Thursday, 10 January 2013

Bowfell from Langdale and a Cloud Inversion

I had been watching the local weather forecasts for a few days and Wednesday 9th January was looking like it was going to be a good day. That was a stroke of luck as the last three walks this week had been in poor conditions and we were due a clear walk after this summer and autumn. This was a planned day out and not seized upon for the weather so we were to take what was thrown at us. We set off from outside Carlisle at 08.15hrs and headed over from Grasmere where inversions were present from Dunmail Raise. Unfortunately I was unable to stop, but it was breathtaking. We headed over toward Stile End and pulled over for a photo shot at Walthwaite, above Elterwater.

A distant view of The Langdales, the inversion in sight.
Conditions were clear at Old Dungeon Gill. This changed as the day progressed.
We continued on, stopping briefly at The Old Dungeon Gill but decided to head toward Blea Tarn to see if we could park the car free of charge. After some 'toing and froing' we finally parked on the roadside. There was a hint of a brocken Spectre halo as the sun shone over the hause from Blea Tarn but by the time we got kitted any opportunity for this had gone. It was 10.10hrs before we finally got moving and our intention was to go right round to Pike of Stickle, but this proved too optimistic in the end. The inversion deepened and the valley looked heavenly.
Looking to Crinkle Crags, Bowfell & Hell Gill

The Langdale Pikes and Rossett Pike in the distance.
We headed up Rakerigg, just skirting Wrynose Fell summit and making our way to Pike O Bliscoe. It was here that we began to get onto frost and ice. It was well worth it for the views from this fell.
Looking back from Pike O Bliscoe to Lingmoor with it's offshooot that is Side Pike.
 Once on the summit, both cairns were very slippery underfoot and the 'fix the fells' paths were lethal to descend on. We made Red Tarn without any major mishap and began to press on upward for Crinkle Crags. This path is loose stone and shallow incline, relatively speaking so we got our heads down and pushed on quickly, stopping occasionally to take in the southern views to Coniston Old Man. Being in the line of the sun, I took no photos of this group, but it looked lovely.
Pressing on for Crinkle Crags after Red Tarn.

The view back to Pike O Bliscoe

The Scafell Range coming into view

Harter Fell(Dunnerdale), peeping through the inversion.

The approach to Crinkle Crags opens up Dunnerdale and Eskdale, with the Scafell Massif opening up as you look out into the direction of The Irish Sea and the mist appeared much deeper here as it rolled in. Once over the first rock outcrop we were then onto The Bad Step path. There is an alternative to this which goes to the left of the rock face that confronts you, but we always take the Step route.

The Bad Step on Crinkle Crags.
One can climb onto the rock overhang but the best route is just above where my dog Holly(The Beast) is. It's a scramble but relatively safe in good weather. Once up here you are then walking to the highest summit cairn on this 'fell of a few tops'. Be careful on this mountain, in poor conditions with cairns all over you can lose the path and what is safe in good visibility can be dangerous if lost in cloud. A tragic incident occurred on 5th of this month (4 days ago) where a walker fell to his death in cloud. Take your time in orientating yourself here.
 We pushed on past Crinkle Crags and our next destination and highest point of the walk was to be Bowfell. It's another 200m ascent from The Three Tarns Hause and we had only had a kitkat by this time. The frost and ice was thick as we walked now in shelter of the sun and I took a tumble taking the shock on my shoulder. I felt some fibres twang but luckily nothing broken or dislocated, it's a risk of the adventure one has to accept. We continued on though I could feel the fatigue of lack of food, but after half an hour we were on the summit with 360degrees views of the inversion and it was stunning.
Bowfell Bait stop, looking to Lingmoor Fell.

With a later than expected start with care having to be taken to allow some safety margin in case anything goes wrong, we decided to head off the fell. We chose to head for Angle Tarn from the Ore Gap route to extend the walk so we covered distance but get low early enough. We had considered The Band route, but that would have been too short for the distance we had journeyed. While heading toward Ore Gap a Seaking heli was over Scafell and lowered to it's summit or Lords Rake, the scene of a fatality a month ago. I hope it was a training exercise, though I didn't think it looked like that. Once at Angle Tarn we headed down Rossett Gill, missing Rossett Pike and Pike of Stickle as we had earlier decided. We ate the ground up on this descent and were quickly on the line of the inversion.
Angle Tarn and Bowfell

Coming to the inversion line, Langdale Pikes on the left, Lingmoor to the right.

Pike of Stickle

Beginning to be enveloped.

Now just in the mist looking up to Bowfell and Crinkle Crags.
Once in the valley bottom it is a long valley haul back to Old Dungeon Gill and then we had a road walk to reach the car. You get no traffic noise in this valley which is a big bonus, just the local Herdwicks to wonder at your passing.
Tough Herdwicks, they can get anywhere and live off anything to survive, originally of Viking origin I believe.
A final picture to show the contrast in conditions from the walks start to it's end, at The Old Dungeon Gill
Well, that was 18km, 1250m ascent of a day spent in heaven. We just managed to keep it within our 3km/hr rate, which was good bearing in mind the rugged terrain and iced rocks. Now time for a couple of pints and for the first time we went into Wainwrights Inn at Stile End. I've always went past this heading instead for The Britannia at Elterwater. I thought it might be a bit of a theme bar to Wainwright the man, which never appeals to me but I was wrong, the six cask beers looked good and the two I had were certainly were well kept. I'll stop off here again, though it was a little dark and broody inside, but that is it's nature.
 Now time to head home and having told my wife not to make any dinner as I expected to be well late, I geared myself up to a fried egg butty or beans on toast, but no! A Mediterranean style casseroled chicken dish was just being finalised as I gave the dog it's shower(the outside hosepipe) and the day was rounded off perfectly. Oh bliss.


  1. Beautiful photos and today has turned out just as wonderful above the cloud. Days like that make up for the soggy summer :-)

    1. Absolutely right Tanya. They need to be savoured as they are not common this last 12months.

  2. Wow - those cloud inversions are quite spectacular, aren't they? And who knew that sheep could be so fashionable? I'm wearing a scarf which looks a bit like that... :-)

    1. Karen, they were brilliant and lasted all day. Sometimes they are there but when the sun comes it burns them off, though not here. You may have a scarf that looks like that but it won't feel like a herdwick. There wool is like wire wool, so if hubby upstes you, but him a herdy jumper for his birthday. He'll have to say thanks and wear it and you can laugh while he does. John Major had one bought and saw the joke (they can't be dyed and pnly come in grey) and wore it on when interviewed at number 10.

    2. I'm googling 'Herdy jumpers' - definite birthday present - in fact I'll probably buy him two! :-)

  3. It was a privilge to on the high fells yesterday. Excellent photos and as always an interesting blog Ray

    1. Thanks Paul, I'm pleased you were also out above it. I'll look out for another, there has to be one.