Red Pike (Buttermere)

Published 23 February 2020

Silhouettes of walkers climbing up a hill
The march goes on.

If you’re in Buttermere, you can’t escape a group of fells looking down on the village and the lake. Fells that stand there, calling for you. And I was in Buttermere. And they did call me. So I went to visit five of them, starting with Great Borne and Starling Dodd. My next stop was a bit more reddish.

Is there is such a thing as a classic Buttermere walk, it’s the traverse of Red Pike, High Stile and High Crag. They’re a natural combination. A good ridge walk that that runs along the south west of Buttermere, and with good paths to the village at either end. Stand in the village of Buttermere, or by the edge of the lake with the same name, and you will see them staring down at you. Looking at you as if to say “come on then. What are you waiting for?”

Their draw, their power over walkers, was evident by the steady stream of people heading up to Red Pike. They were following the path from Scale Force that I’d walked up earlier. I hadn’t seen a soul when I had walked up it. But now there were people everywhere, snaking up the hillside almost convoy-like. From my perch on the side of Starling Dodd, I watched them in the distance, each foot slowly moving in front of the other.

The wind that had almost brought me to the ground on top of Starling Dodd, was still blowing. But I could see that those I was watching, were actually able to make progress. They walked hunched forward, making themselves smaller to lessen the wind’s impact. But they were moving. Their progress was vindication of my plan to carry on. Either that or everyone else was as mad as I.

Red Pike, seen from Starling Dodd

The walk from Starling Dodd to Red Pike was, in my mind anyway, the perfect ridge walk. There’d been a lot of effort earlier getting up from the valley floor. But now all that was now needed was a gentle stroll over a grassy hilltop, whilst casually ascending a little bit more height to get to the top.

I joined the convoy, feeling a little odd to be now sharing the fell after a morning alone. But such is the draw of this three fell combo. If it had called to me, it was going to call to others too.

With only a mile to walk, it didn’t take long to walk between the two felltops, and soon I was standing on Red Pike’s summit. Which, I noted with interest, was devoid of red coloured stones. Earlier in the day I’d walked alongside Scale Beck on a path that goes up from the valley to Red Pike itself. The rocks and stones the path that formed the path, were all a deep red. The colour comes from the presence of syenite. Syenite’s not a common rock, and generally appears in pretty small concentrations. But its influence is that it stains the rocks and ground a deep, muddy red. The affect is quite lovely, although its influence on Red Pike’s grassy top was just a little more muted.

The main focus of Red Pike’s summit was a large cairn, and a wind shelter that was full. Full of people complaining about the wind. I didn’t know what they were complaining about. First of all, unlike me, they had shelter from it. But also here at Red Pike I could actually stand upright without any difficulty. Over at Starling Dodd, if I’d tried standing upright, the wind would have blown to the floor in seconds. Wind? These people knew nothing of the word!

A large group of people at the summit of Red Pike
Crowds congregating on Red Pike

And with all their moaning about the wind, did they shuffle up to allow other walkers to sit down and escape it? Of course not. So I wandered around the top instead, enjoying the view. A thoroughly more positive experience. For Red Pike gives you a chance to see five lakes from one place. Not a unique proposition, but one that’s not exactly common. Buttermere and Crummock Water sit to the north east. Ennerdale in the west. And in the distance, the tiny Loweswater, and huge of Derwent Water, sitting at the edge of Keswick. It was a pretty good viewpoint.

My wandering also yielded a mostly sheltered spot to sit, not far from the wind shelter. So I sat down and made the most of it. Without complaining. Starling Dodd hadn’t enabled me to enjoy the results of my all my hard work. There hadn’t been much of a chance to enjoy the scenery. Now I could. And I was going to make the most of it.

Next time: High Stile

Buttermere, seen from Red Pike's summit
Buttermere, seen from Red Pike’s summit

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