Category Archives: Lake District

An alternative Fairfield Horseshoe 23.10.2016

A chilling north-easterly wind was blowing as I left Cow Bridge and followed the shoreline path by Brotherswater. I had to move quickly, as I was only wearing a light fleece over my merino base layer, in anticipation of the steep climb to High Hartsop Dodd that I would shortly be facing. I still couldn’t resist an early photo though.


Middle Dodd and Red Screes, seen across Brotherswater

Passing Hartsop Hall, I was struck by the solidity of the stone pillars that held up one of the outbuildings. I love the traditional Lakeland farmhouses and find myself much more drawn to vernacular architecture than to the splendour of our great cathedrals or stately homes.


Dove Crag catching the sun

Within minutes, I had left the farmland behind and was tackling the relentlessly steep ascent to High Hartsop Dodd (1702 ft). As I expected, I soon felt very warm, despite the wind. Having said that, I needed an extra layer as soon as I reached the summit! The retrospective views were stunning and it was fascinating to observe the ever changing patterns of light and shade on the woodlands and hill slopes.


Looking back on Brotherswater, with Angletarn Pikes and Place Fell in the background


Patterns of light and shade on the slopes of Hartsop Above How

The onward ridge to Little Hart Crag (2090 ft) was a joy to tread and on reaching this next summit, I was able to see down into Scandale and towards Windermere. There were patches of sunlight here and there, and it was clear that the western half of the Lake District was enjoying better weather than the east.


The ridge heading to Little Hart Crag


Looking down on Scandale; a glimpse of Windermere in the background


Another view of Brotherswater and Place Fell

The ascent to Dove Crag led me to the broader paths of the classic Fairfield Horseshoe route, which I planned to follow as far as Fairfield’s summit. I met a couple on the summit of Dove Crag (2598 ft) who planned to descend via the route I’d just come up, and they checked a couple of details with me before moving on. There was no let-up from the bitterly cold wind and so I pressed on towards Hart Crag (2698 ft). I could see that the mist was touching Fairfield’s summit, but I was confident that the wind would cause regular breaks in the cloud cover and allow me a view.


Zooming in on Great Gable and Dale Head

Approaching the summit of Fairfield (2863 ft), I found myself in the mist and was briefly dampened as a shower passed over. It didn’t last long though and as there was room at the summit shelter to sit in the lee of the wind, I decided to stop for an early lunch. This turned out to be a good decision as the cloud lifted almost as soon as I arrived, allowing more superb views across to Gable and the Scafells. They were bathed in golden sunshine, but I wasn’t jealous.

Leaving the summit, I was a little worried that the narrow ridge over Cofa Pike might be too exposed to the wind to cross safely.  Luckily this wasn’t the case, and I was soon climbing up to St Sunday Crag (2759 ft).  The sun was starting to shine by this point, so I was able to take my time and enjoy my surroundings a little more.


Looking north to Dollywaggon Pike, Nethermost Pike and Helvellyn


Grisedale Tarn and Seat Sandal, with the Scafells and Great Gable in the background


Another view towards Nethermost Pike and Helvellyn

Looking back towards Fairfield, I was particularly impressed by the tremendous prow of Greenhow End. It looked formidably steep from this angle, but apparently involves nothing more demanding than Grade 1 scrambling. I must return to explore it some time.

From St Sunday Crag, I dropped down to Gavel Pike and descended to Deepdale via the east ridge. I found an intermittent path in places, but it was obvious that this is not one of the more popular routes. It always amazes me just how many of these off the beaten track routes there are in the Lake District – yet how often I hear people describe the area as overcrowded!


Looking back up at Gavel Pike from the east ridge


Mosaic of farmland and woodland on the valley floor


Looking over to Rest Dodd and High Street

Reaching the valley floor, a simple stroll down a farm track and through delightful woodland returned me to my start point.

Mardale Horseshoe 22.10.2016

The lake level was surprisingly low when I arrived at Mardale Head, allowing glimpses of the old field boundaries leading to the village now submerged beneath the reservoir. I tried to imagine the valley as it would have looked before it was flooded, but found it hard to picture fields and farms where now there was only gently lapping water. The trees, bracken and even some of the moor grasses were a blaze of autumnal colour, lending a cheerful note to an otherwise sombre scene.


Looking up Mardale Beck towards Mardale Ill Bell (in the mist)


Some of the old field boundaries leading down into the waters


Looking up the ridge towards Rough Crag


More of the old field boundaries, with Kidsty Pike looming behind

We headed up towards High Street along the Rough Crag ridge, which to my mind is the most interesting and dramatic approach to an otherwise rather featureless mountain. As we gained height, the mist continually revealed and then concealed different parts of the skyline and small patches of sunlight briefly illuminated patches of hillside, before the gaps in the clouds closed once again. A brief gentle shower cooled us on one of the steeper sections but did not last long. From the summit of Rough Crag (2060 ft), revealing views down into Riggindale and towards Blea Water opened up, the surface of the latter showing very little disturbance from the wind.


Haweswater from Rough Crag


A sudden opening in the clouds above Harter Fell

Reaching the summit of High Street (2718 ft), the mist closed in once again and we started to feel the effect of the wind. Consequently, we didn’t linger. The day still being young, we decided to head over to Thornthwaite Crag (2572 ft) and as we did, we walked into clearer weather, with Windermere and Morecambe Bay both becoming visible. It seemed as though every man and his dog was at the summit, so after admiring the view of the Ill Bell ridge, we turned about face and took the path that contours around the head of Kentmere and towards Mardale Ill Bell (2493 ft). We were able to enjoy the view down into Kentmere before we were once again enveloped in mist as we neared Mardale Ill Bell.


Nan Bield Pass and Harter Fell from Mardale Ill Bell


Brightening weather as we descend to Nan Bield Pass.  The tarn in the centre of the picture is Small Water.

Happily the mist was only thin and we were able to pick out the onward route to Nan Bield without recourse to map or compass. Part way down, we decided to drop down the Kentmere flank to find shelter for lunch. As we sat eating, we were rewarded with a sighting of a trio of red deer hinds at the bottom of the slope. This being the rutting season, I had hoped to see or at least hear the stags, but it was not to be on this day.


Looking back at Mardale Ill Bell and Rough Crag from Harter Fell

Reaching the summit of Harter Fell (2552 ft), we found ourselves on more featureless terrain, but as the cloud level had lifted, we were able to enjoy far reaching views down into Longsleddale and across to the Pennines. We dropped down to Gatescarth Pass and just beyond encountered the only truly boggy section of the whole route. A wide detour was required to outflank it, but we were soon heading up drier ground towards Branstree (2339 ft). Looking back towards Harter Fell, I was surprised by the craggy aspect that it presents in this direction. More moorland terrain followed as we continued to Branstree North East Top (2208 ft) and Selside Pike (2149 ft), interest being provided by a well-constructed survey pillar (built in connection with the reservoir) and a small but attractive tarn. The oddly-named Captain Whelter Bog turned out to be much less wet than we had feared an in fact was far less of an obstacle than the nameless quagmire at Gatescarth pass.

As we descended towards the old corpse road, we were hit by the only truly wetting shower of the day. Thankfully this too was brief and didn’t require the dreaded overtrousers! I was looking forward to the old corpse road as its history has always fascinated me since I first learned of its existence. I was interested to see that it appears to have been roughly surfaced in places and that even though it must now be many years since it was last used for anything other than recreation, parts of the surface are still visible. Even more impressive to me was that the dalesfolk had carried coffins up such a steeply-graded path. They truly were made of tougher stuff in those times.


The head of Mardale from the Old Corpse Road


Autumnal colour above Rowantreethwaite Gill; Hopgill Beck beyond


The waterfall in Hopgill Beck

Just before the final descent to the lake, we encountered a cluster of what I took to be shielings, which enjoyed a stunning view of the valley. Relict woodlands in the two gills to our left provided further autumnal spectacle. Did the people who had lived up here during the summer months appreciate the beauty, we wondered? Given the sense of loss that displaced people often describe (particularly the victims of the Highland clearances, and the Irish emigrants), I thought that they must have done. As we dropped down the final slope, I was reminded of Wainwright’s words describing his first visit, which he made just before the lake was dammed, but after the village had been evacuated: ‘I thought I had never seen a more beautiful picture.  Nor a sadder one.’


Bridge at the bottom of the Old Corpse Road

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

Blencathra via Bowscale Fell 13.03.16

Blencathra is a favourite for people heading up to the north Lakes for the day, due to its ease of access from the main road to Keswick and the fact that two fantastic easy ridge scrambles (Sharp Edge and Hallsfell Ridge) can easily be combined with the summit in only a few hours.  On this occasion however, we’d decided to take a slightly more esoteric approach from the north via the relatively unfrequented Bowscale Fell (2303 ft) and Bannerdale Crags (2241 ft).

I wanted to approach Bowscale Fell via Bowscale Tarn as I was intrigued by the legend that it is inhabited by two immortal fish.  Sadly there were not in evidence on our visit.  It was also a popular spot with Victorian romantics, but seems to have fallen from the tourist radar in more recent times.


Bowscale Tarn

It’s a pretty steep climb up to the summit from the tarn and there were still a few bits of snow about, but nothing serious.


Skiddaw from Bowscale Fell


Bannerdale Crags (L) and Blencathra (R) from the summit.  Our onward route was via the snow-encrusted edge on the left.  The Helvellyn range is in the background.

Heading now for Bannerdale Crags, we left the path to follow the rim of the corrie, which gives superb views down into Bannerdale itself.


Bannerdale Crags with Bannerdale below

The summit lies a little way behind the crags, but still gives excellent close-up views of Blencathra.


Blencathra from Bannerdale Crags.  The most prominent peak in this view is actually the subsidiary top of Atkinson Pike (2772 ft).

Having plenty of time to spare, we decided on reaching Glenderamackin Col that we would make a detour out to Mungrisdale Common (2077 ft), famed as the most boring and pointless Wainwright of the lot!  With a reputation like that, I could hardly resist finding out for myself what the fuss was about.  The walk to it was certainly not pleasant – the flattened and yellowed grass suggested that it had until recently been covered by snow and  I quickly discovered that my boots were no longer waterproof.  The summit itself isn’t especially exciting, but it does have decent enough views and overall, I think it is still a worthwhile diversion.


Borrowdale and the Scafells from Mungrisdale Common

Heading back towards Blencathra via Foule Crag, we encountered large patches of rapidly-melting snow as we gained height.


Foule Crag


Looking back along Foule Crag from Atkinson Pike.  Bannerdale Crags is in the sun on the right of the picture.

Blencathra’s summit (2847 ft) was as usual, rather busy, but who could begrudge company in such magnificent surroundings?


Looking towards Gategill Fell Top and the North-Western Fells from Atkinson Pike.  (Photo by Andrew Collins)



A closer view of Derwentwater (Photo by Andrew Collins)

Leaving Blencathra’s summit with reluctance, we headed down to Mousthwaite Comb, looking across towards the scramblers on Sharp Edge as we went.  We had considered descending via Sharp Edge, but the steep grassy slope above it was covered in melting slow and we weren’t carrying ice axes.  The edge itself would probably have presented us with no problems, being below the snow line.


Two scramblers on Sharp Edge

Beyond Mousthwaite Comb, we left the popular paths behind again and headed for Souther Fell (1713 ft), our final summit of the day.  Like Bowscale Tarn, this too has a legend attached, no fewer than 26 people having claimed to have witnessed an army marching across its summit one summer’s day in 1745, but one that left no trace of its passing.  Spooky, eh?

Bowfell and Crinkle Crags 21.03.2015

Waking up to the forecast bright and sunny morning, plans were quickly made for a round of Bowfell and Crinkle Crags, with the option of Pike o’ Blisco if time and energy allowed.  We left the hut at around 9 am, making good progress along Mickleden and up the excellently repaired path that zig-zags up the slopes to the side of Rossett Gill.  What little cloud there had been first thing was rapidly burning off by this time, boding well for the views from the tops.

Rossett Pike from Mickleden

Rossett Pike from Mickleden

View down Mickleden from top of Rossett Gill

View down Mickleden from top of Rossett Gill

Angle Tarn from the head of Rossett Gill

Angle Tarn from the head of Rossett Gill

After a quick breather at the top of Rossett Gill, we decided to make a quick out-and-back to Rossett Pike (2136 ft), as this was one of Keith’s outstanding Wainwrights.  I was glad that we did as it only takes about five minutes to reach the top, and we were rewarded with superb views down into Mickleden and the head of Langdale.

Heading for Rossett Pike

Heading for Rossett Pike

Towards Langdale from Rossett Pike

Towards Langdale from Rossett Pike

After dropping down to the delectable Angle Tarn (must make this a destination for a wild camp someday), we headed up Ore Gap towards Bowfell.  From here onwards, stunning retrospective views to the Scafells, still with snow in the gullies, were to be had.  I made a quick detour to bag Bowfell North Top (2841 ft) – one of my outstanding Nuttalls – and was surprised to find a small tarn en route that was still completely frozen.  After bagging the North Top, I re-joined the others just below the main summit (2960 ft), where we were able to find a lovely sheltered spot to eat lunch.  In the sun, it almost felt like summer.

Esk Pike

Esk Pike

A frozen tarn below Bowfell North Top

A frozen tarn below Bowfell North Top

Bowfell fron the North Top

Bowfell fron the North Top

Langdale from Bowfell

Langdale from Bowfell

Scafells from Bowfell

Scafells from Bowfell

Crinkle Crags from Bowfell

Crinkle Crags from Bowfell

Marie left us a Three Tarns to head down the Band, as she was still experiencing some pain as a result of a broken ankle last year.  The rest of us continued over the Crinkles, though I couldn’t resist detouring to bag a couple more Nuttalls on the way – Shelter Crags North Top (2543 ft) and Shelter Crags (2674 ft) – particularly as on previous visits, I’d never been able to work out exactly which of the many lumps and bumps they were.

Scafells from Three Tarns

Scafells from Three Tarns

Bowfell from Shelter Crags North Top

Bowfell from Shelter Crags North Top

Bowfell from Shelter Crags

Bowfell from Shelter Crags

The views from the summit of Crinkle Crags (2818 ft) were outstanding, and I was just able to pick out the Isle of Man (though I haven’t been able to identify it in my photograph).  Just below the summit, the Bad Step provided the briefest of scrambling fixes (grade 1, but it’s only 10 feet high!)

Oxendale fron the Gunson Knott gully

Oxendale fron the Gunson Knott gully

Out to sea from the summit of Crinkle Crags

Out to sea from the summit of Crinkle Crags

Descending the Bad Step (1)

Descending the Bad Step (1)

Descending the Bad Step (2)

Descending the Bad Step (2)

Beyond the South Top (2736 ft), I left the others to head off on my own on an extended Nuttall bagging trip.  I headed first for Little Stand (2428 ft), which has perhaps the best view of the Scafells of the entire route.  It was quite a relief to leave the heavily eroded paths behind – although this area is still really a part of Crinkle Crags, it’s away from the main ridge traverse or popular ascents and consequently sees far fewer people.  There are paths, but they are fairly intermittent, particularly in the wetter areas.  There’s still plenty of rock around, but far less than on the main ridge, so there are a few boggy areas, but also a number of attractive tarns.

Looking towards Little Stand

Looking towards Little Stand

The Scafells from Little Stand

The Scafells from Little Stand

Cold Pike and Pike o' Blisco

Cold Pike and Pike o’ Blisco

Leaving Little Stand, I headed next for Cold Pike Far West Top (2198 ft), which according to the Nuttalls ‘must be one of the most unfrequented summits in the Lakes.’  It’s an attractive top though, and I hope that this won’t be the only time I visit.  I continued to Cold Pike West Top (2241 ft), before finally heading for Cold Pike itself (2300 ft), which is a superb viewpoint for the Coniston fells and for Pike o’ Blisco.  By this time, the sunlight had started to take on its softer evening qualities, which highlighted the complexity of the landscape beautifully.

Cold Pike Far West Top above Gaitscale Gill

Cold Pike Far West Top above Gaitscale Gill

Looking back towards the Crinkles from Cold Pike

Looking back towards the Crinkles from Cold Pike

Pike o' Blisco and Red Tarn from Cold Pike

Pike o’ Blisco and Red Tarn from Cold Pike

Wetherlam from Cold Pike

Wetherlam from Cold Pike

I was tempted at this point to drop straight down to Red Tarn, but resisted and headed back up towards the Crinkles so as to visit Great Knott (2283 ft), my last ‘new’ Nuttall for the day.  It’s surprising that more people don’t make the detour as it’s only a couple of minutes away from the main path and is a fabulous viewpoint for the head of Langdale.  Still, I’m as guilty as everybody else, as I’d never visited it on any of my several previous traverses of the Crinkles.

Langdale from Great Knott

Langdale from Great Knott

Bowfell and Glaramara from Great Knott

Bowfell and Glaramara from Great Knott

Zooming in on Skiddaw from Great Knott

Zooming in on Skiddaw from Great Knott

Back now on the main path, I dropped down to Red Tarn, before making my final ascent of the day to Pike o’ Blisco (2313 ft).  Coming at the end of a fairly long day, this is quite a tiring climb, but it’s well worth it for the views from the top, as well as for avoiding the unpleasant descent into Oxendale.  I paused briefly at the summit to admire the breathtakingpanorama, before starting the long descent via Redacre Gill back to the valley.  So as to avoid walking on tarmac, I left the main path where a narrow traverse path heads directly for the head of the Blea Tarn road, and dropped down to the Old Dungeon Ghyll from there via the campsite.

Red Tarn and Wetherlam

Red Tarn and Wetherlam

Wetherlam and Swirl How from Pike o' Blisco

Wetherlam and Swirl How from Pike o’ Blisco

Langdale Pikes from Pike o' Blisco

Langdale Pikes from Pike o’ Blisco

Looking down into Great Langdale on the descent path

Looking down into Great Langdale on the descent path

Looking back up at the Crinkles from the valley bottom

Looking back up at the Crinkles from the valley bottom