Maximum Mosedale Horseshoe

SIX Wainwright circular walk: Yewbarrow, Red Pike (Wasdale), Scoat Fell, Steeple, Pillar, Kirk Fell

Walk Rating:⭐⭐⭐⭐

Time: 9 - 10 hours

Parking: at the Overbeck Bridge Car Park (with 'honesty box')

The Mosedale Horseshoe from Lingmell

The circuit of the horseshoe of fells that encircle Mosedale above Wasdale Head is a classic Lakeland ridge walk. It is, however, not a smooth ridge so walkers have to be prepared for ascents and descents as they complete the circuit.

The "Maximum Mosedale" version of the round that I have described here is a particularly strenuous circuit, going out as far as Steeple and including the climb of Yewbarrow at the start and Kirk Fell at the end. It is, however, a magnificent walk, ideal for a long, clear summer day. The Inn at Wasdale Head also awaits invitingly to help you complete the road-walking needed to get back to where you parked your car! 

Strava estimates a walking distance of around 17km - perhaps a little more. Bear in mind that Strava also suggests an elevation gain of nearly 1500m

1. You'll need to arrive early at the small Overbeck Bridge Car Park to find a parking place - but then you'll need an early start for the length of this walk in any case! Take the path that leaves from the back of the car park then head up steeply on the far side of the fence that leads up the ridge towards the triangular outline of Yewbarrow above.

The path going up to the crags

2. Yewbarrow presents a challenging start to a long hike (and some walkers take a lower 'by-pass' path that goes directly to Dore Head, the col underneath Red Pike). But, it really shouldn't be missed! So, carry on up when you reach a path that goes up left towards the crags above. Wainwright's Walking Guide to the Western Fells gives some detailed descriptions as to how best now scramble up the steep and sometimes worn gully ahead of you. However, if you take it slowly and keep looking around you to find the best route, you will soon enough find yourself looking from on high back over the crags down to Wast Water below.

Climbing up to the top of the crags

3. Passing the 'Great Door' cleft on your right, the going soon becomes a lot easier as you reach the grassy top of the fell and head up to the summit cairn.

At the top of Yewbarrow

4. An athletic walker could now attempt another tricky scramble down Stirrup Crag, at the northern end of Yewbarrow. Given the miles still to cover, however, it's best to take a path to the left at a junction in the grass, hopefully still marked by a few stones. It descends to the boulders underneath the crag and, with a few small cairns to guide you, makes its way down then along and up to the grassy col of Dore Head, between Yewbarrow and Red Pike.

Skirting around Stirrup Crag

 Looking across to Pillar from Dore Head

5. The path continuing up ahead up Wasdale's Red Pike is easily followed, sometimes across turf, sometimes over rockier ground. When you are close to the top, it's definitely worth exploring the rocky outcrop to the left of the path. Here, across the boulders, you'll find "The Chair", a stone 'armchair' built to look out over Low Tarn and across to the fells between Wast Water and Haycock.

Sitting in "The Chair" on Red Pike

6. Carry on up to the rounded summit rise itself and look back down into Mosedale to see quite how far you've come up from the valley bottom!

On the summit of Red Pike (Wasdale)

7. The next section of the walk is a gentle stroll around the top corner of Mosedale, skirting underneath Scoat Fell which rises ahead. The horseshoe path takes you to the right of this fell at first, bringing you to a lookout point where you can now look down towards Ennerdale and across to the pinnacle of Steeple, rising from its ridge. 

Skirting beneath Scoat Fell

Looking out to Steeple and Ennerdale

8. Leave the horseshoe path for now and head up to your left to the top of Scoat Fell. For such a high fell (2760'), the summit feels more like a sheep pasture, with a thick wall running along its top. The summit 'cairn', such as it is, consists of a few extra stones on top of the wall! 

On the top of Scoat Fell

9. Walking slightly further, and heading to the right of the wall, a larger cairn marks the top of the ridge that takes you across, more easily than it looks from a distance, to the airy peak of Steeple. Take in the views across to Pillar and down to Ennerdale.

Walking over to Steeple

Looking down Ennerdale from Steeple

10. As you retrace your steps around 'Mirk Cove' and over Scoat Fell to rejoin the main path around the Mosedale horseshoe, look left to help orientate yourself for the next part of the walk. You are heading up the grassy slope of the intervening height of Black Crag, before going down into Wind Gap and up to Pillar beyond it. 

Looking across Mirk Cove towards Pillar

11. Rejoining the main path around the horseshoe, carry on up and left across the top of Black Crag (not down and right into Mosedale). Make your way across the boulders and head on around and down into the dip of 'Wind Gap', marked by a cairn. There are good views left, into Ennerdale, and right, into Mosedale. 

On Black Crag

12. A rocky path up from Wind Gap heads up to the top of Pillar. Once again, this high summit (2927'), so impressive from below, is just a grassy pasture at its top. There's a collection of cairns, shelters and a triangulation column.  

Up to the summit of Pillar

13. If you've time, there's plenty to carefully explore amongst the rugged northern crags around Pillar Rock, but the horseshoe route continues smoothly enough on grassy slopes all the way around to the col at Black Sail Pass. If you've run out of time, good weather and/or energy, you can head down from here back to Wasdale Head.

Heading down to Black Sail Pass

14. If you're climbing Kirk Fell then, looking across the col, the path that takes you onwards and upwards is marked out in the brown soil ahead. It's a steep path up a gully in the rocks, loose in places with a little bit of scrambling required, that then comes out onto the grassy slopes of the top of the fell.

Climbing up Kirk Fell from Black Sail Pass

15. The highest point of Kirk Fell is the peak to its west (at 2630') that will be ahead of you, not the peak over to your left. So head on up across the grass and rocks until you reach the wind shelter at the top.

Great Gable from the top of Kirk Fell

16. It's now time to tackle the steep way back down to Wasdale. The path takes you straight down the southern ridge but soon requires edging carefully across a very worn section of loose, stony ground. Eventually, your feet will be glad of some more solid turf beneath you as the path takes you down into Wasdale Head.

The long ridge that takes you down to Wasdale Head

17. After what may have been a fairly solitary hike, the shop, pub and car park of Wasdale Head could suddenly seem quite busy! But it's a welcome opportunity for refreshments before heading back to the car park under Yewbarrow. Take the path over the bridge behind the Inn, then south along the riverside, to cut out at least some of the unavoidable road-walking needed to finish the circuit.

Take the path over the bridge and left

18. Coming out onto the road, the tarmac under your tired feet will at least be smooth as you walk back along the side of the lake. Take a satisfied look on your right back up to Yewbarrow where you started the walk so many hours ago! 

Back to the bottom of Yewbarrow

Worth knowing: The Inn at Wasdale Head is a welcome sight for visitors who come to walk or climb on the fells around it. 

In the nineteenth century, its landlord, Will Ritson, was known as 'The World's Biggest Liar' for the tall tales he loved to spin. He enjoyed seeing how far he could string along the newly arriving tourists. One of his best known stories was about a huge turnip grown by his father that was hollowed out to be used as a shed. Another told of a coffin being taken on the corpse road to Eskdale falling to the ground, then the woman inside turning out to still be alive!

The Inn at Wasdale Head

Popular Posts