Wandhope (again) – Third Gill Exploration

2 08 2019

Mon 15 July 2019
My last walk to Wandhope was up the unremittingly steep Third Gill Ridge. While I was slogging my way up it, I was pretty fascinated by the gill down on my left – Third Gill itself. It looked really interesting and, lately, I’ve been very interested in exploring gills. Despite being my only day off of the week and feeling pretty tired (I’m currently working full and part-time), I decided the weather was too good and I must give it a go – I could always struggle slowly up it…

All photos:
my manual Zenith film SLR
Click on photos for full size/resolution

I waited until late afternoon and drove to Buttermere where I again parked partway up the pass. While I’d been driving down the valley on the narrow, bendy and bumpy road, I’d been tailgated quite heavily by 2 cars. I decided I wasn’t going to let them past however as I was already doing around 30mph most of the time, the road is single-track, there were a lot of sheep straying on the road, and a lot of oncoming cars coming out of the valley round the blind bends! I also wondered whether they’d be competing for the few free parking spaces up the Newlands Pass too…

As I turned into the parking area, they were indeed competing for the same spaces. I took the last ‘good’ one, going in forwards until they’d passed. I never normally park forwards and, after they’d moved on to look for a space further up the pass, I came back out and reversed in properly!

As per my last walk, I walked back down to the river bridge in the village and took the path on the left of the beck through the nice woodland to the Sail Beck path. In around half an hour, I was back at the path into Third Gill (the second gill along the path). I toyed with the idea of doing the lower, flat end of the gill but it was the ‘exciting’ section from the corner onwards I was interested in.

I traversed the pathless fellside through bracken on the right just above the gill and was a bit upset to see that a slight path had actually made it’s way along the opposite bank. It had had to go very high up the fellside in places though as it was quite a craggy side of the ravine that side.

I soon found a small path heading down for the corner and followed it down.

the path came in on the left of the photo

Almost straight away, I was faced by an impassable fall in a narrow cleft. You could get up either side – left on steep grass but a tree would get in your way, or right up rock. I went right as I knew there were more escape routes onto the ridge I’d recently done on that side. The only problem I had was when I absent-mindedly grabbed some of the grassier ground above me and found I’d taken a firm hold of a gorse bush! I picked the spines out of my hand and continued…

Don’t grab the top of the crag – spiny gorse!

As soon as I got above the waterfall, and traversed back to the gill, a path went back down to the gill bed.

above the first fall

The gill was passable for a while but I could see a pretty difficult bit looming with a large rock tor splitting the gill into two sections. I continued up the beckside towards it…

This was the first of very many sections where I had to spend quite a while looking around for a route past the obstacles (there were very many of these from now on!). First of all, I had a look around the corner of my gill but found it wasn’t passable round the corner – there was a slimy, more or less vertical waterfall consisting of slippery moss. I couldn’t see a way up the right-hand wall so turned my attention to the ‘tor’ of rock – about 30 feet high…

There was a vertical gill going up to the left of the tor – it actually looked quite tempting! I took to this gill to work my way up alongside the tor. There was a very vertical section but it was short and I got up it okay… I saw a couple of ledges raking around the tor and picked a higher one and traversed tentatively round it to see around the corner.

When I got onto the corner, it was sheer down to the waterfall and there was a short, narrow climb of around 5 feet onto the top of the tor. I was on my own and really didn’t fancy this so made my way even more tentatively back down my ledge to the gill…

If I hadn’t been on my own, I would have tackled the route to the top of the tor but, being alone in a gill, when no-one knows you’re there, isn’t the time to be so brave! Back in the gill I ascended easily further up where there was a wider ledge to the top of the tor. When I arrived at the top, I was quite glad I hadn’t done the earlier scramble onto it. I was at the back of a long, narrow ridge here and on grass – much more comfortable.

I lowered myself down some small crag bands onto a wider grass ledge lower down where I could traverse further and then get back into the gill bed.

back of the tor after the descent back to gill bed

I wasn’t in it long however before I went around another corner and found another impassable section. I’d say the longest section in the gill without an impassable fall would be maybe 50 yards!

I’m not sure which obstacle it was, but there was one where I was scratching my head for quite a while. I was in a lovely round glade, admiring yet another pretty bright-green mossy fall which was impossible to get up. The left-hand side was grass but a narrow rib and exceedingly steep – not really a good option and I decided it wasn’t very safe.

Sooo pretty – but impassable!

The right-hand side was excessively wet! I had a choice of a long, almost-vertical gully of thick, wet, peeling moss – not great but above a very soft landing so safe even if I slithered back down it. To the left of the gully was a section of very wet peeling vegetation which, on first observation, looked doable. I set off up it but soon realised it wasn’t very safe as this was above the drop to the much more solid pool area!

I also heard what sounded like a huge shout of disapproval here and looked around at the mountainside above. I couldn’t see anyone and then heard a sheep baa-ing… I think the first noise must have been a very strange-sounding lamb!

I redescended to the pool and decided it had to be the wet, mossy gully and set off up it. As it was vertical in places and there was no grip in the gully, I had to find bits at each side which I could wedge across to and lever my way up. I also had to use my knees a lot! I was soon up the wet section and onto very steep grass above. My shoes were now filled with slimy water and I was sliding around in them. I took a photo back down here and continued…

looking down the near-vertical mossy gully – my rejected grassy rib the dark one on the right – my rejected mossy rib the nearest one on the right

I rushed up the steep grassy section, digging my nails in hard and grabbing large tufts of grass to aid my ascent. I was glad to get to the top of this section.

looking back down again

onwards and upwards!

Back down to the gill – within a few yards, I had to pick a side to leave it yet again for another insurmountable mossy fall – none of these were high – just insurmountable!

There were lots more problems but only one other really stuck in my head. Another slippery fall in a narrow gulch. This time either side looked fine and I was just about to head up the rocky ground on the left (the left side is generally rockier all the way). However, I noticed that, after the first rocky section on the right, you could traverse either across another ledge in the rock or, higher, a big cleft. On the exit from either of these there was a grassy path just above the gill for a while.

I obviously went right as that looked like the route others had taken and I prefer grass to loose rock… I didn’t fancy the ledge when I got to it so went higher for the cleft. This wasn’t quite so nice as you exited it but I was soon down on the grassy path for quite a few yards…

looking back at brief grassy section

I was soon able to get back down into the gill just in time for another insurmountable small grassy fall! This time, I saw people had pretty much taken to the left-hand (rocky) wall from then on so I ended up doing the same. I was really wanting to get down into the gill bed and could see a nice section below me. But I could also see another mossy, impassable fall soon after. In the end, I decided not to bother.

I meandered about up and down the rock to keep looking into the gill but knew I mustn’t be far away from the path I’d seen on my previous walk, heading out of the gill to the col between Wandhope and Whiteless Pike. I soon bumped into it.

I’d been musing before the walk and really wanted to try this path but also wanted to do the remainder of the gill – much easier from this point on as all difficulties had finally been passed. I decided to take the traverse path out of the gill just to see what it was like.

The path was fine apart from one short crossing of a steep, loose scree gully – ugh! It was pretty airy but took me safely up to the col.

looking back from the col you can just see the path crossing the heather mid photo

Crag Hill with his crags looking superb in the evening light (from Wandhope summit)

From there, I headed up to both summits of Wandhope and then came back down the top of the gill to descend the section I hadn’t yet done. This was filled with loose rock but fine for my descent…

After descending to the earlier path traversing out of the gill, I took the path again to the col and set off back down over Whiteless Pike.

3rd Gill from escape path

Third Gill Ridge in the evening light

Superb view from Whiteless Pike

On the descent from Whiteless Pike, I decided to go down the grassy tongue between the first and second gills below the mountain. This was steep but nice and enabled me to get a look into my gill from the other side – it looked pretty spectacular from here and I was proud of myself!

Third Gill and Ridge

Wow1 I did that!

After taking a couple more photos, I continued on down on a good path through bracken to the lowest of the Sail Beck paths.

I then followed this to the watersmeet of the Sail Beck and the one coming around Knott Rigg. Here I crossed both becks to join a path I’d seen earlier which traversed the fellside under the pass road and took me back to the car without me having to go down into Buttermere Village and then back up again – result!

I was surprised my walk had taken me 4.5 hours – I think a couple of these hours were spent in the gill. It certainly went slowly and had a lot of difficulties!

I’d only recommend the gill for people who like strenuous scrabbling about. There wasn’t any real danger with water levels being low – not sure what it’s like after rain. I’m not sure I’d really recommend it for lone walkers unless they’re very confident – there were some hard-to-figure out sections.

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9 responses

10 08 2019

That looked both interesting and scary. Think you may need a new handle as cowardly that was not!


11 08 2019

I’m definitely getting my adventurous spirit back after the hip op has made me more agile! 🙂


3 08 2019
John Bainbridge

An interesting way to explore the hills.


3 08 2019

Yes – I’m struggling for more gills to do though – they’re either not as interesting as these last two or too difficult to do on my own!

Liked by 1 person

3 08 2019
Alli Templeton

I wouldn’t even try something like this – you have every reason to feel proud of yourself! This looks like one of your more extreme adventures, but well worth it for the views. As usual, your photos are fabulous – Crag Hill looks almost surreal, like some meteorite that’s landed in the middle of the landscape. Wonderful stuff. And ten out of ten for putting up with the pain and discomfort of gorse spines in your hand and soggy shoes! 🙂


3 08 2019

I think Crag Hill looks like someone has clawed all the way down it with a giant claw! The low evening light really brought it all out

Liked by 1 person

3 08 2019
Alli Templeton

It’s stunning, like the rest of your photos. 🙂

Liked by 1 person

3 08 2019
Blue Sky Scotland

That looks hard going underfoot. The sort of ground I used to curse if I found myself in it accidentally rather than seeking it out and usually escaped as soon as possible back onto a path.


3 08 2019

It was pretty awkward but it was so beautiful in there – I wouldn’t have seen all that beauty from above!


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