherlam, Bowfell and Esk Pike from brew-stop three.
Great Slack and Sprinkling Tarn.
Two tents were being pitched by Sprinkling Tarn, both by what looked to be father and son teams, both on the protruding parts of the shore which are almost islands in the tarn, and both looking to be conspicuously lacking in shelter from the wind.
Sprinkling Tarn and Great End from point 631, not Great Slack, but with better views of the tarn then Great Slack.
In ‘The Tarns of Lakeland’ Heaton Cooper calls this Sprinkling Crag Tarn.
Glaramara from Great Slack, the diagonal gash across the hillside is Hind Gill, which, apparently, a faint, steep and very quiet path follows: one for another day.
Seathwaite Fell from Great Slack.
Lingmell and Peers Gill from Great Slack.
Great End from Seathwaite Fell.
Seathwaite Fell is another pleasantly rocky top. It’s surrounded by steep crags on three sides and so has superb views down into Borrowdale.
Seathwaite from Seathwite Fell.
The only part of my route which I wouldn’t necessarily recommend is the first part of my descent from Seathwiate Fell, down towards the path above Styhead Gill. I found a faint path which seemed promising and followed it into a steep little gully. The stream was mostly hidden below the jumble of rocks and boulders, so at least the going was mainly dry, but it was quite loose and a bit too steep for my liking. I only stopped to take a photo once the gradient had eased…
At which point, in a wet flush at the mossy margins of the stream, I noticed these tiny, delightful flowers…
…of Starry Saxifrage. I took several photos, none of which came out well, but each of the five petals has two characteristic yellow spots near it’s base, the centre of the flower is turning pink, and between each petal there are conspicuous red anthers. This is a plant of the mountains, and I shall be on the look out for it again in future.
Stockley Bridge, Grains Gill, with Aaron Crags on Seathwaite Fell behind. That pool does look suitable for a swim (I’d been wondering), but it was too late and too cold.
I still had a fair walk along the valley, then by the river Derwent to get back to Rosthwaite. By the time I reached the car park, the skies had begun to clear. For once I didn’t really resent the good weather arriving when my walk had finished; I’d had too much fun to feel any regrets. I brewed-up one more time before enjoying a pink sunset reflected in Derwent Water as I drove home.
View from the car park.
In all, I was out for about 10 hours, which is also how long it had taken us to climb Scafell Pike the week before. This was a good deal further then that, with probably a similar amount of ascent and a roughly equivalent amount of sitting around enjoying the view. All of which is very vague, I’m afraid. I couldn’t hope to estimate how many tarns I passed either, but I can be more precise with my tick lists: the route included eleven Birketts, of which four are also Wainwrights. I didn’t see many people about at all, especially over the first part of the route until I joined a more significant path on Glaramara, and the last section of the hills over Great Slack and Seathwaite Fell.