Nothing better than this…

27th May 2012

Its 8:00am & a whopping 20°C’ as we kit up having just arrived at possibly one of thee grandest car parks in the whole of England, this is Wasdale Head & you are only here for one reason…

There is no sign of the crystal topped mountain skyline from the dead of winter – since my last visit to Wasdale & this here car park. This morning is positively glorious for an ascent on two of England’s highest peaks, well I say positively glorious, but it may be a tadge too warm, or at least it is going to be within the next few hours, this, a reason why we left Wigan at 5:30am this morning so at least we can break the back of Lingmell in the morning sunshine before its broke us.

Tim is especially up for this, I’ve always said that I’ve never met anyone as enthusiastic about Lakeland as Tim & this includes myself. The poor bloke had to leave the Wirral at around 4:30am so I suggested a couple of days earlier that he try & catch up on some sleep while on the two & a half hour journey up, but there is no chance of this, the only thing that is going to make Tim sleep right now is the snow shovel in the boot of my car (yes, I’m still carrying it for some reason)

Today as you can guess I’m walking with Tim, a seven summit day this is supposed to be; in & around the northern district where Tim can take in brand new summits & add to his ever increasing tally of Wainwrights.

Aaaagggeeeessssss ago I suggested to Tim, or more to the point, I thought, I’m going to surprise him by leaving the M6 at Junction 35 & head for Wasdale while on more supposed new Wainwright summits – Er what you doing Paul? & more to the point – this isn’t Junction 40?

Tim, today, you shall be mostly climbing Lord’s Rake, would be my reply, no amount of new summits can ever surplus an answer like that I guess, well not if I know Tim. Well, it didn’t take Tim long to send me an email this week with the words LORD’S RAKE in giant block capitals, whilst in the presence of this heat wave the whole country right now is experiencing, well except for poor Scotland where temperatures aren’t rising above 14°C in some parts.

Another email, another Lakeland & if not, one of the UK’s classic high climbs:

Lingmell to Slight Side via Lord’s Rake.

Wainwright Guidebook
The Southern Fells

The Southern fells comprise two well-defined mountain systems.

The larger is the Scafell – Bowfell Massif, which forms a great arc around the head of Eskdale; it is bounded by Wasdale in the west, and eastwards by the headwaters of the Duddon and the Brathay, while to the north the high ground descends into Borrowdale and Great Langdale.   Within this area the fells are the highest, the roughest and the grandest in Lakeland: they are of volcanic origin and the naked rock is much in evidence in the form of towering crags and wilderness of boulders and scree. Progress on foot across these arid wastes is slow and often laborious, but there is an exhilarating feeling of freedom and sense of achievement on the airy ridges poised high above deep valleys.

There is nothing better than this.


Ascent: 4,509 Feet, 1,377 Metres
Wainwrights: 4, Lingmell, Scafell Pike, Scafell, Slight Side
Weather: Hot, Dry & Bright, Strong Gust On Tops, Highs Of 27°C Lows of 20°C
Parking: Wasdale Head Car Park (F O C)
Area: Southern
Miles: 9.6
Walking With: Tim Oxburgh
Ordnance Survey: OL6
Time Taken: 7 Hours 20 Minutes
Route: Wasdale Head – Down In The Dale –  Brackenclose – Lingmell – Lingmell Col – Scafell Pike – Lords Rake – Scafell – Long Green – Slight Side – Quargrigg Moss – Great How – Burnmoor Tarn – Down In The Dale – Wasdale Head

Map and Photo Gallery



The perfect setting.

No visit to Wasdale would be complete without taking in that iconic setting that is Yewbarrow, Kirk Fell & Lingmell from the bottom of Wast Water.


Kirk Fell from Wasdale Head car park.

Its 8:05am & already the thermometer is touching 21°C The car park is bristling with walkers & Rock Climbers alike. My pack is heavier than usual, as for this trip, I have only brought the essentials; a first aid kit, my mobile phone & four litres of water of which three today, I shall be carrying with me, the usual litre gets left in the boot of the car.

There’s a hustle about the place, who can be first on the fell feel & as yet it wont be me, For the first time in my career on the fells I apply sun-cream, hugely unusual for me as I love to soak up the sun normally but after last week in Langstrath & the ensuing days of feeling sick most of the time I take no chances.

With packs shouldered & sun-cream applied, its time to hit the fell side.


Kirk Fell & Great Gable from Down in the Dale.


Lingmell in much welcome shade as we pass through this pasture towards Lingmell Beck.


After crossing a dry Lingmell Beck, we stumbled across this rather tame Chaffinch.


Looking up the nose of Lingmell.

There was no escaping the heat, we predicted a warm & humid start but never realised just how warm the morning was turning out, the slight walk up from the car park set the scene for the rest of the days events – with extremely warm temperatures nothing can quite compare to a nice little slog up Lingmell & 20° plus heat.


But the views are more than worth the tough steep climb, here looking down on a deep blue Wast Water with Illgill Head on the left  & part of Yewbarrow’s flanks & Middle Fell on the right.


A constant reminder.

Scafell Pike, Mickledore & Scafell gave insight to what lay ahead.


Looking down the nose of Lingmell.

I’m not too sure at what I was most shocked at as we reached the summit shoulder of Lingmell; The superb views? that massively cooling wind? In awe at the Scafell’s? or the eighteen minutes it has just taken us to reach here from the bottom of the path.

On my first summit of Lingmell only as far back as of August last year, this ascent took me close to forty five minutes, so it goes to say, I & we were pretty shocked at just how much our fitness levels had improved. (trust me, that was eighteen minutes of hell!)

Tim, we best slow down me o’l fruit.


Goat Crags lay ahead.

On reaching the summit shoulder of Lingmell are you then treated to this lovely grassy summit plateau.

Lingmell’s summit can be mistaken at this point as any first timer on the fell; just as I did last year, would you be mistaken at the crags that lie ahead be the summit, but this is only torture to the mind & more so-to the legs, the main summit is hidden just behind the crags ahead, but needn’t worry, not too hidden & not too far.


The Mosedale Valley.

The high winds at this point were a sure welcome to the blistering heat, but a little too close for comfort as I took this picture of the magnificent Mosedale Valley, from left to right we have; Yewbarrow, Scoat Fell, Red Pike (Wasdale) Wind Gap, Pillar & finally on the far right, Kirk Fell.

Time to retreat a little from the edge now…


Equally stunning views of the Scafell’s over on my right.


Lingmell summit comes into view as we traverse the boulder strewn plateau of Goat Crags.


Lingmell’s slender summit pillar with a Great Gable backdrop.

It was time for a short rest but finding a place out of the howling wind was proofing somewhat difficult, we settled for views of Great Gable & a face full of wind, here Tim takes out his binoculars as I take a few pictures of the Napes.


A close up of Great Gables Great Napes.

Napes Needle can be seen at centre bottom – I guess The Napes are more famous for this particular pinnacle of rock, but what if I told you there was four ridges & three gully’s in this photo, not to mention the two Hell’s Gate’s the Bastion & Rock Island?

A more detailed view of the Great Napes can be found in Alfred Wainwright’s Western fells guide book seven, look under “Great Gable 11”


Piers Gill from the summit of Lingmell.

I took this photo over looking Piers Gill while Tim held on to my pack for dear life, standing around four feet from the edge was safe enough I guess, by now the high winds were so unpredictable, I do have to thank Tim for this photo & not letting me go, cheers mate!

Piers Gill cuts through the eastern crags of Lingmell & is considered to be Lakelands finest ravines, at depths of 30 feet in places & in others the trench cuts much deeper, a place which is considered to be also one of Lakelands most accident black spots.


The “top of” Piers Gill over shadowed by Great End (L) & Broad Crag (R)

To be brutally honest I’m not too sure if the little tarn glistening just underneath Broad Crag has a name or as goes is (un-named) yet anyone familiar with the Corridor Route must of walked past it & possibly thought the same? anyway, I’m open to comments on this one


Scafell Pike & Scafell from Lingmell Col.

We leave a staggering wind as we descend onto Lingmell col for the path they call the Highway to Scafell.


Looking in a north easterly direction over Styhead Tarn & Borrowdale.


Scafell Pike summit trig point & shelter.

No one in England is higher than I right now. Well maybe except for that guy stood on the summit who proceeds to start summit spotting & then goes onto say at the top of his voice, I can see Loweswater from here….

I guess we all have to start somewhere, but maybe not so loud buddy.

With less that the time it took to take this photo, we leave England’s highest behind & start to concentrate on what lies ahead.


The Mickledore Ridge, Broad Stand & Scafell.

In recent emails regarding todays route this exact moment in time was what I was trying to get across to Tim, I think I went along with the words, forget you have just climbed England’s highest mountain, forget Piers Gill & Lingmell, this is why you climb.

Of course we all have our favourite fells, I have High Street & you may or may not have yours, but forgetting your favourite momentarily, for me personally this sight & the next five minutes of my life as I descend onto Mickledore, this moment is where my dreams become reality & everything that matters in my walking world stops.

There is nothing better than this…


The Stretcher Box on the Mickledore Ridge.

We’d walked upto this point without a proper rest so there was no time like the present to fill our bellies before we take the arduous climb down the Mickledore Ridge. We take shelter out of the wind behind the crags in the picture – I really don’t feel too hungry & I’m putting this down to the climb ahead & the adrenalin that it brings, my body needs food so I force a ham salad sandwich down followed by a long drink of juice from my Camelbak.

Whilst eating lunch I also took a few photos of the rock climbers roping down Broad Stand & Scafell Crag.


Certainly beyond my capabilities but by the looks of it, great fun.



Meanwhile, our route down from Mickledore & Lord’s Rake bound.


Cam Spout, Great Moss & a southern Lakeland skyline, the two pointed peaks upper right are that of; Coniston Old Man & Dow Crag as we cross Mickledore.


Arguably the most arduous part of the whole walk was the descent from Mickledore, its pretty steep & extremely loose, yet nothing my arse couldn’t handle!


All paths lead to Lord’s Rake.

Once the path is gained, its just a short nervy big your self up moment to the bottom of the Rake.


Pulpit Rock & Mickledore Crag from the path.


Lord’s Rake with the Chock Stone clearly visible as we take in the last few metres.

Tim & I had already agreed that we should ascend the Rake separately, if not only to give Tim that once in a lifetime feel – it being Tim’s first time & also to give me a bit of space should any rock fall as I trail Tim, it is here while I watch & photograph Tim’s ascent, I am joined by a fellow walker.


I was pretty impressed with Tim’s progress up the Rake, he went at it hell for leather pausing only to catch his breath & to take in the deep walls as he inched his way up the Rake.

Your going the wrong way!! this guy shouts at Tim totally spoiling the ambiance of Tim’s ascent, Tim either cannot hear him or just chooses to ignore him, I hope the latter, mate I reply, I told him to go that way – I climbed the Rake not eight months ago & although I am familiar with the supposed route by sticking to the right, It was me who advised Tim to stick left as the rock here is more stable, less likely to fall & slightly easier to negotiate.

But Wainwright wrote to stick to the right this guy reply’s. That book was written over fifty years mate, & a lot can happen in fifty years – & although I agree that the grip & the hand holes on the right side of the rake are the obvious route yet when your actually in there the route is steep & extremely slippery due to wear & tear.

I always stick to what I know mate, right or wrong the safest way is always the way I will choose.

By now Tim is almost at the top & I don’t really think I can take anymore of what this guy is dishing out, I only hope he doesn’t follow straight up after me.


The start of something special.


Looking down Lord’s Rake from just beneath the Chock Stone.

I also make the ascent in good time as my heart pumps the adrenalin around my head causing pulsating thuds every once in a while, this, & a constant stream of sweat that drips over my eyelids causing the Bloc Billy’s to steam up is grieving me a little, that or the constant shouts from down below, Ya nearly there mate followed by cackles of laughter.

Nothing like a complete stranger to try & spoil something good…


He fails as I negotiate the Chock Stone with a high five to Tim.


The Chock Stone & all that is holding it in place is a section of rock no bigger than the screen you are looking at.


The last push as we exit Lord’s Rake, the heat was stifling making even small ascents such as this troublesome.


Scafell summit cairn.

The last push was a slow one, we knew we was insight of England’s second highest summit but this & the heat did nothing for momentum, the heat was scorching both throat & skin & seemed to make even the smallest of ascents seem much longer than they actually were, we needed a pick me up, this came in the way of the splendid views from the summit.


A close up of Scafell Pike now packed with dozens of walkers.


Lone clouds hug the horizon as I took this photo of Scafell Pike III Crag & Esk Pike.


Long Green, Horn Crag & Slight Side as we leave the summit of Scafell.

Views are aplenty during this rocky descent, the fells to the left of the picture that form a V are that of Coniston Old Man & Dow Crag, in the foreground we have Yew Bank forming Hard Knott with a glisten of the Duddon Estuary over on the right.


There seemed to be plenty of people leaving Slight Side’s summit, I’m not quite sure what was happening or who they were, but I did see a flag flying from the summit, sadly I couldn’t make out who’s it was.


Big skies over a small cairn, this is Slight Side less significant summit cairn. For a mountain that dominates Eskdale & the southern fells you really do expect more of Slight Side, yet in saying this, this might just be the brilliance about the mountain itself.


We leave Slight Side in sight of Oliver Gill & our route down to Burnmoor Tarn, under any normal circumstances this would be a rather troublesome route as normally Quagrigg Moss is usually just what it says on the tin, very wet & very boggy, however due to the lack of rainfall over the past fortnight we decided on giving a ‘as the crow flies approach to the top of Oliver Gill which worked just a treat.

On any other occasion the route would see you follow the summit descent path until you reach the flat ground of Quagrigg Moss then circumnavigate yourself over towards Great How & retreat down to Burnmoor Tarn this way, so despite the scorching mid-afternoon heat, I guess it does have its advantages sometimes!


The wonderful & idyllic Burnmoor Tarn & Boat How.

The path down Oliver Gill was somewhat stretched at times, giving way for steep sided fell & some tricky scree to negotiate. Hard underfoot after a big day on the fells, the legs & feet yearned for this blissful crossing as we headed for the path that links Burnmoor Tarn with Wasdale, here the ground was dry to some extent yet still a little spongy, I guess the ground wasn’t giving way just yet.


One bridge making two advantages.

Here where Hollow Gill & Groove Gill converge at the same place someone had the brainwave to build this two in one bridge.


A pint of Cockly Beck at the side of Mosedale Beck.

We suggested our new found tradition on trying the local brew as we arrived back at Wasdale Head, although the hour was late the decision to have a paddle & a pint after a walk such as this didn’t take too long to make.



Relaxing, reflection & beer.

Have you ever been at a moment & at a place where you just don’t want it to end?

This was that moment & this was that place.

At some point we have to put the boots back on, sup our ale & ouch back to the car that now resembles an oven.

Thank you Wasdale, until next time…


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