Where is this walk?

Pillar and the Mosedale Horseshoe

February 15, 2021

One of the best day’s out in the Lake District is to climb Pillar and complete the Mosedale Horseshoe. Most of the walk is on a high rough ridge with particularly impressive views of Ennerdale and Wasdale.

The Walk

Just the names Pillar and Steeple were enough to create a tangible sense of awe and mystery to me as young boy. I remember my two elder brothers heading over to Wasdale many moons ago and it felt like they were up to something special, something rather scary but certainly very exciting. Even now the round of Pillar and Steeple is one of the great Lakeland walks. No doubt it is aided by the remoteness of the Wasdale valley. I have approached Pillar ridge from Ennerdale which has one great advantage, that of views of Pillar Rock.

However the best route is the circuit which heads off for Black Sail Pass from Wasdale Head. It continues over the vast bulk of Pillar, Little and Great Scoat Fell. Add in the detour to Steeple before taking on the long ridge of Red Pike and dropping steeply down for a well earned pint at the hotel. The terrain over the tops is mainly rough (particularly on the Scoats) but the views are fantastic. Great Gable and the Scafells are seen at their best and in addition there are fascinating views down the length of Ennerdale. It is possible to lengthen the walk by including Kirk Fell and Yewbarrow at either end. However this makes for a very long day. I believe time is better spent exploring the the cliffs of Pillar and Red Pike.


Leave the steep ascent of Yewbarrow for a separate day – adding the 1,000 foot pull from the valley to the col with Red Pike would finish you off. However Kirk Fell may tempt you at the start.

Pillar and the Mosedale Horseshoe is one of my favourite 25 walks in the Lake District.

Navigation Tips on the round of Pillar

This is one walk where the ground and paths are rough and rocky. It will slow you down so on the Time Calculator make sure this is taken in to account. Knock an additional half a mile an hour off.

  • mountain mike says:

    Hi everyone its the 22nd May 2017 and today the target is Pillar with a party of seven people including myself,the action camera is rolling and we leave Gatesgarth Farm we have Gav,Tony,Nige,Deb,Denise and Anne all raring to go.This is a serious walk as Pillar is a long way over Scarth Gap.Weather is fine and there is nobody around until we meet some people as we drop down to Black Sail here we meet walkers going in various directions,after a quick look around Black Sail Hut we head off to get a foothold on Pillar,the walk up Black Sail Pass is a long tiring walk and a few breaks are taken and lots of water drank.We are now passing the old gate and turning towards Pillar,the team are now concentrating on the job ahead,there are a few tops to get over before we reach the actual top including a nifty bit of scrambling,its not long before we reach the top of the gully where Gav and I climbed up some months ago,when you see it from the top it still puts a shiver up your spine that was a lucky day(see previous comments),before long we are at the top and its celebrations all round,time to get out of this biting wind a break for drinks and food.Tony has been given the job of getting us off the summit,its getting a little cloudy to our left as we drop down towards Ennerdale Valley.Tony and Nige go ahead to find the route which is on the OS map but at this time there seems no real path visible.We are now dropping down at an angle towards the valley and Tony finds some little piles of stones near the metal fence posts this is the way down and its treacherous I bet Wainwright never came this way.After an hour we are down just about in one piece and heading towards a stream where we need to cross to get down to the valley bottom,we cross the stream with a few obligatory people getting wet feet and after 15 minutes we are on the track taking us back to the footbridge that is below Pillar and takes us back to Scarth gap.Its a gradual walk uphill the last one of the day people are getting tired and after a big push and me sinking upto my knees and falling into a bog we are all back at Scarth Gap.Sigh of relief and we are on our way back to the car park a long but great day well done everyone.

  • Mountain Mike says:

    Here we are leaving Gatesgarth Car Park,today Gav and I are going for Pillar straight up from Ennerdale Valley 2900ft scramble and climb,conditions are excellent but wet under foot hardly any wind,sunshine not a cloud in the sky.We set off and we are are the stile ongoing towards Scarth Gap,we kick on and we are soon at Scarth Gap quick adjustments and we are dropping down to Ennerdale Valley,crossing the footbridge over the River Liza a few photographs and we start the scramble towards Pillar.
    After a good climb we reach the boundary fence for the Pillar Range,after a hard scramble we are looking at Pillar Rock,a break and we are looking at Shamrock Traverse,conditions are very wet and a decision is made to avoid this route as two other guys in front had quickly moved on to the ravine/gulley which leads to the top,this is serious climbing but we push on.
    Gav goes on ahead although the day is good the sun never shines on this side of the valley,after an hour Gav is stuck 50ft from the top,this is serious but after a few wise words he is over this hurdle 300 ft drop not funny,I am up next I am stranded for 15 minutes trying to dig foot holds and hand holds,whilst I’m doing this Gav gives me some words of advice as in Mike your street cred will be gone if you fall of hear….I dig deep scamble up the rock face,thank goodness I’m up to the top,we then head for the Trig Point nice one and never again.Now its back to Gatesgarth via Blacksail Hut and my first ever drop down in the mountains in the dark.

  • Mountain Mike says:

    Todays target Pillar via The High Traverse(Shamrock)route,conditions as I leave Gatesgarth Car Park sunny and windy minus six degrees,wind chill not noticeable in the valley,after an hour and a half I’m at the foot bridge past Blacksail YHA,Im chatting to a guy from Whitehaven he tells me he is staying down in the valley.Good news these Mountains are no place to be in Puma Track bottoms,I kick onto Kirkfell conditions under foot are treacherous all the the water on this Fell is frozen this is hard work.After 35 mins I’m turning towards Pillar,shortly I’m at the turn off point for The High Traverse Route,in my opinion 30 mph wind chill factor ten,hand in heart I drop down onto the track all ok,as I take the next corner I come upon a steep downward scramble and the track is all iced up,the wind is too strong I decide to call it a day I will come back when the conditions are safer,on the way back I meet a guy heading for Great Gable I put him back on track,quick stop at Black Sail and I’m off back to the car,ILL BE BACK………………………………….

  • Mountain Mike says:

    Hi here I am again leaving Gatesgarth Car Park heading for Pillar Mountain via Black Sail Hut Ennerdale,weather is fine little windy but no rain.In forty minutes I’m at Scarth Gap its very wet under foot but the weather is fine at the minute,I stop for refreshments at Black Sail and then push on,at Kirkfell after a strong push I’m turning towards Pillar there is nobody up here just me,as I reach the last Cairn of stones (turn off for High Travers route)I see that there is actually some scrambling to do whoopee I’m off like shot as this is what I’m about and a total surprise lol only thing is I have to come down the same way erm ok,I push on and after a few photographs I’m nearing the top of Pillar at last I’m here bit windy a few snaps and I’m on my way down 3 hrs 20 mins at the top lets see what I can shave off the descent,its spitting now and the ground is very slippy,after a scamble down the rocks I’m down on the flat,quick drink and I’m going down Kirk Fell.
    I stop at Black Sail and put my hat on but leave off the waterproofs its only light rain and before I know it I’m back at my car slightly jaded but a sense of success,can’t wait to bring the guys from work in May,it culd be this route or the previous visit route lets wait and see who is up for it Mike Wilson Mountain Mike Stockton On Tees.

  • Mountain Mike says:

    Here I am starting from Gatesgarth Farm Car Park destination the base of Pillar Rock,Im on my own as Gav and Matty cant make it,I ascend towards Scarth Gap,weather is fantastic and warm for the time of year and not many people around.I make Scarth Gap in 50 minutes its very wet as I go over the top take a right turn and I can see Pillar Rock in the distance The Dark Mountain as I call it,this track takes me down to Ennerdale after chatting to some guys from the Forestry Commission I drop through a new plantation of Xmas Trees you can see that this path is rarely used,after a five minute walk along the valley I reach the footbridge that is near the start for the ascent on Pillar.This is a serious scramble very steep not for the faint hearted,but weather conditions are still good just wet underfoot,it gets very hairy as you go over a stile as the track disappears and this is now serious scrambling grade two in my opinion,I take a right turn and as I look round it is awe inspiring this is high,I dig in and as I come round in front of Pillar Rock the ground is safer a lot of photographs taken as I say to myself I will not be climbing the 450ft to the top today,now I need to get off here as I turn I see two guys on the High Traverse route I head that way and again this is serious stuff the drops are phenominal into the Ennerdale Valley take care if you go back this way after an hour make it back on to the normal track I breathe a sigh of relief that is the best days scrambling I have ever done in 25 years of coming to the Northern Lakes.I make my way safely back towards Black Sail Hut on the way I speak to a group of walkers who are only wearing trainers its very wet under foot they are going to get soaked,I carry onto to Blacksail Hut where I speak to some low level walkers who are well kitted out,after a few minutes I’m off back to Gatesgarth Car Park I am in the words of the phrophet GOOSED butalive see you next time Mountain Mike from Stockton On Tees

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