Series 2 – 15: Causey Pike


My family, as I may have mentioned, was very conservative about walking. Wainwright divided the Lakes into seven areas and seven books, but our walking was almost exclusively confined to the Western and Southern Fells. When we escaped, it was not far: a half-hearted attempt on the Langdale Pikes, a successful ascent of Loughrigg Fell, directly north of Ambleside, but at least within the Central Fells. Our last, Ullswater, holiday, forced them to open the Eastern and Far Eastern Fells, and my demanding ascent of Binsey entered the previously virginal territory of the Northern Fells.
That left only the North Western Fells.
They lie between the Vale of Lorton and the Buttermere Valley in the west and the Vale of Keswick and Borrowdale in the east. Wainwright held them in great affection for their clean lines and close-hemmed profusion, high crests and scarped arêtes, and I can’t beat that. Overall, this is my favourite area: last book begun, first book completed.
Geologically, they are a long tongue of slate intruding into the common volcanic ash, less rugged in appearance, less porous (in the whole area there is only one Tarn, close to the region’s only connection with other high ground, at its southern extremity, Honister Pass).
My first attraction was Causey Pike, a knobbled summit echoed by a sea-serpent wriggle of mini-tops, a distinctive feature in all views of Keswick and Newlands. Here, though, was my first real chance to plan a walk in the manner that I would follow until all the Wainwrights had been climbed: a circle, bringing me round from car to car, up one ridge, down another.
It wasn’t as pure a circle as I would have liked, but it was a start.  Causey was the termination of a ridge that could be followed over Scar Crags and Sail to Eel Crag, the hub of the Coledale Horseshoe. This was a bit beyond me at this stage, so after Scar Crags I would drop down via Sail Pass, to gain access to the subsidiary ridge of Outerside, Stile End and Barrow, the lower, inner wall of Coledale. A purist would have rejected it for artificiality, given that the two ridges were not geographically linked, but something like that was never going to stop me if it promised to go where I wanted.
I started later than I should, and with heavy legs, though the weight was soon walked off. There was an immediate choice of routes, an easy, well-graded, grassy but ultimately timid path to Sleet Hause, or a more demanding, steeper, rougher alternative to scramble up Rowling End. The challenge mattered: given the option, I would always go for the harder, more exciting route, forever justifying my right to think of myself as a fellwalker. No doubt, unconsciously, I wanted to prove myself worthy to my Dad.
Beyond the delightful summit of Causey, the ridge swelled towards the higher but lesser Scar Crags, a gentle whaleback. I didn’t pause: clouds were building, rain seemed likely and there was no shelter, nor anything of interest, to be frank.
But the rain was holding off, so I stuck to my plan of linking the two ridges, pausing on my descent of the narrow Stoneycroft Gill valley to seek out the best pathless access to Outerside: crossing, carefully, the drained tarn-bed of High Moss and contouring up the steep flank to its neat, sharp top. It was growing ever darker, but there was time for a steep descent of the eastern ridge, to bypass Stile End – it was not a separate fell in Wainwright, I didn’t have to exhaust myself further by ascending it – and the final green rise to Barrow’s summit.
Its long north ridge looked an ideal, well-graded descent (which it is) but that would land me in Braithwaite, two miles from my car, and threatening a soaking before I sore-footed back. Hence a return to the ridge, and an angled descent into Stoneycroft Gill, the heavens finally opening as I got down to the old mine road and doubled back on myself to get back.
Ah yes, I had begun. I can’t recall if, at that point, there was any fixed idea that I would do all the Wainwrights, but I had settled upon how it would be approached, by circles devised and planned, forever seeking out the more demanding alternates. In this I further alienated myself from my family’s method, in which it was tabu to so much as suggest a possible destination for tomorrow, at least not until you were about to get into the car. I had all the fun of anticipation to preface the fun of achievement.
In this magnificent picture, Causey Pike is the central peak, with Rowling End thrusting forward in front of it. Scar Crags is the undistinguished lump to its immediate left, and Outerside is seen above the extent of Stonycroft Gill, the mine road the scar along its right flank. The rest of the fells in sight are also great to walk.

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