Bowfell via the Climbers Traverse

13th July 2013

Within the mist of a heat wave that the whole of the UK is experiencing right now planning long walks under such conditions can be physically exhausting as I am about to find out.

It is simply too hot for long days out on the fells.

This is why I am here in Great Langdale which is much like last weeks adventures on Blencathra, todays walk will involve; just the one ascent & the one fell.

Bowfell has been twitching at my boots for a good fortnight, ever since I had conversations with  friend, falconer & fellow walker Steve Honour or Ste Hawk …why Hawk I hear you ask? Well Steve is the proud owner of a Hawk he reared himself, so much so he named his Plastering business after it.

Ste has a fondness for Bowfell, so much so when chatting one day at work un-beknown to Ste that morning, the seed had been planted & that is why I find myself here in Great Langdale this afternoon.

Of course I had to mix things up a little with the splendid high level route beneath Bowfell’s Cambridge Crags, otherwise know as The Climbers Traverse.


Wainwright Guidebook

The Southern Fells

Bow Fell 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.

The Climbers Traverse is a very enjoyable high-level route leading to excellent rock scenery. The Traverse is a series of ups and down’s but generally keeps to a horizontal course. Except at the small col the ground falls away steeply on the valley side of the path.


Ascent: ,642 Feet, 805 Metres
Wainwrights: Bowfell
Weather: Hot & Sunny, Hazy. Some Cloud Above The Summits, Highs Of 29°C Lows Of 26°
Parking: Old Dungeon Ghyll Hotel – Great Langdale
Area: Southern
Miles: 6.2
Walking With: On my own
Ordnance Survey: OL6
Time Taken: 3hr 15 min
Route: Old Dungeon Ghyll Hotel – Stool End Farm – The Band – Climbers Traverse – Great Slab – Bowfell – Three Tarns – The Band – Stool End Farm – Old Dungeon Ghyll Hotel

Map and Photo Gallery



Old Dungeon Ghyll Hotel Great Langdale 14:20  29°C

It’s mid afternoon at Old Dungeon Ghyll yet surprisingly enough I have parked with ease owing to the fact that an adjacent field has been opened up as an over-spill car park…three pound (which went to North West Air Ambulance) all day – was all it cost, which is somewhat cheaper than parking on the opposite side of the wall where you wont get much change back from a tenner.

I admit it’s not normal for me to arrive in Lakeland so late into the day, but I had a morning shift to work & there was no getting out of it, this is now, the reason why I am about to change from my shirt & trousers into my walking gear.

The Hotel is awash with visitors less any hikers… I struggle to find anyone not wearing bikini tops & cropped jeans shorts with trendy flip flops to boot.

The shirt & trousers gets neatly folded onto the back seat of the car…



Views over towards Pike Of Blisco & Great Knott en route to Stool End Farm.

I guess two words are evident in todays excursion, which are heat & haze. The haze made short work of the camera while the heat nearly claimed the author… meanwhile down in the valley I was treated to summer scenes such as this.


Crinkle Crags, The Band & Bow Fell.

As I took in the tarmac track to Stool End Farm I was passed by walkers returning to Old Dungeon Ghyll & beyond, the one thing that struck me was the look on their faces…I could be forgiven that after looking into the eyes of one particular walker that he had just returned from the battlefield.

This was a little un nerving as the heat of the afternoon sun bared down on the valley & all who walked in it.

Shirtless, scorched & sunburnt, all of them, what have I let myself in for I ask myself.


The Band with a Langdale skyline taken from this field of Buttercups.


This time I turn my camera on the valley of Mickleden, Rossett Pike & Rossett Crags from the same field.


Pike O’ Stickle together with Loft Crag, Harrison Stickle & Pavey Ark.

It’s a summer sensation here in Great Langdale.


Stool End Farm.

My route passes through Stool End Farm where upon you are given two choices, from here you can head up The Band (the fell directly behind the farm shown here in the left of the picture) or head into the valley of Oxendale taking in Pike Of Blisco, Red Tarn & Cold Pike can all be easily reached from here.


Heading up The Band in 29°C Heat

It was difficult to adjust to the afternoon heat straight from the start, for every forty yards gained it felt like I had hit wall after wall, the section of path you see in the photo was done with difficulty whilst trying to adjust to the heat.

I spy walkers on both sides of my flanks, over on Pike O’ Stickle & Crinkle Crags walkers are claiming their summits, my metaphor during these difficulties is, if they can do it then so can I.


Pike Of Blisco, Cold Pike, Great Knott & Browney Gill from my sticky ascent.


Crinkle Crags through the haze.

More & more walkers are heading back down, it is only I & a couple that I had just overtaken that seem to be heading up for an ascent on Bowfell.

I have to ask myself the question here, am I doing the right thing because with the heat comes the stillness & lack of air coupled with a niggling headache that pulsates in my already over heating head.

A cool breeze sweeps down The Band from Three Tarns Col, but is barley enough to help with any type of encouragement, what I need right now is a rain shower!


Bowfell & Three Tarns Col from The Band.

With the main steepness of the climb behind me, here I gave myself some small rest time, here I re-adjust my walking shorts, mop my brow & then re shoulder pack.

My route ahead will see me leave the comfort of the path you see – for a much steeper narrower path where upon I will reach the start of the Climbers Traverse.

Those of you with a keen eye may already be able to spot the Climbers Traverse path as it winds its way up the steep grassy fell side seen right, there is a large cairn marking the base of the path if you were to continue here although I must add, taking on The Climbers Traverse in anything other than good weather isn’t advisable.


Nearing the top of the path & the start of The Climbers Traverse.


Great Langdale, The Band, Pike Of Blisco & Lingmoor Fell from my ascent.


The Climbers Traverse.

Ahead sits the dominance of Bowfell Buttress but between me & it, is the splendid High Level route to Bowfell’s summit, The Climbers Traverse.

I rest once more before composing myself, this is done with more brow mopping.

Below are a selection of my favourite photo’s I took whilst walking the Traverse.


The Traverse is a series of ups & downs with no real feeling of exposure all except for one place which you will see shortly…other than that the Climbers Traverse is one of thee best ways to obtain Bowfell summit with the added bonus of an ascent via The Great Slab, but that is in a little while.



The only exposed point along the Traverse is called Small Col.


The dominance of Bowfell Buttress is never far away.


A close up of Bowfell Buttress.


Looking back along The Climbers Traverse.


This time with a more wide angled shot which includes The Band.


Cambridge Crags marks the end of The Climbers Traverse.

The path bends left once Cambridge Crags are reached, here you are given the choice to obtain the summit in many ways…mine is by foot & not rope as you may have already spotted two climbers just above the base of Cambridge Crags.


You carry all the gear & I’ll tell you were to put your feet…

Was the general gist of the conversation!


The ascent of the Great Slab.

After turning left as the path ends this is the sight before you, a steep rock climb with the Great Slab domineering that left corner of your eye. Here, instead of taking on the boulders I head straight for the Great Slab & make my ascent to the summit via this natural feature of tilted flat rock.

This is not to be attempted in wet conditions unless you have the legs of a mountain goat!


It’s a steep heave towards the top of the Great Slab.


Rossett Pike & The Langstrath Valley beyond the Great Slab.

The black patches on the rock is dried out moss, which of course when wet offers no grip what so ever…I did try an ascent over the Great Slab after a period of rain & although it was a dry day the moss was damp.

Let me tell you, I think a bit of wee came out the way I took that slide backwards.


Here looking over towards Cambridge Crags & Bowfell Buttress, I think that’s a bit of cloud rolling in if I’m not mistaken.


Nearing the top of the Great Slab.

I wasn’t mistaken, that cloud has definitely rolled in from nowhere


My views are about to disappear.


Bowfell summit has all but disappeared.

You cant have everything I guess, but not all hope is lost, as with the cloud came a rather cool breeze which worked wonders on my over heating body. I make for the summit via the faint path you see in the bottom right of the photo.


Bowfell summit cairn.

I admit this is rather an awkward shot due to the fact that the summit is busy with walkers sitting & watching the cloud as it drifts in & out.

Whilst at the summit I take up conversation with a woman solo walker waiting the cloud out, we chat about the heat & the unpredicted cloud as we are then joined by half a dozen walkers who seemed to come from nowhere, in actual fact they have come in from the direction of Ore Gap.

The summit is now a busy place as I & the woman walker bid farewell to one another as she heads towards Ore Gap & I retrace my steps this time in the direction of Three Tarns.


Not before taking another picture of the Great Slab as I pass by.



Through the cloud & haze, Crinkle Crags & Three Tarns.

A holy racket ensues from the direction of Three Tarns, I hear kids voices laughing but over this I hear a male adult loudly singing/screaming, what, I cannot make out.

This is not the way to conduct yourself on the fells.

I pass an elderly gent who instantly says have you heard that? You can here him from two valleys over I reply, we both shake heads & carry on with our ascents/descents.


Cooling off is one thing…doing it so everyone in a ten mile radius can hear you is another.

I soon find myself at Three Tarns Col, here my plan was to have a wander about the place & maybe take some photographs. The guy is out of the water & is towelling himself dry whilst the other adult waits on.

I start my descent onto The Band, it is here I am joined by the children seen in the photo, one young boy no older than eight years of age asked me have I had a good day & that he & his friends have just climbed Crinkle Crags, I replied wow that’s great as I am joined by more children numbering five in total, two boys & three girls.

All they want to do is talk about the fells, they run past me in age order prancing off large boulders as if they are on a playground.

I can only mutter looking at their attire that all these kids of which non are teenagers are fell fit & more to the point, are extremely polite.

If only their father had the same etiquette as his children possessed…

With the grumpy guts dropped, I continue with my descent.


Descending The Band could have been mistaken for a scene from The Railway Children, accents & all.


Descending The Band in the comfort of the shade.


Pike O’ Stickle, Loft Crag, Harrison Stickle & Pavey Ark… otherwise know as The Langdales or The Langdale Fells.


Great Langdale from my descent.


Crinkle Crags seen from the base of The Band.

The sun is partially hidden casting shadows amongst the fells, this, the only opportunity I had to take a picture of The Crinkles before the cloud disappeared & the sun shone bright once more.


Mickleden & The Langdales taken as I pass through Stool End Farm.


When possible use tree branches or other similar objects when taking photographs looking towards a strong sun, this can help with sun glare appearing on your photos & I think adds a nice touch to a photograph.

Or go out & buy a proper filter! my idea is the cheapest.


Mickleden & more Langdale Fells.


The Band, Crinkle Crags & Bowfell.

Sadly no trees where used in this shot owing to a tree shortage!

I take in the track back to Old Dungeon Ghyll Hotel, the heat is still the main topic but it feels a little cooler than that of four hours ago…nevertheless as I glance down at the tarmac beneath my feet the tarmac is starting to blister & go soft under foot as it absorbs the afternoon heat.

Arriving back at Old Dungeon I am witness to yet more semi naked bodies brandishing cold pints of lager as they drink their way through the afternoon. Despite some of these people not having set foot on fell side throughout their entire lives I could not but help be envy at what a view they had as they drank cold beer on a sweltering afternoon in Great Langdale.

Jealous? damn straight I was!

But in saying this none of these people had witnessed the Climbers Traverse as I had, nor had they pushed themselves in mind boggling heat to the top of a mountain had they?

I’ll take my warm can of Diet Coke thanks.


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