Kirk Fell, Brandreth and Grey Knotts from Honnister Hause

30 December 2006

Despite dire weather warnings, some instinct said that Saturday was going to be as good as the weather was going to get, and so I planned a walk which I'd thought about a number of times, but was prompted to do today by an article in a magazine, namely to visit Kirk Fell from Honnister Hause, with visits to Brandreth and Grey Knotts thrown in. Although the starting point at the top of a pass with a road is always something of an attraction, enabling a rapid start on the high ground, in fact the amount of ascent involved in this walk is greater than the more intimidating approach from Wasdale Head, but is much more spread out over the day, and there is much more to the walk than the straight up and straight down that a Wasdale beginning requires.

As we drove north in the dark, with the windscreen wipers on their storm setting, and the roads (in particular that descending from Dunmail Raise to Thirlmere) resembling rivers, doubts began to creep in, and the backup plans for shorter or lower walks began to run through my mind. However, reaching Honnister Hause at about 8.30, the rain had stopped and while it was still before dawn, there were signs that the clouds might be breaking up. I decided to press on, knowing that there were plenty of other options for shorter walks if the weather turned bad.

A gloomy picture looking down the old slate tramway to the cutting sheds at the top of the pass

Looking the other way, over old wooden sleepers, to the remains of the drum-house. This straight ascent makes for very rapid gain of height without the gradient being excessive.

The drum house, with Dale Head behind.

As we start to climb more slowly, along the side of Grey Knotts, a panoramic view along Warnscale Bottom with Haystacks on the left, Fleetwith Pike on the right, and Buttermere peeking into view.

A little further on, and we can see most of Buttermere, with Crummock Water beyond it. Haystacks on the left is followed by the High Stile range.

Further still, we see Ennerdale Water

As the clouds lift a little, an almost full view of our objective: Kirk Fell. It has a fairly flat top - it is not that the rest is missing in the clouds! But first we must take Moses Trod around the sides of Green Gable and Great Gable.

From Moses Trod, a view down Ennerdale.

Windy Gap between Green Gable and Great Gable

George on Moses Trod

As we cross the infant River Liza, the cloud rolls in again and restricts our view down Ennerdale.

Reaching the ridge descending from Great Gable, we catch a glimpse of Wastwater before the cloud closes in again.

From the same very windy spot, a rather blurry picture of George and Kirk Fell, with Beckhead Tarn at the top of the pass.

From Beck Head, looking across Ennerdale to ridge of High Crag, Seat and Haystacks, with the Grasmoor massif behind them.

Beckhead Tarn. When Stephen was last here, in 1996, the tarn was dry though snow was all around us after a contouring walk around Kirk Fell from Black Sail Pass. Today it it onwards to the top.

George waits for Stephen as we climb Rib End

A damp and windswept George

A brief parting of the clouds shows Beck Head and its tarn as we ascend Kirk Fell

Above about 700 metres, there were a few tiny patches of snow lingering after all the rain, but none underfoot.

After visiting the lower, north-eastern top of Kirk Fell, we make our way over the fairly flat top, passing Kirkfell Tarn. Here we were passed by the first other walker we'd seen today. He gradually pulled away from us up the slope towards the summit, but he followed the fence posts when they turned right, and thus went within 20 metres of the summit without visiting it.

The view of the inside of the wind shelter on the summit of Kirk Fell. This was a wonderful haven, for within 100 metres of the summit, the wind increased from very strong to extremely strong, and it was difficult to make any progress against it. With the intermittent showers covering my glasses on the outside and my breath steaming them up on the inside, it was a bit difficult to see at times, too!

After at early lunch in the windshelter, we retraced our steps across Kirk Fell, with the wind dropping as we descended, and the rain mostly staying away. From near Beck Head, a distant view of other walkers on Great Gable.

We walked part of the way back along Moses Trod, then as we crossed Tongue Beck, turned off to climb to Gillercomb Head. George takes a quick breather on some rather damp ground.

From the pass of Gillercomb Head, the view across Gillercomb into Borrowdale

From the same point, Base Brown

A relatively new fence has been errected along the ridge of Brandreth and Grey Knotts, and a number of stiles have been provided. But surely this one could have been better sited.

Looking towards the summit of Grey Knotts

As we descend the steep but easy grass slopes towards Honnister, a look to the west towards the quarries on Fleetwith Pike and Black Star, with Robinson and Hindscarth behind.

From the same point, looking to the quarries on Dale Head with High Spy behind it.

A little more progress brings the cars at Honnister Hause into view.

A very windy walk, and one which would have been better without the clouds, rain and mist, but a good walk nonetheless. Total distance 12.3km, 4 hours 10 mins walking, 1 hour 30 mins stopped.



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Unless otherwise stated, all images copyright (c) Stephen and Lucy Dawson