Fellwalking: The Langdale Pikes

“Once seen, never forgotten. Other places may slip from the memory but the distinctive profile of the Langdale Pikes, once seen, leaves an indelible imprint on the mind.”

Wainwright’s Favourite Lakeland Mountains

This is another classic Lake District walk, the Pikes proving irresistible to huge numbers of walkers. Located in the same area as the previously described walk, Bowfell, the weather I experienced could not have been more different – a glorious summer’s day.

We parked by the side of the B 5343 near the Old Hotel – it was very busy as is usual on a fine weekend day. The walk commences on the Cumbria Way  as it passes the Old Hotel and then proceeds westwards into Mickleden. After a longish flat section, the track turns north uphill by the side of Stake Gill. The track gets steadily steeper before levelling out at Langdale Combe and then dropping down to Pile of Stones.

From here the track proceeds southwards across Martcrag moor eventually reaching Pile of Stickle, one of the five peaks in the Pikes. We then dropped down eastwards and then climbed Harrison Stickle before dropping back down again and then traversing Loft Crag and following the path to the south of Dungeon Ghyll downhill back to Langdale, curving off south-west from the public footpath just after Raven Crag to take the path that passes the Old Hotel and most importantly, its Hikers Bar, before arriving back at the start of the walk. 

My rating: A
Map: OL 6 – The English Lakes: South Western Area (1:25,000)
Wainwright’s guides: The Wainwright Anniversary: The Southern Fells (50th Anniversary Edition): Book 4

Fellwalking: Bowfell

Summit of Bow Fell (I think...)

“…the majestic peak at the head of the valley, the dominant height on a lofty, encircling skyline, its rocky summit pyramid set on a plinth of grassy slopes. This is Bowfell, unassuming and rather withdrawn from public attention yet a commanding presence.”

Wainwright’s Favourite Lakeland Mountains

It rains a lot in the Lakes – something you have to get used to if you are to enjoy walking in the area. This was (another) one of those days with the rain not letting up for the whole walk, preventing any decent views (or photographs).

Parking in the parking area at the end of the B 5343, we walked towards Stool End and then took the steady climb up The Band, passing White Stones and eventually joining the ridge at Three Tarns to the south-east of Bowfell (Bow Fell on the OLS map). From here its a shortish but steep scramble to the summit.

After a rather miserable lunch break we dropped back to Three Tarns but this time took the path that drops by the side of Hell Gill and then into Oxendale before arriving back at Stool End.

Not the greatest day out due to the weather, but that’s how it goes…

My rating: B (probably weather affected)
Map: OL6 – The English Lakes: South Western Area (1:25,000)
Wainwright’s guides: The Wainwright Anniversary: The Southern Fells (50th Anniversary Edition):(A Pictorial Guide to the Lakeland Fells): Book 4

UPDATE:

I did this walk again in 2011 and had much better weather.

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Coast to Coast day 5: Patterdale to Shap

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A long day through a lesser visited part of the lakes. The day started with yet another long, slow climb, this time south-east past Angletarn Pikes, Angle Tarn and the Knott, before turning east towards Kidsty Pike.

At this point the landscape was clearly changing to the more rounded hills of Yorkshire. From Kidsty Pike there were good views of High Street, but we didn’t hang around too long as the weather was starting to close in. After Kidsty Pike the path drops fairly steeply to the banks of Haweswater and the path beside Haweswater seemed to go on forever – we also got our first rain of the trip. This cleared in less than an hour though and eventually we reached Brimbank, a village that was originally set up for the navvies working to build Haweswater (which is a reservoir).

The village has been re-developed into modern housing, with a handful of the original houses being retained and renovated and the development was fairly attractive, with a refurbished red phone box sitting on the small village green. There won’t be any labourers living there now however; there were a couple of houses still left selling for 300,000 quid.

Leaving Brimbank we entered another attractive wooded section before navigating numerous fields to reach Shap Abbey for a quick look and then a brief road bash in to Shap. At Shap we received a warm welcome from Mrs Brunskill at Brookfield House and then had an excellent dinner (best so far) at the Greyhound pub. Don’t be fooled by the unprepossessing exterior – it was very large and comfortable inside and clearly very popular.

(Total distance approx. 16 miles)

Link to Coast to Coast Summary

Coast to Coast day 4: Grasmere to Patterdale

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My favourite day of the walk – one of those great days in the Lakes that makes you want to keep going back. In this case an invigorating ridge walk via Dollywagon Pike and Nethermost Pike to Helvellyn, with tremendous views in all directions, made for a most enjoyable hike.

The weather was great again – a lot of cloud but the cloud base was well above the tops. There was also plenty of sun although the wind was blowing a gale up on the ridge which made it quite cool.

The route starts just up from Grasmere, leaving the A591 not long after passing the pub at Mill Bridge to commence yet another slow and steady climb, this time via Tongue Gill to the attractive Grisedale Tarn. At this point the low-level route starts to descend and generally follows Grisedale Beck into Patterdale, but if you are feeling energetic and have some time, there are some great alternatives.

One alternative is to climb steeply to Fairfield and then descend via St Sunday Crag but as mentioned I chose to visit Helvellyn, requiring a steep but relatively short climb up to Dollywagon Pike and then a walk along the ridge where it was pretty busy as usual. I had lunch protected from the wind by a small shelter (not shown on my OL map) just down from Helvellyn – a quick check of the shelter near the summit of Helvellyn through my telephoto lens showed that it was standing room only, which tends to defeat the object when the wind’s blowing.

After attaining the summit – visiting both the cairn at the highest point (950m) and the official OS trig point to the north-east at 949m, I made a quick visit to Helvellyn Lower Man, then returned and descended via Swirral Edge. I thought about going via Striding Edge, but there was a bit of a traffic jam at the last section where you need to climb down (if you are ascending Helvellyn) from the ridge line – it’s quite steep and people were taking it slowly. I’d done it before anyway, so decided an earlier beer would be preferable.

From Swirral Edge I took the path via Red Tarn to Hole-in-the-Wall and then descended into Patterdale for a beer at the White Lion, before taking up accomodations at Oldwater view Guesthouse. We stayed in the ‘Place Fell’ room – apparently Wainwright’s favourite when he stayed there (called Ullswater View in those days). The proprietor explained that BBC were making a c2c film to follow up on their Wainwright series with Julia Bradbury and that they would be filming there in September. On the wall was a copy of a guestbook page from 1942 with Wainwright’s neat and distinctive signature at the bottom.

A nice meal at the White Lion (which was packed with people, at least a third of which were c2c’ers I recognised) capped off a fantastic day.

(Total distance approx. 8.5 miles – official route)

Link to Coast to Coast Summary

Coast to Coast day 3: Rosthwaite to Grasmere

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We split the third stage, which officially goes from Rosthwaite to Patterdale, into two as is recommended by pretty much everybody. The full stage covers over 17.5 miles through some pretty demanding terrain and doesn’t really leave much time to enjoy the alternative routes, particularly on the leg from Grasmere to Patterdale.

The walk starts easily enough on a pleasant path by the side of Stonethwaite Beck. After a couple of kilometres the path leaves the beck and starts to climb quite steeply up by the side of Greenup Gill from where there a good views of Eagle Crag, a noted crag for climbers (“A mountain crag featuring some fine, hard routes bristling with character.”) After a tiring climb the path levels out, but only briefly before again climbing past Lining Crag. From here the official path descends by the side of Far Easedale Gill, but we chose to take the alternative route via Calf Crag, Gibson Knott and Helm Crag.

I’d recommend the alternative as providing more variety and not being particularly difficult, indeed we arrived in Grasmere at about 2:30pm, leaving plenty of time for a drink in the Red Lion Inn and an ordinary meal at the Ash Cottage Hotel.

(Total distance approx. 9 miles)

Link to Coast to Coast Summary

Coast to Coast day 2: Ennerdale Bridge to Rosthwaite

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This day didn’t start too well – we walked out out of The Shepherd’s Arms and immediately turned left – not a good idea (the actual route is left on the main road a few metres further up from the Shepherd’s Arms). After about 15 minutes we realised something was wrong, and backtracked back to Ennerdale Bridge with me feeling like a bit of a goose since I’m supposed to be an experienced walker…

The walk then recommenced along the official route that follows a road along to the banks of Ennerdale Water. At this point it was time for sunscreen and hats as the weather was excellent. The path then follows the southern side of Ennerdale Water, with a few steep sections where it leaves the banks and climbs higher, before entering a very nice wooded section and eventually reaching the end of Ennerdale Water and joining the vehicular track up to Black Sail Youth Hostel.

I decided to take the alternative route which leaves the vehicular track not long after it is joined and climbs very steeply north up to Red Pike. From here it was a magnificent ridge walk along to High Stile and High Crag, with great views in all directions, particularly down into Buttermere, across to Grasmoor on the other side of the lake, south-east towards Haystacks and south to Pillar. After High Crag there is a steep descent to Scarth Gap Pass and then unfortunately a steep ascent to make up most of the lost height before reaching Haystacks and then, shortly thereafter, the beautiful Innominate Tarn. The path then wends its way to join an old tramway that proceeds in a straight line up and then down to Honister Pass and the Slate Mine visitor centre.

After a quick break here, we continued down by the side of the Honister Pass road, before eventually leaving the road at Seatoller and continuing along a footpath into Rosthwaite.

(Total distance approx. 14.5 miles)

Link to Coast to Coast Summary

Fellwalking – Newlands Horseshoe again

Newlands Horseshoe Panorama, Lake District, England

I was fortunate enough recently to do this walk again. Weather started out somewhat unpromising, but it ended up being a beautiful afternoon. The walk confirmed my view that this is one of the most enjoyable day walks in the Lakes.

More detailed notes from a previous visit can be found here. For a gallery of photos for the walk, see here (note this link requires up-to-date browser software and a broadband connection).

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More updates to this site will be made soon, including a full trip report for Wainwright’s “A Coast-to-Coast” walk in England, which I recently completed, and some gear reviews.