This short but fairly steep walk takes us from Wasdale Head up to the summit of Illgill head, the higher of the two fells that sit above the famous Wasdale Screes. This is a splendid viewpoint for Wasdale Head, as well as the fells on the far side of Wastwater and the quiet area between Wasdale and Eskdale.
Length: 5 miles
Map: OL 6 Lakes South-West
Last Walked: May 2013
We start from the National Trust car park just past the head of Wast Water.
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Turn left out of the car park and follow the track outside the car park as it crosses Lingmell Gill. On the far side of the bridge follow the path that runs alongside the gill.
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After a short distance we reach the wood around Brackenclose, and a branch in the path. Here turn right onto a track that climbs diagonally and to the right across the lower slopes of Scafell.
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This track runs through a series of fields before emerging onto the open fell just above Fence Wood. Towards the end of the wood we pass some ruined buildings. Just beyond this the right of way branches off to the left - ignore this turn and keep on our track, which runs parallel to the wall to the right, heading towards Straighthead Gill. At Straighthead Gill cross the stream and pass through a stone wall. On the far side of the wall follow a clear path that runs up the steep north-eastern end of Illgill Head, this time with a stone wall to the left.
Follow this path for just under half a mile. Towards the top we approach some rocky outcropping and pass a series of ways through the wall. Stay to the right of the wall until the path begins to fade away at one of the ways through the wall. At this point pass to the other side of the wall and follow the obvious path that now heads away from the wall and climbs up to the south-west. This brings us to a false summit (point 590 on the OS 1-25,000 map) and then continues on to the true summit area.
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Illgill Head has two summits separated by a small water filled dip. The first of the summits (the northern one) is the higher of the two, but both are worth a visit - the second one offers the best view out along the ridge towards the sea. After visiting the summits turn back north and head along the path back to the false summit (if you have the time it is worth following the path further along the ridge, taking the path that runs above the screes and provides stunning views down to the lake).
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At the false summit the path splits - we came up the left-hand branch and we are going to return via the right-hand branch. This roughly follows the line of the right of way marked on the map, and looks rather steep from above but isn't too bad when under foot. Follow this path down the steep slopes and onto the flat area between Illgill Head and Scafell. A network of paths cross this area - I recommend crossing the flat area to join the main footpath from Wasdale to Eskdale via Burnmoor Tarn.
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Turn left onto this footpath and follow it back to the track we originally used to climb out of Wasdale. Turn right onto this track and follow it downhill back to Lingmell Gill, then turn left to return to the car park.