I love it when someone goes hill walking for the first time and gets the bug. After walking the Langdale Pikes and the Old Man of Coniston, I was out with Beth again, this time to tackle Bowfell on another hot day. Nigel also joined us as we set off early from Manchester to arrive at the National Trust car park by the Old Dungeon Ghyll pub (LA22 9JY) by about 10 am. After toilet stop and a check to ensure plentiful supplies of suntan lotion, we set off towards Stool End (snigger) farm. Our route would take us along both the valleys we could see, but whilst the tops of Mickleden were clear, clouds shrouded Crinkle Crags at the head of Oxendale.
Once we passed through the farm, we met a fork. Left would take us to the enticingly flat for now path along Oxendale Beck. However, that would not be our route. The right hand track started what would be an immediate and sustained climb up the ridge of the Band. I had taken this same route when I almost made it to the top of Bowfell a couple of years ago. That winter walk, complete with high winds and snow, was a far cry from the weather we were seeing today and soon we were panting our way up the pitched path. In his guide, Alfred Wainwright suggests that there is no excuse to rest early on in the climb, but I find that, when you could be fitter and the weather is hot, the age-old excuse of taking in the views is perfect to stop and catch your breath, however soon into the climb. And Pike of Stickle and Loft Crag are well worth a stop. Behind us was Lingmoor Fell, but our route wound onwards, passing a rowan (?) tree growing out of the rocks that I had spotted last time I walked this way – nice to see him still growing strong.
As we gained height, we were surrounded by a sea of bracken, no doubt providing a lair those evil, blood-sucking terrors of my nightmares. Lucky for me, navigation was easy and the clear paths did not take us into their territory. Looking to the summits, I optimistically decided that the clouds were definitely beginning to burn off the tops of the Crinkles – maybe we were going to be in for some good views. Across the valley on our left, I could see the path I had previously trodden to Cold Pike and Pike o’Blisco along with the deep cleft of Browney Gill. To the right, was the ever present dome of Pike of Stickle, and a lovely herdy, freshly shorn with skinny legs and a round body – she reminded me very much of Pebble
After around a mile and a half of steady climb and the now customary game of “spot the drain I helped build” (I enjoy that game), much to my relief, the path levelled out a little and the view across the fell side showed that I had been right and the clouds were lifting. Get me – just call me Michael Fish. But more importantly, we should be in for far reaching views from the top.
The path would soon climb again, but for now, we enjoyed the respite of a slightly less inclined route, heading towards the col between Bowfell and Crinkle Crags. And though it looked like we could maybe see the top of Bowfell, I knew there was more to climb than what was visible.
Not much further from this point, a path meanders away from the main track leading to the climber’s traverse, described by wainwright “as a very enjoyable high level route leading to excellent rock scenery” taking the walker along the bottom of the cliffs we could see. This is definitely something I would like to revisit in the future, but for today, our route continued onwards, crossing the top of the stream Buscoe Sike (another interesting name I would love to know more about.) Behind us, one of the cairns marking our way was trying his best to imitate the pyramid summit of Pike of Blisco.
After about half an hour, we reached our next target, Three Tarns. Sitting in the depression between Bowfell and Crinkle Crags, Three Tarns is a gorgeous spot and a great place for a bite to eat before the final 200m climb to the top. Getting to this point opened up a whole new view. The imposing Bowfell Links with its gullies and scree looked impressive – and we could look across to Sca Fell and Scafell Pike whilst eating our dinner and giving our feet a well-deserved airing.
Feeling a bit more energetic after some food we set off, heading to the steep pitched path that would take us to the summit plateau of Bowfell. There were plenty of people on their way down here, so we had another excuse to stop to catch your breath and admire Three Tarns from above.
The rocky summit plateau was brilliant. I can’t remember too much of the geology I learned many, many years ago, but I could see that there was plenty of interest on this top – amazing rocks slowing the many layers laid down millions of years ago and the differences in how each layer has weathered, to the amazing Great Slab. The climber’s traverse I mentioned earlier heads up a tumble of boulders alongside this 30 degree slope. It’s amazing to think that at some point, this slab was horizontal!
This was roughly the point I reached on my last visit, before the wind and ice made me make the sensible decision to turn back and come back another day. This time, there was no turning back. It was just possible to make out the cairns in the jumbles of rocks that surround Bowfell’s summit. We picked out way through to reach the rocky outcrop. I love tops like this – you feel on top of the world.
And the 360 degree views were definitely worth the climb.
It was a busy day, so we nestled into the rocks a little away from the actual top to have something to eat and the mandatory brew while we worked out where we would go next. Our walk had been planned with a few options, one being to walk over to Esk Pike then down to Esk Hause before returning via Angle Tarn and Mickleden. The other would drop to Angel Tarn from Ore Gap, to make the walk a little shorter. We were still undecided as we walked down from the summit picking our way through the rocks. Esk Pike looked inviting and was pretty close. It would only add around a mile onto the day. So Tempting. We decided to see how we felt when we got to Ore Gap where we would HAVE to decide.
Coming down from Bowfell was lovely walking and it was nice to be going downhill after our previous slog in the heat. We passed a rock I thought looked Thanos taking a snooze with the magnificent Bowfell behind. Ahead, the clear path up Esk Pike wasn’t making our decision easy.
We reached Ore Gap about half an hour after leaving the top of Bowfell. It was now 4 o’clock and we still had the long walk down Mickleden to the pub, we opted to start our descent here, but it really hadn’t been an easy decision. Esk Pike was just there! But we were still having a brilliant day as our path turned to the right to head down the pass with Langstrath valley and a glint of Angle Tarn coming into view. I also had the chance to use my water filter – I’d been dying to use it since I bought it.
Water topped up, we continued down the path which would lead us to Angle Tarn. The scenery, crags and boulders, and small tarns glinting in the sunlight made for a really interesting spot – definitely a place to come back to with no particular aim apart from to explore. As Angle Tarn revealed more of itself, the Langdale Pikes returned to our vista, along with Rosset Pike.
Soon, we came to a pitched path leading to the cool dark tarn, strangely eerie and surrounded by an amphitheatre of foreboding crags. Leaving the few people setting up camp for the night, we cross the stepping stones over Angletarn Gill and began to climb again.
By now, it was around 5 o’clock but it was summer, so still plenty of daylight. After passing up Esk Pike, Rossett Pike was far too tempting a prospect. It was almost as if we could have touched the top from where we stood. Less than quarter of a mile and around 30 metres of ascent later, we were on the top of Rossett Pike, and I was so glad we had made the quick detour.
We stopped for a quick bite to eat in the beautiful landscape. The painted lady butterfly thought it was a nice place to stop too.
From here, it was a knee busting descent down to Mickleden, following alongside Rossett Gill. The rocks in the path were tinged red, I assume from the iron content of the stone. Cairns marked the way, but the route was clear enough for us to pick our way through the rugged landscape.
As we lost more height, we were treated to a different view of Rossett Pike and its seemingly near vertical cliffs. Ahead, we could see the route back to the pub (and was that Pebble herdy from earlier in the day). Further down still, our previous summit had become a rocky pyramid whose loose rocks tumbled down Rossett Gill and our surroundings were becoming greener and slightly less rugged.
Before too long, the path was beginning to level out. Looking ahead you can almost imagine the route of the glacier. Drumlins (one of the things I do remember from geology) created the green hummocks bordering Mickleden Beck. Behind us, we could see how far we had walked, the route looking even steeper than it actually was. Just after the turning for Stake Pass, a wooden footbridge took us to the opposite side of the gill and we joined the route of the Cumbrian Way.
From here it was a mostly level walk on a footpath that was sometimes uncomfortable on tired feet due to the rocks. But it was well worth it, and the pub was calling us for tea. We’d walked around eight and a half miles and with ascent of just over 3100 foot – the map of the route can be found here.