Eastern Lake District
“Climb while ye may” – Arthur Wainwright
Coming from our base on the coastal road; we turned off the main road and parked below a hill called Irton Pike. With Irton Pike being a hill named after the local village of Irton. The author Alfred Wainwright described climbing Irton Pike as chance to remember walks on higher fells; when old age has restricted the mind through the physical body.
After donning wet weather attire because of a persistent fog; we climbed up and up through a pine forest. After about thirty minutes of steady climbing we left the treeline behind. Here on open fell land; we followed a boggy path up and up over Irton Fell. The low visibility was a cause for concern in navigational terms. Yet thankfully, the path followed a drystone wall up into the clouds. By regularly checking the map; and ticking off landmarks as we climbed, we never felt disorientated by the low cloud. After about two hours of slow and steady climbing we reached the top of Greathall Gill; a gully in which water runs down off the high ground. Here begins a ridge called Whin Rigg that leads North east; towards the highest mountain in England called: Scafell Pike. However, we were walking in midwinter; so our path down off the high ground began here on a soft grassy path down to the valley floor of Wasdale.
Wasdale and Wast Water
After walking in cloud for almost three hours; all of a sudden the heavens opened, the clouds parted and we caught our first glimpse of Wast Water. This lake is famous in England for being the deepest lake at 258 feet or 79 metres. A stunning place that my camera phone can never do justice.
The Wasdale valley is dominated by the great Wast Water with sheep farms dotting the landscape around the valley. British rock climbing was borne here in the late 19th century; with many climbers staying at the Inn on the northern end of the lake at Wasdale Head.
After carefully descending to the valley floor; we turned west towards the sea and back to the car. The descent was long because we had to take care of the slippery conditions underfoot.
However, every stop, every step; was made easier by the stunning views.
In the valley floor; we passed through a farm. Waving at the farmer; as he put out feed for the sheep in their thick winter coats. At the end of the farm track; we had to walk a short distance on a country lane. Then turning off and through pastures to the woods surrounding Irton Pike. Here we could look back and take in the beautiful vistas of Wasdale.
After passing through foresty land; with freshly cut pine and new saplings in equal number, the night came down around us. Yet with the foresight of carrying headtorches; we marched on with our heads and torches held high. Turning off the footpath and along a forest track; we rounded Irton Pike to the car without having to walk on the road.
Parking, refreshments & other tips
We parked in a free car park on the Santon Bridge to Eskdale road; shown here:
Towards the end of the walk as you re-enter the woods below Irton Pike. Ignore the footpath sign above the house and use the forestry road to avoid losing altitude an having to walk on the road. If you download my route on Wikiloc and follow it carefully; you will not go wrong.
As we found in mid winter; visibility can be poor on the higher ground. So take a paper map and compass; as mobile phones can die and thick fog can disorientate you. There are no pubs or cafes on this route; so bring a picnic! Check the weather for safety and for better views; yet get out there in the great outdoors
Research, roam, relax!
3 hours 22 minutes
Lazier than a lazy river is a lazy lake!