Outerside (568m), Stile End (447m) and Barrow (455m) form a tidy tryptych of summits between Coledale and Newlands valley. Without too much haste you can knock them off in under 2 hours. The going is mostly gentle turf over Lakeland slate.
From the Royal Oak pub in Braithwaite village, I take the road over Coeldale Beck and turn south west uphill past the village shop. Not done enough preparation? You can buy provisions here. I follow a switchback track at the end of an unadopted street up to a lane that quickly leads leads me out of the village and onto the open fells. On my right, I pass a weather station and a covered reservoir. As I pass some walled trees, the track becomes a green sward curving through bracken turning bronze with the year end.
The footpath heads uphill for the prow of Stile End, standing proud amidst its neighbours, hoping that it might occlude Causey Pike with its miniscule bulk. To my left, Barrow Gill winds down toward the village.
As Stile End plows down into Coledale, the footpath splits into three. I take the western-most tine, which slips round the side of the ridge and pulls uphill toward Outerside. Below and ahead of me, the Dr Who and/or Blake’s 7 set that is Force Crag Mine hoves into view. Those of you of a certain age will also imagine old Mr MacGruder explainig how he would have gotten away with it too if it hadn’t been for those meddling kids.
As the ground levels in the lee of the Stile End summit, Low Moss makes its boggy presence know and I skirt the western edge of the wet ground, angling towards Outerside’s slate-toothed ridge. To my right, odd tatters of white cloud do pressure-induced weird things below, between the the fell and the looming fin of Grisedale Pike. I hoof up the ridge and it does that “this is the top, no it isn’t thing” three or our times before I pause for coffee on the summit. To the south, Sail’s undulating curtain and Causey Pike’s green cock’s-comb rear into the cloudy sky.
I drop swiftly down Outerside’s southern end into the foot of Sail Pass, turning onto the broad track that runs downhill and easwards to Newlands valley. I hate this track. It’s a navigational certainty, but its surface of loose gravel holds the promise of twisted ankles. Oh how I shall laugh at this notion come the 10th of November. I need only endure it for a short distance as in less than 300m, I turn back across the fellside toward the summit of Stile End.
Of the three, Stile End is probably my favourite. Skirting the eastern edge of Low Moss this time, I am soon idly enjoying a further coffee and looking across to the great lummox, Skiddaw – dullest of the Lakeland giants. Bassenthwaite Lake curls around Skiddaw’s feet, smug in the knowledge that it is the only lake in the Lake District with lake in its name. Yes, I’m looking at you, people who say “Lake Windermere”. Hang your heads in shame – “mere” means “lake”. Round to the northeast is the infinitely more fun Blencathra, a mountain whose summit I have graced at least a dozen times.
From Stile End, a well worn track drops southeast into Barrow Door, the pass between the two summits. Having visited a barrow as a child through a door, I spent my first visit to Barrow actually looking for the door into Barrow. From the Door I curl northeast to gently wiggle up towards the top of Barrow. Here and there, strata of slate (or it could be shale) break the top soil to slice across the path. These edges are polished by generations of feet and are really slippery in the rain, so take care in wet conditions. Somewhere I can hear (but not see) a pair of ravens calling to each other. Their deep, throaty cries cheer me as I pause for my third and final coffee.
The long, broad path down the northern ridge holds the same slippery hazards as the ascent. Where the ridge is cut by a deep notch, you could drop off to the west and cut back over Barrow Gill. Instead, I plod straight down the fell’s prow to the rear of Braithwaite Lodge and take the lane back down into Braithwaite. If you turn left at the lane’s foot, you will find yourself back at the village shop. Other shops are available1.
1 They’re not2.
2 Except the campsite shop3.
3 But that closes in winter.
My pack (a Macpac Amp 25) contained: Buffalo Belay jacket, OS OL Sheet 4, Silva mirror-sighting compass, Julbo sunglasses, Benchmade Presidio lock-knife, Petzl Tikka Plus 2 headtorch, Highgear AltiTech 2 altimeter, iPhone, coffee, water, two KitKats. I wore Millet High Roc boots, Montane Vortex Stretch gaiters, Montane Terra XT pants, Montane Extreme smock. So yeah, a bit of a Montane day really.