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