Pillar is a towering presence in Ennerdale, a classic mountain to climb. Pillar Rock dominates the face of the fell and is a historic location when it comes to Lake District mountaineering.
Rosie and I enjoyed an epic walk on Pillar a few summers ago. She has now retired from big walks like this but still enjoys a trot over Walla Crag and chasing the odd pigeon.
This magnificent walk is more than manageable from Ennerdale however we put in the leg work starting from Buttermere so we had to walk the length of the lake and climb Scarth Gap pass before we even got anywhere near the foot of Pillar.
To start the walk from our self catering Lake District cottages in Ennerdale, I suggest walking up the forest track to the memorial bridge. It is about 4 miles from the parking at Bowness. Cross over the bridge and walk along the track to your right, taking the left hand fork. Shortly along this left hand fork you leave the track and start to climb directly up the scrubby fellside. There is no official path so keep an eye out for a steep step off the forest track, directly below Pillar Rock.
The walk up through Pillar Cove is not recommended for children or inexperienced walkers. It is a steep and rough uphill climb without a path over rough fellside. There is a magnificent view of Pillar Rock as you climb alongside the falls. Towards the top of the falls, you can make a beeline to the left for Robinson’s Cairn and the start of the high level route, or as I did, continue straight up towards Pillar Rock. The rock itself is strictly reserved for climbers and there is no way for a mere walker to reach the top.
After toiling uphill with burning thighs, you emerge at the start of the Shamrock Traverse. The Shamrock Traverse is a path along a ledge at the base of Pillar Rock, slightly tilted downhill and exposed to one side. The path is straightforward but the slab section is fairly polished in places, keep your wits about you and enjoy the feeling of being right on the edge!
In clear conditions, the route uphill is easy to follow and gives a superb up close view of Pillar Rock. You might even see some climbers!
The top of Pillar has a wind shelter and a triangulation cairn. Here you can enjoy a well deserved stop for lunch with views of the Scafells, the coast and the fells to the north.
After a testing climb uphill, we chose a simple walk back down again, leaving the summit in the direction of Kirk Fell. You will reach the top of Black Sail Pass, an ancient foot pass between Ennerdale and Wasdale. We descended back down to Ennerdale and saw the Galloway cattle contentedly munching away. At this point, if you started from Ennerdale, then you have no more climbing to do, just a simple walk back to your cottage. However for Rosie and me, there was one last climb to get back over Scarth Gap and down in to Buttermere. It was a baking hot July day so we rewarded ourselves with a dip in Buttermere as we returned to our tent, and lay on the grass in the evening sun.
Distance: 8.5 miles (from Ennerdale) or 10.5 miles (from Buttermere Village)