Please visit our Helvellyn, Blencathra or our Catbells pages for photographs of other Lake District walks or perhaps our Aira Force page for pictures of an easier waterfall walk. Also visit some more photographs of the High Style Ridge with views of Haystacks & Buttermere.
Haystacks is a Lake District mountain overlooking Buttermere. The name "Haystacks" like many of the names in the Lake District is derived from the Ancient Norse language. It means "high rocks". Haystacks is 598 metres which is about 1900 feet. Alfred Wainwright says "Haystacks stands unabashed and unashamed in the middle of a circle of much loftier fells, like a shaggy terrier in the company of foxhounds, some of them known internationally, but not one of this distinguished group of mountains around Ennerdale and Buttermere can show a greater variety and a more fascinating arrangement of interesting features." (Pictorial Guide to the Lakeland Fells - Book 7).
The following is written by the famous Dr. Joel Rasbash. THE REAL VIEWS ARE NOT THE SAME. - YOU REALLY MUST VISIT HERE AND SEE FOR YOURSELF!
Above photograph is taken from the approach to Haystacks up a pass called Scarth Gap. The mountain in the centre of the picture is Robinson - hardly the most romantic of Lakeland names! The lake is Buttermere. Haystacks is a real favourite for walkers. It may not be one of the Lake District's biggest fells but it has astonishing views from all sides, rocky outcrops & crags, several small tarns, and, in the Summer, it is covered in purple heather.
This image is taken from Scarth Gap. Haystacks is the large fell to the right with Fleetwith Pike in the mid-distance.
The photograph above demonstrates the geology of Haystacks. The rock to the right was once a highly viscous and slow moving bed of lava. Each layer in the rock represents a separate wave of lava. Nowhere else in the Lake District does lava fold and bend in this way.
This view taken from the way up Haystacks gives a fine retrospective of High Crag in the centre and Pillar to the left. The slope coming off High Crag - called Gamlin End - is one of the steepest footpaths in the Lake District and to be taken with a clear head. There is pitching however, and a fit walker should not be deterred from ascending or descending as High Crag forms part of one of Lakeland's greatest ridges - the High Stile ridge. The climb to the summit involves some simple scrambling over molten lava that cooled around 450 million years ago.
The summit is a turretted outcrop by a small nameless tarn, pictured right with Pillar dominating the skyline. There follows a delightful mile of rockeries, small tarns, crags and stunning views.
This above is taken from another nameless tarn near the summit. This is an excellent place for viewing the Ennerdale side of Great Gable, with the overpowering spectacle of Gable Crag faced square on. This place in winter is remarkable for the stripes of snow that form on Great Gable's lower slopes - they make the fell look the hide of a zebra.
This picture is taken close to Inonimate Tarn which means the nameless tarn. Ironically it is one of only two tarns on Haystacks to actually have a name! Incidentally Wainwright enthusiasts should take care when crossing Inonimate Tarn as they may be stepping on the fellmaster's ashes - it was his favourite place and is also the favourite fell of WA Poucher who spent much of the 20th century photographing the Lake District. The central fells in the distance are Great Gable (the hummock in the middle) and Kirk Fell. Green Gable can be seen leading up to Great Gable.
This somewhat sombre photograph above captures the rapid shifting of mood upon Haystacks. Captured between the flanks of Kirk Fell and Great Gable the sight of distant Scafell arrests the skyline. This most splendid of Lake District crag-faces is rarely seen, but opens up past Blackbeck Tarn and is a conspicuous feature from Fleetwith Pike.
Having crossed the upland plateau, the Haystacks path leads down across a traverse between tough crags on one side and a sheer drop to Warnscale and the Buttermere valley. Both Buttermere and Crummock Water can be seen stretching away in the distance. After the ice age (around 11,000 years ago) they were one large lake, but silt brought down off the fells in years of Lakeland rain have built up a flat marshy land between them.
The savage buttress of rock on the right is a part of Haystacks and is typical of the mountain. In the centre the sharp nose of Fleetwith Pike thrusts out and down into the valley below.
The panoramic photograph above was taken from the top of Fleetwith Pike. Believe it or not, this view includes: Skiddaw, Robinson, Helvellyn, Seat Sandal, Cofa Pike, Fairfield, Glaramara, Bowfell, Great Gable, Scafell & Haystacks as pictured. The full view includes Buttermere and Crummock Water and beyond to the Solway Firth and Scotland!
The above photograph marks a point of great geological importance on the way down Fleetwith Pike. Here the volcanic rock of the central fells known as the Borrowdale Volcanic Series meets the mud-deposits of the northern fells known as Skiddaw Slate. The volcanic rock is tougher and craggier, it often breaks up into large square blocks of scree, and is a light blueish or whitish colour. The Skiddaw Slate tends to be broken into small slithers that are very dark blue and shiny. Often the rock breaks up easily and is much more slippery than the volcanic rock. Water erodes evenly down Skiddaw slates, making for sleek mountains with conical peaks - take a look around Keswick to get a sense of this. The volcanic rock resists the water, creating more jutting crags and gullies - in the opinion of the author the volcanic rock is far more interesting to look at, walk upon or scramble up.
This photograph shows something of the steepness of the descent off Fleetwith Pike. It is pretty safe for anyone with a good head for heights and a careful tread. In fact the views on all sides are most rewarding, as is the case with most steep descents (a descent of the Breast Route down Great Gable offers a most magnificent vista of the Scafell Massif, Stye Head Tarn and the ways down to Borrowdale and Wasdale).
The last photograph is taken close to the bottom of Fleetwith Pike. This is a good example of the one or two breaks in the steep descent. Ahead there lies the Buttermere valley which has been such an excellent companion throughout the walk. The final part of the descent makes a series of steep zig-zags where a pitched path is currently being constructed. Take note of a white stone cross to the left. This is a memorial to Fanny Mercer who fell to her death in the 1880's. Let this be a lesson to anyone who goes fellwalking without the right footwear!
The Bridge House Hotel in Grasmere warmly recommends this walk as one of the
best in the world! We would suggest that the best way to travel
independently and enjoy the freedom of the Lake District fells is to take an
ordinance survey map and consult Wainwright's Pictoral Guides to the
Lakeland fells. Be certain to check that you are properly equipped and
clothed. Get an up-to-date
local forecast - the National Park one is based
on daily ascents of Helvellyn and, very usefully, gives information on
mountain top conditions etc. We can print a copy for guests on request.