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Central Fells Day 2 - Borrowdale to Langdale via the Pikes

Central Fells Day 2 - Borrowdale to Langdale via the Pikes

Postby nigheandonn » Wed Apr 22, 2015 7:51 pm

Wainwrights included on this walk: Harrison Stickle, Loft Crag, Pavey Ark, Pike o'Stickle, Thunacar Knott

Hewitts included on this walk: Harrison Stickle, Pike o' Stickle

Date walked: 09/04/2015

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I’d meant to have an early start today, because it felt like I had a long way to go, but the problem with a late finish the night before is that you have to catch up somewhere - I really didn’t want to get back into the Pennine Way feeling of having always used up more energy than I got back (this was also a good excuse for pudding in the pub!) So it was after 10 before I left the hostel to head back along to Rosthwaite to buy some lunch, and then set off down the road again.

Borrowdale was definitely in the middle of things - I’d found myself sleeping at the foot of a Northwestern fell, with a Central fell on the other side of the valley, a Southern fell half a mile away at its foot, and a Western fell about a mile away round the corner after the valley splits. It makes sense, of course, that the central fells touch all the other areas, but I was still surprised by how far I'd come in the 6 miles from Keswick.

Walking down the valley towards Stonethwaite it was difficult to see where or why the divide between Central and Southern came in - Eagle Crag looked very much a part of the crags on Rosthwaite Fell.

Crags from Stonethwaite

An accurate but unhelpful sign pointing to Greenup one way and Stake Pass the other sent me the wrong way through the village before I worked out that it was the Greenup path I meant to take towards Langstrath - partly to stay on the Central Fells side of the river, but mostly because it was the Cumbria Way and I thought it had to be a good path. It was a beautiful day, and there were people swimming in the river at the corner, which seemed a bit brave for early April.

Once round the corner, it was very clear where the divide between the two sets of hills came in, as Langstrath opened out ahead.


Langstrath lives up to its name by being long, but it's lovely walking, more or less flat until it suddenly rises to the pass rather than a long slog uphill, even if the better path turned out to be on the other side after all. It's also definitely a strath in the Gaelic sense of a river valley, if a fairly narrow one, but I'm not sure how so Gaelic a word would get mixed up in the Norse and English names all around (it didn't come into Gaelic from Norse, I checked!)

River valley

The downside of the long flat valley, of course, was the steep pull up to the pass. The path turned off at another corner, where the main river swung round Glaramara, and the outside of the valley got less smooth, mixed up in lumps of morraines.

Stake Pass

The first part of the climb stayed fairly close to the burn, which was coming down fast and white, then left it for a very zigzaggy bit, which did make the climb much easier, but must have more or less doubled the distance from the bottom to top of the slope!


From there it seemed still a long way to the top of the pass, as the slope eased off, but I made it to the cairn eventually, and sat down to eat my lunch. With the late start it was now about 2.30, and I was ready for it.

Stake Pass summit

It felt like I was only now starting on the real business of the day, although to be honest I’d have been quite content to go on with a valley walk and leave the summits to look after themselves.The pass was a fairly busy place, but I didn't see anyone else turning off for Martcrag Moor.

The path was smaller than the main one but still quite obvious at first, although I found I had to keep a careful eye on it, because at times it would seem to come to an end and then prove to have only gone off at right angles leaving me behind in a bog. Following Wainwright’s map I headed for some small tarns, and then found myself in a horribly squelchy bit of bog - coming out of it I suddenly discovered a good dry path way over to my left, which I am sure wasn’t there before - it does show on the map as going halfway across the moor then stopping, for what reason I do not know.

Wainwright described the summit of Pike o’ Stickle as a thimble of rock, and it seemed to be playing a giant game of hunt the thimble with me - first visible from before the pass, then hiding, then standing out so boldly that it seemed it couldn’t possibly vanish again, only to hide behind its own slopes as I headed for the summit.

Martcrag Moor and Pike o Stickle

The summit was harder to get to than I expected, although it didn’t help that it was quite windy, or that I tried to follow a man with long legs who shot up a slot in the rock that I just didn’t have the reach for, and had to wriggle back down again and take a more open but easier route around it. Once up the rewards were pretty good, although even the fells across the valley were vanishing more and more into the haze.

Pike o Stickle summit (other pikes are available)

From above the layout of the pikes looked quite clear, but once down among them everything looked like a pike, and I got quite confused trying to find my way onto Loft Crag, almost overshooting it by being on the wrong bit of path. It was an easier summit but nicely set between the two main pikes.

Looking back to the first pike

Loft Crag summit

I’d had an idea of doing the detour to Thunacar Knott first then sticking to the edge round to Pavey Ark, but with the clearest path on the ground apparently not being the same as the the clearest on the map I got tangled up again and found myself heading up Harrison Stickle more directly than I’d expected before I had time to dodge to the left.

Climbing through rocks to Harrison Stickle

Harrison Stickle should have been a wonderful summit, perched up in the middle of everything, but although it was nice enough as a high seat (if you could get out of the wind), there was very little of the promised view on display. I was especially disappointed about Ingleborough, as I do like Pennine views.

Harrison Stickle summit

Heading for Thunacar Knott I found myself disagreeing with Wainwright once again - it may not be exciting, but after all the round about and up and down it was very nice to come into an open golden place where I could just walk.

Thunacar Knott plateau

Thunacar Knott had two competing summits on either side of a tiny tarn, and an improving view to the west, where the hills could stand out as shadows through the haze.

Thunacar Knott first summit

The view west

Thunacar Knott second summit

Bits and pieces of path led towards Pavey Ark, over a small bridge apparently made of dismantled ladder stiles, and I climbed up to a very nice summit, only to find that I still had to go further on and over a boggy pool to get to the real one.

Pavey Ark summit

Getting from the summit to the North Rake proved unexpectedly complicated again - I managed to avoid bog, but got scraped on rough rock and ended up slithering down various bits I probably wasn't supposed to have been at the top of.

Once found the North Rake turned out to have a great patch of dirty snow filling the top of it - I suppose I should have expected it, but there had been so little lying that I hadn't thought about it. There was more or less a way round on grass, but it was wet muddy grass (and Pavey Ark will be forever marked in the Central Fells book by a muddy splodge). Even below that the rake was a great disappointment to me, the kind of steep loose mess of rocks and stones that I hate most - even 60 years ago I can't imagine it being a grassy trudge.

Old snow in the North Rake

Finally down by the beck the path improved, and I got my first views of the main crag face and Jack's Rake. I'd been running far too late to think about dropping down round Harrison Stickle and trying it, but even if I hadn't been I don't know that I would have dared - I just felt so small in comparison, and even the slope up to it looked hopelessly steep.

Pavey Ark rock face

From there I had the choose of two paths down by Stickle Ghyll, and possibly chose the wrong one - I could see the other path dropping down as stone stairs while mine was a rough rock and earth path much higher up, but on the other hand I don't like stairs very much.

Descending with Lingmoor Fell ahead

Eventually the path came back down to the water in a rush of zigzags and joined a bigger path which had apparently led down from nowhere, and went on to a bridge where I crossed to the other side for a change and eventually found myself at the bottom in a car park.

It was now about 8pm and I realised that if I didn't stop for dinner in Langdale I wasn't getting any anywhere, so the walk along to Chapel Stile and up the back roads to High Close was done into the dark - despite that I felt that I had a lot more walking left in my legs than the night before, which was a relief. This was more or less familiar territory again, and once again a real change from the beginning of the day.

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Re: Central Fells Day 2 - Borrowdale to Langdale via the Pik

Postby johnkaysleftleg » Wed Apr 22, 2015 9:13 pm

Looks a fine day. I've never walked up Langstrath looks a nice valley
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Location: County Durham

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