/ Pillar Rock approach

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jonny taylor on 23 Jul 2014
Went up to Pillar on sunday. God that was hard work in the humid heat! Lovely rock, but shame it's such a mission to get to. Would NOT recommend approach from Buttermere. Guidebook seemed to imply that might be 2 hours; took us three and we're normally pretty fast.

Anyway, we had real trouble getting up the hill to Pillar and was wondering if people could advise on the path situation. We approached via the footbridge at 176132 and continued straight up the faint path on the other side of the track, marked on OS and on Harveys map. This soon petered out and we were bashing through evil young conifers, fallen trees and rough ground. Never managed to pick up another path.

On the way down we descended the broad ridge to the west of the corrie, and that was also very much pathless although at the very end we picked up the reasonable if overgrown path contouring gently in from 169131.

There's a path marked on OS maps to the west of the stream, but I swear it was marked to the east on the Harveys map, and we didn't see any sign of either. Do they exist in any real way, and is it worth taking them if you are heading for the west face of Pillar?

Would appreciate any advice from people who know the place, though I'm not sure we're going to be back in a hurry! (Though reading past threads it sounds tempting to stay at Ennerdale YHA or camp at Robinsons Cairn if we drove all the way round to Langdale...) Would be nice to know a better way to approach (when it's not so hot!), as I thought the rock was great. (FRCC guide lists as "borrowdale volcanic" but it seemed very different to e.g. Shepherds, Troutdale etc, much more blistered, rippled and rough...
Bob on 23 Jul 2014
In reply to jonny taylor:

Since I was based in the S Lakes I'd approach Pillar from Wasdale Head via Black Sail and Robinson's Cairn. This was long(ish) but steady with no steep bits. I once approached via Ennerdale using the path by the stream that drops down almost directly from the crag. I don't remember it being a particularly hard path to follow but it wasn't a Lakeland Fell motorway, closer to being a sheep trod. This was before the recent round of felling and rewilding that's going on. (It was thirty years ago actually!)
tmawer - on 23 Jul 2014
In reply to jonny taylor:

I have approached from Ennerdale and cycled up the valley, gone right over a bridge and continued, now more uphill, until a small path on the left leaves the forestry road, (We hide the bikes here) this contours quite gently for quite some way, through bits of trees etc, until a steeper section takes you directly to the foot of the climbing. This didn't seem too bad, although getting to crags seems a bit like childbirth as described, in that the pain is soon forgotten!
shantaram - on 23 Jul 2014
In reply to jonny taylor:

I've approached Pillar once from Buttermere and never again. It seemed Ok on the way in, but was really tiring on the way out after a days climbing. It took 2 1/2 hours plus.

Since then I've always approached via Ennerdale on bike as tmawer describes and it's not too bad, especially on the return journey as it's virtually freewheeling all the way on the bike. More like 1 1/2 hours approach.
Simon Caldwell - on 23 Jul 2014
In reply to jonny taylor:

I've done the approach from Buttermere once, and really enjoyed it - but you have to treat it as part of the day's activity rather than something that has to be done to get to the crag. A bit like the Wasdale approach.
These days I'd go for the Ennerdale bike option.
As regards the final approach - I remember it being hard work, and I don't think I've gone the same way twice, but there's always been a path of sorts to follow through the forest.
Dave Cumberland - on 23 Jul 2014
In reply to Bob:

> . This was before the recent round of felling and rewilding that's going on. (It was thirty years ago actually!)

For "re-wilding" read - "turning the Lake District into a jungle wasteland of bracken that removes your right to roam and changes the Lake District from what made it a National Park".

The most disgraceful process of vandalistic mismanagement supported by fake quasi pseudo-environmentalist ideas in the Lake District's history.

Having said that, the walk over Haystacks and up the ride to Pillar is still a fairly fast direct route although not as pleasant as it used to be.

DC
Bob on 23 Jul 2014
In reply to Dave Cumberland:

I'll add that to my list of trigger phrases :-)

There were concerns during the F&M crisis that if the fells were denuded of sheep that they would begin to revert to their original state of scrub and sparse tree cover.
MFB - on 23 Jul 2014
In reply to Dave Cumberland:

over haystacks and up the ride is fine

your comments made me have a quick look at the 'wild ennerdale' webpage their stated aims and how they hope to get there - what bits are firing you up?
Rick Graham on 23 Jul 2014
In reply to MFB:

Over Haystacks ? Surely if you walk from Buttermere the quickest way is over Scarth Gap from Gatesgarth Farm.

With a mtn bike the guide gives 90 minutes from the public parking up Ennerdale. Very steady at that and the return is a breeze as already mentioned.
MFB - on 23 Jul 2014
In reply to Rick Graham:

sorry

'Buttermere the quickest way is over Scarth Gap from Gatesgarth Farm'

yes

about 90 mins iirc or is that optimistic - about 4yrs since been over
Dave Cumberland - on 23 Jul 2014
In reply to Rick Graham:

> Over Haystacks ? Surely if you walk from Buttermere the quickest way is over Scarth Gap from Gatesgarth Farm.
Aye.
Haystacks = Scarth Gap
Rick Graham on 23 Jul 2014
In reply to MFB:


> about 90 mins iirc or is that optimistic - about 4yrs since been over

About 40 years ago for me that way and very optimistic. Only did it twice (alpine training ) and it feels hard on the way back.

Guidebook time 2.5 hours, I think.
Rog Wilko on 24 Jul 2014
In reply to jonny taylor:

If you want to reduce the ascent you can go from top of Honister, via Moses Trod and along north flank of KirkFell. Did this once long time ago carrying camping kit and climbing gear. Good weekend was had.
MFB - on 24 Jul 2014
In reply to Rick Graham:

my time was optimistic then, after research, frcc guide book 1991 gives '(About 2hrs)'
MFB - on 24 Jul 2014
In reply to Rog Wilko:

been that way, good walk but not sure its that efficient for crag, gatesgarth is a good path if you don't want to penetrate a rewilded west cumbria
jonny taylor on 24 Jul 2014
In reply to Rog Wilko:

> If you want to reduce the ascent you can go from top of Honister, via Moses Trod and along north flank of KirkFell. Did this once long time ago carrying camping kit and climbing gear. Good weekend was had.

That's certainly an idea, wondered about that but looked at the distance on the map as quite a bit longer. Hadn't counted on the energy-sapping heat last weekend.

In reply to MFB:

> my time was optimistic then, after research, frcc guide book 1991 gives '(About 2hrs)'

Is that the selective guide? I think the time range given there (1.5-2 hours) must be for Ennerdale and the Buttermere approach is just thrown in for kicks. I am sure we were going slower because of the heat, but I defy anybody to get even close to two hours from Buttermere!
Bob on 24 Jul 2014
In reply to jonny taylor:

I think you need to look at Pillar in one of two ways:

if you want to get a few routes done then if you are based in the south of the district walk in from Wasdale, otherwise head round to Ennerdale and bike/walk in from there.

If you want a full mountain day experience then walk in from either Buttermere or Honister, though for some the walk-in from Wasdale might be regarded as a full mountain day experience!

On a really hot day I'd look at a walk in/out that had some pools for taking a dip in :-)
Gael Force - on 24 Jul 2014
In reply to jonny taylor:

Well, as a local 2 hours is about right from Gatesgarth, you seemed a bit confused about the path up from the forestry track, there's a cairn where you leave the path. Biking in is quicker, but I prefer the walk.
jonny taylor on 24 Jul 2014
In reply to Gael Force:

> Well, as a local 2 hours is about right from Gatesgarth

Really? All the way to the base of a route? Suppose we must have been going even slower than I thought then.
Simon Caldwell - on 24 Jul 2014
In reply to jonny taylor:

According to my notes it took us 2 hours from Gatesgarth to the crag. Don't know about the way back, probably a bit longer. But it was a lot less hot than at the moment, that makes a big difference.
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LakesWinter on 24 Jul 2014
In reply to Simon Caldwell:

Yeah we went from Buttermere twice and were at least 30 mins faster the second time in cooler weather
pasbury on 24 Jul 2014
In reply to Dave Cumberland:
> (In reply to Bob)
>
> [...]
>
> For "re-wilding" read - "turning the Lake District into a jungle wasteland of bracken that removes your right to roam and changes the Lake District from what made it a National Park".
>
> The most disgraceful process of vandalistic mismanagement supported by fake quasi pseudo-environmentalist ideas in the Lake District's history.
>

Eh, doesn't it mean phasing out the sitka and allowing native species to grow instead while contining with some form of grazing (e.g. not scrub).

Sounds like a bloody great idea to me.
Dave Cumberland - on 24 Jul 2014
In reply to pasbury:

> Sounds like a bloody great idea to me.

Perhaps you should get up to speed with exactly what is happening on the ground. How connected to the land are you? Do you have long-term knowledge and experience of the Lake District? Maybe you do, but what you hear and read may be one thing and sound all very desirable, but talk to the people who live and work here and understand the landscape you will get another story. You only need to look around and make your own observations and judgements. Don't believe all the PR put out by the NPA, NT etc etc.
DC
pasbury on 24 Jul 2014
In reply to Dave Cumberland:

Well I used to live in the Lake District and now live in another area where conifer plantations are gradually being replaced with native woodland. I see it making a positive contribution to the appearance and amenity value of the land.
I'm guessing that locals don't like the high handed management methods of the various bodies you mention?
I cannot for the life of me see how anyone can object to the general principal of what the Wild Ennerdale project hopes to achieve.
Dave Cumberland - on 24 Jul 2014
In reply to pasbury:

> I cannot for the life of me see how anyone can object to the general principal of what the Wild Ennerdale project hopes to achieve.

The reason this thread started is because it is now difficult to move around the LD on foot. The right to roam, the right to get to crags, the right to walk off a path is disappearing faster than you can say bracken. There is nothing wrong with replacing conifers with broad-leaved, however, the misguided land management practices that are being adopted are simply enabling bracken to colonise every available inch of open land.

The bracken was and is not indigenous, it is taking over to the extent that all other species of grass and wild flowers are disappearing. The eco-fascist zealots in the NPA, NT, Enviro-agency etc even sometimes say bracken is a GOOD idea! They are utterly bonkers. You try getting to half of our valley crags now.

This is all going to end in tears. They are destroying exactly what they set out to protect.
DC
Rog Wilko on 24 Jul 2014
In reply to MFB:

> been that way, good walk but not sure its that efficient for crag, gatesgarth is a good path if you don't want to penetrate a rewilded west cumbria

Well, I did say we were very heavily laden - a bit further to walk but less ascent seemed like a good idea.
MFB - on 24 Jul 2014
In reply to Dave Cumberland:
thing is if we don't like the result of the rewilding we can change it, add a few more sheep and some forestry blocks and back to square one - if public opinion is strong, eventually, the 'eco-fascist zealots' will have to respond

personally i'm looking forward to the first beaver harvest, i have my name down for a hat
Post edited at 19:08
Gael Force - on 24 Jul 2014
In reply to jonny taylor:

I think the heat is slowing everybody down this week...
jon59 - on 24 Jul 2014
In reply to jonny taylor:

Climbed at Pillar on Tuesday, we mountain biked in from Ennerdale getting to the crag in 1hr 40mins. Great day climbing with a brilliant down hill mountain bike route back to the carpark in 25 mins to save the legs for a day on Scafell.
Ron Kenyon - on 25 Jul 2014
In reply

Been by Gatesgarth and by bike - by bike seemed the best all round with the lovely descent back along the valley on the way back to the car at Bowness. Shame we could not go back to the old days when the general public (ie US) could drive up the valley.

Definitely would not advise walking up the valley - by foot Buttermere seem probably best. From Wasdale you can cut off a bit off at the top of Black Sail by taking a diagonal path just above a "zigzag" Good thing with Wasdale is not having to drop down into the valley and back up again as with approach from Buttermere.

In the 1920's Kelly seemed to treat Pillar as a rock side crag - when approaching from Wasdale - knocking off a phenomenial batch of routes on Pillar in a day - and go back the day after and do the same.

Interesting with the rewilding of the valley - this might remove the ability to roam but it is important to ensure that whatever tracks there are well signed and kept clear which could/would probably mean use of work parties keep them clear every so often with the likes of chainsaws (for trees fallen across them) and path maintenance.

Recently in Bosnia and Montenegro which are a bit wilder with a good track leading through the landscape.

The "wilding" idea could however be blown apart with the moves to change the rules about how / where to build a nuclear dump - with eyes of Allerdale/Copeland Council on Ennerdale.
PATTISON Bill - on 25 Jul 2014
In reply to jonny taylor: Have used all routes mentioned over the years but find the Wasdale approach suits me .Head for Black Sail and after the zigzags above Gatherstone Beck look out for a faint path heading off Lt,it improves as you gain height, Lt at the top on Looking Stead then take the High Level route to the foot of the crag.Simples .Re bracken it is rapidly taking over the Lake District and many paths have already become impassable or a tick ridden flog.Many crags are virtually cut off by the damned stuff.I gather that lot in Brussels banned the one substance that was of use in controlling it.Perhaps they should be invited to try getting to Eel Tarn from Christcliffe,Hare Crag, Goat Crag or Bull Howe just to mention a few .Once upon a time (no fairy story)farmers harvested the stuff for animal bedding but very rarely do you see any efforts to do so today.Time the people who are supposed to look after The Park actually got out into it instead of viewing it from afar.Rant over.
Bob on 25 Jul 2014
In reply to PATTISON Bill:

A tale of the approach from Bowness ...

We had planned to head to Pillar but rather than our usual Wasdale approach we had to visit a forestry worker who lived next to the Youth Hostel as Tony King had to drop off a large blade for a bench saw (we are talking about a metre diameter here). We parked up by the Youth Hostel and after chatting to the bloke for a bit he asks "Where are you going?", "Up to Pillar Rock", "Oh, I'll give you a lift, get your kit and meet me on the other side of the forestry gate".

So we are walking over the rise just past the gate when the rest of the team, Dave and Penny Kirby roll up. We drop out of sight and get in to the car and head off to the foot of the path up to the crag. Our taxi driver heads back via a different route.

Dave and Penny walk over the rise to find that there's no sight of us. "Ah, they'll be round that corner" says Dave. Except we aren't. "Hmm, they're shifting, must be round the next bend", "Eh!", " Well there's a long straight coming up"

Meanwhile we have ambled up to the crag and are sitting in the sun when someone says "Is that Dave?" pointing to a figure blasting up the path. Sure enough just twenty minutes after we've made it to the crag Dave and Penny arrive having walked the whole way. He couldn't understand why we looked so fresh!
PATTISON Bill - on 25 Jul 2014
In reply to Bob:

And the point is?
In reply to jonny taylor:

> Went up to Pillar on sunday. God that was hard work in the humid heat! Lovely rock, but shame it's such a mission to get to. Would NOT recommend approach from Buttermere. Guidebook seemed to imply that might be 2 hours; took us three and we're normally pretty fast.

There used to be a firebreak straight up more or less where you went but it disappeared when the forestry was felled.

Actually, the current guide (2007) implies 2.5 hours (I should know, seeing as I wrote it). Personally I also think it takes about the same walking in from Wasdale or from Bowness Knott though you can reduce the latter to 1.5 hours by biking. If you look on page 206 it tells you the best approach, from the track junction on the Pillar side of the Liza (that you reach from either walking from Buttermere or cycling from Bowness Knott) is to walk up the upper right-hand track for 450 metres and then take a diagonal footpath that rises gently up through felled forestry to reach the west bank of the stream that descends from Pillar Cove. About half way up the upper part of this path it is possible to cross the stream and climb up its east bank which is rather more pleasant than the west bank.

The times given get you to the foot of the North Face. To reach the West Face takes another 20 minutes or so. It's quicker and less of a flog to gain it by crossing West Waterfall Gully from the end of Green Ledge but does involve a dangerous scramble on wet rock - add on 10 minutes if you rope up for this. It's safer but a right old slog to bear up right from below the bottom of West Waterfall Gully and walk up the vague ridge on the right which is really steep and, as you have found, pathless. This eventually leads to a good path that gets you to the Western Scree - getting on for 30 minutes.

Probably, the best approach for a really good day's climbing on Pillar is to do a route on the North Face and carry a light sack containing fell shoes, a litre of water and a little food, drop down the lower section of the Old West and do a route on the West Face of High Man, then descend Slab and Notch and the Shamrock Traverse back to your sacks. Various variations could take in the Shamrock or the West Face of Low Man.

I was climbing on Pillar yesterday and did Walker's Gully (which I needed to check as I'd had complaints about the pitch lengths in the description) followed by The Great Chimney to the summit of High Man. This was the only route I hadn't done to the top of High Man and what a surprise! Far from being the poor Diff given a passing mention in the guide it was a good Severe (if you like Gullies) and a really fitting continuation to Walker's Gully. Pillar never ceases to amaze me and it does seem an almost magical place at times. If you go again, I'd heartily recommend virtually any of the starred routes on the West Face of Low Man in particular (as in the 2007 guide) - and there's only 3 that don't get stars.
CathS - on 26 Jul 2014
In reply to jonny taylor:

After an epic fail to climb on Pillar Rock a few years ago having attempted the approach from Ennerdale (which took a lot longer than the distance on the map would suggest, and involved ropework to negotiate a large gully crossing), we reccied the approach from Wasdale via Black Sail and Robinson's Cairn a couple of years ago. This is still quite long but easy to follow. However, when we finally got to climb on Pillar Rock last year, we opted to walk in from Wasdale via the main path right up to the summit of Pillar and dropped in from there. The rationale for this was that it was a big wide path all the way, so quicker walking than the narrow and rough climbers path to Robinson's Cairn, despite a bit more height gain (training for something??). It was a steady climb and took 2 hours 45 min.
Gael Force - on 26 Jul 2014
In reply to Stephen Reid - Needle Sports:

I think a lot of the routes on Pillar are pretty poor unfortunately, there's a handful of good ones that's about it. A lot are really dirty and some of the cracks are pretty overgrown.
In reply to Gael Force:

I'd be interested to know which routes you are basing this assertion on!

A lot of the easier routes on the Shamrock are overgrown - true. And quite a lot of those on the North Face of Low Man are too, or lichenous. However most of the climbs from Megaton rightwards, right round to South-West Climb are very clean on the whole and are certainly not spoiled by the odd mossy section, especially in weather like this. Some of the Shamrock routes are very good, like Thanatos, Electron and Eros, as are routes like Sheol/Tapestry Connection, Grooved Wall and North Climb. And virtually all the climbs on the SE Face are good (if short).
Dave Ferguson - on 26 Jul 2014
In reply to Gael Force:
> (In reply to Stephen Reid - Needle Sports)
>
> I think a lot of the routes on Pillar are pretty poor unfortunately,

Have to disagree, when dry like it as at the moment the moss can be brushed off really easily and the rock underneath has fantastic frictional qualities. Routes on the north and west faces offer great mountaineering days out. The last few times we've been we've cycled in, slogged up the ridge on the right to leave sacs at the base of the west face of high man, drop down and do a route on the north face, descend the old west route, lunch and a route or two on the west face in the afternoon sun - fantastic.

A free-wheel back down to Bowness Knott and a pint in Ennerdale Bridge makes for a memorable days mountain cragging.

LakesWinter on 26 Jul 2014
In reply to Gael Force:

Well, all the ones I've done, summer and winter, have been fantastic. Yes there is some vegetation on the North face of Low Man, but the routes are clean enough - the odd mossy section just adds interest and the frictional qualities of the rock are superb!
jonny taylor on 26 Jul 2014
In reply to Stephen Reid - Needle Sports:

Thanks for that description, that all makes a lot of sense. We were following the instructions in the 2003 select guide. Your comment about the firebreak explains a lot, and reading your description with the 03 guide in front of me, I suspect that things have changed a bit on the ground. I think we followed your former firebreak, roughly followed the right bank of the stream, before breaking out right onto your vague ridge that is "a right old slog" (which it was indeed!). Sounds like the updated description is a a lot more helpful, and all our guide says for timings is 1.5-2 hours without specifying which approach(es) that refers to.

Anyway, after all that we took things pretty easy, and made our way up Rib and Slab Climb. Really enjoyed the texture of the rock, and once the memories of the approach have faded I would like to come back (when it's not so hot, and from Ennerdale) and sample some of the other routes up there.
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Gael Force - on 27 Jul 2014
In reply to Stephen Reid - Needle Sports:

As I said there are some really good routes on Pillar and there's some really crap ones. Some good ones,Thanatos,Electron, Puppet,(very good), north climb,Walkers gully,grooved wall,north west climb,rib and slab,new west and south west.

Some crap ones, Photon,take wellies for the approach,and an ice axe to climb it to remove the ferns,nor nor west climb,charybdis-really crap,vandal,attila,thor,megaton.

All subjective of course...
In reply to Gael Force:

> All subjective of course...

Indeed.

I'd agree with your first list except for Puppet which I thought was very grubby and quite serious on pitch 5. And before you say "but it gets two stars", these are FRCC new type "stars for all" stars and you can almost knock one off to get back to the old starring system.

Of the second list, it's not only Photon that has a terrible approach, so does Eros and many other routes on the left side of the Shamrock - and Eros is definitely worth three stars. But once the approach is out of the way, the rest of Photon is fine, albeit a bit botanical. Nor'-Nor'-West Climb is a bit wandering and artificial, and quite serious with some bold climbing and that horrible detached block belay shared with Puppet, but it's on good clean rock the whole way. Not a route I'd hurry to repeat though. Charybdis I agree is rather disappointing for a route with such a fine line, but the arete on pitch 6 has to be one of the best pitches on Pillar. Vandal I thought a great route, and I've done it several times. Granted the top half feels a little spooky for a few moves, but the rock is fantastic. Attila I haven't done but it looks really dirty - I'd be interested to know exactly what you thought of it as it might save me from having to repeat it! Thor I thought very pleasant on super rock and ditto Megaton which I think is improved by taking the variation start which makes pitch 2 much less serious and climbs virtually the same ground. Pitch 1 is just a grassy scramble but the rest of the climb is solid the whole way to the summit and at a fairly consistent grade.

If you haven't done them, I'd recommend, Gaul (HVS), Appian Wall (VS), Triton Direct (VS) Nook and Wall Climb (MS) The Devil's Eliminate (HVS) The Devil's Entrance (VS) and Err (VS). All are on the West Face of Low Man and all are on superb rock with a minimum of lichen. In fact, if you got an early start you might just squeeze them all into a day!

All subjective of course...
Simon Caldwell - on 27 Jul 2014
In reply to Gael Force:

That's quite a lot of good routes for "a handful" !

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