Bowfell via The Climbers Traverse

1st January 2019

It's fair to say that I've been focused on walking the Birketts lately and because of that those fells that I might visit once or twice a year have been put aside, just one of those fells is Bowfell. It's incredible to think that it's almost two years to the day since I last climbed Bowfell and that's why I've chosen Bowfell as the first walk of 2019

Bowfell and New Years kinda coincide for me and not just because its been a couple of years since I was last here but climbing Bowfell on New Years Day just like two years ago seemed the right thing to do, now admittedly the Lakeland fells are missing that one thing associated with December and that is of course snow and my answer to that is its just one great excuse to return when Winter decides to arrive.

Todays walk collects two summits the main one being Bowfell but my intension is to visit Bowfell Buttress first after gaining Bowfell via the Climbers Traverse, a route first forged by the rock climbers of Bowfell Buttress and Cambridge Crag, both of which should be in fine view from the Traverse if the forecast is anything to go by.

Wainwright Guide Book Four
The Southern Fells
The best way off the traverse to the summit lies up the fringe of a river of boulders along the south side of Cambridge Crag.

Ascent: 2,845 Feet - 868 Metres
Wainwrights: Bowfell
Visiting: Bowfell Buttress - The Band
Weather: Highs of 9°C Lows of 8°C Feels Like -1°C
Parking: Roadside Parking, Rossett Bridge, Great Langdale
Area: Southern
Miles: 7.5
Walking With: On My Own
Ordnance Survey: OL6
Time Taken: 5 Hours 15 Minutes
Route: Old Dungeon Ghyll – Stool End Farm – The Band – Bowfell Climbers Traverse – Great Slab – Bowfell Buttress - Bowfell – Three Tarns – The Band – Stool End Farm – Old Dundeon Ghyll

Parking Details and Map
Nearest Post Code: LA2 29JX
Grid Reference: NY 291 606
Notes: A popular place to park your car is Rossett Bridge, Great Langdale found between New Dungeon Ghyll and Old Dungeon Ghyll on the left hand side here you will find roadside parking for up to six cars. My advice is to arrive early due to the popularity of the area. Parking is free.


Map and Photo Gallery


Crinkle Crags, The Band and Bowfell from Stool End, Great Langdale 08:35am 08°C

I couldn't quite make my mind up if the fells would be busy on New Years Day or would half the nation still be sleeping off last nights hangover, my question was soon answered as I drove through Great Langdale behind a queue of half a dozen cars whilst waiting for sunrise, this was incredible but in the same breath not surprising. I hadn't given the parking spaces at Rossett Bridge much thought until I got stuck behind a queue as I drove through Great Langdale where it started to creep up on me that I may not be able to get a space all of which was revealed once I arrived grabbing one of two spaces left, phew. You might well ask why not park at Old Dungeon Ghyll and my answer would be I'm really fond of the half mile leg stretcher between Rossett Bridge and Stool End farm.

There's a breeze in the air but the shade is making the valley feel cooler than it actually is forcing me to kit up wearing my jacket and beanie, gloves are added as are my gaiters which are starting to show the wears and tears of the last two Winters but I'll wear them until the last thread as they were a gift from a fellow fell walker and friend. With my car locked I head out towards Old Dungeon Ghyll passing fields of grazing sheep and remarkably a rather full looking Great Langdale campsite. Old Dungeon Ghyll Hotel is bustling with not many spaces left on the car park although I couldn't see that many people milling about which I put down to them staying over at the Hotel to celebrate New Year.

The view into Mickleden with Rossett Pike at the head of the valley with Pike O'Stickle and Loft Crag over on the right.
With Old Dungeon Ghyll behind me I head towards Stool End Farm whilst gazing up at the Crinkles all the while the breeze is getting stronger causing my eyes to water followed by the traditional snurching of the nose.

Passing through Stool End Farm.
I remember when the old tractor on the left used to take pride of place where its replacement is now parked. True story.

Views over Oxendale Beck towards Rake Rigg and Side Pike and Lingmoor Fell.
I think it's about to get a whole lot brighter.

Within minutes the sunrise breaches the flanks of Pike O'Blisco.
And all of a sudden the valley is flooded in bright sunshine.

Pike O'Stickle, Loft Crag and Harrison Stickle from my ascent on The Band.
Watching and waiting for the sunrise to breach the lower flanks of Pike O'Blisco was one of those fell walking inspirational moments you only tend to experience at this time of year, blink and you will miss it, realise it's just about to happen and it's a memory that stays with you forever, bloody brilliant.

Crinkle Crags from The Band.

Without mentioning it during my last two walks I have experienced pain in my right knee which resulted in some slight swelling down both sides, the pain was most apparent during the descent of Birk Side during our Helvellyn walk on Christmas Eve when at one point I stopped suddenly and yelped, as quickly as the pain appeared it vanished but the swelling remained. This caused a little low confidence in my right knee at the start of the walk which I try to put behind me during the ascent of The Band. My knee seems to be ok and responding to the ice packs and ibuprofen but there's always that niggling worry in the back of your head which reflects on where you place your next step, this is of course a 'confidence thing' and the only way to rebuild that is to keep walking and less worrying.

Crinkle Crags, Gunson Knott and Shelter Crags from The Band.
By the time I had reached the shoulder of The Band my knee felt strong and confidence was re-gained with each step, soon I had caught up with a couple who at first had a distance on me but had stopped to take in the views and instead of exchanging 'mornings' we greet with "all best" as I pass, it wasn't to be the last time I'd see the couple but more on that later.

The view over Crinkle Gill towards Gladstone Knott, Great Cove and Crinkle Crags.
What a spectacular morning it's turning out to be.

Sunlight breaches the summit of Pike O'Blisco with light extending into the Oxendale Valley below.
That's Cold Pike over on the right with the Coniston fells in the distance.

Three Tarns Col, Bowfell and Hanging Knotts come into view as I flank the summit of The Band to my right.
Instead of keeping left for Three Tarns col today as mentioned I plan to gain Bowfell via the Climbers Traverse which can be gained by the path you see wandering off to the right up ahead, with a good percentage of the hard work behind me I can ease of the gas for a few minutes and enjoy the spectacular views.

Bowfell and Hanging Knotts seen over Earing Crag.
The large stone cairn ahead of the rock pavement indicates it's time to leave the path and start the ascent on the Climbers Traverse.

Looking back on The Band, The Langdale Pikes, Side Pike and Lingmoor Fell.
Having left the path I started the ascent towards the start of the Climbers Traverse. I'd been sheltered by the wind which by now had gained in strength and with that came a cool windchill which was welcome during the stee ascent. From time to time I stop to check on the path below and spot the couple who had wished me a Happy New Year who had been over taken by a solo walker and a trio of lads who checked their position at the cairn below.

Taking in the view over the head of Mickleden towards Rossett Pike, Glaramara, the Langstrath Valley, Eagle Crag and Sergeants Crag.
I hydrate at the start of the Traverse whilst taking in the view over Rossett Pike where I spot two walkers making their ascent through the grooved path not far from the top of the Rossett Pike Col and I wondered of their routes. The traverse lies deep within the shadow of Flat Crags and Cambridge Crag, rock so colossal, they still intimidate me after all these years.

I look back along the start of the Climbers Traverse.

Cambridge Crag seen beyond the Bowfell's Great Slab.
The Climbers Traverse continues towards the base of Cambridge Crag seen lower right.

Clear views of Bowfell Buttress now straight ahead.
Bowfell Buttress is actually split into two close to its summit where it is divided by a narrow steep gully. I think I may be right in saying that although the main summit (seen far left) can be gained with care the subsidiary summit is reserved for climbers only.

‘Nothing better ever came out of a barrel or bottle’ Alfred Wainwright.
The waterspout seen gushing out of Cambridge Crag; a bit too nippy today for a mouthfull...

The Great Slab.
The Climbers Traverse ends abruptly at the waterspout and there is option to continue over rough scree for an ascent via the steep scree gully found between Bowfell Buttress and Cambridge Crag but the route appears loose and therefore is seldom used. From the end of the Traverse I turn left and ascend alongside The Great Slab which comes into view with the more height gained, the rock slab itself is extremely slippery as are the mosses that grow between the rock, my advice is to avoid at all costs especially during the Winter months.

Passing a murky Bowfell summit.
My intention had always been to summit Bowfell after visiting Bowfell Buttress so I continue through the murk and take the short detour towards the Buttress.

Bowfell Buttress.

I flank right after passing Bowfell summit then start the slight descent towards Bowfell Buttress where extreme care must be taken should the cloud be down. The summit cloud drifts in and out but thankfully it isn't giving me too much navigation issues, however in zero visibility I would have avoided the Buttress altogether.

In this photograph you can see the summit over on the left with the steep scree gully dividing it from its subsidiary summit to the right. I guess you can say that what Pillar Rock is to Pillar Bowfell Buttress is to Bowfell complete with its very own Pisgah.

The view from Bowfell Buttress towards the Great Slab (L) and Cambridge Crag (R)
The steep scree path which I ascended alongside earlier can be seen to the right of the Great Slab.

Looking down on Bowfell Buttress subsidiary summit.
It seems the cloud is starting to break...

Cloud begins to peel away revealing Pike de Bield and the Scafells.
No sooner had I looked back did I notice how much cloud was begining to lift, not just above Bowfell but over the Scafells and Great Moss revealing blue skies in its wake.

The Great Slab, Cambridge Crag and Bowfell.
Despite emotions running away with me it was this scene, as the cloud silently drifted by revealing the Climbers Travese far below then nothing at all which tugged at my heartstrings, I simply couldn't peel my eyes, nor my feet away from the spot.

The view over Ore Gap towards Esk Pike from Bowfell Buttress.
I drop down from the summit of Bowfell Buttress taking care over the slippery rock whilst feeling like a big kid before wandering over to the edge of the ridge which overlooks Pike de Bield, Great Moss and the Scafells.

Scafell Pike, Mickledore, Broad Stand, Sca Fell and Cam Spout Crag seen over Pike de Bield.
Now that the cloud has lifted maybe its a good time to track back and summit Bowfell.

Bowfell summit.
I retrace my steps whilst the remnants of the last of the cloud continues to pass overhead revealing direct sunlight for the last few feet of the ascent, I didn't know what to expect once the summit was reached...

More jaw dropping views from the summit of Bowfell.
Here looking south over Three Tarns towards Crinkle Crags, Cold Pike and the Coniston Fells.

The dramatics were certainly off the scale this morning.

watching and waiting...

And waiting somemore.

I caught up with the couple on the summit who had wished me Happy New Year along The Band earlier and we all watched the cloud drift then finally lift revealing the pointed peaks and craggy outcrops emerging from the cloud in front of our eyes. With just the cloud wisping away I turned around to see what was happening over towards the Scafells but I got this view instead...

In all my time as a fell walker walking the Lakeland fells I have only ever seen three Broken Spectres, two of those, including this one have been within the last eight days!

Passing the Great Slab before making my descent towards Three Tarns.

Despite not really wanting to I had to make a move as the windchill started to set in along with more walkers who were heading towards the summit from the directions of Three Tarns and Ore Gap.

Low sun over Crinkle Crags and Three Tarns.
I figured I'd earned myself an early lunch so I chose the craggy outcrop just above the Tarn in the foreground to have a refuel.

Lunch with a view.
It's not very often you can sit eating your lunch with a clear view of the Scafells for company.

The Scafells and Slight Side from Three Tarns.
After a quick bite I lowered myself down from the outcrop and wondered over to one of the Tarns to get this view of the Scafells, its a grand view but...

Slight Side, the Scafells and Broad Crag from Three Tarns.
...its this Tarn which is my favourite.

Descending from Three Tarns with views of the Langdale Pikes, The Band and Lingmoor Fell.

Taking one last look at Bowfell before I lose the view.
While observing two walkers during their ascent of Hell Gill/Crinkle Crags I started my descent along The Band, by now I had already passed four walkers in ascent and I wondered of their route given it was almost 12.30pm and I hoped it wouldn't extend further than Three Tarns owing to the amount of daylight hours left. but thats just me being over cautious. On reaching the shoulder of The Band I look back at Bowfell but I was too late, her mass was now hidden behind the curve of The Band's summit.

Bowfell and Rossett Pike from Stool End.

It was now midday and during my descent of The Band the temperature continued to rise forcing me to ditch my gloves and beanie and start zipping down anything that can be zipped down, blimey how can it feel so mild at the beginning of January. Streaks of light still penetrated Oxendale and from the lower flanks of The Band I can see walkers huddled in the sheep pen who have most probably stopped to eat lunch. Stool End Farm is reached were I kick back my feet into the back of boots ready for the half mile walk back to Rossett Bridge.

In a adjacent field I stop to watch a enthusiastic sheepdog herd a flock a sheep while the farmer tends to a nearby barn. There's the a few campers milling about between the campsite and Old Dungeon Ghyll most of whom are walking hand in hand or walking dogs. It shouldn't but it feels Spring like. Beyond Old Dungeon Ghyll Hotel I spot two climbers scaling Gimmer Crag while a Winter sun beats down on the steep sided crags of Great Langdale not quite reaching the valley floor which is by now, largely in shade.


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