Yewbarrow – the Mighty or Terrible

31 03 2011

Yewbarrow has to be the most challenging mountain in Lakeland and, depending on your level of confidence, or even how you’re feeling that day, can be either mighty or terrible – I’ve had one day of each! For a little ‘un (just over 2000 feet) it’s a toughie!

The Mighty Yewbarrow! (taken from Illgill Head on a different day)

I did this as my second Wainwright – a really silly mistake but I think I wanted to get it out of the way. I followed it the same afternoon with Scafell, including clambering onto Pisgah and peering down into the abyss – ending up having terrible nightmares all night!

On my first trip up Yewbarrow we parked in the carpark at its foot, booted up and I set off quickly – not giving myself time to back out. After the steep grassy nose, you go up a rocky zigzag by the foot of Dropping Crag and then head up gullies or a buttress (I chose the loose gully). At the top of the loose, nearly vertical gully, I knew I couldn’t go back down so had to continue. 

“At least the start of the ridge is at the top of this gully” I thought… wrong!  As I exited the gully top I was greeted by two things – one was the sight of two steep scree paths heading way up above me to the ridge – the other was a group of walkers sitting eating and finding my face very amusing.  “You thought you were at the ridge didn’t you?” they laughed.

 I then went up the left-hand steep scree path and missed out ‘The Great Door’ (Richard went for a peep). After that there is a steep, narrow, rocky ridge which eventually widens to a walk across a wide grassy summit ridge to the cairn.

Yewbarrow Route

Close up of Ascent Route

I knew at that point my problems were nowhere near over though as then there is the infamous ‘Stirrup Crag’ to get down. To cut a long story short, I ended up refusing to go down a big step out down a few feet to a small ledge with loose stones on it hanging over the 2000 foot drop into Mosedale valley.  I promptly sat down refusing to move. Richard told me to ‘Wait for the helicopter then’ and continued his descent. Luckily two guys saw this and sent him back up for me telling him he couldn’t leave me there! He then found me a sensible (the proper) route down various small chimneys from one ledge onto another. Being long and with a good reach, I found it fairly plain sailing to sit on a ledge and lower myself to the next one – plus we were over the col which was probably only a 100 foot or so below us.

Fast forward quite a few years – I was having a good year. We’d decided to go up Red Pike and Scoat Fell to do the Mosedale Round and set off up Yewbarrow’s grassy ridge again to take the Overbeck Path below Yewbarrow up to the Dore Head col. I had a sudden urge to go up Yewbarrow again – despite a fairly new broken rib I was feeling very adventurous. I communicated my desire to Richard who stopped and stared at me in shock and disbelief. “But you don’t like Yewbarrow’ he said… “I do today” I said, “we’re going up…” “Fine by me” he said and we diverted off up the rocky zig-zag once more.

There was a couple ahead – he was up the buttress and waiting for her – she seemed to be making quite a meal of it. I ignored the scree gully this time and scrambled enthusiastically after her. I was hell-bent on zooming past her, completely forgetting about my rib momentarily… by the top of the buttress I was getting quite a painful reminder from it! But I’d won – I was in front…

This time I took the right-hand steep scree path up to the Great Door and onto the peak to its right – quite an airy vantage point! We then both clambered down to the narrow neck round the Great Door and up the next airy and narrow vantage point.

Yewbarrow-Great Door

Yewbarrow-Looking Back at Great Door

Wow! I was there a moment before!
Yewbarrow retrospect

The lady who’d been on the buttress wasn’t looking keen but went up both. She was definitely doing more clinging on than me though as this time for a change I was totally confident and happily clambering about.

From there we went up the narrow rocky ridge into the teeth of a gale, at times having to go on hands and knees until we got onto the wider bit as the wind was trying to pluck us off the ridge and hurl us back down.

Looking back while having a break from the gale
Yewbarrow end

We battled against the wind to the summit and then headed off for Stirrup Crag once more.

This time it was my turn to be the confident one – Richard was going down in front (as is customary for us) but he kept getting a bit stuck and wondering where to go next. I was leaning right out over the drop and looking for his hand and footholds – by now he really thought I’d flipped. We bounded down the crag which finishes with quite an awkward stride round a huge bulge above the final drop onto the steep scree – I thought it was great fun as I squeezed past it.

Looking back up from the base of the crag
Stirrup Crag route

Yewbarrow-Stirrup Crag

Then it was all over and we continued on the rest of the Mosedale Round (which I don’t really intend to talk about here). The only other ‘incident’ of note was on the walk back along the road under Yewbarrow back to the car.

After completing the round, we were strolling along the road by the side of Wastwater when Richard shouted and thumped me really hard in the back. Apparently I’d been completely asleep and was walking in the middle of the road in front of a car! This happened several times as, for some reason, I really couldn’t stay awake all the way back along the road and was staggering mostly down the middle. It’s funny that you can still continue walking, with your eyes open, but be totally unconscious – but you can – just not very accurately! Must have had a bad night’s sleep the night before or maybe it was all the excitement at the start!

Wasdale Screes

Wastwater at dusk




2 responses

7 07 2011

Only me, I know what you mean about Yewbarrow,i climbed/walked it last October not knowing what to expect!!! When i reached going down Stirrup Crag It was raining very slippery & i had 2.5 dogs to get down on my own!! It was alittle tricky to say the least!! Tic Tac the Jack Russel was dropped down most of those ledges ” poor fellow”. but we got down in 1 piece, it adds alittle spice to the walk..Terry.


7 07 2011

2.5 dogs LOL – poor little dog – I just got told by a guy that he’d had to throw his sheepdog-type dog onto a ledge when they got stuck on a spiky ridge 😮

I hate wet, greasy rock on scrambles! I think I’d have sat and cried if I’d had to get down there in the wet – much like I almost did on my first visit when I went on sit-down strike above Stirrup Crag


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