Running, Walks

Buttermere and Bleaberry Tarn

30th December 2016

I visit Cumbria a few times a year and whilst there I have to explore the area whether it be driving, walking of running. I had planned a few different runs using the OS Maps app so that I could easily adjust depending on how much time was available.

I had originally planned to park the car at the edge of Crummock Water and run around both the perimeter of Buttermere and Crummock Water and leaving the car that was still the plan.

How Long Before My First Photograph?

Leaving the car I ascended a short distance above Crummock Water and after barely running a few hundred yards I was stopping to take photographs of Crummock Water. Even on an overcast day, the Lake District is still such a beautiful place. Recent rain meant that the grass path was waterlogged which was perfect for testing out the waterproof socks I had picked up Aldi a few weeks ago.

The route changes from trail to tarmac as you follow the road around to Buttermere. Being Christmas Eve, the road was quiet although it’s relatively safe to run along when there are more cars around.

Sourmilk Gill

Reaching Buttermere, I noticed a waterfall in the distance and decided to switch to running anti-clockwise. The waterfall was accessible via a bridges but required some scrambling to get further up. With the prospect of taking some good shots I gingerly scaled some rocks and fallen trees but was careful not put myself in too much danger.

After the waterfall I continued on the path around Buttermere but being intrigued by steps leading up the the hillside I decided to head up. Consulting the OS Maps app on the phone, the path would eventually lead to the source of the waterfall and eventually onto Scale Force which is the highest waterfall in the Lake District. I knew I had enough time to get up to the waterfall source but unsure whether I’d reach Scale Force in time.

The path consisted of dozens and dozens and dozens of man-made rock steps that rose through Burtness Wood. I power hiked up and out of the wood and onto a steeper, winding rock path. The path become more technical with water running down many sections of the path but the steps continued, relentlessly. It wound its way up and around inching its way towards the source of the waterfall, always runnable and always awe-inspiring at every twist and turn.

At the source of the waterfall you realise why the falls are called Sourmilk Gill. Running white like sour milk, the water cascades down towards the north-western edge of Buttermere, frothing up as it falls. Interestingly, the source is covered in hundreds of large rocks with the source running along numerous channels beneath. Ambling over the rocks you can hear, but not see, the water running beneath. There’s a man made wall to the left of the rocks but I’m unsure whether the rocks themselves above the source were added by man.

Beyond the source, Scale Force was still on my radar but based on the time it had taken me to get to the source of Sourmilk Gill I wasn’t sure if I’d make it in time (it was Christmas Eve and I had an afternoon party to attend) and get back down to Buttermere. I made the mistake of taking my eye off the map and quickly found myself off piste and a little disoriented. I climbing over rocks trying to find a path but decided to abort and head towards Bleaberry Tarn which would allow me to rejoin a path where I could retrace my steps own to Buttermere.

Bleaberry Tarn is a picturesque lake that sits at the foot of Red Pike and High Stile. Both were inviting me to scale them and given the time it would have made a great challenge to combine them with Scale Force.

Descending to Buttermere

The route back down the hundreds of steps proved to be great training the quads. At the SBU35 the decent down similar terrain took its toll on them so I want to make sure that they’re strong enough for future ultras.

Having already taken plenty of photographs on the ascent, I could enjoy the descent in all its technical glory. Being out alone, and having seen nobody on the route, I was cautious whilst still enjoying the thrill.

At the base it was a case of retracing my steps back along the road from Buttermere to Crummock Water and rather than fully retracing my steps I followed the road completely which I knew would give me one last view of Crummock Water.

Despite being relatively short in distance, the 1,000ft ascent in a mile, followed by the same descent, combined with a cold meant that I was done and ready to get to the party. Even though parts of this route, there was a lot of walking involved and would be a great route to walk. If walking it would probably be best to park at Buttermere to cut out the section from Crummock Water.

Route Map and Profile

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