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Many would argue that the Lake District is the most beautiful place in the British Isles. It has been a popular holiday destination for over 100 years and, now that it is a World Heritage Site, it is likely to become more popular. In good weather  the Lake District is a great place, maybe not so good on a day of continuous rain which happens from time to time.

There are good paths on the major peaks which makes route finding relatively straightforward. However, these are rugged mountains and it is easy to get lost in bad weather.

There are 17 Top 500 Summits.

1   Scafell Pike                  3,210ft                        2   Helvellyn                      3,116ft

3   Skiddaw                        3,054ft                      4   Great Gable                 2,949ft

5   Pillar                              2,927ft                      6   Fairfield                         2,863ft

7   Blencathra                    2,847ft                      8   Grasmoor                      2,795ft

9   St Sunday Crag             2,760ft                     10 High Street                   2,718ft

11 High Stile                      2,648ft                      12 Coniston Old Man       2,633ft (or Swirl How)

13 Kirk Fell                         2,631ft                      14 Grisedale Pike              2,595ft

15 Red Screes                    2,547ft                       16 Stony Cove Pike           2,502ft

17 High Raise                     2,500ft

The ‘Bob Graham’ round, 42 peaks from Keswick which top fell runners seek to complete in less than 24 hours, covers 9 of the 17 Top 500 Summits.

I have picked out three walks which cover seven of the mountains above. These are, in my view, the best three mountain walks in the Lake District.

1. Scafell Pike & Scafell

Scafell Pike            3,210ft

Scafell Pike up Lingmoor Gill (Heather Thomas Smith)
Scafell Pike up Lingmoor Gill (Heather Thomas Smith)

The walk starts from the National Trust car park at Wasdale Head, next to the campsite. Follow the path which crosses Lingmell Beck, and then goes uphill beside the beck. After 1.5km the path crosses back over Lingmell Beck and ascends steeply up Brown Tongue. Head left at the top of Brown Tongue and follow the path to Lingmell Col. At Lingmell Col the path turns right and is joined by the Corridor Route from Sty Head Tarn. After  the final 600ft ascent to the top of Scafell Pike (3,210ft), you are on the summit of the highest mountain in England.

Summit Scafell Pike
Summit Scafell Pike

From the summit of Scafell Pike, drop down to Mickledore, the col between Scafell Pike and Scafell. There are now a number of alternative ways to ascend Scafell. The direct route goes over Broad Stand which requires some rock climbing experience to surmount. This route is not recommended.

My favourite route is to descend beside Broad Stand towards Wasdale Head. After a short descent Lords Rake is reached. This is a steep gully with loose scree  but can be climbed with care. Once at the top of Lords Rake, the summit of Scafell is easily attained. The third way to the summit of Scafell is via Foxes Tarn which is longer than the Lords Rake route.

From the top of Scafell a good path descends west over Green How and back to Wasdale Head.

Scafell from Lingmoor col

2. Wasdale Head Horseshoe

Great Gable          2,949 ft

Pillar                      3,927 ft

Kirk Fell               2,631 ft

Wasdale Head with Kirk Fell beyound (Heather Thomas Smith)
Wasdale Head with Kirk Fell beyound (Heather Thomas Smith)

Start from the Wasdale Head Hotel and follow the path which leads north on the west side of Mosedale Beck turning west and climbing to the col between Red Pike and Yewbarrow. The high level traverse starts from here.

The path climbs north to the summit of Red Pike (Wastwater) and then drops before climbing to the summit of Scoat Fell. From here it is possible to make a voluntary diversion to climb a small but magnificent peak, Steeple. Turn East from the top of Scoat Fell descending to Windy Gap. From here a short ascent leads to the top of Pillar (2,927ft). A long descent heading just south of east leads to Black Sail Pass.

Steeple overlooking Ennerdale
Steeple overlooking Ennerdale

From Black Sail Pass turn south and climb a gully east of the main ridge to Kirk Fell (2,631ft). This allows access to the summit plateau.  The summit is at the south end of the plateau. From there follow a path which descends east to Beck Head. It then continues steeply to the top of Great Gable (2,949ft), one of the finest Lake District mountains.

Descend to the col between Great Gable and Green Gable then descend steeply south to Sty Head Tarn. From Sty Head Tarn a good path can be followed back to the Wasdale Head Hotel.

Summit of Great Gable

3. Helvellyn Round from Patterdale

Helvellyn                 3,118 ft

Fairfield                   2,863 ft

St Sundays Crag    2,795 ft

Helvellyn is a very popular mountain, a favourite of many people who visit the Lake District. This walk follows the classic route to the summit, traversing Striding Edge. Although Striding Edge is a knife edge ridge it is passable in Summer by those with a good head for heights. In winter it should be avoided.  On the return journey the walk passes over the summits of two more great Lake District mountains, Fairfield and St Sunday Crag.

Striding Edge, Helvellyn
Striding Edge, Helvellyn

At Grisedale Bridge, between Glenridding and Patterdale, follow the side road which leads into Grisedale. Walk up the road for 1km then, at a kissing-gate, turn right and start ascending. Go through the next gate and take the higher path which leads to the ‘Hole in the wall’. Ascend steadily to the ‘Hole in the wall’ at a height of around 2,200ft. From here take the path which goes south west to the east end of Striding Edge. There is a path running along the north side of Striding Edge but, at times, scrambling is required. There is a steep final ascent to the summit plateau with the summit of Helvellyn (3,116ft) a couple of hundred metres north west.

Fairfield from Seat Sandal
Fairfield from Seat Sandal

Return to the top of Striding Edge and head south to go over Nethermost Pike and Dollywaggon Pike before descending to the north end of Grisedale Tarn. Turn left and join the path which runs along the east side of the Tarn to Grisedale Hause. From here a steep 800ft climb east leads to the top of Fairfield  (2,863ft).

The route now runs south east descending to Deepdale Hause then ascending to St Sunday Crag (2,795ft). A path descends south east and it is possible to return direct to the Patterdale Hotel or to find your way down to Grisedale Bridge.