Yewbarrow and the Netherbeck Round

Yewbarrow is an adventure all by itself. Making it the start of a two-day extended Netherbeck Round from Wasdale, makes for an amazing Wainwright walk. I’m going to take you out to tick off 10 Wainwrights, wild camp in a boulder field and get some of the best panoramics of the Lake District.

Netherbeck Round
Netherbeck Round from Whin Rigg

I’m coming up to completing the Wainwrights, and I want to go out with a bang, so I’m organising some really monster walks.

My body is telling me not to do any, I can hardly do a full day’s work with the muscle pain, anxiety; and the stress caused by these things, but I won’t give up. After being diagnosed with myalgic encephalomyelitis, I’m taking shit loads of supplements, CBD oil and I’m on the mend.

Looking back to Yewbarrow

I planned this walk two years ago and was very fit back then as I’d joined a gym and was there for or five times a week. Back then, I just thought the pain and fatigue were due to being unfit. I pounded the gym, got a PT and when I wasn’t in the gym or up a hill I was out running.

After putting the plotted route on Facebook, a couple of friends asked to join me. Then everything went to pot.

Haycock Summit Wild Camp in Winter
Haycock Summit Wild Camp in Winter

We do have a summit camp on Haycock in deep snow but only bagged 4 Wainwrights. In the morning, the other two had had enough. We descended, as a group, for a pint in The Strands pub.

Things have changed since then!

The Netherbeck Round (extended)

I’m determined to get this done. It’s a monster for me, but I love the idea of it.

This time the plans are not going to change. I am more experienced and I’m fully equipped to camp in a tree if I have to. My pack is 6.5kg instead of 14 and is much smaller so climbing down Stirrup Crag should not be a problem (so I think).

So off I set at 5 pm on a Sunday evening from Overbeck Bridge, timely, to make it to Pillar for camp. By the time I’m down from Yewbarrow I know I’m not going to make it to Pillar so debate the best alternative, somewhere with a great view in the morning, exposed and in the thick of it all.

Yewbarrow

Yewbarrow is an adventure, one I would not advise to the inexperienced. There are two hundred or so fells to the East in the District to practice on before you get to it!

Bell Rib scramble up Yewbarrow
Bell Rib scramble up Yewbarrow

The scree and the climb up Bell Rib are exciting and scary, a little worrying at some points, but the rewards are tenfold.

You can’t help but notice the drop-dead view of England’s highest mountain, Scafell Pike and the Scafell Massif from Yewbarrow. Taking that extra 600g DSLR to take multiple shots across the scene, skitching them together to get a huge panoramic, is more than worth the effort.

Scafell Massif from Bell Rib on Yewbarrow
Scafell Massif from Bell Rib on Yewbarrow

Climbing down Stirrup Crag at the back end of Yewbarrow would be best in a pair with a paracord lowering the packs (instead of having them on your back pushing you away from the crag), but it’s manageable, and a relief when you’re at the col at Dore Head.

Yewbarrow route down Stirrup Crag
Yewbarrow route down Stirrup Crag

“Follow the trail of blood left by the author…”

Alfred Wainwright on climbing Stirrup Crag

Yewbarrow easy route

To avoid the tough climb up Bell Rib or the petrifying-for-some scramble up Stirrup Crag at the other end, there is an easy route up Yewbarrow. Ascend the valley from Overbeck Bridge to Dore Head. Then ascend by a sheep trod along the side of the fell.

“Those of faint heart may avoid Stirrup Crag entirely by proceeding from Dore Head towards Over Beck, turning up a grass slope to the depression when the boulders cease. For such, the author bled in vein.”

Alfred Wainwright

Kirk Fell

The view at this stage of Kirk Fell is nothing but breathtaking. Do not do this walk on a foggy day; a clear day is essential; these panoramics are amongst the best in the Lake District.

Pillar, Kirk Fell and Great Gable from Dore Head
Pillar, Kirk Fell and Great Gable from Dore Head

The sun’s dropping behind Scoat Fell as I summit Red Pike and I make a decision, that will be my campsite tonight. It’s a boulder field so it’ll be interesting. Kirk Fell and the Scafell Massif are hopefully going to be in view for the morning.

Red Pike summit cairn
Red Pike summit cairn

I scoop some water from the small, peaty tarn at Dore Head and drink as much as I can with a protein bar. The route I’ve plotted on my OS map gives no sign of water on the ridge so I fill my two Sawyer water pouches for camp. These two litres are going to add 2 kg to the weight I’ll have to lug over Red Pike to Scoat Fell.

Wild camping on Scoat Fell

There’s a red tent already set up down at Scoat Tarn, West of Red Pike, and a couple of happy campers sat by the water.

Reaching the top, I do a bit of a recce or the area and pitch my MLD Trailstar tarp tent right in the middle of the boulder field. The beauty of camping under a tarp.

Wild camping on Scoat Fell along the Netherbeck Round
Wild camping on Scoat Fell along the Netherbeck Round

After a chilly night, the sun is glorious. The cloud drifts around me under my shelter, across the boulder field and around the crags. I strike camp and hide my bag behind a rock for my painful and uneventful trip to PIllar. It’s beautiful and all, but shrouded in fluffy white cloud.

Scoat Fell boulder field
Scoat Fell boulder field

The clag sweeps up Mirk Cove, over the saddle and down Black Comb into Mosedale, heading down to sleepy guest at the Wasdale Head Inn Hotel.

Pillar mountain

I’m glad I didn’t camp up here now! An incredible scramble up and down with a little hill in between. I hope you’re not reading this blog to see the views from Pillar, I couldn’t even see Yewbarrow.

I’m on track now. After returning to Scoat Fell, nipping out to Steeple, I plod on over Haycock (this time not blanketed in snow) and reminisce about a great Winter camp up here in a snowstorm.

Water shortage

I work out that Caw Fell is a good distance now. I’m parched and drop down the bank into Brown Band to a trickle of water, dried by the Summer heat. It’s a 200m hike back up to the summit cairn the wrong side of a big wall. Water is an issue on this ridge so check for sources on the map or bring loads.

Sometimes, you see nobody all day. Then, out of the blue comes along someone you feel thrilled to have met. A Scottish man approaches as I make my bolognese lunch on the meths stove.

He’s just finished a 19-day hike across the mountains of Scotland and came to the Lakes for a play. We chat for 10 minutes while I eat and away he heads East to his next stop, Wasdale Campsite. Very inspiring.

Caw Fell
Lunch on Caw Fell

Sitting here on Caw Fell, I look back on what I’ve been through since the last time I was in Wasdale. The stress of shit in the past took me down, I could hardly work. When you run a business, that can be devestating. It’s not like you can just go ‘on the sick’. Bancrupsy isn’t an option for me so I push on, this just makes the illness worse.

You are what you absorb

I take high doses of supplements in the form of LLV by doTERRA, their website says, ‘You are what you absorb‘, suggesting that what you eat doesn’t necessarily get through. I stopped taking it for a few weeks and things just took a nosedive. This keeps me ticking over.

A couple of months ago, my nephew sent me this link and recommended I take a full-spectrum CBD oil. I did some research on organic unrefined full spectrum 10% CBD oil and found that they cost between £60-80, whereas the oil in Lee’s link with the discount was £27.

Since then, my anxiety has disappeared, and I’m sleeping right through the night, even wild camping. I’d recommend it to anyone with a similar complaint.

I’m not running around this route, but I am feeling much better. I think it’s important that you know I’m no Bear Grylls so more about my energy levels, my illness, and how it affects my hiking in another post.

The route from Caw Fell around Brown Band to Seatallan is a pain in the arse when it’s this hot. Boulders, piled high, having tumbled from Gowder Crag on Haycock some fifteen thousand years ago make the progress slow. It’s a good hour to the base start up to my 8th and next Wainwright summit.

Taking a seat on one of thousands of big rocks, I take in half a litre of water in and remember my CBD oil. I retrieve it from my bag, take a couple of drops and replace the top. Fumbling, it slips from my hand between the huge boulders and into a void. There’s no way for me to reach it, I can’t even see it. I wonder if anyone, ever, knowing what it is, will ever recover it.

Seatallan, Middle Fell & Buckbarrow

Taking out my map, route-marked with a Sharpie, I work out that it’s a little less ascent if I do Middle Fell before Buckbarrow and set off for Seatallan. Yewbarrow, and my drive up Wasdale seem an age away.

Off-piste and heading East, I pass Greendale Tarn where the path starts for Middle Fell. I summit and return to the same spot before heading South-West towards Buckbarrow. Being my last of 10 Wainwrights on this walk, I linger for a while with a lovely couple at the summit.

They’ve been walking the Wainwrights for 50 years since coming down Brown Tongue off Scafell Pike on their very first walk, with some friends in a blizzard. The near-death experience spurred them on to learn to navigate and explore the mountains.

Buckbarrow summit cairn
Buckbarrow summit cairn

Most hikers on the fells will say hello and not stop to speak, but sometimes you are blessed with tales, their greatest moments, and you take these stories away to play with. They take my summit photo before they leave.

I am wasted, completely spent, but still feeling better than I thought I might. I even doubted I would get up there never mind round. Now to order some more CBD to keep me going.

Wasdale walk

Greendale marks the end of the hard walking and the start of an exhausting walk back up Wasdale.

Wast Water
Wast Water

As I descend to Lakeland’s deepest lake WastWater and hit the main road, a car stops beside me and a wonderful face beams at me saying, ‘Would you like a lift somewhere?’ An awesome end to a monster Lake District walk.

Netherbeck Round route

Here’s my route for the Netherbeck Round.

Netherbeck Round route
Netherbeck Round route

Fells – x 10

Ascent – 5446ft (1660m)

Terrain – Rocky, scrambling

Distance – 17 miles (27km)

Time – 17hr plus camp

With – Solo Wild camp

Map – Ordnance Survey OL6

Wainwrights

  • Yewbarrow
  • Red Pike (Copeland)
  • Scoat Fell
  • Pillar
  • Steeple
  • Haycock
  • Caw Fell
  • Seatallan
  • Middle Fell
  • Buckbarrow

Accomodation

There are great rooms and meals available in the Wasdale Head Inn. For camping, the National Trust Wasdale Campsite is perfectly situated for the Netherbeck Round and Scafell Pike walks.

Booking.com

Read next…

Pillar and Great Gable from Ling Mell in Winter

Walking the Wainwrights at home

While you’re staying at home during the COVID-19 lockdown why not climb some Wainwrights in your home?

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