‘A grand day for it’ Bow Fell to Esk Pike

2nd December 2012

What more of an excuse did I need to pack the Ice-Axe & Crampons than this classic of Lakeland classics, its all in the title I guess. Bow Fell & the Esk Hause fells are up there amongst the best Lakeland has to offer, to traverse these fells in winter on a day as I had today – I guess I now know what it feels like to win the Champions League of fell walking, I won it & drank from its cup.

To plan a walk such as this within the depths of winter so come away with a smile on your face is like winning the lottery, it doesn’t happen very often, so when it does try to grab it with both boots, it may be a while until you experience it again.


Wainwright Guidebook

The Southern Fells

-Bow Fell:

As much as any other mountain, the noble Bowfell may be regarded as affording an entirely typical Lakeland climb, with easy walking over grass giving place to rough scrambling on scree, and a summit deserving of detailed exploration and rewarding visitors with very beautiful views.

Rank Bowfell among the best half-dozen!

Bowfell is a mountain of noble aspect and rare distinction, there is both grace and strength in the upper reaches, it is a challenge that cannot be denied.



Ascent: 966 Metres, 3,169 Feet
Wainwrights: 4, Bow Fell – Esk Pike – Allen Crags – Rossett Pike
Weather: Bright Winter Sun Throughout The Whole Day, Little To No Wind, Highs Of -1°C Lows Of -4°C
Parking: Old Dungeon Ghyll Hotel, Great Langdale
Area: Southern
Miles: 9.8
Walking With: On my own
Ordnance Survey: ol6
Time Taken: 7 HOURS
Route: Old Dungeon Ghyll – Stool End Farm – The Band – Three Tarns – Bow Fell – Ore Gap – Esk Pike – Esk Hause – Allen Crags – Angle Tarn (Langstrath) – Rossett Pike – Cumbrian Way – Rossett Gill – Mickleden – Old Dungeon Ghyll

Map and Photo Gallery



07:34am -4°C Chapile Stile

A moonlit Great Langdale seen from Chaple Stile.

The temptation got the better of me as I drove under moonlight through Great Langdale this morning, a layby at the side of a cattle grid providing the photographic platform, I cautiously press on doing my best to avoid the black ice along the way towards Old Dungeon Ghyll hotel.


The Band & Crinkle Crags catching the morning sun.

I was in no real hurry to kit up as the sun hadn’t risen over my shoulder just yet, its nice not having to rush at almost everything thing I do these days. The car park is almost empty for now, with the few cars that are actually here covered in a thick overnight frost.

Its –4°C which feels considerably colder than -2°C Which is thee coldest I have had to deal with thus far whilst still at ground level & having just stepped out of a car with the heater set on HI. My nose drips slightly as I kneel down & lace up & adjust my gaiters.

The tips of my ears also start to feel the effects as I shoulder pack & leave Old Dungeon Ghyll CP now sporting my thick hat & my Windstopper gloves. Its a short walk to Stool End Farm (seen foreground) & onto my first fell of the day, The Band. My footsteps avoid yet more black ice along the road way as I settle for the hard grass verge until I cross another cattle grid & enter the grounds of Stool End Farm.


Loft Crag & Pike O’Stickle across frozen ground.

Conditions are set to be perfect.


Just head for the moon.

As I pass through a sleepy Stool End Farm I Catch up with a couple de-layering at the bottom of the path, with a ‘morning’ I pass & inevitably inherit The Band to myself.

Today I am carrying full winter pack, which is heavy & feels like I’m giving a small man a piggy-back, also I am carrying my Ice-Axe & Crampons & I fully intend to use them as I kinda missed out last year for some reason of which I have completely forgotten.

Crinkle Crags flickers like candle light which entices me up my steep path which by now is covered in thick verglass.

The effects of this fast-forwards my mind to my descent which is sometime away, I guess its healthy knowing what to expect but best not start worrying about it now…


Loft Crag (R) & Pike O’Stickle (L) from a little higher up the path.


Pike O’Blisco, Cold Pike & Great Crag forming the head of Oxendale from The Band.

Great Langdale is well known for its steep valleys & equally steep pathways, but not here on The Band, The Band is possibly one of the best approach vantage points to gain Bow Fell or indeed Crinkle Crags with its smooth grassy gentle incline, today I have the added bonus of hard ground underfoot, the pleasantness wont last as I climb higher up the icy pathways that become more of an obstacle course but all this can be avoided by sticking to the grass verges.


Great Langdale from The Band.

I stop a while to take in the views & to catch my breath a wee while, here looking down on a sunrise over Great Langdale & Lingmoor Fell seen over on the right of the picture.

It was while here I catch eye on two walkers heading up the fell side at some pace I thought, there’s no point trying to get ahead so I press on as their voices get closer & closer, a couple pass with a smile & a morning.

I press on.


Bow Fell & Three Tarns Col from The Band.

My path takes me left towards Three Tarns Col, the couple who had just overtaken me took the path towards the right which is The Climbers Traverse, I was a little sceptical & envious I might add that they were taken in the delights of The Climbers Traverse, all the while, along here I feel I made the right decision in not following them knowing that winter had taken full hold along the traverse.

More on that later…


Looking back along The Band with views of The Langdale Fells to the left.


Crinkle Crags & Three Tarns before I make my final ascent on Bow Fell.

The last hundred yards went from verglass to a beautiful crisp snow underfoot, just perfect enough for grip & to withstand your weight without punching through.

Those with a keen eye may spot three walkers to the left of Three Tarns as they approach the Col, I watched as they explored the area a while, at one point I thought they maybe heading over towards Lingcove Beck before they re-appeared over the Col, a thorough exploration of the Three Tarns I thought…

Time to head for the summit.


Looking over the Crinkles south towards the Coniston Fells under beautiful winter blue skies.


As close to winter perfection as your ever going to get.


Bow Fell summit soon comes into view.

The steep approach from Three Tarns was possibly the best part of the morning so far, gone was the cumbersome boulders to negotiate as I was treated to singular tracks of imbedded footprints, kindly donated by the previous walker.

Can it get any better than this is all that passes through ones mind.


A broad horizon of the eastern fells from just beneath Bow Fell summit.


A close up of The Great Slab as I approach the summit.


Bow Fell summit.

I was surprised at the fact that I had the whole summit to myself at this point at least, with not a breath of wind I pan around & take in Lakeland at her best.


The Scafell range from Bow Fell summit incorporating from LtoR, Slight Side, Scafell, Scafell Pike & finally on the far right lll Crag.

I am soon joined by the couple who headed across Climbers Traverse, we swap pleasantries mostly about the weather before I peep up, you headed across the Traverse didn’t you? I get a slight smirk from the guy, I was pretty envious of your decision I said, I was going to follow you then decided to stick to my plans, you were wise not to follow the guy tells me, the Traverse was just about cope-able but the climb along the Great Slab was a little more technical than we are used too, the woman goes onto say, we followed footprints along the whole route only to loose them at the bottom of the Great Slab, well we thought we had lost them, what we knew was the footprints turned into spikes – adding that the walker they had followed had put Crampons on at the bottom of the Great Slab, we struggled the rest of the way up, well at least your both here to enjoy the views I say, the guy clocks my Crampons tied in on my pack, he doesn’t say anything & neither do I.

Would you take our picture the girl asked? of course I reply, the couple drop down a little & open a flask of soup, have a great day I say, you too they replied, with this I leave the summit over the snow covered boulders with a fix on Esk Pike.


Esk Pike as I approach Ore Gap after leaving Bow Fell summit.

The next hour was possibly the best hour I have spent in Lakeland in a long time, I follow prominent footsteps across Ore Gap as the crisp snow underfoot starts to turn more & more compact, anytime soon I shall reach for the Crampons, but for now I cant but help fall in love with the views.


A close up of Scafell & Scafell Pike.

You can kinda understand why I took my time as I crossed Ore Gap.

It was time to add the Crampons as by now the snow is fully compact underfoot & traction was being lost footstep by footstep.


Cramped in.

It’s been a while since I last wore my Crampons so the week previous I did practise test setting them up whilst sat on the patio in my garden, the golden rule to fitting Crampons is to fit them just before you need them, this is all fine & well but doesn’t often work in the real world, I find myself a boulder & dust the snow off & use it as foot rest adapting my Crampons to my boots.


Time for a quick & rare self portrait!


Looking back under a strong sun as it dominates the views back to Bow Fell & the southern fells before I make my ascent on Esk Pike summit.


A wintery scene over lll Crag & Scafell Pike summit shelter.


Leaving Esk Pike behind for Esk Hause.

In my general giddiness I fail to get a summit shot of Esk Pike summit cairn, it’s the result of views like this that made my mind wonder…


The strong winter sun captures lll Crag perfectly.


Great End, Great Gable & Green Gable seen across Esk Hause.


Allen Crags seen from the cross shelter at Esk Hause.

I um & eye on an attempt on Allen Crags, I foresee a summit will take me no less than half an hour both up & down but do I have time for this as I also wanted to include Rossett Pike as my last summit, half an hour eh…


lll Crag seen from Allen Crags summit.

Of course I was going to go for it, in fact I made great time despite choosing the less obvious route to re-join with the summit path from the cross shelter resulting in tedious bog hopping over snow covered ground.

I figure I’ve earned myself a rest…


Chocolate Button anyone?

Without wanting to take a full bag of family Chocolate Buttons I pick a handful & place them in a sandwich bag, cheese is the flavour of the day along with my BabyBells.

After a quick lunch I tie in the Crampons as they can sometimes work a little loose after prolonged use, I’m now ready to make my descent to Angle Tarn (Langstrath) not before a few more pictures from the summit.


Great End with a glimpse of Central Gully from Allen Crags summit.


Esk Pike & Hanging Knotts (Bow Fell) from Allen Crags summit.


Descending Allen Crags for Esk Hause, it is here I make a left & Angle Tarn bound.


Looking across Tongue Head towards Rossett Pike, a glimpse of Angle Tarn can be seen right.


Angle Tarn (Langstrath)

As I descend across Tongue Head it was clear I was now back in verglass territory, I pick my way over down the path & use the still frozen verge as to aid my Crampons for grip, I know by now that I should be thinking about taking them off but with so much ice underfoot I decide to leave them on until I reach my next summit of Rossett Pike.


Great End & Allen Crags seen from Rossett Pike summit cairn.

I do recall that this was the coldest summit during the whole walk, I didn’t hang around for long for next I had to contemplate my way down Rossett Gill & The Cumbrian Way via what can only be described as an ice-flow.


Mickleden seen from the top of Rossett Gill & the Cumbrian Way.

This descent could of very nearly took the shine of the whole day, what you see in the foreground of the picture is the path covered in a thick sheet of ice, I decide that I will leave my Crampons on despite the lack of snow underfoot, I figure here, I am going to need all the luck I can get.

I look at my watch & it is 13:10, I say to myself you can be down by 14:00 – this is a tall ask I tell myself nevertheless I give myself a target.

The descent was truly horrible, the verglass covered the path for the next hour or so & needed the patience of a saint, in summer this path can be tricky so this is why I try to give myself the patience & respect this path deserves. With the aid of my walking pole & Crampons I make my target only over shooting over by no less than five minutes, with this I’m happy to be down, the Crampons came off as soon as I lost sight of the ice which was just under 280 Metres or so.

I make a few short cuts down the fell side coming a cropper the odd time with vertical slabs of mossy rock, not big in stature but cumbersome to negotiate, did I wish I’d stuck to the path that resembled an ice-flow?

Hell no.

I finally make it down to the crossing where Rossett Gill joins with Stake Gill at the little wooden footbridge. I spy two people following my route down Rossett Gill & feel pity for them for their slow progress, I turn my back & take in the beauty that beholds me as I take in the valley of Mickleden.

My walking pole stays with me like the accomplice it is, like a best friend, without it I simply would not have managed that tricky & somewhat technical descent.

I do not reach for the camera as I take in Mickleden, for I feel the camera has done its work & recorded my journey well, well indeed not to include that descent.

Cool air greets me along the valley floor, it is time to re-coup upon the days preceding’s, my warm breath a reflection of this as I near the end of Mickleden in search of a flask of hot coffee that lies in wait in the boot of my car.

Cheers from the boot of my car…


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