Wainwright Walks 6: Hair of the Dog from Honister Pass

Wainwrights (A. Wainwright’s listed fells): Grey Knotts, Brandreth, Green Gable, Fleetwith Pike
Hewitts (Hills in England and Wales over 2000ft): All the above except Grey Knotts (why?)
Therefore BOGOFs: 3
Date: Saturday 7 April 2012
Time: 4 ¼ hours
Could have done with: My old Raichle boots back from the dead – god I miss those boots.
Post walk drink: Merlot

Easter Saturday 2012: a rather unusual one in that we were not in Scotland, which we usually are over Easter. The occasion (and the reason) was that it was Stuart’s dad’s 60th birthday and a big cottage had been rented for the occasion with most of the family present. The cottage was a bit to the North of the Lake District, but within easy reach of Keswick. It was time for another episode of ‘Wainwright Walks: the Malbec way’ with rather fewer embroidered combat trousers than the Julia Bradbury version, and rather a lot more malbec/ rioja/ merlot/ whisky (strike out drink which does not apply). Perhaps I could regard this version as closer to the original after all A. Wainwright himself was I believe fond of a couple of drinks and certainly did not wear embroidered combat trousers. (The mind boggles 😯 ). Unlike me though he probably had walking boots that don’t give him blisters. Grrr! At the time I was still struggling with a pair of Scarpas that I would eventually have to give up on as they were driving me mental.

Needless to say things did not get off to the planned start… those of you that have been reading this will now know this is usually the case! A hellish journey up the M6 on Thursday night had us crashing out at a Travelodge just short of the Lake District feeling completely knackered. On Friday we were both tired and a bit out of sorts and the weather was claggy and slightly damp. The original idea of heading up Coniston Old Man didn’t exactly appeal so we settled for heading to the cottage and getting ourself sorted out… not to mention having a few pre-walk drinks. The weather forecast was pretty good for the following day and the tentative plan was to go for Scafell Pike which I hadn’t done yet and was definitely on the ‘to do’ list.

Planning a walk without a fall back option is always a bad idea and the following morning several things quickly became obvious. One, the weather was rather claggier than forecast; two, nobody seemed to be in a rush to get up (including me, unfortunately) and three, Stuart was feeling unwell and not really up for a walk. Nobody was hungover though, something of a surprise after the pre walk drinks the previous evening (at least in my case) so a walk still seemed to be a possibility. It being a bit late to set out for a really big walk three of us – me, Stuart’s dad and one of our mates who by this point was Stuart’s sister’s boyfriend – decided to head for the Honister Pass and pick off some of the Wainwrights around there. High starts are always a bonus, and it was also decided to give the family dog a good run out.. even though a ‘hair of the dog’ didn’t seem actually to be required!

We were eventually parked up at Honister Slate Mine at 11 and we were walking by about 11.15. The good thing about the walks that lead off from this point is that you get all the really stiff ascent out of the way right from the start on a good path. There is then a choice of routes, for instance to Fleetith Pike or to Haystacks which we had done a couple of years ago. We took the main Great Gable path, breaking off it after about 15 minutes to head straight up to Grey Knotts. The views were pretty good but most of the higher hills were clagged in.

The pull up to the summit of Grey Knotts was pathless but straightforward. The summit is however a bit confusing as there are lots of little rocky tors all of which looked about the same size. Eventually we found a fence which came up from Honister Pass and which I’d read headed straight to the summit. There was a gate but unfortunately no stile – Stuart’s dad drew the short straw of having to heave the dog over the gate and then we all heaved ourselves over it too. Nice views from the summit which is another small rock outcrop but (fortunately) has a cairn on top to distinguish it from the rest.

The ridge walk along to the next summit, Brandreth, is a doddle on easy going grass and thankfully it wasn’t necessary to re-cross the fence. Wainwright says that it would take true skill to get lost in between these two fells, and I could see what he meant although there were still a couple of false summits (FFS, for short – see terminology page). The actual summit of Brandreth has a fairly rubbish cairn although the views were pretty good. Nothing really to stop for though, we pressed on to Green Gable with the clag starting to lift at least to some extent, though the highest hills were still in the cloud. Grrr!!

The pull up to Green Gable was a bit rocky in parts but straightforward and it wasn’t too long before we were on the top… and there was a decision to be made. Do we go for Great Gable – otherwise ‘that ruddy big hill over there’ or not?

Hmmm. It would certainly have been nice to. Out of the group, one was keen, one was decidedly not and the dog didn’t seem bothered either way. My feet didn’t really like the idea either as it became obvious that I had a blister on the way again. My Raichle MT Trails having died on me a year previously on Snowdon I had never completely got on with the replacement Scarpas which seemed to give me blisters more often than not. This time they definitely were and my feet were quite sore generally which was annoying. In the end we took the decision to head back the way we had come (contouring round the hills) and then go up Fleetwith Pike to round off the walk if we had the energy at the end.

Getting back to the path, the route up Fleetwith Pike starts through the slate quarry. Stuart’s dad and the dog decided to stay put at the bottom and the rest of us headed up. The route is a straightforward and obvious path although the ridge goes on longer than one might expect before getting to the summit. This hill is the site of the Lake District’s only Via Ferrata and we saw a group of people coming down the path in climbing gear – rather them than me! 15 21

We dropped down from the summit and returned to the slate mine via a less than pleasant landrover track although it did go past some pretty waterfalls. Back at the car about 3.30 – 7 ticks in just over 4 hours – can’t be bad! It remained only to drive back to the cottage where the inevitable post walk drink was waiting. A nice day on the hills rather than a great one, but still good!


One thought on “Wainwright Walks 6: Hair of the Dog from Honister Pass

  1. I’m debating about the Via Ferrata – not sure whether I’d get on with it or not now I climb – I’d probably have to go and look at the setup from above or something…

    My Dad broke his ankle on Brandreth! And I’ve never followed the fence up from Honister to Grey Knotts – it just looks really loose, steep and horrid – much better the way you went – I usually go that way.


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