Thursday, 3 September 2009

Keswick to Barrow Haute Route

Originally a competition between the Navy and the shipyard; the 40 mile Keswick – Barrow road race takes place in early May and is now open to all comers in teams of four as long as they are raising money for charity. Keswick to Barrow is interesting journey as long as you don’t have to do it by road and, fortunately, road races are not the only races held in Cumbria. By linking bits of fell race routes it is perfectly possibly to travel from Keswick to Broughton Mills on the high fells and from there make your way to the coast finally following the beach to Barrow.

                                                             Moot Hall, Keswick

Last Saturday, not long after 06:00 we met other members of the Rucksack Club (Ros [Meet Leader],Self, Pauline, Helen and Geoff (Keith was parking his car)) at the Moot Hall ready for “The Haute Route” to Barrow. The route initially follows the anti-clockwise Bob Graham until heading for Catbells and the Anniversary Waltz route before dropping into Honister Hause. Up and over Grey Knotts, Brandreth and Green Gable then round Great Gable for the Wasdale route to Esk Hause Shelter. From there the Langdale Horseshoe over Bowfell and the Crinkles and on to the Three Shires Stone. Thereafter, the Duddon Valley and Dunnerdale race routes would take us as far as Broughton Mills. Finally careful footpath selection would get us to the sands of the Duddon Estuary and all the way to Barrow.


Little Town and Newlands

The low clouds over the Derwent fells would be with us all day although the sun did try to break through the clouds as we approached Catbells summit.

Derwent Water

The sunlight was followed, almost immediately, by the first of many rain showers driven by a strengthening breeze. The climb along this ridge is particularly satisfying because there is a gradual transition from Keswick through Portinscale to Catbells – from town through village and out on to the hills and then to the high fells so that by High Spy you really are “out on the fells”. Today we wouldn’t climb Dale Head turning, instead, for Honister Hause where we would meet Rae and our support vehicle with food and warm drinks.

The climb out of Honister follows the Bob Graham route but at a more leisurely pace which saw us high enough to just catch a fast disappearing rainbow on the Buttermere side of the hause.

Honister Hause

The climb to Green Gable over Grey Knotts and Brandreth improves enormously as Brandreth is approached with views into Buttermere and Ennerdale opening up. I always look longingly into Ennerdale – my favourite valley and home of my favourite fell race, the 23 mile, 7500 feet Ennerdale Horseshoe.


Over Green Gable and down Aaron Slack to contour under Great Gable to Sty Head where removal of only one waterproof jacket was enough to produce another brief shower.

Geoff descending Green Gable

Geoff descending Green Gable


Aaron Slack

Geoff, Helen, Pauline and Keith enjoying the scree descent into Aaron Slack.


Sty Head

Sty Head (above) is our next objective where, after taking a variety of routes round Great Gable we regrouped ready for the long climb to Bowfell following the Wasdale route to Esk Hause Shelter from where the Langdale Horseshoe route would take us to Ore Gap and on to Bowfell. With little shelter beyond Ore Gap the strength of the wind was more apparent and just beginning to hint that the forecast deterioration in conditions might not be too far away. Dropping down off Crinkle Crags we passed the Langdale Pikes (below) catching sun between fast moving clouds casting dramatic shadows.


Langdale Pikes

From here, just an easy drop into the Three Shires Stone for more food and drink and the last big climb of the day. Up the Duddon Valley race route towards but below Little Carrs and Great Carrs.


towards Cockley Beck

Just after the picture above and immediately before entering the clouds a storm could be seen brewing out to the west. We were probably just unlucky – as soon as we hit the most exposed ridge of the route, one where we had to stay on the windward side the wind hit peak strength driving heavy rain and hail showers before it. Although our descent at the far end of the ridge coincided with the last of the showers, at Goats Water Hause we happily agreed to go round Dow Crag rather than over it.

Goats Water

Dow Crag had climbers on it but it wasn’t until afterwards when we were having close look at the photos did we realise, we had a couple in the photo below.

Dow Crag


Dow Crag climbers

The enlargement is taken from a small area on the right of the above picture, about 3 cm from the right hand edge and about 5 cm from the bottom.

I hope it might be possible to see them on the full size image above which will open in a new window on clicking but if not, clicking the enlargement will open it in a new window and their white helmets should be seen without too much difficulty.






Blind Tarn

From Goats Water a rising traverse, passing Blind Tarn, to Walna Scar Road and then over White Pike for the descent to Broughton Mills. Finally and mainly after dark we followed the sands in Duddon Estuary to reach Barrow Town Hall just after one o’clock on Sunday morning.

Barrow Town Hall

Still smiling after 18 and a half hours, 46 miles and a bit over 10,000 feet of climbing – a grand day out. Thanks are due to Ros for keeping the whole thing together, to Rae for providing support from beginning to end, to Helen, Keith and Pauline for their great company throughout, to Carole who helped at the end after having cycled from Keswick to Barrow and finally to Alan to provided the additional transport needed to get us back from Barrow.


  1. Wow! Nice sounding adventure and as always, some lovely photos.

  2. Gorgeous pictues and those!

  3. Aweinspiring pictures IW. Thanks for sharing them. What an experience that must have been.