Monthly Archives: June 2016

Langdale Pikes via Jack’s Rake 04.06.2016

Although I’ve done a lot of hillwalking in the Lakes and am nearing completion of the Wainwrights, I’d never before done Jack’s Rake.  I got most of the way up one February day around ten years ago, but retreated below the top as I was concerned about the potential for ice.  A recent hut weekend in Chapel Stile with Burnley Mountaineering Club provided me with the perfect opportunity to put that right.

I left New Dungeon Ghyll at about 9 am and make rapid progress up Mill Gill, despite the warm and humid conditions, as I was keen to get the rake to myself if I could.  As I climbed, I encountered a large number of people descending, whose t-shirts declared them to be participants in the D of E Award Diamond Challenge.


Cascades in Mill Gill

The water level in the gill was very low, and it did occur to me that it would have been quite possible to have done the scramble up the gill too.  Ah well, another time.


Pavey Ark and Stickle Tarn


A closer view of Pavey Ark = Jack’s Rake is the diagonal line that runs from bottom right to top left

The waters of Stickle Tarn were incredibly still with barely a ripple disturbing the surface.


Stickle Tarn reflections

I didn’t hang around at the tarn, as there were two people just behind me and I didn’t want them to get to the rake before I did.  Not because I’m not a sharing person you understand, but there is some loose rock on Jack’s Rake, and I didn’t want any of it being sent down to me from above.  As it turned out, I needn’t have worried as they were climbers whose sights were obviously set on harder routes.


Looking up from the bottom of Jack’s Rake

Reaching the bottom of the rake turned out to be the worst part of the day, as the path is now very loose.  I was glad of my poles for that part of the route, though of course I made sure to stow them securely for the ascent of the rake itself.

The ascent of Jack’s Rake (Grade 1, 500 ft of climbing) is fairly easy for the most part.  I did find that couple of the moves needed of a bit of thought, but that’s probably more of a reflection on my lack of condition than on the difficulty of the scramble.  For all that, I thought it was a fantastic route and would quite happily have done it all over again.



A few shots of and from the scramble

I had a quick breather on the summit of Pavey Ark (2300 ft), before heading first for Sergeant Man (2414 ft), then Codale Head (2395 ft) and High Raise (2500 ft).


Harrison Stickle from Pavey Ark


Looking down to Stickle Tarn and Great Langdale


The distinctive summit of Sergeant Man


Another glimpse of Stickle Tarn, from Sergeant Man


Zooming in on Grasmere


Steel Fell and the mist-shrouded Helvellyn range from the unfrequented top of Codale Head


Sergeant Man from Codale Head

I stopped for lunch on the summit of High Raise, before pressing on for perhaps the least-distinguished summit of the day, Thunacar Knott (2372 ft).  It does possess a nice tarn though.


Tarn on Thunacar Knott


Harrison Stickle from Thunacar Knott

After walking in relative solitude for most of the day, it was a bit of a shock to the system to find the summit of Harrison Stickle thronged with people.  Who could blame them though?


Stickle Tarn from Harrison Stickle


A shaft of sunlight highlighting Jack’s Rake

As the day was still young, I decided to visit the other two Langdale Pikes, Loft Crag (2231 ft) and Pike o’ Stickle (2326 ft).  I was surprised by how few people seemed to bother with the former; I spent quite a while on the summit and had it to myself the whole time.


Loft Crag


Looking back at Harrison Stickle from Thorn Crag


Side Pike and Blea Tran from Loft Crag


Approaching Pike o’ Stickle

Pike o’ Stickle must be one of the best summits in the Lakes.  Not only is it the perfect shape, but you can’t get to the top without using hands as well as feet.  It’s certainly one of my favourites.


Harrison Stickle from Pike o’ Stickle

Leaving Pike o’ Stickle, I headed across the featureless expanse of Martcrag Moor.  I took special care as the previous time I’d walked across there, I tripped and sprained my ankle, which made my descent to the valley excruciatingly painful.  Luckily, there were no mishaps this time.


Retrospective view of Pike o’ Stickle

Reaching Stake Pass, I decided I still had time and energy for one last top, so headed for Rossett Pike (2136 ft).  Earlier in the day, I had even entertained ideas of heading up Bowfell too, but the heat and humidity had taken their toll on my energy levels and I decided that this would be too much.


Looking down Langdale from Rossett PIke


Bowfell’s Great Slab from Rossett Pike

Leaving Rossett Pike, I couldn’t resist a quick peek at Angle Tarn, in my view one of the most beautiful spots in the Lakes.  I must camp out on its shores some day.


Angle Tarn

I suppressed a shudder as I looked down at the old path that used to run straight down Rossett Gill.  A steep, endlessly shifting river of scree, it must have been one of the least pleasurable of Lake District paths to walk.  Thankfully, the old packhorse route nearby was brought back into use some years ago and makes for a much more forgiving descent.


Mickleden from the head of Rossett Gill


Looking back at Pike o’ Stickle from the descent


A closer view of Pike o’ Stickle

As I trekked back along Mickleden, my weariness was alleviated slightly by a group of buzzards riding the thermals far above me.  What a magnificent sight these birds are – even though they are pretty common these days, I never tire of watching them.


Pike o’ Stickle and Loft Crag from Mickleden

As so often seems to be the case, I enjoyed the best weather of the day as I walked the last couple of miles.  A good reason to do more wild camping, I suppose.


The view down Great Langdale as I neared the New Dungeon Ghyll

Mellbreak 30.05.2016


Mellbreak (1680 ft) is a hill that I’d been intending to climb for a long time, but somehow had never got around too, mainly I think because it’s fairly isolated from other hills and so doesn’t really make for a full day out.  However, the prospect of another warm and sunny day meant that a relatively moderate walk was just what we were looking for.


Lanthwaite Wood

We started from Lanthwaite Wood, near the foot of Crummock Water.  It was wonderfully cool in the woodland, and the sun was creating beautiful patterns of light and shade through the trees.  Every now and then, gaps in the trees allowed us tantalising glimpses of Mellbreak across the beck.


Mellbreak seen across the beck

Emerging onto the lake shore, we enjoyed the fabulous views down the Buttermere valley, before striking out across farm pastures to the foot of Mellbreak.  This section of the route was quite fiddly as the route of the path across the farmland wasn’t entirely obvious.  As usual, I found that I needed the map far more in the valley than I did on the tops.


Grasmoor and Rannerdale Knotts seen across Crummock Water


Heading across the farmland towards the foot of Mellbreak


Low Fell

Above Highpark farm, more lovely woodlands led us to the base of the hill.  There were many small dragonflies hereabouts, but as they didn’t land for long enough for us ever to photograph one, we were unable to identify them.


Looking across to Whiteside and Grasmoor from the start of the ascent


Starting the ascent


Looking back on Loweswater

The climb up to Mellbreak’s north top is every bit as steep as it looks from below, but thankfully, the breeze increased rapidly as we gained height.  Less welcome were the midges that we found in the more sheltered spots.  We found the loose scree rather tiresome, but it didn’t go on for too long before we were back among rock and heather.  Once established on the eastern edge, there were stunning views down to Crummock Water, by this time well below us, and further down the valley towards Buttermere.


Looking down on Loweswater and Low Fell


Crummock Water and Buttermere

There were quite a few people about on the north top, though most of them seemed only to be doing this one, and not continuing to the higher south top.  The intervening ground between the two is not at all what you would expect from below – an undulating heathery plateau, with various boggy hollows, much more reminiscent of the Pennines than the Lakes.  The views in all directions are superb however, thanks to the Mellbreak’s precipitous sides.


Whiteside and Grasmoor from the north top


The main summit from the north top


Mosedale with Starling Dodd behind

I had to agree with the general consensus that the south top is inferior to the north in terms of both views and character.  As though aware of its failings, it manages only a feeble summit cairn, though there is a better one a few feet lower down, which also happens to have better views than the summit.


Crummock Water and Buttermere from near the main summit


Hen Comb from below the summit


Looking towards Red Pike

A steep but rapid descent brought us to the beck that flows from Scale Force, which we had visited two days previously.  As it was still only fairly early, we decided to make a detour to Buttermere for ice cream.  Walking back along the shores of Crummock Water, I was struck by just how much wilder the western side of the lake is than the east.  Here we were still very much in mountain terrain, with the slopes of Mellbreak soaring directly above us, complete with crags, heather and bogs, while on the other side of the lake was the road to Buttermere and lush green farm pastures.


Descending towards Crummock Water


Looking back at Mellbreak



Low Ling Crag jutting out into Crummock Water


Crummock Water lake shore

This was a fantastic walk and I was glad that we hadn’t left Mellbreak for a bad weather day, or a quick half-day, as is often the case with the lower hills.

Fleetwith Pike, Haystacks and High Stile 28.05.2016

We were keen to get going as early as possible for the punishingly steep ascent of Fleetwith Edge, but even though we left Gatesgarth at 8.30 am (OK, I know it’s not very early, but the hostel didn’t serve breakfast till 7.30), the sun was already high in the sky.  Luckily one or two of the steeper sections were still in the shade, but we were still pretty warm by the time we arrived at the summit of Fleetwith Pike (2126 ft).  At least the heat gave us a good excuse for regular stops to take in the view – and what a view it is.  This must be one of the finest routes up any mountain in the Lakes.


The view to Buttermere, shortly after leaving Gatesgarth


Haystacks from the ascent route


Pausing for breath on the ascent – the haze was already starting to build up


Buttermere from the summit cairn

While admiring the view from the summit cairn, Georgina spotted a ring ouzel nearby.  Given that I’d only seen my first one two weeks previously, I was pretty pleased to see another one so soon.  I was even happier when another two came to join it!


Ring ouzel (photo by Georgina Collins)

We were soon joined on the summit by a chap who asked us if we’d seen anybody wearing a red sash – the first of several people to ask us this question.  I gather that they were participants in the Lakes Hunt, a cross between hide-and-seek and tag for grown-ups.  We never saw any of the ‘hares’ (the people who wear the red sashes and who are pursued by the ‘hunters’), but we were to hear their horns several times throughout the day.

Beyond Fleetwith Pike, I made a detour to visit the summit of Honister Crag (2077 ft), a Nuttall summit that was only ‘discovered’ fairly recently – too recently to feature in the book, in any case.


Fleetwith Pike and Buttermere from Honister Crag

Heading now for Haystacks, we dropped down to pass Dubs Hut, one of the few MBA bothies in the Lakes.  It seemed that there was a work party in for the weekend, though they were out when we arrived.  It was impressively clean and well maintained, so if any members of the work party read this, thanks guys!


Dubs Hut with Haystacks behind


The spotless interior of Dubs Hut – the loungers were labelled as MBA property, so I guess you normally have to sleep on the stone bench or the floor


The entrance to the bothy

The climb up to Haystacks was a delight; nowhere steep, but a succession of heathery hummocks, small crags and infant becks.  It’s easy to see why it was Wainwright’s favourite.


Admiring the view back to Fleetwith Pike from one of the many knolls


Another view of Buttermere

The path also passes a couple of delightful tarns, both of which would make idyllic camping spots.  Innominate Tarn is of course famous as Wainwright’s final resting place, but I thought Blackbeck Tarn was just as attractive.  No doubt it is less popular too!


Blackbeck Tarn.  The increasing haze made photography difficult.


Innominate Tarn

We stopped for lunch on the summit of Haystacks (1958 ft), which also boasts a lovely tarn.  It also gave us chance to boost our energy levels for the second big climb of the day, from Scarth Gap to the summit of High Crag.


High Crag from the summit of Haystacks


Pillar from Scarth Gap

The ascent of Gamlin End wasn’t as bad as it looked from below, though it was unpleasantly loose at the top.  Still, somebody has done an amazing job of repairing the lower two thirds of the route.


Heading up Gamlin End

The summit of High Crag (2441 ft) is the beginning of the fabulous High Stile ridge, a lofty promenade that offers vertiginous views down into Burtness Comb, with Buttermere below.


Buttermere seen below Burtness Comb

The ridge leading to High Stile gave us great views of Grey Crag, home to some classic climbs.  That we only saw one pair of climbers on the crag on a warm and dry bank holiday weekend I think speaks volumes about current trends in climbing – increasingly, traditional mountain crags are seemingly being abandoned in favour of sport climing, bouldering and indoor walls.


Climbers on Grey Crag (photo by Georgina Collins)


Looking back along the ridge to High Crag from the summit of High Stile


Bleaberry Tarn and Buttermere from High Stile

High Stile (2631 ft) is the literal and metaphorical high point of the ridge, with stunning views down into Buttermere and Bleaberry Comb.


Bleaberry Comb and Tarn from the ridge leading to Red Pike


Looking back to High Stile

Our final summit of the day was Red Pike (2477 ft), an accurate if unimaginative name for the peak.  It’s another stunning viewpoint, and one that we were lucky to have to ourselves for a few minutes.


Looking down to Buttermere from Red Pike, with the Robinson – Dale Head ridge in the background

We didn’t fancy the look of the horribly loose and eroded path leading down to Bleaberry Tarn, so opted for the longer but more forgiving descent via Scale Force.  This is perhaps a less dramatic route, but it is quiet and does give good views towards Mellbreak and Crummock Water.


Looking towards Lingcomb Edge, our descent route, from the summit


Crummock Water from the end of Lingcomb Edge


Red Pike from Lingcomb Edge

The highlight of our descent route was Scale Force.  This was a popular spot with Victorian tourists, and still seems pretty popular today.  Today’s tourists have to walk though, unlike the Victorians, who were ferried across the lake in boats to the foot of the waterfall.


Scale Force


Fleetwith Pike seen across Buttermere from our return route to the village.  Our ascent route was via the edge in the centre of this photo. 

The return to Gatesgarth via the lakeshore was a beautiful walk, as always, and I was lucky enough to see a family of goosander enjoying an evening swim.


Goosander family

Luckily the haze that had been so prevalent for much of the day began to shift as evening began, allowing me to enjoy probably the clearest view of Fleetwith Pike I’d seen all day, a beautiful end to a fabulous day.


Fleetwith Pike from Gatesgarth

Some photos by Georgina Collins