If you’ve read the “About Me” section of this blog, you’ll know that I used to regularly go walking in the Lake District. I volunteered with Fix the Fells and my Wainwright count was up to around 60. However, I have no records of when I walked these fells, I just know I have. I started bagging the Wainwrights from the beginning again when I met Rick, so we could do them all together. We kept a tally of the hills we had climbed on a brilliant map of the Wainwrights, glued to the toilet door of our beloved camper van, Old Peg. And that was the problem. We glued it. When we found out we were having our boy Rowan, we sadly had to sell the van as it just wasn’t suitable for two adults, two dogs and a baby. The map went with it. So when I started this blog, I decided I would start the Wainwrights again, again. The Lake District is a beautiful place to be, so it wasn’t really a difficult decision to make.
And so Cold Pike and Pike o’ Blisco became Wainwright numbers one and two of my latest attempt at climbing all 214 fells as described in Alfred Wainwright’s seven pictorial guides. This was also my first solo walk – something I have fancied doing for a long time.
Excited, I started the day early, setting off from Manchester around 8:00. Billy, my 17 year old 206 was deemed, by Rick, to be too unreliable to make the journey, and so I headed up the motorway in his car, making good time to the National Trust car park at Old Dungeon Ghyll (whilst in the process finding out how broken my dear Billy actually is – cars do 70 miles per hour you know). After donning my boots and rucksack, visiting the toilet then spending ten minutes trying to remember how to work the timer on my camera I set off on my way.
I headed to towards the head of the valley and Stool End Farm, passing by the Herdwick sheep grazing in the fields either side of the path. In front of me, the Band rose steeply up to Bowfell, with Crinkle Crags and Pike o’ Blisco to the left and the Langdale Pikes to my right. Having not been fell walking for a long time, my plan was to climb Pike o’ Blisco, diverting to Cold Pike if I felt good when I reached Red Tarn.
Rather than heading up the Band, my route took me through a gate on my left, taking me alongside Oxendale Beck. I couldn’t have picked a better day for it – there wasn’t a cloud on the sky and it was already warm, making me glad I’d put on my factor 50 on before I set off. After crossing a wooden gated bridge, my route soon began to rise steeply, the stone pitched path meandering its way up the fell side. I wasn’t the only one to be taking this route today and I was overtaken many times as I stopped to catch my breath.
I was definitely out of practise, but it was a good excuse to stop and admire the views in every direction. I was in my element, enjoying every minute of being back in the hills, even the burning muscles in my legs and the fact that my face was the colour of a beetroot.
The pitched path continued for about 400 metres until it levelled off for a short section. The deep ravine of Browney Gill could be seen cascading below the cliff face of Great Knott – a breath taking scene to suddenly appear in front of you.
After spending a little time watching and listening to a small waterfall, I climbed a final short steep section and reached the depression containing Red Tarn and lovely views of the Coniston fells. Feeling pretty pleased with my slow and steady accomplishment so far, I decided to take in Cold Pike before heading to Pike o’ Blisco.
Turning right to on the path that would take more ambitious (fitter) walkers than me to Crinkle Crags and Bowfell, I continued on and quickly realised that I was flagging, so sat down for a very healthy bag of crisps. I took this opportunity to have a look at the map to work out how I would reach my first Wainwright of the day. My plan was to take a compass bearing to Cold Pike when I reached the first stream that crossed my path and walk on the bearing to the summit.
Upon reaching the stream, I found the Cold Pike summit was in clear view, but continued with the compass bearing it had been a while and it would be good practise of my navigation skills, especially as I could clearly see if I had got it right. Did I say the navigation skills? I took the bearing, turning the compass housing so the orienting lines aligned with north and adding on two degrees to adjust for magnetic north. Then stood with the compass jabbed into my belly, turning till the needle was in orienting arrow. I was facing in the opposite direction to Cold Pike. I tried again, and again, my stubbornness not letting me continue till I got it right. Every time I ended up pointing in the opposite direction. After about 15 minutes of repeating the exercise and convinced I was doing it right, I decided I must have polarised another compass (I already have one that points south) and was about to set off to Cold Pike when I realised the I had the direction of travel arrow pointing into my belly rather pointing away from me. Feeling a bit daft, yet relieved I had principle of taking a bearing, I headed up to Cold Pike.
Here, the ground beneath my feet was tufty grass and soft, with standing water in places, but it felt fun and adventurous and I soon reached the rocky summit of Cold Pike. By this time, I was starting to feel a little tired and thought that I might head back down after my dinner, leaving Pike o’ Blisco for another day. I had the summit to myself so I sat on the rocks with my brew, simply enjoying the moment. As Alfred Wainwright promised, there were lovely views. The fells of Great Langdale, including Pike o’ Blisco and the Coniston fells were all around me and there were blue skies overhead as I tucked into falafel and houmous pitta bread.
I could have stayed there all day, but my dinner was working its magic. I was feeling energised and full of chickpea power so I took some photos, checked the map and decided that I would tackle Pike o’ Blisco. As the man himself said “This peak has great character, for shapeliness and a sturdy strength combine well in its appearance, and that splendid cairn etched against the sky is at once an invitation and a challenge.”
With renewed vigour, I began to retrace my steps back to the main path leading down to Red Tarn, and passing by it, with the Coniston fells as its back drop, I began the rocky climb to the top of Pike o’ Blisco. This was a steep cairned path, difficult to see from a distance, but easy enough to follow once you were on it. Looking back, the summit of Cold Pike was in clear view and it was easy to see why Alfred Wainwright called it Crinkle Crags in miniature.
I met a few people heading down Pike o’ Blisco as I plodded up, using stopping to let them pass as a thinly veiled excuse to catch my breath. I chatted to a lovely lady who was out with her husband and son, also walking the Wainwrights. Her opinion that Wainwright bagging has taken her to many wonderful places that she wouldn’t have thought of going made me even more enthusiastic about my own hill bagging journey. She had been to Pike o’ Blisco and was now heading to Cold Pike so we chatted about the route then went our separate ways. You meet some lovely people in the hills
I reached the summit of Pike o’ Blisco quicker than I expected, this time sharing the summit with a couple of other solo walkers. We chatted as I soaked up the views whilst drinking another brew. There’s something special about flask coffee on the top of a mountain. However, aware of the fact that I now have a good knee and a bad knee, I didn’t linger too long before I started my descent, this time to Wall End Farm.
The descent from the summit was a little scrambly in places for a short person, but I soon picked up a rough cairned track that led across Wrynose Fell.
It was just me and a sheep as I made my way to Redacre Gill, my route becoming a steep pitched path at this point.
As the road came to Wall End Farm came into view, I noticed some cows grazing alongside the footpath. Giving them a wide berth so they could enjoy their tea in peace, I reached the road and strolled back to the Old Dungeon Ghyll Hotel, looking forward to my pint of coke before my drive back to Manchester having had the most wonderful day on the fells.
Should you like the sound of this walk, a map of the route can be found here.