YHA hopping in The Lake District - YHA Borrowdale to YHA Black Sail

The YHA is a great institution and I guess most fell walkers have stayed at a hostel at some time in their lives. Funny how they were created "to help all, especially young people of limited means, to greater knowledge, love and care of the countryside, particularly by providing hostels or other simple accommodation for them on their travels". Here's a collection of routes starting or finishing at a YHA in The Lakes. Along the way, there are 4 Wainwrights and 5 tarns.

Technical sheet
No. 3147204
A Borrowdale walk posted on 15/04/20 by El Sud. Update : 20/11/20
Calculated time Calculated time: 7h40[?]
Distance Distance : 14.58km
Vertical gain Vertical gain : 1224m
Vertical drop Vertical drop : 1034m
Highest point Highest point : 886m
Lowest point Lowest point : 101m
Moderate Difficulty : Moderate
Back to starting point Back to starting point : No
Walking Walking
Area Area : Lake District
Location Location : Borrowdale
Starting point Starting point : N 54.518081° / W 3.152048°
Ending point Ending point : N 54.500176° / W 3.244738°
Download : -
YHA Black Sail The summit of Great Gable


(D) From YHA Borrowdale, join the footpath next to the River Derwent and turn right, heading south west as far as Folly Bridge. Go over the bridge and up to the road at Mountain View. Go straight across the road, following the river along a track (indicated Thorneythwaite Farm) and take the first path going off to the left, over a wooden stile to follow the dry stone wall. When the path reaches another dry stone wall, bear right to head through the wood directly south to another dry stone wall. Cross this and go past a sheepfold on the right, looking out for a cairn. Here the path bears right, leaving the main path that heads up Combe Gill. The path follows the line of the dry stone wall, about 50m down to the right. The path continues up Thorneythwaite Fell. Combe Gill is down to the left and Rosthwaite Fell over the other side of the valley. The route passes the cairn at the top and continues south above Raven Crag. Climb up the side of Combe Head just west of a few small tarns, then scramble up to the summit of Glaramara (Wainwright at 783m).

(1) According to A Wainwright "Twin summits of rock rise from a surrounding ocean of grass, each with its own circle of crags. They are much alike, and of similar elevation, but indisputably the finer is that to the north-east, the top of which is a rocky platform bearing two cairns: this is Glaramara proper, a pleasant halting place on the right sort of day. The other summit, strictly, is nameless." From the top, head off roughly southwest over Looking Steads and down to a group of small nameless tarns. Follow the cairns as the path weaves its way across the stoney plateau, past Lincomb Tarns and High House Tarn. Keep heading south west up the grassy slope to reach the cairn on the top of Allen Crags (Wainwright at 785m).

(2) A Wainwright writes "This quiet, attractive top is a pleasant refuge from the busy thoroughfares converging on Esk Hause, only five minutes away. Unexpectedly there are three good cairns on the twenty yards of the level summit, that in the middle, set on a rock, being slightly the highest. Patches of stones and low outcrops add interest to the top of the fell but the distant views will appeal more." Our route continues down the other side towards a cross shelter. At the crossroads, the path down to the left goes to Angel Tarn, the path in front to Esk Hause and the path we need to follow to the right goes down to Sprinkling Tarn.

(3) After taking the obligatory photos across the tarn and maybe a lunch stop, continue along the path, heading northwest round to Sty Head. Here, the whole mountain landscape opens out with views down Styhead Gill to the north and Lingmell Beck southwest. Styhead Tarn is close by and the route passes the stretcher box as a myriad of paths criss-cross each other. The route now heads northwest up the slopes of the mammoth rock in front. This is the Breast Route with plenty of cairns and now stone steps to reduce erosion to the mountain. The path goes past a hut and slowly climbs to the right of Raven Crags, past Dry Tarn and forever upwards. As the climb begins to ease off, there is a wide loop to the right, around a large cairn and then the path reaches the summit of Great Gable (Wainwright 899m).

(4) Check out the war memorial on the rock that supports the main cairn. Breathe deeply and soak up the views (unless the mist is down). As A Wainwright extolls "...the ultimate crest of Gable is truly characteristic of the best of mountain Lakeland: a rugged crown of rock and boulders and stones in chaotic profusion, a desert without life, a harsh and desolate peak thrust high in the sky above the profound depths all around." Certainly "...to many fellwalkers this untidy bit of ground in Mecca". If the weather is clear, take time to go southwest to the Westmorland Cairn and admire the view over Wasdale and the Scafells. Take care choosing the path northeast from the war memorial, past cairns to descend carefully down the eastern side of Gable Crag to Windy Gap. The route heads straight up the other side, on a distinct path to reach the summit of Green Gable (Wainwright 801m).

(5) Take a few moments at the top, as A Wainwright says "It is a pity that most visitors to the summit are in a hurry to get off it, for the narrow strip of rough ground between the cairn and the rim of the western crags is a fine perch to study the massive architecture of Gable Crag and the deep pit of stones below it: this is a tremendous scene." The route then heads across the stoney top to drop down to Gillercomb Head. As the ground begins to level out, turn left to cross Moses' Trod and pick up the path that goes down Tongue, in between the beck and the River Liza. This grassy path eventually crosses Loft Beck flowing down from the right and continues northwest to reach YHA Black Sail.(A)

Waypoints :
D : km 0 - alt. 101m - YHA Borrowdale
1 : km 4.53 - alt. 767m - Glaramara
2 : km 7.03 - alt. 769m - Allen Crags
3 : km 8.46 - alt. 604m - Sprinkling Tarn
4 : km 10.77 - alt. 886m - Great Gable
5 : km 11.48 - alt. 779m - Green Gable
A : km 14.58 - alt. 289m - YHA Black Sail

Useful Information

Keep an eye on the weather and always have a Plan B if the mist comes down. There are shelters along the route and there will probably be other walkers to help out if you run into difficulties. Water shouldn't be a problem and anywhere is good for a lunch break or just a 5 min rest, especially if there are views to be contemplated. Waterproofs are an absolute essential, even if the day promises to be clear and sunny. Comfortable, strong boots that protect the ankles are highly recommended.

Visorando and this author cannot be held responsible in the case of accidents or problems occuring on this walk.

During the walk or to do/see around

This is a classic route and should be enjoyed at every stage. Don't rush it, there is time enough and there are some fantastic views to be appreciated. Look around and take in the beauty that is The Lake District. Take care of yourself and look out for wildlife along the way. Just enjoy the journey and make the most of the moment.

Other walks in the area

Organisation / Walking Club / Mountain guide
distance 13.75km Vertical gain +615m Vertical drop -633m Durée 5h40 Difficult Difficult
Starting point Starting point in Borrowdale - Cumbria

This is a walk from the Borrowdale Valley over to Easdale Valley but it's also a ridge walk with great views over Far Easedale Gill and the surrounding landscape. Helm Crag is also known as The Lion and The Lamb due to it's profile when seen from the A591. Here's a collection of routes starting or finishing at a YHA in The Lakes. Along the way, there are three Wainwrights, one lake and one pub.

distance 12.19km Vertical gain +322m Vertical drop -325m Durée 4h25 Moderate Moderate
Starting point Starting point in Borrowdale - Cumbria

Combining the delights of Borrowdale with the rural charm of Watendlath, this Lake District walk offers some wonderful views and relatively easy walking. Route finding is generally easy although there is a steady ascent from Lodore up to Watendlath.

Scafell Pike from Borrowdale
distance 15.06km Vertical gain +890m Vertical drop -889m Durée 6h50 Moderate Moderate
Starting point Starting point in Borrowdale - Cumbria

The classic and well trodden ascent of Scafell Pike from Seathwaite in Borrowdale. Ascending via Grains Gill to Great End and then Esk Hause and Broad Crag. The descent is via the 'Corridor Route' to Styhead Tarn and then back to Seathwaite.

distance 7.82km Vertical gain +734m Vertical drop -726m Durée 4h20 Moderate Moderate
Starting point Starting point in Borrowdale - Cumbria

An energetic Lake District Horseshoe walk that takes in four summits as you keep to the high ground surrounding Gillercomb. The walk could also be extended to take in Great Gable if time and energy permit!

distance 12.69km Vertical gain +941m Vertical drop -941m Durée 6h20 Difficult Difficult
Starting point Starting point in Borrowdale - Cumbria

This Lake District walk includes an unpathed section of route and is for experienced walkers only and navigation skills are essential. The walk includes Great End approached from the Corridor Route before following easier ground to the summit of Glaramara. The descent from the latter summit requires careful navigation for a trouble-free descent back down to Seathwaite.

distance 8.67km Vertical gain +784m Vertical drop -784m Durée 4h45 Difficult Difficult
Starting point Starting point in Borrowdale - Cumbria

To the west of the Cumbrian Mountains, both Great and Green Gable summits offer a pleasant hike.

distance 9.63km Vertical gain +407m Vertical drop -404m Durée 3h55 Moderate Moderate
Starting point Starting point in Borrowdale - Cumbria

A short and fairly easy, circular walk up the ever popular Cat Bells. Starting from parking on the roadside just outside the village of Grange, this walk ascends Cat Bells from the South and descends north to join paths through the parkland and woods above and beside Derwent Water.

Around High Spy, Maiden Moor and Cat Bells. A circular walk
distance 16.91km Vertical gain +584m Vertical drop -583m Durée 6h30 Moderate Moderate
Starting point Starting point in Borrowdale - Cumbria

This is a circular walk around High Spy, Maiden Moor and Cat Bells. The scenery is good and the walk is made interesting by the old mine workings, both on the way up and also at Goldscope Mine. The return leg, through the woods above Derwent Water, is a nice contrast to the first half of the walk.
It is a useful walk when the tops are in mist and walking the ridge would give you no views or when the tops are covered in snow and you don't have ice axe and crampons to hand.

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The GPS track and description are the property of the author.