Sticks Pass is the second highest mountain pass in the Lake District, one of those old ways used in past days to link Glenridding and Patterdale with the areas around St Johns-in-the-Vale and Wythburn. The ancient track takes its name from the sticks used to mark the route – though none survive today.
As you walk these mountain passes, particularly in wild weather, you can see just why they came about. It doesn’t take much to imagine herders driving sheep and cattle across them, or mineral workers bringing fell ponies through, loaded with mineral ore from the area’s mines.
Sunday was a fine day for walking, the Lake District looking magnificent with the mountains still dappled with broad fields of glistening snow.
We set out from Stanah Village Hall (£2 honesty box parking) to walks up to the topmost part of the Sticks Pass, then along the ridge towards the two Wainwright heights of Raise and White Side.
The first part of the track is undoubtedly quite steep, a hardy task for herders and ponies. But it does offer wonderful views over Thirlmere and the Northern Fells. The dramatic gully of Stanah Gill runs alongside and it wasn’t long before we glimpsed the placid waters of Bassenthwaite.
Thirlmere itself was half-frozen, the long stretches of ice stilling its water.
The last time we walked up to Sticks Pass I was incredibly unfit and it seemed to give the impression of going on for ever. But the fitter and lighter me did much better this time, feeling much as I did over twenty years ago.
A good sunny day as we hit the top of the Pass, just a few other walkers about. A bit more snow here, adding to the excitement of the day.
The lingering clouds cleared as we followed the path up to Raise, with some nice stands of snow to negotiate on the way.
Grand and very clear views from the top, right across Lakeland to Gable and Scafell Pike in one direction, Skiddaw and Blencathra to the north, then across Ullswater to the North Pennines. So many familiar and walked heights.
The three quarters of a mile across to White Side, offers some of the easiest walking in the district. A delight walking in this southerly direction because of the fine views you get towards Helvellyn and its Lower Man – still looking positively Alpine with its greater stretches of snow.
From White Side we descended along the line of the bridleway to Brown Crag, a minor summit that has some nice craggy rocks on its northern edge. The remnants of cairns on its top are clearly prehistoric. Another terrific viewpoint over the head of Thirlmere.
The bridleway winds back on itself down towards Thirlspot. This too was a track for men and women with fell ponies in times agone.
We crossed the little wooden bridge across Fisherplace Gill, with its dramatic waterfalls, and then the footpath to Stanah.
Walking in the footsteps of so many journeyers along the old ways, who would, even today, recognise this landscape – even if the reservoired Thirlmere is bigger than it once was.