|Haystacks is a Lake District mountain overlooking Buttermere
- just a forty minute drive from the Bridge House Hotel Grasmere. 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!
|This 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 on the right 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. If you want to
see a picture of another unusual rock formation on Glaramara click
|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
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
|This image on the left 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.
|The picture on the right 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 on the left 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
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 photograph on the right 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
|The photograph on the left 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
Finally, John Dawson's web
site has over 40 walks with photographs, descriptions and walking
information - well worth a visit!
Lake District Photographs © Bridge House Hotel Grasmere