We last visited Black Sail Youth Hostel in November 2013 (yes it was THAT long ago..) so it was deemed this year that it was high time to make another visit. This time GOC had made an exclusive booking so other inmates of the hostel were spared.
The hostel is the most remote in the YHA chain and is only accessible on foot or by bicycle. It sits at the head of Ennerdale, a valley which has no road and no habitations beyond the lake its western end. The shortest walk in is over Scarth Gap Pass from Buttermere – a walk of about hour and a half, and this was the route in that most chose on Friday afternoon. Others walked over from Wasdale via Black Sail pass (after which the hostel is named) (a two hour walk). Another approach possible is a 6 mile cycle on forest tracks from the carpark at Bowness Knott by Ennerdale Water.
Friday was a glorious sunny day and some of us had time in the afternoon to make a quick ascent of Haystacks – a wonderful low rocky mountain that rises directly above the hostel.
The weather on Saturday was less kind, deteriorating quickly to drizzle and low cloud making for testing navigation. The group split with 9 heading over to Great Gable by Beck Head, then continuing over Green Gable and Brandreth; the remaining 7 heading for Pillar by the interesting ‘climber’s traverse’ path to Pillar Rock. This path skirts the mountain on the steep northern slopes above Ennerdale to Robinson’s Cairn, then takes a scramble over steep ground to emerge directly on the summit of the mountain. The Pillar party were able to assist a walker and his dog at Robinson’s cairn who had got lost in attempting to make a descent to Wasdale but had taken a wrong turn (90 deg in the wrong direction as it happens) and found himself trapped on the steep ground above Ennerdale. The intervention of GOC members undoubtedly saved a mountain rescue call out and was fortunate as there were few other parties anywhere near this part of the mountain on such a day. The walker was guided back to the top of Pillar (as the safest option in this instance) and directed to the correct path to Wasdale.
Sunday dawned with similar rain showers and low cloud so the best option seemed to walk out directly rather than take a walk over Haystacks as planned.
Thanks to the Transpennine group for organising another great weekend.