I drove to Buttermere from Keswick over the Honister Pass. Just after the top I passed a man on a bicycle coming up the other side, looking utterly spent and worn out. Come on, old friend, you’re nearly there, I thought, and in a few more turns of his pedals so he would be. I parked at Gatesgarth (Pay and display - remember to bring cash, it's a long way to the nearest cashpoint) and put my boots on. A very tiny friendly black dog came out to inspect me. I took the path past the farm, over the fields and up towards Scarth Gap that separates High Crag from Haystack. Getting high up on this path with High Stile as objective you start to envy the people heading for Haystacks. They are nearly there, you aren’t. Both Wainwright and the Nuttalls advise leaving the main path a bit before the gap and following a wall that goes off top the right. So I did. After a bit it turns right and after a bit more another wall (in a very poor state) branches off to the left. Following the latter leads steeply and roughly to the gap between Seat and High Crag. I wasn’t in great shape today - after a criminally sedentary October - and from here it still seemed a good stiff climb to the top. The last few yards were very hard work as I was utterly spent and worn out. I remembered the Honister cyclist. Catching my breath on the summit I soon accepted it had been worth the pain. Conditions were utterly perfect. Cold, to be sure but very calm and sunny with blue skies all round. On I went over High Stile towards Red Pike. I could see everything - Ennerdale Water, Crummock Water, Grasmoor, Skiddaw, Blencathra. Helvellyn, Pendle Hill, Great Gable, Scafell Pike, Scafell, Pilllar, the Atlantic Ocean, the Isle of Man and quite a lot of SW Scotland. All glistening in the early winter sun, the highest peaks, including my own, lightly dusted with snow.
Approaching Red Pike the path down towards Dodd from its summit looked alarmingly steep and precarious. And indeed, on close acquaintance it was pretty unpleasant, very steep eroded scree but the worst bit was close to the top and short-lived. Halfway to the col I took a couple of minutes' break to chat to a friendly young couple heading up. Dodd was a very little thing, a tiny irregularity in the northern slopes of Red Pike, one of those Nuttalls that are not Wainwrights. But the top is a lovely spot. And so down to Bleaberry Tarn and on down all the way back to Buttermere. This latter descent I had been led to expect from the Nuttals would be tedious and interminable. It was indeed tedious and interminable. Finally getting back to the lakeside path, there wasn’t much light left so I didn’t hang about. When I was almost back at Peggy’s Bridge I met the same friendly young couple as before. They told me they had had to make some haste racing the failing light down the slopes of High Crag. They had done the same walk I had but anticlockwise and in roughly 50% of the time it had taken me! Slow as I had been I was pretty tired and grateful to get back to my car and drove over the pass to the Scafell Hotel for some Hunter’s chicken and sticky toffee pudding. It had been a great day. The High Stile hills are well defended by long steep slopes making for a tough slog up and a pretty tough slog down but the ridge walk along the top is hevenly and worth the pain.
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