Bowfell via The Climbers Traverse from ODG

28th December 2014

I had only left David & Rod not twelve hours earlier where there was talk of me returning to the fells after a family gathering the morning after which meant any alcoholic drinks had to kept to a minimum & so too the calories if I was to climb Bowfell the next morning.

The reason for my second visit to Lakeland in as many days was the promised forecast in which these words where written ‘good visibility with the snow covered fells set against a deep blue sky’ or similar words to that affect I really cant remember but the word snow together with the colour blue was enough to get my heart thumping. I guess it was down to my own mental ability to tell my legs that hadn’t quite recovered from the last one that they were going for another walk which was undoubtedly worth it.

My only decision was where to walk…

Bowfell won in the end.


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 up’s 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: 2,642 Feet – 805 Meters
Wainwrights: Bowfell
Weather: Sunny Throughout, Highs Of 1°C Lows Of 0°C Feels Like -5°C
Parking: Old Dungeon Ghyll
Area: Southern
Miles: 8
Walking With: On my own
Ordnance Survey: OL6
Time Taken: 5 Hours 30 Minutes
Route: Old Dungeon Ghyll – Stool End Farm – The Band – Bowfell Climbers Traverse – Great Slab – Bowfell – Three Tarns – The Band – Stool End Farm – Old Dundeon Ghyll

Map and Photo Gallery


The Langdale Pike pre dawn taken from Chapel Stile.

My alarm went off at 06.30 and I was travelling north by 07.00am most of which was done under the cover of darkness. My decision to climb Bowfell today was made around the time I reached Lancaster as my original plans were to climb Great End from Seathwaite.

It was pre-dawn by the time I reached Great Langdale here over looking Chapel Stile as the morning light played host to The Langdale Pikes & Pavey Ark. I could have driven on but I wasn’t in any hurry as I wanted to be walking at sunrise rather than before as I took the trouble to stop & take a few photos.

Morning light over Pike O’Stickle & Loft Crag 08:40am 0°C 

I arrived at Old Dungeon Ghyll to a surprisingly full car park where quite a few walkers were already kitting up for a day on the fells. I found myself a parking spot before emptying the best part of £6.00 into the parking meter as I didn’t quite know how long I was going to be, in fact despite having planted Bowfell into today’s walking itinerary I hadn’t quite planned what or where I would go after my summit.

I’ll play it as I go along I guess.

I left the car park & passed the familiar Old Dungeon Ghyll signpost while at the same time trying not to notice the bright blue ‘Police notice no parking sign’ on the other side of the grass verge. Behind me a young fellow had left the car park at the same time, we shared a good morning before setting off for Stool Farm oddly enough, at the same pace.

Attention was quickly drawn to Mickelden.

Once I had passed through onto the open pastures of Stool End farm I took in the tarmac track towards the farm buildings, not before my gaze drew me in to Mickleden & a cloud inversion that embraced the summits of Rossett Pike all the way over to the Langdale Pikes, this could turn into something much bigger, but I’ll have to climb higher to see.

Crinkle Crags set alight in a pink afterglow.

If the sight of the cloud inversion over Mickleden wasn’t enough to get the belly wobbling I now had magical views over a snow capped Crinkle Crags where by now the sun had started to leave them in a heart warming pink afterglow.

Moments later The Crinkles are set against a beautiful morning sky.

By the time I had passed through Stool End Farm I picked up the path for The Band which rises steadily & steeply with views of the Crinkles & over into Oxendale which the sun hadn’t penetrated yet leaving Oxendale looking very cold indeed.

Despite the views I now had a bit of unpleasantness to deal with in the form of a chap who had left the gate open shortly after passing through Stool End Farm, as I knew no one was behind me I closed the gate but was told ‘to leave it open’ as he was waiting for friends, well there’s no one behind me so I’m closing the gate, he wasn’t best pleased as he tried to stop me where a hustle with the gate took place ‘the gate stays closed mate’ He wasn’t happy  – What I should have said next was ‘it’s great your fully equipped for winter but are you really going to take your children up onto Bowfell in their tracksuits & school coats’?

I thought I’d already upset enough though.

I started my climb instantly feeling the pull which was a reminder of the few beers I did have the night previous. Step by step I took in the stone path not looking back down until I reached a small platform where the path lends its way right then through a wooden gate, it was here I took a brief look back where the guy was still waiting for his mate.

But enough of that, just look at what is unfolding…

Pike O’Stickle.


Mickleden inversion.


Mickelden seen with Rossett Pike in the far left of the photo.

The solo walker who I had left ODG with had started to slowly catch me up, I had to laugh though as it seemed we walked at exactly the same pace which meant he was always the same distance away even after my camera breaks.

He did manage to get closer as we shared a brief chat once more about the stunning views into Mickleden before breaking for the steady climb although his decision from here was to climb The Band by a very narrow path that flanks Mickleden rather than the prominent stone path that I was using.

Pike O’Stickle & Loft Crag.


Crinkle Crags from The Band.

It wasn’t long before I had crested The Band’s shoulder leaving a summit for the more obvious route towards Three Tarns, the path beneath me was now well within the snowline which mirrored our ascent on Robinson & Dale Head only yesterday, the snow depth was less the two inches & once again was powdery with exceptions of iced up puddles & the odd icy rock, non of which caused any issues but mental notes were being taken as to what would lie ahead with the more height gained.

Morning sun over Red Tarn.



My decision to gain Bowfell by the Climbers Traverse had been on my mind the last few hundred meters or so & so was what to do once a summit had been made. I made my mind up to make ‘a meal’ out of The Climbers Traverse and enjoy it rather than go onto further things, this way I could also go at my own pace which boded well with my legs & lungs.

I was soon caught up by a young fellow who was also wearing a tracksuit, his face covered in sweat as I stood to take photos he asked me ‘reckon i’ll make Scafell Pike by 13.30?


Lots of things passed through my head before I answered him mostly why are you attempting to climb Scafell Pike in a tracksuit shortly followed by why did you think ODG was the best place to start this given the fact that today, we only have less that eight half hours daylight & in these conditions?

I studied the young lad he was polite & more so, he was keen. I explained about the daylight hours & my rule of thumb which is ‘three hours on, three hours off’ which in layman’s terms means if you haven’t reached your summit by three hours turn around or you’ll be returning in the dark.

He seemed to be taking my advice, I even tried to change his route given his lack of gear but what unhinged the sittuation the most was when his father turned up huffing & puffing closely followed by his sister who looked exhausted.

‘Only one more steep one’ the father calls out to his daughter’

‘Oh dear’ I said to myself’ Scafell Pike is a long way from here, why don’t you just summit Bowfell and/or even Esk Pike? I gazed over at the lads father & sister who said nothing. Listen think about what I’ve just said (most of which was just me & the young lad) speak to your Dad & explain that Scafell is a fell too far today, enjoy this & don’t push yourselves & most of all, do it safely & think of your Dad & your Sister.

I then left hoping I’d made some sense all the while wondering that did the lovely forecast play a role in most of the people who I’d met today.

Of course it did, I just cant figure out if that’s a good or bad thing.

Not wanting my recent episodes to hamper my own day I push on towards the stone cairn which will direct me onto The Climbers Traverse Path.

Leaving the Three Tarns path behind as I take on The Climbers Traverse.


Looking back on The Band seen with the Langdale Pikes.

My path teetered out under what was now becoming a significant amount of snow underfoot. While I was talking to the young lad & his Dad I was passed by a fellow walker who also had trouble with the path further below, instead of locating the path as I did he blazed his own ‘wider trail’ to my right flanks, we were par on par most of the way until I stopped to take a few photos where I noticed that the young lad was now following me up The Climbers Traverse.

Dear god no.

You can see them in the bottom right of the photo, who was I to judge them I could only pass on my advice, thankfully the father stopped & took out a map before shouting at his son to re-join the Three Tarns route.

By now  the solo climber had gone out of view but I knew he was on my right flank, surely I would beat him to the top, after all, I had the advantage of a path.

En-route to The Climbers Traverse.

Joking aside we weren’t really racing more a mental statement or a ‘bloke thing’ if you want to know who won though you’ll have to take a look in the next few photos, because the path is only wide enough for one person at a time.

The Climbers Traverse from the start.

Is was decision time on wheather or not to put the Crampons on & take out the Ice Axe. In hindsight I guess there was no need for either as the snow was still very powdery & hadn’t compacted at all, still, I made the decision to de-shoulder my pack safely here rather than half way across the Traverse where things might have changed.

The Climbers Traverse.

It’s well over twelve months since I had used my Crampons so straps were tightened then double tightened, my walking poles were replaced with my Ice Axe which l held firm across the pick leaving the leash around my right wrist.

I re-shouldered my pack at the same time looping my camera around my neck which was then fastened to my stomach using my pack’s waist strap which left me feeling like I’d just been tucked into bed by my dad as a young un!

Looking back on The Climbers Traverse.

This was my play time which was made up of lots of camera stops all the while making sure that my heart wasn’t going to thumb right out my chest, if your not nervous or if your adrenalin isn’t going into overdrive here I guess your not human.

The Climbers Traverse.


Here’s that retreating cloud inversion now over the Langstrath valley.


Ahead, Bowfell Buttress comes into view, bit there’s still a while to go yet.


The Band from The Climbers Traverse.

Here, looking back on the Col that had to be negotiated which went without incident, however before the Col is reached a large boulder obscures the path which on any other day can be clambered up upon then shimmied down, however, at first glance I didn’t quite fancy shimmying down with my Crampons on over such a precarious perch yet the second option didn’t look as tempting either with an awkward tussle around the edge of the path where concentration was key.

My mum & my teachers would have been proud of me as they were the ones who always used to say I could never concentrate.

I press on with magnificent views of Flat Crag high above me.

Flat Crag, Bowfell.


Cambridge Crags ahead.

With The Climbers Traverse almost coming to an end by the time I reached the base of Cambridge Crags I decided to take off my Crampons as I feel they didn’t really help over the powdery snow.

I push forward to a point where I can take off my Crampons safely not before hearing voices every now & again, I didn’t think anything of them.

Bowfell Buttress as it catches the morning sunlight.


Avoiding The Great Slab my ascent was by the boulder field that flanks Cambridge Crags.


The safest way is to stick to the bouldered path that flanks Cambridge Crags.

With my Crampons packed away my steps felt much more confident over boulder where I knew I had made the right decision to take the Crampons off again. I keep as far right as possible only drifting over boulder to capture images such as this one as a plane’s vapour trails streak across the sky.

The Great Slab, Bowfell.

I have walked up The Great  Slab many times, but not today, however if you look closely you can make out steps in the snow.

Nearing the top of The Great Slab.

It’s a steep but short haul using the boulder path but the views over The Great Slab are more than rewarding.

The top of The Great Slab.

Once I was close to the top of the Great Slab I ventured over the boulders to take a closer look, I hadn’t realised that I had been walking in the cold shade for the best part of forty minutes or so.

The sunlight was magnificent as it greeted me at the top of The Great Slab.


Ahead, Bowfell summit is just a short distance away.

I soon made my way over to the main summit path where I was joined by more walkers all heading towards the summit, it’s going to get busy up there.

Views back over The Great Slab.


Bowfell summit cairn.

I picked my way over rough boulder following a path that had been cut through the snow until I reached the main summit cairn. The wind had a devilish chill to it which cut right through to the core, all the walkers that I had just seen making their summit where by now scattered all over the summit area taking shelter no doubt from the same wind.

I go off to find my own spot.

The Scafells & Ill Crag from Bowfell Summit.

Perched with a view over the towering snow capped Scafells, I couldn’t see a soul on them.

A wider view reveals Great Moss & Slight Side.


Lingcove Beck with hazy views over Hard Knott & Harter Fell (Eskdale)


Views south reveal Crinkle Crags, Little Stand, Cold Pike & Pike O’Blisco, while beyond, the Coniston Fells.

I eagerly ate away at my lunch bought from the petrol station earlier that morning washed down with some of the kids cornflake cakes that I had sneaked into my butty box. By now the bite valve on my Camalbak had completely frozen with the exception of a few sips that managed to find its way through, on a cold day on Bowfell though, it was more than enough.

North East from the summit opens up to Glaramara, High Raise, Sergeants Crag & Eagle Crag towering over the Langstrath Valley, beyond are is the Helvellyn range while further north, Blencathra & Skiddaw.


Looking back at the summit after a brief chat.

Despite wanting to I could stay at the summit forever so I re shouldered & gave my spot out of the wind to a couple who had just arrived at the summit, meanwhile down below I bumped into this woman seen in the red jacket who asked me where Mickleden was? here I’ll show you I explained as we were only a short distance away from the top of The Great Slab which had wonderful views back into Mickleden.

I don’t think she was lost just a short lack in confidence which was brought back the moment I showed her where Mickleden was, I of course had to ask her a few basic questions as in ‘do you know the area’ as she went on to say no I live in Pakistan but was born here in Cumbria.

What a lovely lady.

Passing The Great Slab once more with the Helvellyn range in the distance.


Three Tarns from my Bowfell descent.

I soon found myself descending the main summit path towards Three Tarns which were lit up in a frozen afterglow. Besides them two fellows take pictures of whom I would later have a good chat with lower down the path, it turned out they were two chaps from Liverpool one of whom was a keen photographer who offered me ‘a go’ of his lens after noting we both had Nikon DCLR cameras. We also shared some good banter about football as they were Everton fans ‘ahhh, I remember Everton when Peter Reid & Neville Southall played for em I said’

Peter who?

I think they might have been a bit too young, which made me feel incredibly old.

All in good fun the two cheeky chaps went onto summit Bowfell.

Bowfell & Bowfell Links from Three Tarns.

Ten minutes had only passed but it was more than enough time for the Scafells to become enveloped in a fast moving dark cloud which seemed to come from nowhere, by the time I was down at Three Tarns The Scafells had all but disappeared.

From afar I pick up on the sound of a helicopters engine, it gets closer but I still can’t see when from nowhere it ascends from Great Moss over Esk Hause which by now is also hidden by cloud.

I could only think on that the Pilot must know these fells like the back of his hand to do that in low cloud.

Frozen Three Tarns.


The Scafells have all but disappeared now.


The Band from my Three Tarns descent.

I left the wall of cloud advancing towards my position knowing full well I wasn’t going to beat as I made a hasty retreat by The Band. It was now mid afternoon with only a couple of hours left of daylight which left me rather amazed to see walkers still heading up to Three Tarns, one of them stopped me.

‘Do you think I should carry on’ said the solo male walker, he again was pleasant & was merely asking me a question in his own interest. Where you heading for the summit I asked? Yeah but I think I’ve been beaten by time, well, I think you’re right with only a couple of hours light left at best I think you’re right to head back, although, you are only a few hundred feet from Three Tarns, why don’t you head up, have a little explore & then head back down I said, he smiled & said thanks, I think that’s a good idea, and thank you for your advice too.

This is the difference when accepting you’ve been beaten by light, but most importantly, knowing & owning up to it.

Well done that man.

The same cloud that enveloped The Scafells is closing in on Cold Pike.


Almost back at Stool End farm.


Stool End Farm.

It beggared belief that I was still passing crowds on their way up The Band as the light started to close in, more so the descending visibility as the cloud that had caught up with me, had by now slowly started to make its way down The Band.

‘It’s nowt do wi me’ as my old Foreman used to say.

Nevertheless a little discerning eh.

There is a time between mountain & hill when reality hits you, a place where the warmth from a descending winter sun stains at your brow, a time when you can see your car when begrudgingly your heart knows you day is almost coming to an end.

This was that time.

The disappearing sunlight shows one last show of strength as I look back over the Oxendale valley which strikes right at me causing my left eye to fill & drop a tear, something wasn’t right, Im sure I was wearing gloves.

I must have dropped them somewhere on the hill.



Back to top