Walk 1246 - printer friendly version

Black Sail Pass & Beck Head from Wasdale Head Walk

Author - Lou Johnson

Length - 5.5 miles / 8.9 km

Ascent - 2145 feet / 650 metres

Grade - moderate

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

Wasdale Head is one of the great places in the Lake District with a superb range of mountains, including Scafell Pike, Pillar and Great Gable, forming a backdrop. This route does not visit any summit but instead uses two high passes to provide a mountain circuit of quality. Being a high level route means that ideally good weather should be taken advantage of. Just because you are not visiting any summit cairn does not mean it is a walk for days when the cloud lies low. Far from it this is a true mountain walk throughout which superb views can be enjoyed.

The start is the grassy are used for parking at Wasdale Head (Grid ref. NY186085). After parking walk along the lane towards the Wasdale Head Inn. Just after the hotel turn left towards the signed toilets turning right along Mosedale Beck. Do not cross the bridge instead continuing north in the direction of Kirk Fell. Reaching the foot of Kirk Fell turn left following the clear path heading north to Black Sail Pass.

The onward route is straightforward and the path climbs steadily including a series of zigzags near Gatherstone Beck. Reaching Black Sail Pass you are rewarded with grand view into Ennerdale with a wide range of peaks forming a superb backdrop. The onward path is less trodden than others that meet in this col. To your right you will see a path contouring across the northern slopes of Kirk Fell and this is the one to take. The path descends slightly to cross Sail Back before following an undulating route to Beck Head.

Marked by a group of small Tarns Beck Head is an ideal place to rest awhile enjoying the view of Great Gable. It is important that you locate the correct path for the descent into Wasdale. Known as 'Moses Trod' it was once a smugglers route. Today it is used for more legitimate purposes and provides a convenient way down to Wasdale. The path descends obliquely across Great Gable's scree slopes for some distance with the 'Napes' high above on your left. In the early stages of the descent ensure you follow the descending path rather than take the 'Gable Traverse' that leads to Sty Head. This latter path contours across the scree rather than descending.

The path across the screes is good and reaching grass you descend more steeply down Gavel Neese. During this section you have a great view of Ill Gill as it tumbles almost the full height of Kirk Fell on your right. Reaching the valley path turn right to Wasdale and continue to Burnthwaite Farm. Just after the farmhouse turn left through the farmyard to join a walled lane that leads to Wasdale Chapel.

This diversion is well worth the effort as you can see the unique stone walling typical of this area. The fields have been cleared of large stones and stacked in 'blocks' that form part of the walls. Reaching the Chapel (Grid ref. 188087) you are recommended to make a visit. The graveyard and church include many memorials to mountaineers who either died in the surrounding fells or who wished to be buried near them. After a day in the hills you probably prefer to use the facilities of the Wasdale Head Inn so follow the field path from the Chapel. If you are not in need of refreshment then continue down the lane to the parking area and the start of the walk.

Walk 1246 Route Map