Kirk Fell is a fell in the Western part of the English
Lake District situated between Great Gable and Pillar on the long ring
of fells surrounding the valley of Ennerdale. It also stands over
Wasdale to the south, however, it is separated from its two higher
neighbours by the low passes of Black Sail and Beck Head, giving it a
high relative height and making it a Marilyn, the thirteenth highest in
the Lake District.
The direct ascent up the south western slope
from Wasdale Head is back breakingly steep and the subject of an amusing
drawing by Wainwright. Usual ascents are by one of the aforementioned
passes; alternatively one may climb Kirk Fell as part of the Mosedale
Horseshoe, a walk on the fells surrounding Mosedale, a side-valley of
The Western Fells occupy a triangular sector of the Lake
District, bordered by the River Cocker to the north east and Wasdale to
the south east. Westwards the hills diminish toward the coastal plain of
Cumberland. At the central hub of the high country are Great Gable and
its satellites, while two principal ridges fan out on either flank of
Ennerdale, the western fells in effect being a great horseshoe around
this long wild valley.Kirk Fell is the first on the southern arm.
The main watershed runs broadly westwards from Great Gable, dividing
the headwaters of Ennerdale and Wasdale. The main fells in this section
are Kirk Fell, Pillar, Scoat Fell, Haycock and Caw Fell, followed by the
lower Lank Rigg group.
sits squarely at the head of Wasdale, rising between the main
headstreams of Mosedale and Lingmell Becks. From this direction it
appears as a truncated cone, steep sided with a wide level top. The
flanks above Wasdale are unremittingly steep, 2,000 ft (610 m) of grass
and scree with little to break the monotony. The only stream on these
slopes is Ill Gill, falling from the depression between the summit and
the east top.Great End and Scafell Pike seen from Kirk Fell Tarn between
the two summits
To the west, between Kirk Fell and Pillar, is Black
Sail Pass. This is a pedestrian route from Wasdale to Ennerdale, and
from there onward via Scarth Gap to Buttermere. A well graded path now
used exclusively for leisure, it was once a thoroughfare for trade
between the valleys.
The summit of the pass at 1,775 ft (541 m)
is crossed by the Ennerdale Fence, a boundary marking the watershed
around the head of the valley. Although some sections of the 'fence' are
actually stone walls, that running over the top of Kirk Fell is only a
remnant, marked by occasional posts.
The Ennerdale face of Kirk
Fell has more features to offer, but due to the remoteness of the
dalehead is much less familiar. A wall of rock rims the summit plateau,
Boat How Crags to the east and Kirkfell Crags to the west. Between the
two is the hollow of Baysoar Slack, the birthplace of Sail Beck. Below
the crags the gradient is not quite as severe as on the Wasdale side,
slopes running down to the bank of the River Liza. Kirk Fell does not
have such a prominent position in Ennerdale, Great Gable standing at the
head of the valley.
To the east
of Kirk Fell is Beck Head (2,020 ft), the col connecting to Great Gable.
A small rocky spur, Rib End, runs down from the summit plateau to the
tarns at the depression. Although prominently named on Ordnance Survey
maps, Beckhead Tarn is a small shallow pool with a bed of peat and
submerged flags. A second smaller pool forms after heavy rain.
The summit plateau of Kirk Fell assumes a
'figure of eight' shape in plan, the narrow waist squeezed between
Illgill Head and Baysoar Slack. The highest ground is to the west, while
a subsidiary top occupies the other section.
Kirk Fell east top
has sufficient prominence (34 m, 112 ft) to qualify as a Hewitt in its
own right. Between the summits is Kirkfell Tarn, actually two small
tarns. The deeper pool is an oval, while the other has an indented
outline, reminiscent of Sprinkling Tarn on Seathwaite Fell in miniature.
routes near Kirk Fell