Scarth Gap to Haystacks

The small village of Buttermere is a popular Lake District tourist spot, and also home to a few working farms. On our next hike, to Scarth Gap and Haystacks, we saw a lot of evidence of the active dairy and sheep farming in the area.

Buttermere also happens to be the best place from which one can climb to Haystacks, the favorite hiking area of Alfred Wainwright and the resting place of his ashes.

For beauty, variety and interesting detail, for sheer fascination and unique individuality, the summit area of Haystacks is supreme. This is in fact the best fell-top of all.
- A Wainright

We made a special visit to St James’ Church, to pay our respects to Wainwright at this small memorial plaque, looking out the window and across the valley towards those peaks, our hiking target for the day.

The skies were overcast and teasing us with rain when we set out to walk around Buttermere, and start the first climb to Scarth Gap.

The lakeside footpath was not without its interesting features.

Around the lake, we had our first clear view of the Haystacks horseshoe that we intended to hike.
Once we gained some elevation, we were gifted great views and slopes covered in bluebells.
We could see the cloud cover dropping over Haystacks on the right and the rest of the horsehoe.

Another hiker offered to take our photo, and we couldn’t decide on the best back drop…
… so we took two!
… or three!
And then we continued to climb.
Above and behind us, High Crag was starting to disappear into the clouds.
The skies beyond Scarth Gap weren’t looking much better.

In our original plans for this trip, we meant to leave our car behind and make a two-night backpacking trip from Buttermere over Scarth Gap, down into the Ennerdale Valley, up through Black Sail Pass in the distant mountain range before descending to Wast Water. It was an ambitious and exciting thought!

Scarth Gap, looking across Ennerdale Valley to the cloudy Black Sail Pass on the left.

A combination of unsettled weather in the forecast and a pulled leg muscle, however, made being away from the car and most of our belongings a poor idea. As you’ll see in my next post, Wast Water is very remote and not someplace to be unprepared, so we changed our plans and turned around to head back.

As we descended below Haystacks, the clouds began to lift…
… and gave us an ever-shifting pattern of shadows across the land.

Haystacks will have to wait for another day for our visit…

Back on the shore path of Buttermere, we complete the loop around the lake.

Our disappointment at not backpacking to Wast Water, or even to making it to the top of Haystacks on this day was short-lived, and gone completely after we had one of those “moments in life” that make you think deeply about serendipity. Let me explain…

In preparing for this trip, we had watched innumerable YouTube videos of people hiking various trails and climbing many of the Lake District peaks. None captured the thrill more than those produced by Abbie Barnes, a young woman from England who constantly inspired us to increase our training and set higher goals for ourselves. It’s fair to say that we might not have tried Helvellyn via Striding Edge had it not been for her assurances and encouragement. By the time we started our journey, we felt that we had already spent a lot of time in the Lakes with “our good friend, Abbie.”

So you can imagine our excitement when, completely out of the blue, we met Abbie on the trail back to Buttermere, hiking with her partner, her mom, and her mom’s partner. She had absolutely no idea who we were, of course, but I felt like a groupie meeting my favorite rock star. True to form, she graciously chatted with us for awhile and obliged us with a selfie.

I was already a huge Abbie Barnes fan, based solely on her Lake District YouTube videos. Only later, after reading more about her, did I come to learn about all the other remarkable work she’s done to encourage more outdoors activity and to increase awareness of the connection between mental and physical well-being with the natural environment. I strongly encourage you to take some time to get to know her and have listed a number of key links to her videos and websites below.

First, links to a couple of her many Lake District videos:

Haystacks and Buttermere

Helvellyn via the Edges

Now, links to her great work at Spend More Time in the Wild:

Website

Facebook

Instagram

And her One Wild Life podcast.

The Bridge Hotel, our lodging in Buttermere, has been around for awhile…

And we were glad it was still there for our pints of local Cumbrian cask beer at the end of another great day!

Author: Chris

Until 2019, I served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Namibia focused on Community Economic Development. Before that, I was a high-tech executive, small business owner, consultant and business broker.

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