High Street by the "Connoisseur's Route"

TWO Wainwright walk: High Street, Mardale Ill Bell

Walk Rating:⭐⭐⭐

Time: 3 - 4 hours (but can be extended to a longer hike)

Parking: Car Park at Mardale Head at the end of Haweswater (free).

The ridge ascent from Haweswater (seen from Harter Fell)

For the fell that is the highest peak in the Far Eastern Fells, High Street itself can be something of a disappointment when reached by the most obvious routes from either North or South. But what looks like just an unimpressive grassy height from these directions, takes on a very different aspect when climbed from the East, ascending along the ridge from Mardale.

This post describes that walk, described with good reason by Wainwright's 'Guide to the Far Eastern Fells' as being the "connoisseur's route up High Street". It's a bit of a 'hidden gem' with fine views to be had all the way along the ridge. I have described a circular route from Mardale Head, returning via the Nan Bield Pass. However, the route can also be extended to include Harter Fell and/or to start and finish at Sadgill in Longsleddale (which extends the route to 20km overall). These routes descend via the Gatescarth Pass.

Strava estimates a walking distance of 10km with an elevation gain of 665 metres

1. Starting from the Mardale Head Car Park, take the clear path around the head of Haweswater, crossing the Mardale Beck over a wide wooden bridge.

The route from the Car Park from the ridge

2. Walk north-east along the side of the reservoir, heading for the tree-covered promontory ahead of you (called "The Rigg").

Looking back to Harter Fell from the path along Haweswater

3. The path ascends behind the pine trees to reach a gap in the stone wall with a fine view west into the valley of Riggindale.

Riggindale ahead, your ridge is up to the left

4. The route now ascends the ridge to your left. There is more than one path through the bracken at the start, but they converge onto a single clear path that takes you all the way to High Street. 

The main path ascends on the left of the ridge ahead

5. A photogenic stone wall runs across the top of the first couple of kilometres of the ridge. The walkers' path takes a slightly less direct route but still rises quite steeply at times, but always (as you ascend) to the left (southern) side of the ridge wall.

Looking down across Haweswater as the path rejoins the wall

6. The path rises to a small cairn from where you can catch your breath. There are fine views along the ridge, and across to Kidsty Pike on the other side of Riggindale.

The view across Riggindale towards Kidsty Pike

7. As you continue up the ridge, the Blea Water tarn becomes increasingly into view below you, to your left, with the walls of Blea Water Crag and Mardale Ill Bell rising behind it.

Blea Water and the ridge of Long Stile ahead

8. A further walk along the ridge brings you to a slight depression containing the small Caspel Gate tarn.

Caspel Gate tarn

9. From here, the rest of the walk is a steep climb along the ridge of "Long Stile", up to the top of High Street. There are a few points where you might need to put a hand on a rock to help yourself up, but it's a straightforward enough ascent compared to, say, Striding Edge on Helvellyn.

On the way up 'Long Stile'

10. The fine views continue as you continue to climb. Take your time and enjoy them!

Looking down over Blea Water towards Harter Fell

11. Suddenly you will find that you have climbed the last of the rocky stairway and you emerge at a large cairn marking the top of the path.

The cairn marking the top of thew route up Long Stile

12. From here, it's a short walk onwards across the turf to the wall running along the ridge of High Street and, a little to the left, the triangulation column that marks its summit (2718').

On top of High Street (2718')

13. To return to Mardale Head, take the path across the turf that skirts around the top of Blea Water Crag before joining the main path heading towards Mardale Ill Bell. It's worth taking a few extra steps off the path to your left to look down over Blea Water from this side - and across to the ridge that you have just walked up.

Looking across Blea Water towards the ridge you have climbed

14. From there, the path takes you over Mardale Ill Bell down to the Nan Bield Pass.

Small Water and Haweswater below the Nan Bield Pass

15. Turn left at the pass to descend back past Small Water to Mardale Head.

Head left for Mardale !

Worth knowing: This route can be extended by continuing onwards over the Nan Bield Pass and up onto Harter Fell. From the summit cairn, which includes some old rusty iron, continue alongside the wire fence towards another set of iron-and-rock cairns. From here, the path makes its way downhill to the Gatescarth Pass. 

Choose your way back home from the Gatescarth Pass

A left turn at the pass takes you along the long winding track that heads back down to Mardale Head. If, instead of Mardale Head, you parked your car at Sadgill, a right turn takes you back down into Longsleddale (and past some wonderful rock pools as you near the valley floor if you are ready for a dip on a summer's day!)

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