The Mickleden Fells
by ciderpeter » Sat Apr 21, 2012 8:17 am
Wainwrights included on this walk: Bowfell, Esk Pike, Harrison Stickle, Loft Crag, Pike o'Stickle, Rosset Pike
Hewitts included on this walk: Bowfell, Esk Pike, Harrison Stickle, Pike o' Stickle, Rossett Pike
Date walked: 14/04/2012
Time taken: 6.9
Distance: 22.1 km
Ascent: 1500m4 people think this report is great. Register or Login free to be able to rate and comment on reports (as well as access 1:25000 mapping).
There are probably a number of reasons why it has taken a week to write up this report – I am going to say the main one is down to the hideous flu that has been festering within me since Sunday, rendering me virtually incapacitated...
The forecast was always looking good for Saturday although there was a risk of snow later in the day. With Gemma hosting friends it meant I was able to plan big and long, knowing that they would go off and do girly stuff in the lakes somewhere. But as the weekend approached a began to feel slightly iffy, finishing the week with a fairly sore throat and pretty snotty. Being a man though and not wanting to let this stop me, I decided that the best option was to choose a route which I could cut short if I wasn’t feeling great so chose Langdale as a good base, but the opposite side of the valley to that which I did a few weeks ago.
Our guests arrived on Friday night which meant we were back in the master bedroom – one of the joys of living in our rented house is that our master bedroom contains a waterbed which we can’t get rid of, which with a cat ready to pounce with razor claws makes for a pretty uncomfortable night! So I had no problem getting up and ready at 6am, meaning a pretty quiet drive to Langdale! The skies were pretty clear although I was a little concerned at the big snow clouds that seemed to be looming over the Lake District. The first conundrum for the day was where to park, Old or New Dungeon Ghyll, bearing in mind I planned on climbing to Stickle Tarn initially. I opted for Old Dungeon Ghyll based on the fact that I fancied a walk in at the start rather than at the end – depending on where I finished.
Despite the drive in being quiet, I was probably still the 5th car parked in the car park and plenty of dogs with owners were lingering which gave Toddy a chance to make a few friends whilst I got dressed and had a brew. And then we were off...
Straight away I knew that I wasn’t at full strength with breathing fairly difficult even on the fairly flat walk across to New Dungeon Ghyll. By the time we got to the climb up Stickle Gill the sweat was properly rolling off me and despite a bitter wind I was down to a t-shirt already – looking good. Here we are at the start of the day looking across to Stickle Gill carving through the fellside.
The climb to Stickle Tarn went relatively quickly, considering I have only bad memories of it when descending back to the car! It is quite a scrambley climb in places which I think helps it go quicker, Todd loved the bounding over rocks and I think he enjoyed starting a walk without his coat on, although there was a bitter wind blowing behind us, which I fancied might be a bit nippy on the tops.
We had our first stop of the day at Stickle Tarn on one of the ‘beaches’. Here we are looking across to Pavey Ark – we wouldn’t be going up this today, but cutting up to the left towards Harrison Stickle. You can make out Jacks Rake going right to left diagonally, whilst Easy Gully is to the right.
Climbing up towards Harrison Stickle we passed our first fellow walker of the day who informed me it was a “bit parchy” on the top. Great! From higher up we got a good view to Easy Gully again. I have never done this climb up to the Langdales, but it is a much gentler and easier climb than that down the side of Pavey Ark so the knees and the chest were grateful for that!
And before you know it, you are on the top of Harrison Stickle and I will be honest, it wasn’t that cold!! Despite the big snow clouds, the tops of Bowfell and Esk Pike were still clear, although they did have a lovely fresh coating of snow! You can see one of our next targets for the day just over Todd’s shoulder (who I might add is looking very guilty?!) – Pike of Stickle, or as I now call it after our recent trip to Scotland, the Pap of Langdale!
Looking along the valley to Windermere the clouds really are looming, but the sun is bursting through. The clouds suggested that the snow might come a bit sooner than the weatherman predicted... And that is our cue to continue the walk.
Descending from Harrison Stickle, we were walking towards blue sky again, with the next two targets in sight, the Pap, but first Loft Crag. A fairly unimpressive lump when compared to the rest of the Langdales, but a relatively easy lump to bag, so it would be rude not to right! And look how close it was!!
I walked to the low point of the col between the Pap and Loft Crag and then forked left initially to Loft Crag, which is a relatively simple walk with a couple of rough bits.
A quick stop on the summit of Loft Crag to take in the views – all the big boys still below the clouds which is good! Followed by an about turn to see our next fell bathed in sunshine!
The only way to the summit of Pike Of Stickle is a short scramble, fairly easy but a bit different to a lot of fells in the Lake District. I at this point was fairly out of breath and the push to the summit was difficult, but Todd took it in his stride and as usual led me up a route significantly more difficult than it needed to be, he glides across the rocks, whilst I am left fumbling for holds!
The true summit was sheltered from the wind, so this seemed as good a place as any for the first coffee/jumbone break of the morning and it certainly looked like Todd was enjoying it?!
Whilst feeling pretty rough, I decided I was well enough to push on towards Stakes Pass – where I could end the walk if I wanted to. So back down the Pip we climbed, with Todd taking the scrambley bits in his stride again.
And so we followed the not yellow, but grey brick road to Stakes Pass. I ended up running half of this bit as it was so cold! I don’t think I have been so cold on the hills for a long time. I am not sure if that was the weather, how I was feeling, or a combination of both.
With this bit of walking being relatively easy I decided to continue to Rossett Pike. Reaching the head of the valley though, it was clear the weather wasn’t going to go all our way today – arrgh snow, coming our way! Followed by a quick shot looking down Mickleden to Langdale before the bad weather does arrive.
By the time we got to Rossett Pike it was hideous. Todd was trying to hide from the weather behind the rocks, whilst I was trying to take a picture before the lens got covered in snow! Stunning picture huh?!
Luckily as quickly as the weather came, it blew over, so a quick descent to the top of Rossett Gill was in order, before the short walk to Angle Tarn for a spot of lunch. Picking up the main path suddenly saw the route get a bit busier, which Todd loved as it was plenty of people for him to meet, I loved slightly less as it was plenty of people for me to stop Todd running and meeting!!
Feeling refreshed from a lunch stop the walk continued up the steep but short path to Esk Hause, where there are a variety of route choices back into Langdale. The climb made easier by the regular conversation with new people – mainly about the weather and how anyone could be a weatherman as you literally just have to stick a finger in the air to get as accurate a forecast as the current weathermen!
At Esk Hause the big boys such as the Scafells and Gable were still clear, but I decided to head for Esk Pike and Bowfell as this seemed a decent length back into Langdale.
Beginning the climb however it was evident there was another bout of the white stuff on the way towards us and sure enough by the time we summitted it was truly foul – heavy snow/sleet and strong winds of about 30mph.
As you looked towards Bowfell the weather was swirling around and it didn’t look a particularly nice walk. Eeek. Oh well, on we go Todd?!
Leaving the summit I took a weather reading... hmmm... now where is that dog?
Oh here he is cowering behind a rock...
Cue a few minutes having a cuddle on Esk Pike, waiting for the weather to pass, and sure enough as before it did! As we left the summit the weather had passed right across and the next unfortunate souls would be those on Harter Fell along the valley!
Despite the clouds coming down whilst we were on the highest fells for the day, I was hopeful that in the 20 minute walk to Bowfell, they would lift again when we reached the summit. And sure enough, they did! The snow offering lovely support to a shot across to Mickledore. Todd was bouncing again – worryingly for me from cornice to cornice (!!), lots of snow for him to faff around in and for me to throw for him!
He was even happier when we reached the summit and young family fell in love with him! I was happy that the climbing for the day was done, although at this point I wasn’t really noticing my throat hurting, so I assumed I was fine to carry on! He has a habit of putting a smile on people’s faces when they are looking completely wrecked from a climb/walk! It makes me chuckle when he walks on ahead of me and walks at someone elses heel to keep them company, providing he can see me in the distance! It is almost as if they know when people need company!
As Todd cuddled and moved between the laps of his new found friends I got a couple of shots from Bowfell summit – this slightly bizarrely composed shot is a result of trying to avoid getting other people in the picture!
A shot across to the Langdales where the day started made me spot the Slab of Bowfell and then got me wondering about the Climber’s Traverse. Having included this on a previous walk, I knew it would be both quieter than the tourist route and much more fun!
Being busy I didn’t hang around and Leaving the summit of Bowfell I caught a glimpse of the gorgeous blue skies again, which had graced us with their presence for our spell up there! Now we would begin our descent!
At the top of the Great Slab you cut off the tourist path to the left down the side of the slab. It was at this point that I got some incredibly unusual looks from the hoards climbing Bowfell as I veered off the path. You could here people questioning where I was heading – I think he must be lost etc!! If only they knew! I am sure that for every 100 people that climb Bowfell via the tourist route, there must be 1 that climbs via the Climbers Traverse – people are missing out!
Whilst there was quite a bit of snow down the side of the slab, it was mostly avoidable so no need for winter gear on it, although some snow had to be crossed, which made the steep climb fairly slippery and lethal in a couple of places! Definitely a route that is easier in ascent than descent in my opinion. As usual Todd loved it and easily got to the bottom of the slab, I caught him up eventually!! We passed just two other people on the Traverse, a stark contrast to the busy summit we had just left!
As we got to the bottom of the Traverse I started to hear noises and I spotted a few climbers on the Bowfell Buttress. This is where the Climbers Traverse gets its name, it is the route that Climbers Traverse to get to the Buttress. Can you see them?? They must be mad! Gulp.
We walk back along the Traverse now, towards Langdale... It is a very easy route really, although quite big drops to one side so possibly not the best route if you get vertigo! And there are a couple of bad steps which I didn’t notice going the other way, which I am not sure I would fancy when wet!
Before cutting down the side of the Band to join the tourist route again – see where the people are walking. However, I decided that rather than go this route, I would take a slightly different approach and get away from the crowds again, essentially following the river in the middle of this picture, to Hell Gill.
Here is Toddo eyeing up the route ahead from the tourist path – “That looks boggy dad!”.
And it was... boggy as hell! Although after about 10 minutes walking you do pick up a half decent path, which descends to the top section of Hell Gill. It is when you go over the edge in this picture the path becomes much more slippery and scrambley and I did actually fall over at one point and bash my leg and hand. Ouch, “Stupid Hell Gill”, or word’s to that effect but a tad stronger.
Hell Gill itself is beautiful though, a big gouge through the fellside, with water running down it, a much more interesting route than that straight down the band – well worth the bogginess and falling over for!
Once you are out of Hell Gill you descend back towards Langdale and walk along the bottom of The Band for a little while to the farm at the head of the valley.
From the farm I got one last shot, a panorama taking in virtually the whole days walking before returning to the car. With the sun beating down and the valley carrying very little wind, you could forgive the people in the car park looking at me with dodgy looks as I strolled in with my coat and hat on!
A fine walk in mixed but fairly fine conditions! The route was a fantastic combination of fellside stuff (Stakes Pass) and basic scrambley stuff (Langdales and Climbers) making for an interesting and varied day, whilst as usual the company from Todd was great. Although it was a long day again, we had taken in plenty of summits and covered a lot of ground! What had started out in the Langdales had virtually turned into a horseshoe around Mickleden. The choice of route meant we had plenty of quiet spots – people typically do either the Langdales or Bowfell, so linking them together meant we didn’t see many people in between. I think I will probably try and do this with more walks in future as it is great to see and realise how close the fells all are and how they can be combined. Similarly it is a great way to explore new places between the fells that you wouldn’t otherwise see!
I had survived the day, but it was only back at the car I realised that all was not well and my throat felt like I had been sucking on barbed wire, whilst my head was pounding and not just my usual dehydration headache. Maybe it wasn’t such a good idea to try and sweat out the illness!? By Saturday night I was in a fair bit of pain and by Sunday I could barely get out of bed! The same on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday... oh well, I only had to work, its not like it was stopping me walking was it!
Would I do it again if I felt like that? Of course!
by skuk007 » Sat Apr 21, 2012 1:17 pm
Looks like a nice route taking in some great tops, like the photos too especially the slow water ones..
by ChrisW » Sat Apr 21, 2012 6:44 pm
by garyhortop » Sun Apr 22, 2012 5:39 pm
by SusieThePensioner » Mon Apr 23, 2012 8:14 am
Loved reading the report, you're always very entertaining, and some fantastic photos
by johnkaysleftleg » Mon Apr 23, 2012 9:38 am
by simon-b » Mon Apr 23, 2012 12:38 pm
That makes two of us crossing from the Central Fells to the Southern at Stake Pass on the same weekend, as you'll know if you've seen my Langstrath report. Our routes combined make something of a figure of 8.
I like your approach when it comes to trying routes that are a bit different to the regular ones.