Walk: Ascent of Kirk Fell

This route takes us up the easiest approach to Kirk Fell, a fell that is defended by uncommonly steep slopes or crags on every side. Here we follow the valley of Gable Beck to Beck Head and then take the simple path up Rib End onto the sizable summit plateau.

Ascent: 2,440ft
Length: 3.5 miles
Map: Lakes North West
Last Walked: July 2013

We start at the triangular village green car park at Wasdale Head.

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Kirk Fell seen from the south Take the track that heads north-east out of the corner of the car park furthest away from the road.
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Follow this track to Burnthwaite Farm. Follow the signposted footpath through the farm buildings and out onto another track. Turn right here.

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Valley of Gable Beck Follow this track until it reaches a long footbridge over Gable Beck. Cross the bridge then turn left onto a path that climbs steeply up the south-west corner of Great Gable. This path passes through a stone wall, then climbs up more steeply. At the end of this steep climb the path splits - take the left-hand branch that runs close to Gable Beck. This path runs most of the way up the valley, turning rocky towards the upper reaches of the valley. Above a rocky, scree section it rather fades away - at this point continue up the simple grassy slope to the top of the pass.
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Rib End, Kirk FellRib End is an unusual feature. Crags face south towards Wasdale and north towards Ennerdale, but between them there is a gap. A simple path climbs up this gap, eventually emerging at the eastern end of the large summit plateau of Kirk Fell. One on the plateau the path follows its southern edge for a bit, skipping just to the south of the lower eastern summit. It then heads west across the summit plateau, passing the two tarns of Kirkfell Tarn before climbing up to the higher western summit. Take the time to explore the tarns and visit the north-western corner of the plateau overlooking Black Sail Pass, as well as the eastern summit which has the best views for Ennerdale.

Pillar from Kirk FellSummit Plateau Kirk FellKirk Fell SummitScafell Range over Kirkfell Tarn

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Although there are two other main routes off the fell I recommend retracing your steps to get back down. The Kirkfell Crags route down to Black Sail Pass is an exceptionally steep clamber down a crag, the southern route down the nose of the fell is one endless steep drop with few chances to rest. The route back down Rib End is trouble free apart from one Looking Down the Rib End Path moment towards the eastern end of the summit where the path splits - take the right-hand branch which heads down towards the Rib End path and not the left-hand branch which heads up to the crags above. Once down at Beck Head head across the pass then back down the grassy slope to the right to return to the valley bottom path and from there retrace your steps down the valley, through Burnthwaite and back to the village green.

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