Walking Britain graphic

Walk 1126 - printer friendly version

The Mosedale Horseshoe from Wasdale Head Walk

Author - Lou Johnson

Length - 11.5 miles / 18.7 km

Ascent - 3420 feet / 1036 metres

Grade - hard

Start - OS grid reference NY186085
Lat 54.465322 + Long -3.2573609
Postcode CA20 1EX (approx. location only)

Go to full list of Lake District Walks

Wasdale is a wonderful place to be with the mountains gradually closing in as you make progress up the valley. On reaching the end of the road at Wasdale Head you are surrounded by high peaks. The Scafells, Great Gable, Kirk Fell, Pillar and Yewbarrow provide a continuous panorama of rugged fells urging you to take one of the many paths that radiate through this walkers paradise.

The walk described below should not be attempted by those with little experience of high level walking. Even with experience it should not be attempted in poor visibility if you want to enjoy some of the best scenery in the Lake District. It is a walk that needs to be kept for a fine day!

We left our car in the large grassy parking area (grid ref. NY 186085), which was almost full even at 9 AM, and followed the path on the east side of Mosedale Beck as it climbed gradually to Black Sail Pass. In the immediate vicinity of the Wasdale Head Inn, care is needed to select the correct path although any error will soon be realised! Overhead the sun was shining although, typical of hot days in Britain, there was considerable haze making photography difficult. By the end of the walk the light and visibility had improved enough to get the camera out!

The climb to Black Sail Pass is relatively easy with excellent views of the southern slopes of Pillar and across Mosedale to the crags of Red Pike. Suddenly you are confronted with a view across lonely Ennerdale to the peaks of the High Stile Ridge and Hay Stacks. Just west of the Pass is the strategic summit of Looking Stead and this is a perfect place to rest and enjoy the view as you prepare for the next stage of the ascent.

The final climb to the summit of Pillar presents no problems as each upward step is rewarded with an ever improving panorama over the highest fells in the Lake District. For those with a sense of adventure there is a less direct but more exhilarating route to the summit of Pillar which takes you across the northern face of the mountain to the foot of Pillar Rock followed by a steep path up to the summit cairn.

However you have arrived at the summit, it is worth looking north down into Ennerdale to see the remarkable Pillar Rock. If the conditions are good, you will no doubt see climbers making their way slowly up this rocky sentinel. On the valley floor you should also be able to see Black Sail Youth Hostel, one of the most remote in Britain.

Continuing westwards you descend to Windy Gap from where you must regain the lost height as you proceed over Black Crag to Little Scoat Fell which is another fine vantage point. Below you to the north the amazing crags of Mirk Cove are worth a closer look before you make a short detour to the airy summit of nearby Steeple.

Retracing your steps for a short way back onto Little Scoat Fell, the next objective is Red Pike (the Wasdale variety) - note you will have been able to see the other Red Pike (Buttermere variety) as you walked from Black Sail Pass to Little Scoat Fell. The summit is quickly reached - take the path that follows the rim of the crags. Your reward is an excellent view of the crags and Mosedale with the steep slopes of Kirk Fell providing a fine backdrop.

It's all downhill now. An easy descent, the path twists and turns providing plenty of interest underfoot as you drop down to Dore Head. From here there is a quick way back to Wasdale Head. However one look down the steep scree path was enough to convince me a few more miles was worth the effort!

At this stage some of you will still have plenty of energy and a traverse of Yewbarrow is feasible. Involving only a few hundred feet of ascent it provides a fitting finale to a great walk. However on this occasion, the path following Over Beck south to the shores of Wastwater was taken. This proved to be a very pleasant way down with the view of the Wastwater Screes improving with every step. Even the final mile or so along the road is not unpleasant offering you time to admire the Scafells and Great Gable as tread wearily back to your car.

Walk 1126 Route Map

Social Media

Follow Walking Britain for the latest news.

AZ Adventure Series Maps

Convenient 1:25000 OS maps in booklet form covering the National Trails of Britain. More info.

the people's poncho

A durable, lightweight, stylish and compact alternative to traditional waterproofs ideal for walkers with 10% Discount. More info.

New to Walking?

Click for a simple guide of how to start walking. Includes a guide on how to select your walks.