Haystacks didn’t make it into A Wainwright’s top ten fells but he loved the place so much that he had his ashes scattered by Innominate Tarn on its flanks. And so our journey through his life and works comes to an end. Looking back on Nick Burton’s Wainwright’s Way, from Blackburn to Buttermere, I can say every day has been enjoyable and would highly recommend it to anyone regardless of the AW associations. A journey through northern hills as varied as any.
The car park at Honister is packed, people having left early to reach the summit of Great Gable for the Fell and Rock Climbing Club remembrance service. We have the track up into the abandoned mines virtually to ourselves. At 11am we hear the atmospheric bugle call from Gable.
Our way came past an MBA bothy in an old mine building, Dubs Hut. We wondered if it had been occupied the night before. We did meet one chap who had spent the night camped atop Fleetwith Pike, seen going down the track. As we followed the old mine tramway we got our first glimpse of Haystacks with Pillar and High Crag behind.
The way was rough and undulating until suddenly we were on the shores of Innominate Tarn, AW’s last resting place, his ashes having been carried up by his widow, Betty, with Percy Duff and his two sons. March 22nd 1991. A beautiful place with Gable and Pillar as a background. His famous quote from Fellwanderer reflecting his often hidden humour – “And if you, dear reader, should get a bit of grit in your boot as you are crossing Haystacks in the years to come, please treat it with respect. It might be me.”
Cleaning our boots we scrambled up onto the summit ridge of Haystacks to be joined by many more enjoying the splendid clear November day. There were paths everywhere through the rocks and there was, surprisingly, a tarn almost at the summit. An unexpected view down Ennerdale from the top. Most people had come up from the Buttermere Valley via Scarth Gap and several scrambles to the top. We were now faced with this steep dropoff which Sir Hugh’s two mechanical knees objected to. As stoical as ever he made the descent slowly but surely, onlookers were impressed. Once down the worst, we stopped in Scarth Gap for a bit of lunch.
The long descent from Scarth Gap, across the side of High Crag, went on forever but our route around the west side of Buttermere Lake was a joy. Eyes kept looking back to the rocky Haystacks and its neighbour Fleetwith Pike.
Our final destination was to be the little church of St. James to view the Wainwright Memorial window but we were thwarted by a remembrance service taking place.
We were content to stand outside listening to that evocative bugle call –