Western Lake District Four Passes with overnight stop (pics & writeup)
After my Torridon thread went down rather well I said I would do a writeup of this trip we did over summer. 🙂
I’d been looking at the western four passes route for a while but despite only being around 25km in length all the info I’d seen suggested it was pretty gruelling to do in one go – the route features around 1500m of climbing, most of which is carrying, and my fitness is average at best. I had ridden Warnscale before and knowing how technical some of the descending was I thought not being exhausted by four tough ascents in one day might be the way to do it.
[url=https://flic.kr/p/pZgAyS]Screen Shot 2014-12-02 at 17.10.14[/url] by Grum Wynne, on Flickr
I had also heard great things about the Black Sail YHA, including that it provides decent evening meals and sells booze! We started formulating a scheme involving combining the route with an overnight stay there. The hostel is only accessible by path/track and is situated in the beautiful Ennerdale valley.
The daily distances involved may look pitiful but it allowed plenty of time for photos, mechanicals, injuries, and lake/river swimming if the weather allowed (more on than later).
The forecast looked mildly ominous, with winds up to gale force predicted, but we figured we weren’t going up too high and generally only the tops of the passes would be particularly exposed. Five of us met up at a cafe in Borrowdale then set off to Seathwaite to park up.
[url=https://flic.kr/p/owhF2i]Four Passes (2 of 23)[/url] by Grum Wynne, on Flickr
The first challenge of the day was the long drag up Honister Pass on the road.
[url=https://flic.kr/p/owi6fh]Four Passes (3 of 23)[/url] by Grum Wynne, on Flickr
Some of us hadn’t had the ideal preparation the night before and were questioning the wisdom of the whole thing at this point!
Once we reached the slate mines it was time to get off-road and start the brutally steep track up to the top of Warnscale.
[url=https://flic.kr/p/oNMrk2]Four Passes (4 of 23)[/url] by Grum Wynne, on Flickr
[url=https://flic.kr/p/pZh6QY]Screen Shot 2014-12-02 at 17.27.24[/url] by Grum Wynne, on Flickr
[url=https://flic.kr/p/owi5Lm]Four Passes (6 of 23)[/url] by Grum Wynne, on Flickr
[url=https://flic.kr/p/owinKv]Four Passes (5 of 23)[/url] by Grum Wynne, on Flickr
The trip through the derelict buildings and abandoned mine working felt quite eery, especially as the weather wasn’t improving. As you start to approach the descent you get some stunning views and you feel like you are in properly mountainous terrain.
Just as we reached the top of Warnscale the heavens opened. This is a pretty intimidating descent even in good weather – it must be one of the most technical legal descents in England. Most of the group hadn’t ridden it before and for some of us it was around the limit of our technical ability, especially in the wet.
[url=https://flic.kr/p/oLKFUE]Four Passes (8 of 23)[/url] by Grum Wynne, on Flickr
[url=https://flic.kr/p/owinti]Four Passes (7 of 23)[/url] by Grum Wynne, on Flickr
[url=https://flic.kr/p/owimNF]Four Passes (10 of 23)[/url] by Grum Wynne, on Flickr
We made it down to Buttermere without incident however, and got pretty much straight on with the carry up Scarth Gap.
[url=https://flic.kr/p/oNMpMc]Four Passes (12 of 23)[/url] by Grum Wynne, on Flickr
[url=https://flic.kr/p/owhFmh]Four Passes (15 of 23)[/url] by Grum Wynne, on Flickr
Nearer the top it flattened out a little allowing us the novelty of riding our bikes again.
[url=https://flic.kr/p/oNvxDT]Four Passes (16 of 23)[/url] by Grum Wynne, on Flickr
The wind was fierce at the top so we didn’t hang around long before setting off down the descent to Black Sail. It was a little wet near the top but soon turned into a fun technical trail, if a little steppy in places. A few fairly steep sections to make you think but all rideable and good fun.
[url=https://flic.kr/p/owhCgt]Four Passes (17 of 23)[/url] by Grum Wynne, on Flickr
[url=https://flic.kr/p/owhBUX]Four Passes (19 of 23)[/url] by Grum Wynne, on Flickr
At the bottom there was a short cruise along the valley to get to our home for the night.
[url=https://flic.kr/p/owhE9s]Four Passes (21 of 23)[/url] by Grum Wynne, on Flickr
The YHA is in a stunning spot surrounded by dramatic hills which feels very remote. Some of the group were reminded of tea houses in Nepal.
[url=https://flic.kr/p/oLKME7]Four Passes (5 of 26)[/url] by Grum Wynne, on Flickr
Just after we got there it started lashing down with rain again, but only briefly before some moments of amazing evening light.
[url=https://flic.kr/p/oNvwpP]Four Passes (23 of 23)[/url] by Grum Wynne, on Flickr
[url=https://flic.kr/p/owhP5y]Four Passes (1 of 26)[/url] by Grum Wynne, on Flickr
[url=https://flic.kr/p/oLKNaA]Four Passes (2 of 26)[/url] by Grum Wynne, on Flickr
[url=https://flic.kr/p/oNMwt8]Four Passes (3 of 26)[/url] by Grum Wynne, on Flickr
I haven’t touched these colours at all in Lightroom!
[url=https://flic.kr/p/oNKKLS]Four Passes (6 of 26)[/url] by Grum Wynne, on Flickr
[url=https://flic.kr/p/owhKJz]Four Passes (4 of 26)[/url] by Grum Wynne, on Flickr
Hot showers and a change of clothes followed by hearty meals and a few ales were the perfect way to end the day (let’s not talk about the game of Scrabble 😡 ) Next morning’s weather was much the same and we set out to climb Black Sail pass heading towards Wasdale.
[url=https://flic.kr/p/owhJZ8]Four Passes (10 of 26)[/url] by Grum Wynne, on Flickr
[url=https://flic.kr/p/oNMvaX]Four Passes (11 of 26)[/url] by Grum Wynne, on Flickr
[url=https://flic.kr/p/oNvDTr]Four Passes (12 of 26)[/url] by Grum Wynne, on Flickr
[url=https://flic.kr/p/owhLW5]Four Passes (14 of 26)[/url] by Grum Wynne, on Flickr
[url=https://flic.kr/p/owi9qW]Four Passes (15 of 26)[/url] by Grum Wynne, on Flickr
[url=https://flic.kr/p/oLKKGj]Four Passes (16 of 26)[/url] by Grum Wynne, on Flickr
Black Sail Pass down to Wasdale proved to be a really nice descent. Rocky and stepped near the top but fast and flowy further down with stunning views all the way.
[url=https://flic.kr/p/owiqDr]Four Passes (17 of 26)[/url] by Grum Wynne, on Flickr
[url=https://flic.kr/p/owhGDg]Four Passes (20 of 26)[/url] by Grum Wynne, on Flickr
[url=https://flic.kr/p/oNKGHN]Four Passes (21 of 26)[/url] by Grum Wynne, on Flickr
[url=https://flic.kr/p/oNvBxV]Four Passes (22 of 26)[/url] by Grum Wynne, on Flickr
The Wasdale Head Inn was our target for a rest/snack stop and quick pint of ‘recovery drink’ for some of us. The last climb of the trip (up to Styhead Tarn) was coming up, and it was another grueller. Our fairly relaxed schedule meant none of us were feeling too weary though.
[url=https://flic.kr/p/oNMsAi]Four Passes (23 of 26)[/url] by Grum Wynne, on Flickr
We headed up between Great Gable in the clouds somewhere on the left and Scafell Pike somewhere in the clouds on the right.
[url=https://flic.kr/p/oNvB9D]Four Passes (24 of 26)[/url] by Grum Wynne, on Flickr
After a few mildly sketchy moments of scrambling with bikes on our backs in very strong winds we reached the top, feeling glad the wind was blowing us into the hill not off the side of it.
[url=https://flic.kr/p/oLKHzU]Four Passes (25 of 26)[/url] by Grum Wynne, on Flickr
This was the beginning of an excellent descent from Styhead Tarn down back down to the cars in Seathwaite.
[url=https://flic.kr/p/oLKHmC]Four Passes (26 of 26)[/url] by Grum Wynne, on Flickr
The trail becomes a little indistinct for a while requiring a carry over boulders, but as it becomes more obvious it turns into a great descent. Little technical ups and downs leading into a fast and furious blast over bedrock then some more tricky steep turns. Despite the weather still being far from amazing we stopped for a brief swim in the river at Stockley Bridge. We got back to the cars then met up at the pub in Borrowdale for celebratory pints.
All in all this was a great trip and I can thoroughly recommend doing the route this way (actually no don’t because the Black Sail YHA gets booked up pretty quick 😉 ). I realise some people will be disgusted by the idea of averaging 7.5 miles a day!
It meant we were generally in good shape for the descents, which are all reasonably sustained and techy. If the weather had been better we would probably have added on some extras, for which there are quite a few options, and done a bit more swimming on the way. We only carried very minimal kit as the YHA provide most things so the descents weren’t spoiled by having a big pack on your back.
We were thinking it would also be possible to do this trip with some non-biking friends, as they would probably not be much slower and you could all meet up at the YHA. Will definitely be going back to do it again some time soon.
Stats (from mapping it – didn’t take a GPS):
[url=https://flic.kr/p/pjR4zj]Screen Shot 2014-12-02 at 17.10.28[/url] by Grum Wynne, on FlickrPosted 3 years agofunkrodentSubscriber
Rode that route in May. Did it on a Sunday following a Friday night on the beers, Saturday spent hooning around Whinlatter and Saturday night on more beers. My mate had read that it could be done in 4 hours! We limped to the end after about 9 (though we stopped at the pub for an hour). Brilliant route. Well worth lugging the bike up to do the descents on the other side. Will probably ride it again next year and the idea of the hostel stay is a very good one! Great pics by the way!Posted 3 years agomcmoonterMember
Loved that! Epic stuff.
The hoof up the Blacksail Pass is an epic. Boblo and I did it at the end of our first day on our C2C ride. I think if we’d chosen to stay at the hostel, I doubt we’d have caught our train home on the last day.Posted 3 years agogrumMember
Thanks folks – glad you enjoyed!
The paper stats don’t really do it justice – the descents are mostly pretty knackering as well as the climbs. The Torridon rides I did were significantly longer but I reckon this would be far tougher as a 1-day ride.
Cheers for the C2C link mcmoonter – I intend to try and do that at some point. Will have a read of the whole thing.Posted 3 years agonodrog2Member
Great write up and pics. I’ve done sections of this route but not the whole route as one. That’s going to change pretty soon though, now on the, ‘to do’ list! Got to agree about Warnscale, it’s a brutal descent made even trickier when it’s wet. The route is worth doing just for this descent alone. Top marks fella.Posted 3 years agoyorkycslMember
Smashing write up again, enjoyed the Torridon one & there’s a small group of us going next year. The descent from esk hause past Sprinkling & styhead to stockley bridge is superb, done that 3 times this year but a bugger going up Rosset Gyhl, keep up the reports, real riding in biking heaven & you just cant beat the feeling of being properly out in the middle of the mountains. superb.Posted 3 years agomunrobikerMember
Those photos are excellent, thanks for putting them up. I’d like to have a crack at this next year, I’d probably try to do it in the day, though. Previously been happy to just do Warnscale or High Crag and Scarth in the day.
Put up more of your adventures if you get chance!Posted 3 years ago
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