Striding up Crinkle Crags and Bowfell
19th February 2008.
Map: Landranger 90
Weather: Cold at first. Bright sunshine all day.
A circular walk from Old Dungeon Ghyll Hotel, up past Pike O’Blisco to Crinkle Crags, on to Bowfell and back around to Mickleden: 12.5 miles – as measured by a £5 Asda pedometer (10miles on the map)
Copyright OS-Click on map to enlarge, then hit the back button to return to blog
I had been fogged-in on the rig for 4 days and arrived home to glorious weather. So I checked out the weather ( www.lake-district.gov.uk/weatherline ) in the
Looking up Great Langdale in the early morning light
I arrived into Great Langdale and was greeted with the early morning sun catching the hill tops. Lower down the temperature was -5 deg, with a hard biting frost on the ground. I hadn’t been up to the
I think that’s Harrison Stickle with
I left the car at Old Dungeon Ghyll
The air was cold and I had to be kitted out properly. I had a gentle warm up as the path crossed over an old bridge then turned across flat farmland.
Just out of the car park – no river just Ice
On my way to Stool End it was a bit of a strain, but it soon passed! The way ahead looked steep and I knew that the old leg muscles would be complaining before the day was out.
The route ahead was to the left, up Oxendale past the Pike of Blisco
Beyond the farm at Stool End the path takes you across the valley floor and across the river by the way of some stepping stones. You’ll note all the large boulders in the beck, these being dumped here from further up the valley during the last ice age. The path ahead wasn’t clear but it soon became apparent that there is a continuous run of steps leading up the hillside
Pike of Stickle – that’s Latin for big pimple.
Lots of boulders for walling – looking back down Langdale
From the valley floor it is a long and arduous pull up the hillside to Brown Howe, passing by the Pike of Blisco. The path is so well used that there is no lichen growth, so you cannot stray too far away. If in doubt stop and have a look around – and that applies to most of today’s route. The steps were iced up in places where water runs down and in the shade of the hill the temperature stayed close to freezing. But inside my fleece the temperature was close to boiling point!
The path runs from left centre of picture to top left
Eventually the gradient eases and the steps give way to a gravel path leading on to Red Tarn, with the Pike of Blisco dark and cold above you. It took me about 1hr 20mins to reach the tarn and the very welcome sunshine that came with it. I disrobed at this point as the temperature was a good few degrees higher on top. With more climb to come I was down to T-shirt & Jacket, but I kept the long johns on! Here the view is dominated by the Pike of Stickle and Gimmer Crag, well illuminated in the morning sun.
Red Tarn & Wetherlam. Ingleborough in the far distance
Pike of Stickle and the Langdale Pikes – The valley far below
I had a good rest here as there was a handy boulder to sit on, and enjoyed the views. The route turned towards higher ground and the relentless walk up the gravelled paths. These will eventually break down to finer particles but now they are not the best surface to walk on. It stops erosion, but by the look of the grass alongside the path it has encouraged people to walk slightly off the track. The first 6 miles of this walk were uphill and at times it is very tiring. But the views that become available to you make it all worth while – but it was hard on the feet and toes.
Blue sky everywhere – brings a smile to your face
Looking down over Red Tarn – misty valleys to the east and coast
But back to the task ahead – more uphill on a loose gravely surface. Today I walked over a lot of peaks including Black Wars, Great Knott, Long Top, Crinkle Crags, Shelter Crags, Bowfell, Hanging Knotts, Esk Pike, Esk Hause and Rossett Pike – are you tired yet? I was…
Great Knott and
Pike of Blisco – note the level horizon – an ancient Peneplain
There were vast views when I got up to Long Top, clear blue skies as far as I could see. Any mist was below me in the valleys. The mountains of the
The view from Great Knott, Skiddaw in the distance
Snowdonia was in the distance, but it doesn’t show here
Looking down on Pike of Blisco & Red Tarn – Wetherlam on the right
After my rest I made my way down over rockfalls and boulders towards the Crinkle Crags. The choice now was of an easy route to the left or the awkward route to the bad step? Being in a state of delirium from all the exertion to the top I chose the ‘Bad Step’ – well…your’e only middle aged for about 50 years, so why not. The slab doesn’t look too bad from a distance but when you get close up you wish you were 7ft6inch tall. The slab is about 10ft up in the air, and the way up is to climb to the right side. I warn you all that it is not easy, so if in doubt walk back down and take the easy option.
Bad Step in the shadows
Once you have overcome, or you have been overcome, continue on to the top of the first Crinkle Crag. There are lots of slabs to be walked over so take care not to turn over an ankle. You continue northwards up and down several sharp rises and falls. The path is indistinct, but again you can see where there is less lichen. Bowfell looms ever larger before you and I knew that another stiff climb was in prospect, but on the flipside it is almost halfway and a great spot to take lunch and have a well deserved rest.
Looking back to the first Crinkle Crag – Bad Step over the hill
Down to Shelter Crag, then up, then down, then up to Bowfell
ThreeTarns came into view as I made my way down a steep flank of Shelter Crag, leaping from slab to slab….actually carefully stepping down. It was hard work down as well as up today. The loose aggregate and stone on the path up the side of Bowfell was a real pain in the legs (bum cheeks were getting a good work out as well – that’s exercise folks!). I stopped frequently for breath and of course to take in the ever changing views. You can see the path up the side in the picture above, and how the ground levels off before the final route to the peak. The top end of the Great Slab came into view, and when you peer over the edge it is a very impressive sight – much better than a giant Toblerone!
The steep rocky flank of Shelter Crag – One Tarn at the bottom
Two Tarns, Shelter Crag, Crinkle Crags, Red Tarn to the distant left.
The Great Slab and Bowfell Buttress
A big Slab with Pike of Stickle across the valley
The slab tilts down towards the valley, but you could walk down it if you are sure footed. I stayed to the inside edge and went down a short distance. But I had enough of the walk left without adding a few extras. It’s a long way to the valley floor. There were some interesting rocks around up here, one large boulder had cleaved into four pieces. Supernanny could use it for placing recalcitrant children, instead of the naughty step – no, only kidding as you’d have to carry them up here anyway!
Let me out!!! I don’t like you!!! Mummmmy………..
The King Penguin rocks
Some strange shapes could be picked out. Lots of the rock slabs up here must have been shattered by freeze / thaw processes during the last ice ages. From here it was a short ascent to the top of Bowfell, which was popular today. But there was plenty of room for a lovely spot in the sun, and would you believe it I got a little sunburn – in February!! I sat down and enjoyed the views. I got my Baps out – floury ones with marmite on them. I also had Extra Thick Veg soup today which was very welcome. I think my wife had some as well, because when I got home and said “I’ve never seen so many Pikes”, she replied “What? Fish?”…what ingredients have Heinz been putting in there? After lunch I had a small celebration for reaching the top and for
That’s me twirling the scarf, not the wind. There wasn’t any
The River Esk and Hard Knott. A thick bank of sea mist in the distance
Great Slab, Pike of Stickle, and Langdale far, far below
After a really good break, I picked my way down the slopes and made my way towards Hanging Knotts which overlooks Angle Tarn (a steep drop) and Ore Gap.
Looking back up to Hanging Knotts from Ore Gap
Tiredness was setting in as I faced the last big haul of the day up over Esk Pike. From the top there were great views down to the glacial moraines at Tongue Head below Angle Tarn - the typical basket of eggs topography. Good views to be had of Stonethwaite Fell and Helvellyn in the distance, and the Borrowdale Fells to the north
The glacial moraines below Angle Tarn
Eskdale and beyond to the coast
I descended from Esk Pike down to Esk Hause, once more on a steep rocky path, and from this point on most of the way was down. That sounds good, but it was so steep in places that it was as difficult going as the climbs, without the sweatiness! At Esk Hause there is a junction of paths, and you turn right down towards a cross shelter, which looked very inviting in the sunshine. Past here I turned right again and was now facing back towards the south-east on my homeward journey. You get a good view of where you have been and where you want to go. Down towards Angle Tarn the path is roughly paved in a series of steps to protect against erosion. The path levels off before a small incline to Angle Tarn, with Esk Pike and Hanging Knotts darkly above you – the north facing slopes iced up in places….brrrrrrrr.
Heading down towards Angle Tarn
Glacial moraines below the
Angle Tarn outflow
A frozen Angle Tarn
The tarn was completely frozen over, and judging by the amount of stones that had been hurled onto the ice, it had been frozen for sometime. It doesn’t get much sunshine in the wintertime here, and I would think the water is absolutely Baltic even in the summertime. You can see some glacially smoothed rocks at the top of the moraines, quite distinct from the rocks seen at the top of the pikes. A last climb up a gentle slope brings you to Rossett Pike, and from here the steps are with you until the valley floor. The path twists and turns as you descend down a very steep slope.
A welcome sight – Mickleden down below
Pike of Stickle – sunny all day
Your legs will be tired now, mine were (still sore two days later). It doesn’t look far down to the valley but there was a few miles left to go. The views were now dominated by Bowfell above, and the Great Slab – very dark in the shade, and Pike of Stickle showing off in the sunshine. Peaceful Mickleden beckoned in the afternoon sun, but I couldn’t hurry because the path was so uneven. As you reach the valley there are more piles of moraine deposited long ago, and the usual piles of boulders in the stream. I crossed a springy board bridge across Rossett Gill and then you have the relatively flat path back to Old Dungeon Ghyll, half in and half out of the sunshine. You can see the route taken today and marvel at how steep the journey was.
The Great Slab and Bowfell from the path down Rossett Gill
The winding path down. The valley floor is top left of picture
Bowfell dominates the skyline
Lower down approaching the valley – note the glacial moraine
Back up the valley up to Rossett Pike – a long way down
Nearly there only a mile or two
A last look back – steep it is!
That old Pike of Stickle
Just around the corner and the sun is still shining on me!
It was a long hard day but I loved every minute of it. One thing I forgot today was to imbibe a litre of water before my walk, and I only carried a litre and a bit with me. Despite the cold I needed a regular top up of fluid and I ran out after 9 miles. By the time I got back I was parched, but the Old Dungeon Ghyll Hotel came to the rescue. So remember to always take enough water – don’t break your own rules. Cut your toenails! Your nails will cut into your other toes if not trimmed – believe me it is very painful. My boots were well and truly scuffed after rock hopping all day long, and will need a good dollop of Dubbin in the next day or two. I didn’t think about how long it took me to take all of my pictures, but on an average day I would take around 120 shots to make sure I get all of the details I can. That equates to stopping and starting a lot at 10sec a picture!! I thought it was me being slow. Today’s walk took around 7hrs 45mins for around 12 ½ miles. Today’s measurement was on a pedometer, which proved reasonably accurate. I will use it again – I took 27,000 steps, and apparently burned up 715kcals – equivalent to a couple of Mars Bars! The moral of the story is watch what you eat!! But don’t despair all that hard work will tone you up. And finally a good end to the day….
Aaaaggggggggghhh…Walking…its thirsty work!!