The Mosedale Horseshoe

By Dave Chick   

on June 13, 2019    5/5 (2)

The Mosedale Horseshoe

Further Details

Route Summary:

A walk for those trying to avoid the crowds, there is no better circuit than the Mosedale Horseshoe. Taking in 8 summits in one route, including 5 Wainwrights (Kirk Fell, Pillar, Scoat Fell, Red Pike and Yewbarrow), this is a tough day out in the hills.

This walk includes the 6 Wainwrights of Pillar, Scoat Fell, Red Pike (Wasdale), Steeple, Kirk Fell, Yewbarrow

This walk includes the 7 Hewitts of Pillar, Scoat Fell, Black Crag, Red Pike (Wasdale), Kirk Fell, Yewbarrow, Yewbarrow North Top (Stirrup Crag)

This walk includes the 9 Nuttalls of Pillar, Scoat Fell, Black Crag, Red Pike (Wasdale), Steeple, Kirk Fell, Looking Stead (Pillar), Yewbarrow, Yewbarrow North Top (Stirrup Crag)

Route Start Location: Wasdale Head / Wasdale Head Inn

18.06 km 1484 m 9 hours

Calculate the time using Naismith’s Rule and factor in your own pace.

Activivity Type: Hard Walk

Summits and Places on this Route


A full range of facilities including accommodation can be found at the Wasdale Head Inn. The public toilets at Wasdale Head green have now been closed. Further facilities can be found at the larger National Trust car park at Brackenclose


The high level route may feel exposed in places but shouldn’t pose much danger.

Climbing Pillar Rock (by the easiest route) is a high grade scramble so you should only attempt it with the correct experience and equipment.

The short traverse to Steeple may also feel exposed to some.

Some easy scrambling will be required on Stirrup Crag

Remember that we cannot outline every single hazard on a walk – it’s up to you to be safe and competent. Read up on Mountain Safety , Navigation and what equipment you’ll need.

Parking : CA20 1EX

Wasdale Head village green is currently free but worth avoiding on bank holidays as it can get very busy

Public Transport:

Traveline for UK Public Transport

Recommended Maps


The Mosedale Horseshoe Ordnance Survey Map and GPX File Download

Download file for GPS

The Mosedale Horseshoe

There are a few Mosedales in the Lake District and this one is the daddy of them all. By Lakeland, the Mosedale hidden beyond Wastwater is wild and remote. The only vehicular access to the valley is via Wasdale Head which can be a challenge in itself, especially if you’re not a fan of winding passes and narrow country lanes.. Don’t let that put you off though – a circuit of Mosedale is a one of the Lake District’s best days out. To make things even more interesting, we recommend a trip to see Pillar Rock, one of the Lake District’s most famed features. This can be achieved by taking a diversion along the aptly named high level route.

Pillar Rock is a towering outcrop, a so-called ‘wonder of the Lake District’. It is home to the first recorded rock climb in the area (in 1826) and now, over 70 different routes have been documented. It’s set in an amazing location which can be accessed by walkers thanks to the undulating high level route – the path which traverses below the coves of Pillar to Robinson’s Cairn.

The Mosedale Horseshoe Route Description

1 – From the village green, head along the road towards the Wasdale Head Inn. Pass between the buildings to the right of the pub and then head right along the river. Do not cross the footbridge on your left. Instead, keep following the path with the river on your left. Cross the small Fog Mire Beck and bear left along a path below the imposing slopes of Kirk Fell. This path, with a wall on your left, climbs all the way to Black Sail Pass, the only difficulty being crossing Gatherstone Beck if it’s in spate.

2 – At Black Sail Pass, turn left and begin to climb the path along Pillar’s east ridge. This path cuts just below the summit of the small peak of Looking Steads. At NY 18401 11666 you will find a cairn which marks the beginning of the high level route towards Pillar Rock. If you choose not to take the high level route, keep following the main ridge path which climbs all the way to Pillar’s summit (this is rocky at times). The high level route is described in paragraph 3.

3 – The high level route starts from the cairn at with a short descent. The path is narrow and is a little exposed on the right in places, particularly where is crosses small patches of scree. It is not too difficult to follow as it undulates along beneath the combs and coves of Pillar. You will eventually reach Robinson’s Cairn and the first (and best) view of Pillar Rock. Round the corner from the cairn into Pillar Cove and make a short, steep climb up a line of scree. Bear right below the crags to cross the Shamrock Traverse – a tilted ledge of rock which can be a tricky or potentially dangerous proposition if wet or icy. This leads you to the foot of Pisgah, the small outlier of Pillar Rock. Ascending Pillar Rock is possible though the easiest route (the Slab and Notch route) is a grade 3 scramble – ropes and protective gear are highly recommended. To continue, climb the rough path opposite Pisgah which makes a sharp ascent to Pillar’s summit.

4 – From Pillar, descend southwest into Wind Gap and climb out the other side to Black Crag. From here there is a level crossing across the top of Mirk Cove before a short climb to the summit of Scoat Fell, whose summit cairn actually sits atop the drystone wall. An out and back to the peaked summit of Steeple is optional but highly recommended but will involve some slight exposure along the narrow path.

5 – The path from Scoat Fell towards Red Pike is a little vague but the terrain quickly changes from boulders to easy grass. As the path begins to climb once again, bear left at NY 16355 10828 to enjoy the thrilling walk along the edge of Red Pike to the summit.

6 – A long descent now lies ahead of you but a path is evident throughout. You will eventually reach the col of Dore Head (you can escape here down the Dore Head screes but it is a steep, eroded slope and not recommended). Ahead rises the short Stirrup Crag. A path winds up the rocks and the climb will involve some easy scrambling until you reach the top. A cairn here marks Yewbarrow’s north top (not the true summit of the fell). A path runs the length of the fell to the main summit at the southern end.

7 – From Yewbarrow’s summit, continue south as the fell narrows on both sides as you head towards Great Door, a huge gully on the Wastwater side of Yewbarrow. The path will bear right at Bell Rib and start a steep descent which will be tough on tired legs. The path is stepped in places however, a combination of scree and rocks will also be encountered which can make it slow going.

8 – Once through the rocks the path emerges on the open side of the fell, overlooking the valley of Over Beck, and makes its way south to meet a drystone wall. Follow the wall directly down the nose of Yewbarrow until you reach a gate. Pass through the gate and descend alongside the stream to the Overbeck car park. At the road, take a left and follow it back to Wasdale Head taking care to watch for any approaching vehicles.

Dave is our Lake District local expert, often found in the depths of Cumbria he's the author of his own part on the web, All the Gear but no Idea.

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