Bow Fell and Crinkle Crags from Great Langdale

2nd January 2017

I guess I'm still at that point where I'm taking great enjoyment from roaming at free will and todays walk is a result of looking for a classic walk which would suit the forecast, Bow Fell and Crinkle Crags fitted the bill perfectly. It's unusual during the month of January to get a run of bright days which actually extended from the Christmas period right through to the New Year so as the saying goes "best not look a gift horse in the mouth" even if like me your still not over a cough and cold which I'm still struggling to get rid of.

The previous day to this walk was spent taking the Christmas decorations down followed by a cooked breakfast after figuring 'I'd earned it' then a local dog walk under a crisp afternoon sun. After getting back from said dog walk I received a phone call from my buddy Tim who got straight to the point Paul, you walking tomorrow? yes I am mate "mind if I join you" mind? not at all mate it'll be great we haven't seen, or walked with one another since last March, of course I don't mind, it'll be great to catch up.

Tim went on to ask about my intended route which has always been to summit Bow Fell via the Climbers Traverse then to continue towards Three Tarns and Crinkle Crags just put the icing on Tim's cake and indeed my own because it's not every January day you get a day as clear as we had today.

Wainwright Guide Book Four
The Southern Fells

-Crinkle Crags 'The Bad Step'

"Chicken-hearted walkers, muttering something about discretion being the better part of valour, will sneak away and circumvent the difficulty by following the authors footsteps around the left flank of the buttress"


Ascent: 3,192 Feet - 973 Metres
Wainwrights: 2, Bow Fell - Crinkle Crags
Weather: Bright And Sunny. Feeling Cold Over Exposed Summits. Highs of 4°C Lows of 1°C Feels Like -5°C
Parking: Roadside Parking, Rossett Bridge, Great Langdale
Area: Southern
Miles: 8
Walking With: Tim Oxburgh
Ordnance Survey: OL6
Time Taken: 5 Hours 45 Minutes
Route: Rossett Bridge - Old Dungeon Ghyll – Stool End Farm – The Band – Bow Fell Climbers Traverse – Great Slab – Bow Fell – Three Tarns – Crinkle Crags – Long Top – Red Tarn (Langdale) – Browney Gill – Oxendale – Oxendale Beck – Stool End Farm – Old Dungeon Ghyll- Rossett Bridge

Map and Photo Gallery


Crinkle Crags, The Band and Bow Fell from Stool End Farm 1°C 08.45am

Both Tim and I had arranged to meet first in Ambleside at 08:00am then to continue to the outskirts of Skelwith Bridge where we knew of a layby alongside the River Brathey, Tim arrived first which was confirmed by text around 07:40am and by 07:55am I spotted Tim's car parked up in the layby close to the Wateredge Inn Ambleside, we greet with a smile and a hearty handshake and waste no time travelling to the parking spaces located along side the Brathey just a two minute drive away. Tim swaps his gear from his car to mine and before we knew it we were driving the narrow lanes first through Chapel Stile then Elterwater.

Dawn still hadn't broke and with a low light we drove into the heart of Great Langdale towards Rossett Bridge flanked by the Langdale Pikes, beyond Old Dungeon Ghyll Bow Fell and Crinkle Crags formed the head of the valley. I hadn't paid the parking spaces much thought during our drive through the valley, what with catching up but as it turned out we grabbed the last available parking space as I pulled up behind a car whose occupants are kitting up besides, I purposely leave my engine running so I can nudge in closer once the guys are ready to leave and after hi's and hello's I pulled my car up closer which didn't really alleviate much space but at least it might later on, it was only after I had pulled closer to the car in front did I recognise where the car had been bought from, a local garage which I knew well, happen the guys were from Wigan too I'll never know because that was the last we saw of them.

One of the main things we both noticed was just how bitter it was, even here at valley level the chill was enough to start my nose running at a point when I hadn't started to lace my boots, I shivered, reckon we both did actually. We kit up accordingly making sure, should we need them extra layers are packed as too are Ice axes and spikes should we encounter ice along the Climbers Traverse or during the final pull towards the summit of Bow Fell via the Great Slab where we expected it most. With the car locked we head out over Rossett Bridge with eyes fixed firmly on The Band ahead all the while that pink afterglow we had witnessed over Lingmoor Fell had now breached the Crinkles and Bow Fell up ahead and was starting to spread onto surrounding summits.

The Langdale Pikes seen towering over the Mickleden Valley.

Rossett Pike seen at the head of the Mickleden Valley with the unmistakable summit of Pike O'Stickle seen over on the right.
The sunlight on fell side left a warming feel to the start of the walk despite walking the best part of the valley through shade the contrast of which felt like it could have been the difference of around two degrees, not much I know but enough to take the bite out of the wind.

Views over Great Landgdale from the ascent of The Band.

We passed through Stool End Farm and greeted the horses who gazed through stable doors with 'mornings' and got ney replies, sorry! Then continued steadily passing through the farm yard towards the metal gate before being blessed with views of the Crinkles which domineered over the head of Oxendale. Here we head right and start our steady and sometimes steep ascent on The Band all the while beyond the bracken covered flanks of the fell side views start to open out over the Crinkles which by now are steeped in bright morning sunlight.

We soon reached a familiar gate which offers a grand view over the Mickleden Valley towards the Langdale Pikes, we agreed to walk off path a while on the Mickleden Side of the ridge if only to take in the stillness of the morning. I first scoured the valley floor for movement, then the summit of Pike O'Stickle but spot nothing, it maybe to early and like ourselves, plenty of folk are still in their own ascents.

A scattering of hail and verglas (thin ice) might cover the path but was largely avoidable, noses still leaked but thankfully the ridge was protected and for now the biting wind would circulate the valley below us, or the ridge further into the walk, we just didn't know it yet, either way each sentence usually ended with a snurch of some sort which soon became the norm.

Crisp light over Crinkle Crags and Shelter Crags.
You may be able to spot Crinkle Gill (in shadow) and Hell Gill seen droping below the ridge in the foreground.

Can't argue with that view.

Sunrise over Pike O'Blisco.

Beyond a glimpse of Red Tarn the silhouettes of Wetherlam, Prison Band, Great Carrs and Swirl How.

Bow Fell ahead.

I could feel my pace slow down and at times Tim would lead up ahead whilst I joined in conversation from the rear, I hoped just like last week this was merely my body coping best it could with my aliment whilst adjusting to what I was putting it through, thankfully after reaching the broad shoulder of The Band the tightness of my chest eased which was great news as we headed directly for the Climbers Traverse path into a bracing wind.

It was agreed despite the lack of shelter that we would stop to take a quick fuel stop or adjust accordingly and to even add sunglasses which acted as windbreak for my eyes which worked well in stopping them from watering. Tim de-shouldered while I take another wander to the Mickleden flank of the ridge where the fell side dropped sharply into the valley where I observed two walkers far below. After tracing into a strong sun I spot a host of walkers now heading our way, one solo and three grouped together. We had chosen to rest yards away from the stone cairn which directs walkers off the path bound for Three Tarns and onto the Climbers Traverse path, it would seem they were all heading in the same direction as us.

By now Tim has re shouldered and I hastily begin the steep pull towards the start of the Climbers Traverse closely followed by Tim and no argument is made that we didn't want to be overtaken whether during ascent, or indeed, along the Climbers Traverse, soon we had created a large enough gap to ease off pace both agreeing "we'd forgotton just how steep this ascent was!" the four walkers by now were out of sight, in fact, I think three of them had stopped although I wasn't completely sure.

It may appear slightly ignorant of us to do this but pulling away the way we did was based purely on safety reasons whilst on the Traverse, passing other walkers along the narrow path would be irresponsible if not impossible, well thats my view anyway.

The Climbers Traverse.

Through a combination of sweat and blinding sunlight we reached the start of the Climbers Traverse and collected ourselves. One of two elements would greet us and seeing that we were now in the shadow of Bow Fell it had to be wind, not a wind strong enough to bowl a man or woman over but a wind that was bitterly cold, a chill that is not often felt and not easily forgotten.

Pausing to look back along the first section of the Climbers Traverse.

Conditions were perfect as I quote Tim " The ground underfoot despite being frozen gave excellent grip due to the little Islands of stone which protrude from the frozen ground"

I couldn't have said it better myself.

Bowfell Buttress from the Cimbers Traverse.

Here stopping to look back towards The Band and Lingmoor Fell from about halfway along the Traverse.
It was noted that around a two metre section of the path (seen in the centre of the photo) was in a stage of collapse along the 'outer edge' if it wasn't for the frozen conditions I suspect this section of path may well collapse soon.

Hanging Knotts seen beyond Bowfell Buttress from the Climbers Traverse.

Views over the head of the Mickleden Valley towards Rossett Pike, High Rise, Ullscarf and Sergeant's Crag while beyond the snow capped summits of Skiddaw, Blencathra and the Eastern ridge from Clough Head all the way to Nethermost Pike, St Sunday Crag and Fairfield.

Views extended as far as the eye could see and we each took time out to rattle off the summits such the air clarity but it was also extremely cold and keeping still caused the chill to set in quickly so after moments spent taking in the views we arrived at the end of the Climbers Traverse where we found a short section of the path below Cambridge Crag glazed with black ice

Although there was no need to add spikes or crampons or indeed exercise the use of an Ice Axe we carefully negotiated around the black ice by using the frozen grass or moss found along side the path where after half a dozen good footings we found ourselves at the base of the Great Slab.

....Ready? aye ready.

The Langdale Pikes and High Raise from our ascent alongside the Great Slab.

Thankfully the ice was confined to the lower section/end of the Traverse and once we started our ascent alongside the Great Slab we easily picked our way over frozen rock.

Looking down the frozen path towards the end of the Climbers Travese.

The ascent alongside the Great Slab was by far a great highlight taken from the walk mainly because of views like this and not forgetting that soon we would be feeling the warmth from a glowing sun again.

We didn't have to wait long...

Sunlight spills over the top of the Great Slab.

The contrast of ice covered rock engaged in sunlight was almost mesmerizing.


Approaching Bow Fell summit.

We had breached the summit plateau and took one last look along the length of the Great Slab joking that "you wouldn't find me on there, not even with crampons" the ice covered slab of rock glimmered in the sunlight before fading into deep shade.

A feeling of relief dawned over me, jubilance even but I never spoke of it. From the Great Slab we both made our way over the rocky summit plateau and split up once at the base of the summit choosing our own route towards the summit cairn all the while happily standing aside to let others pass in descent.

Bow Fell summit.

Within moments we found ourselves at a bustling Bow Fell summit, so busy, folk are taking turns to stand at the stone cairn which I found courteous even if I didn't get the chance it was still nice to see a common camaraderie amongst fellow walkers.

Summit time was down to around three minutes due to the amount of people arriving and leaving all at the same time, one particular chap who had just arrived laughed "dear god I thought I'd have the summit to myself today" yep, it was a busy area but everyone including myself had that 'glint' in their eyes mainly due to the exceptional views from the summit.

Views towards Pen, Scafell Pike, Mickledore, Broad Stand, Sca Fell, Cam Spout Crag and Slight Side from Bow Fell summit.

Here the Scafells can be seen over High Gait Crags and the Yeastyrigg Crag ridge (foreground) with the River Esk meandering through Great Moss below.
Despite being just under two miles away from the Scafells we couldn't see any movement over the summits, but that isn't to say the Scafells weren't as busy as Bow Fell today.

Pen, Scafell Pike Mickledore, Broad Stand and Sca Fell from Bow Fell.
Those of you with a keen eye may be able to spot Foxs Tarn Gully a little lower down from Broad Stand on Sca Fell.

A silhouetted Coniston skyline from Bow Fell.

The Scafells and Slight Side from Three Tarns.

From Bow Fell we track south and descend the summit towards Three Tarns where we once again experienced high traffic mostly all in ascent where 'mornings' are passed, only a few asked about conditions at the summit.

The sunlight shone directly overhead during descent and was rapidly thawing out any ice along the upper section of path above Three Tarns. The lower section however was still frozen more around the base of the ridge where care had to be taken, controlled slides were not uncommon.

Sca Fell, Mickledore and Scafell Pike from Three Tarns.

Bowfell Links as we track towards Shelter Crags/Crinkle Crags.


Ascent on the fourth Crinkle (Long Top) while looking back on the third Crinkle seen beyond Mickle Door gully.
From Three Tarns we track further south with heads bowed to avoid the direct sunlight opting not to summit each individual Crinkle with exceptions of course of the summit, Crinkle four (when travelling from north to south or Crinkle two when travelling south to north) it was four in todays case.

Crinkle Crags summit cairn.

We had dipped between sunlight and shade and the contrast between temperatures couldn't have been greater, thankfully the sun was still shining bright by the time we arrived at the summit cairn which for a few moments, we had to ourselves. Soon however, we are joined by the familiar faces who we had seen whilst back on Bow Fell summit but they chose not to hang around and instead started to make a direct descent via The Bad Step.

Tim and I decided to down packs and eat lunch although it was quite difficult despite a strong sun above to find a spot which sheltered us from the wind but find one we did which overlooked the Mosedale Valley. It was twelve thirty and although we had been on foot for the best part of four hours I just didn't feel hungry but I forced a few spoonfuls of rice down followed by four chunks of Dairy Milk Chocolate which I had nicked from the fridge the same morning, the chocolate I had left I would be keep until later.

I watched Tim take out a small flask from which he drank hot Vimto which reminded me of the last time I last drank hot Vimto which was probably when I was a kid, I for one will often bring along coffee or soup for such cold winter days but I never thought of hot to remember next time.

Descending Crinkle Crags via the grassy rake.
We start to pack up and soon spot a couple ascending the summit using the path on the Mosedale side of the summit, an alternative path to the Bad Step as previously mentioned. With packs shouldered we head out towards the same path; Tim opts for a direct route while I stick to the main path and we both meet up again moments later where we are joined by a fellow who we had seen back on Bow Fell summit who said he was behind us during our ascent on the Climbers Traverse but opted out fearing the ice on Great Slab, politely I noted that we didn't ascent via the Great Slab but a good path alongside its flank but his facial expression made me wonder if he knew about the path at all, nevertheless we descend in conversation towards the Bad Step and spot the same people we had heard back at the summit negotiating their way down

The Bad Step.
All members of the group made it down safely.

Views towards Great Knott and Pike O'Blisco as we head towards Red Tarn.
We are passed by more and more walkers all heading for the Crinkles one of whom was Andy Bennett who was walking with his wife when he thought he recognised me, sadly by the time he turned around we had continued further down the path, in Andy's words "moving swiftly" Thank you for your email Andy sorry we didn't get the chance to have a chat.

Crinkle Crags and Bow Fell from the frozen Tarn below Great Knott.

Great Knott, Crinkle Crags and Bow Fell seen over Browney Gill.
It was reaching early afternoon by the time we had descended to Red Tarn taking time to negotiate the ice covered path where we said goodbye to the sunlight and joined the Browney Gill path below Black Wars where we started our descent back to Oxendale which was largely in shadow but still, the views more than made up for the lack of warmth.

Bow Fell and The Band seen above Hell Gill with Dry Gill over on the right.

The Langdale Pikes, Oxendale, Oxendale Beck and Great Langdale from Brown Howe.

Crinkle Crags and Shelter Crags seen prior to crossing Oxendale Beck.

Ice continued to layer our path during much of our descent leaving us not much choice than to use the grass verge either side of the path, below a young couple also struggle with the ice and are soon overtaken, after hi's and hello's that is. Despite the ice underfoot we made good time reaching Oxendale Beck from where I spot a low sun gracing the Crinkles which left a warming feel to an otherwise chillingly cold walk.

We stride though Oxendale crossing the stone layered beck via the narrow wooden footbridge which has a latched gate either end. Stool End Farm is soon reached and through its pastures walkers head back to Old Dungeon Ghyll where Tim and I thought to stop to have a pint but to be honest I'm pleased we decided against it blaming it on our need to return home, more so Tim who had a much longer journey than me, happen it was true but I don't think I could have stomached a cold pint, reckon my leaking nose would have ruined it.


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