Haystacks on a Glorious Day & a Poor Lost Dog

24 02 2012

One July I finally got back to the Lakes after months of Scottish Munroing – I was accompanied by Richard. We had a bout of quite good weather and some really perfect days – this was one of them!

It was hot, still and, surprisingly for a hot summer day, clear as a bell. This meant only one choice for a walk really. It was too hot to do anything strenuous and it was superb photography weather so, as we were staying near the head of Borrowdale, that meant a short trip over the Honister Pass to Buttermere to do the superb and very scenic Haystacks. I was particularly keen to photograph its many tarns as I knew they would be mirror calm.

We got the bus over the pass (no point in driving over and paying to park when there’s a perfectly good bus service) and alighted at Gatesgarth Farm. Surprisingly I managed to avoid going straight to the ice cream van which lives there on nice days (much to Richard’s surprise too no doubt).

As we are always late starters, it was about 1030 before we hit the path across the fields to the Scarth Gap Pass path and it was getting pretty hot. Of course as we ascended there were many other parties on the track which meant I had to have my customary competition (Richard hates those)… if there was a party in front, they had to be passed… if there was one behind, there was no way I was letting them past! I did have time as we ascended to notice that the views of Buttermere were fantastic behind us.

Unfortunately we had a couple of pretty fit guys behind us so the pressure was really on… and the heat was building up as there was no breeze at all. By the time we were just short of the summit of the pass, I started to feel really very sick with the heat and the exertion. I could see I was going to have to concede defeat but really didn’t want it to look like it so we steamed on until we reached the rocky area overlooking the valley and then strategically went to admire the view… phew!

The view from the Resting Place 😉
Buttermere Valley from Scarth Gap

When we’d drunk some water and had a cool-down, we continued to the foot of Haystacks – from there a scrambly, rocky route but easy and great fun. Just to complicate it a little we decided we weren’t allowed to use hands at all on the scrambly bits. We wobbled and balanced our way up – much to the confusion of other walkers who no doubt wondered why we didn’t have the gumption to get hold of the readily available bits of rock. We continued in this manner until we reached the final little crag when we decided to look for the hardest part of the crag we could find each and climb that (we’re only talking about 15 feet here). Richard chose a slightly harder bit than me but they were both too easy really…

The Scrambly Route Up From The Pass on a Misty Day

Then we were on the summit and looking at the beautiful summit tarn – ‘a jewel of a tarn’ Wainwright called it – and he certainly got that right!

Haystacks Summit Tarn and Gamlin End

Haystacks Summit Tarn and Pillar

On another, equally nice day…

And a more sombre day – still beautiful…

I have three favourite tarns on Haystacks – the summit one, Blackbeck, and one I discovered by (everyone else’s favourite) Innominate Tarn. I call this one Mirror Tarn and hopefully you’ll see why from the photographs but, to be honest, this particular day, they were all mirror tarns.

The Mirror

We meandered all round the tarn with my camera shutter clicking away madly and then decided to explore all the little peaks no-one goes to. Of course, that meant everyone followed us! We found a great peak on the front of the fell (over the big drop) which had some interesting gullies and a fascinating looking ledge around one of the ‘haystacks’. Don’t think I’d dare do it but it looked fascinating nonetheless… perhaps I’ll send Richard round it one day 😉

Interesting Ledge

We then went for a long skive to Mirror Tarn and had a leisurely snack and a lounge in the sun.

Mirror Tarn & Innominate

Clouds in Mirror Tarn

Soon it started to cloud over and cool off so we set off slowly down towards the route back to Honister Pass to walk back to Borrowdale. We soon reached Blackbeck and decided to scramble up onto ‘the tooth’ – a sharp rock which cuts into its shoreline.

Blackbeck Tarn

We were sat atop the rock and I was cleaning it of bilberries when we noticed a sheepdog slowly limping down the fell behind us. It stopped not far away and lay down. We waited to see the owner appear but no one did… we thought we’d best go investigate.

I approached the dog slowly so as not to scare it off and managed to get within a couple of feet of it. It looked quite thin and its coat was staring and dull. I told Richard to give me our malt loaf and fed it a slice one mouthful at a time. It took the food very nicely and gently and I eventually managed to get near enough to stroke it and then check for a collar and tag. I guess it must have been a farm dog as there was a collar but no tag. Either that or someone had abandoned it and didn’t want to be traced! We fed him some more malt loaf but didn’t have anything to attach to his collar to attempt to get him down off the mountain. Reluctantly we had no alternative but to leave 😦

All the way down the mountain I tried to ring various agencies like the police to see what we could or should do but of course, when you need a mobile signal, there never is one! When we reached the shops and buildings at the pass summit we asked if there was a phone we could use and they said there was one in the Youth Hostel porch. I tried my Chargecard PIN number but the phone would only accept cash. Richard lent me a pound coin and I dialled the local police number and put the coin in. I managed to say 5 words and then the money ran out!! 😮 Completely impossible. So we had to walk nearly all the way back to Borrowdale before we could get hold of them on our phones.

The dog was reported via the police to one council, who passed it to another council… we did get a call back and they sounded like they were looking into it but we didn’t really think anyone would do anything about it. That meant that, two days later when we were up on Dale Head, I decided I really had better go back up Haystacks and look for it (with some handy baling twine off a farm gate). I asked everyone on the mountain if they’d seen a stray dog but no one had. I looked around for about an hour but there was no sign. I just hoped it had got back to the valley and maybe belonged to Gatesgarth Farm and had got lost on a sheep round-up or something. Put rather a cloud over my trip…

P.S. turned out the dog had been reported missing from a farm over the back of the mountain in Ennerdale (wonder why it was heading down towards Buttermere valley?) and the farmer eventually got it back 🙂

A couple more photos of Buttermere taken on another day…




9 responses

27 02 2012

MC a very nice story im glad the hound was found it would have been a bummer if you ended the story there!!!! thanks Terry.


24 02 2012

Looks a fine July day – not had one of those for a year or two 🙄
Had did you manage in S Lakes this week its been miserable in the North 😦

Great pics as usual and pleased the dog was returned safely – odd it was a farm dog !


24 02 2012

Even odder the dog wanted to relocate to Buttermere from Ennerdale! LOL

Had a pretty bad week last week – too cold on the Connies over the weekend – wasn’t being soft – my head literally froze under my fleece hat by the time we reached Brim Fell so we went down. Then we got stranded in Rosthwaite on the Wed with the flooding – couldn’t get more than a mile in any direction!


24 02 2012

*How* even 😆 must proof read before I hit that submit button ! In a wierd way I think I prefer the freezing winter weather of the last few years than this depressing weather. Roll on summer….


24 02 2012

Very nice story…and beautiful photos, as always. I particularly love the very first shot…so peaceful…compelling. Thank you.


24 02 2012
Paul Shorrock

Great pics as usual, Carol.

Glad the dog problem was sorted – I’ve often seen lost fox hounds in the hills, and there used to be a spaniel at Mungrisdale that would get lost after following folk up the fell, but farm dogs are usually too canny to get lost.


24 02 2012

I think the dog was fed up of Ennerdale and wanted to relocate to the bright lights of Buttermere personally! 😉


27 02 2012
Paul Shorrock

Haha… The next thing you know it will be off to the big city of Keswisk 🙂


24 02 2012

Wonderful photographs!


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