Honister Pass - Gatesgarth (SW #80) Bike Climb - PJAMM Cycling

2.3 mi
843 ft
6.8 %



Honister Pass is referred to in Simon Warren 100 Greatest Cycling Climbs as “the most beautiful of the Lake’s passes" and is the Official Climb #80.  This is a demanding bike climb, particularly the last segment which ends at the Honister Slate Mine. 
6.8% average grade (7.3% climb only).  The first 1.3 kilometers at 7.1% are a nice warm up for the following 1.5 kilometers which average 12.1%.  46% of the climb is at 0-5% grade, 25% is at 5-10%, and 10% is at 15-20% grade.  The steepest 500 meters is 15.6% and steepest kilometer 11.7%. 

See more details and tools regarding this climb's grade via the “Profile Tool” button.
Roadway:  Two lane road in good condition with no center stripe or shoulder. 

Traffic:  Mild to moderate. 

Parking:  At the car park at the start of the climb - MapStreet View
Provisions:  None on the climb, but there are places to get or sit for a meal in Buttermere, three kilometers north of the climb (Map).
Before heading out on any cycling adventure check out our Things to Bring on a Cycling Trip and use our interactive check list to ensure you don't forget anything.
There are many attractions around this climb - see Top Attractions in Buttermere.  There are tours of Honister Slate Mine -- bring a lock for your bike, walking shoes, and a change of clothes and do the tour after your climb. 

Also consider adding Honister Pass - Seatoller to this climb as an out-and back: 12 kilometers gaining 500 meters (Map).



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This climb is referred to in Simon Warren 100 Greatest Cycling Climbs as “The most beautiful of the Lake’s passes.”  At 6.8% over 3.7 km  it is a demanding climb, particularly the last 1.6 km which average 11.8%.

At the top, you can score a slate sign on the spot which we were actually interested in, but could not come up with a plan for safely getting it down the mountain on our bike (or at least even half safely!).

RoadcyclingUK.com (Tejvan January 17, 2015):

“Honister Pass was used by the Tour of Britain in 2013, and we’ve selected the direction in which the race rode it, which is the longer of the two ascents. At the bottom you might be wondering what the fuss is all about, unless you were blown away by the beauty of Buttermere Lake at the start.

From the lake, you proceed up the B5289 road on what is the falsest of false flats, barely tipping upwards at all. The road continues this way for two kilometres but it’s enough to feel slightly grippy as your average speed takes a hit.

Then it’s time to climb properly, with a gradient that steepens steadily first to five per cent, before approaching eight per cent over the next 700m. From there, the suffering really begins with pitches of up to 24 per cent and it barely relents all the way to the summit. It’s a mark of how vicious the final stage of the climb is when the entire segment measures at a seven per cent average.”  

Canyon to the pass.


“Honister pass is a fairly inaccessible climb in the north West Lake District. To get there invariably involves cycling up many other Lake District hills, but it is worth the effort as it a great climb, with equally superb views. It is a great climb from both directions.

East to West:  Starting in Keswick you will travel south down the East coast of Derwent water towards Borrowdale. Just before the village of Seatoller, you take a right turn on the B2589.  There is a 2 mile gentle introduction to the climb as you go up the valley at a very gentle gradient. However, as the road bends round to the right you leave the valley and start the climb proper. There is a steep section of 18% before a slight recovery in the middle. The last third of the climb is the hardest as the gradient gets up to 22% before the final drag to the summit, where you will see the Honister Cafe built out of locally produced slate and festooned with non-locally produced signs, which somehow don’t fit into the environs.

West to East: The climb begins from the picturesque setting of Buttermere Lake. The thing about Honister pass from this direction is that it gets steeper and steeper as you go further up. Always worth bearing in mind as you start the climb. The last 2.3 miles averages 7% as you climb 270 m. But, it is the last section which is the real leg breaker, 20% for a considerable time. In 2013, the Tour of Britain went up Honister Pass in the driving rain, it split the peleton very nicely.”  Read More 

Honister Pass - East

Steepest ½ kilometer begins at km 3.1 (15.1%)

Honister Pass - West


Steepest ½ kilometer begins at 400m (16.5%)


“Honister Pass is a mountain pass in the English Lake District. It is located on the B5289 road, linking Seatoller, in the valley of Borrowdale, to Gatesgarth at the southern end of Buttermere. The pass reaches an altitude of 1,167 feet (356 m), making it one of the highest in the region, and also one of the steepest, with gradients of up to 1-in-4 (25%). The saddle at the watershed is known as Honister Hause, using the Cumbrian word hause for such a feature.

Honister Pass is one of three passes that link the tourist area around Keswick, including Derwent Water and Borrowdale, with the valley of the River Cocker, including the lakes of Buttermere, Crummock Water and Loweswater. From north to south these passes are Whinlatter Pass, Newlands Pass and Honister Pass.

Honister Slate Mine and Honister Hause Youth Hostel are located at the summit of the pass.

Footpaths lead from the summit of the pass to Fleetwith Pike to the west, Grey Knotts to the south, and Dale Head to the north.

Honister Pass holds the UK 24-hour rainfall record; in the 24 hours to 6 pm on 5 December 2015, 341.4 mm of rain fell there..”  
Wikipedia - Honister Pass

These climbs are within Lake District National Park, 236,200 hectare (583,663 acres) established in 1951:

“The Lake District, also known as the Lakes or Lakeland, is a mountainous region in North West England. A popular holiday destination, it is famous for its lakes, forests and mountains (or fells) and its associations with the early 19th century writings of William Wordsworth and the other Lake Poets, Beatrix Potter, and John Ruskin. A National Park was established in 1951 and, following a minor extension in 2016, now covers an area of approximately 2,362 square kilometres. It was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2017.

It is located entirely within the county of Cumbria, and all the land in England higher than 3,000 feet (914 m) above sea level lies within the National Park, including Scafell Pike, the highest mountain in England. It also contains the deepest and longest bodies of water in England, respectively Wast Water and Windermere.”  
Wikipedia - Lake District National Park

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