Coast to Coast – Honsiter Pass to Stonethwaite

Date: 6 September 2019 Weather: 12’C, rain, breezy
Height gain: 135 ft (1,053 ft of descent)
Time taken: 2 hours Distance 4.6 miles

This is a bit of an odd one – S had been grappling with the section from Ennerdale to Stonethwaite, particularly as he fancied the challenge of the high route which would take us over several Wainwrights, but however he divided it up he ended up with a section which was too long for us.  Back in April he had the brainwave of doing this short section at some point, using the bus to get us from Stonethwaite to the Honister Slate mine, which would make the preceding section more doable.

The weather has been wet and very windy recently which has kept us off the tops.  We really needed to get out so although rain was forecast the winds had dropped compared to recent gales and visibility was good so we decided today was the day to get this short section done.

We set off in time to meet the bus and arrive in Stonethwaite in good time.  We park in the good school car park we have used before.  There are lots of cars already parked up all around the village – September brings a switch from the very slow cars on the roads most of the day in August to much quicker journeys but car parking spaces near good walks filling up early.

We put on our boots and wander up to the bus stop and have a fifteen minute wait for the 77A:

1

It arrives only four minutes late and we get on along with another party of four walkers.  The sky darkened as we waited at the bus stop but the rain was kind enough to hold off until we boarded the bus.  Off we go for the 2.5 miles up the Honister Pass to the Slate Mine – it’s beautiful all around us and I really admire the bus drivers who get up and down this steep and windy road day in day out.

We hop off the bus at the slate mine car park and S takes a few minutes to orientate himself and find our route – it’s not very obvious from here as all we can see is the road snaking down the valley:

2

It’s quite breezy up here as well – we’re at nearly 1,500ft.  We decide to set off down the road initially which proves to be the right decision as we quickly find a footpath that runs parallel to it – with a helpful sign to reassure us:

3

A man in a white hat had also got off the bus and set off straight away – he’s now a few hundred metres ahead of us and seems to know where he’s going but keeps stopping and crouching over.  We soon catch up with him and find out why – he’s frustrated with the wind as it keeps blowing out his pipe.  With his white hair, pipe and craggy face he looks like a shorter, slimmer version of Wainwright – perhaps his very much younger brother?!

It’s downhill all the way for us today so progress is swift.  The path is wide and clear but very stony and it’s frustrating having to look down at your feet so much when you have beautiful Borrowdale all around you:

4

As we continue walking the views towards the Borrowdale fells really are stunning:

5

And the same view again a little lower down with the sun peeping from behind the clouds:

7a

We miss a left hand turn as we approach Seatoller and find ourselves approaching the village – S realises this isn’t right and we backtrack and spot the route we should have taken – this mini detour adding about half of today’s 135ft height gain.

As we approach the tiny hamlet of Longthwaite there’s a short section of making our way carefully along the rocky edge of the River Derwent which is much fuller and moving more quickly than most rivers we’ve seen over the dry winter and spring:

7

A chain has been installed at hand height along one section of rock – a bit of low level Via Ferrata.

It’s raining quite hard now and as we come to the few houses in Longthwaite a man is out in his garden and asks us if we’re used to the rain yet as we pass.  We say it wouldn’t be Cumbria if it didn’t rain and he says after only three dry days in August he’s ready to move somewhere with better weather.  We chuckle as we carry on through the hamlet but the distraction leads to a navigational error and we turn left instead of right and reach the B5289 and can see the bus stop in Stonethwaite from here.

We (I) decide it’s too nice a walk, even in the rain, to cut short so we turn left and walk to the edge of Rosthwaite and past the Skiddaw Hotel to pick up the path we should have been on.

After about a mile we reach Stonethwaite bridge and the familiar view of Eagle Crag, our starting point on our first (see Eagle Crag and Sergeant Crag walk) and second attempts at the section to Grasmere:

8

This short section exceeded my expectations – Borrowdale is really beautiful and with good visibility and reasonable temperatures the softly falling rain was very refreshing.