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100 up in the Langdales

100 up in the Langdales

Postby The English Alpinist » Wed Jan 20, 2016 12:21 am

Wainwrights included on this walk: Blea Rigg, Harrison Stickle, High Raise (Central Fells), Loft Crag, Pavey Ark, Pike o'Stickle, Sergeant Man, Tarn Crag (Central Fells), Thunacar Knott

Hewitts included on this walk: Harrison Stickle, High Raise (Central Fells), Pike o' Stickle

Date walked: 10/01/2016

Time taken: 6.5

Distance: 15 km

Ascent: 1267m

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No, not 100 people up there today! There were a fair few, though, which surprised me. Following on the very day after my 'Grey around Grasmere' day, I undertook this considerably bigger walk with a dodgy forecast looming over it. I wouldn't have, if it were not for the fact I had company, for the first time in my all-the-Wainwrights-in-one-wInter campaign. It was a timely boost to my morale, as I come my closest to jacking this lark in. It was in the shape of Al, an ultra-distance fell runner, that hyper-fit breed spearheaded so spectacularly by Steve Birkinshaw who in 2014 set a new time record for all the Wainwrights (6 days 13 hours), beating Joss Naylor's long-standing effort. Even with our paired resolve, we nearly didn't go, but decided to chance it. The 100, by the way, refers to the number of W's I notched up with this day. That in itself should be a great inspiration, but isn't. Sick of this winter.

The Langdale Pikes.

En route up to Stickle Tarn. Al admires the waterfall.

The highlight of the walk was to be Jack's Rake, the famous (or infamous) route up to Pavey Ark. I'd never heard of it, mind, until recently when a Facebook friend posted about it. When I did hear of it, I thought 'I must do that'. Thus, it got incorporated into my Langdales day, just to make it a bit more interesting like. It's a semi-climb, and people have been injured or killed on it. It looked okay from a distance, though, and we were both definitely fit and experienced enough. What's more, the rain had dissipated by the time we reached Stickle Tarn on the path up by the very fulsome-looking waterfall. There was a touch of snow on the Rake, but visibility was good albeit nothing blue whatsoever about the sky. We spotted one guy high up the route, and wondered why he was stopping a lot. We understood later.

f2 pavey.jpg
Pavey Ark, with Jack's Rake clearly visible cutting diagonally up.

f3 Jack's.jpg
AW covers Jack's Rake in great detail. He knew his stuff!

f4 Jack ascent.jpg
The Jack's Rake experience. Other people captured on zoom, not us.

Well, it indeed quickly became 'interesting'. The rocks were wet with meltwater, and much of the gully in the early stages had its very own little waterfall and ice-cool 'sprinkler' system. Al soon realised he needed to put better gloves on. He also soon remembered he is 'not a fan of exposure' as he put it. This refers to the exposure of sudden death-drops, not the hypothermia type (but I assume he's not keen on that either). At one point he bade me stand below him when he became kind of wedged in a narrow gap with dubious footholds. I'm not sure how effective I'd have been if he fell, but he didn't. According to AW much of the route is protected by rocks to your left (where the death-fall lay). I think we must have lost the route higher up, and had to make some very careful choices indeed with brief moments spent far too close to the edge. By half way, you're pretty much committed to finishing it, descent being an even trickier option especially in wet. Levity aside, Jack's Rake is not to be taken lightly - by anybody - even in summer. :-|

f6 Alan climbs.JPG
Al enjoys the climb.

f5 higher.jpg
Higher up Jack's Rake.

f7 snowledge.JPG
A bit of snow made it even more inviting (aghem).

f8 near top.jpg
Near the top of Jack's Rake.

f9 Pavey summit.jpg
On the summit of Pavey Ark, the terrors of The Rake over.

I stood atop Pavey Ark with the satisfaction of a man who'd ticked off one of those '100 Lake DIstrict experiences you must do at least once.' Al indeed said he had now done it his once. From now on the day would be straight-forward fell walking, albeit of the wintery type. We had taken a shocking 2 hours, though, which in Al's experience often constitutes a complete fell run over many fells and at least 15 miles. There would be time-penalties for our Jack's Rake achievement. Well, it was onward to the (comparatively) safe remainder of the Langdale Pike family: Harrison, Loft and Stickle. Sounds comedic, but they're not. Certainly not in winter.

Onward now to the Pikes.

f10 back Pavey.JPG
Looking back to Pavey from Harrison Stickle.

f12 100 up!.jpg
A milestone reached on Loft Crag.

f13 Al.JPG
Al looking relaxed on Loft Crag.

People were much sparser at this level, but we still sighted several. The biggest plus was that the weather was holding, lo and behold actually better than forecasted. The 'cloudy' element of it was all above the summits, except for the Bowfell range across the valley. The almost deal-breaker 65 kph wind we feared really only hit us on the odd exposed spot on the Pikes themselves, but was generally bearable. I got blown over on the top of one of them, I can't remember which, but it was no big deal. A bruised elbow, for the sake of protecting the camera I was faffing about with. I got my epoch-making shots of the 100-up on Loft Crag. Originally I intended this to be Pavey Ark (a bigger climax for obvious reasons), but this did not materialize because I'd bombed out of some of the fells planned the previous day.

f15 gap.JPG
En route to Pike of Stickle.

f16 last pike.JPG
On Pike of Stickle, looking back.

It was now onward into the heart of the range, the highest point of the day being High Raise. Al was forging ahead a lot from now on, past the nondescript winter wasteland of Thunacar Knott and up to High Raise itself. I may hold the edge on 'precipice nerve' but Al certainly surpasses me in pure fitness. He positively ploughed a furrow through the upper snows, whilst I trudged and stumbled headlong in the odd thigh-deep pit. The views up there had an austere magnificence, enjoyable if not for the worry that the greyness could descend at any moment bringing with it face-scraping squalls. So far not, though, and our next challenge was merely to find the lower Tarn Crag and Blea Rigg summits from Sergeant Man. We found it confusing terrain to look at, and heaven only knows how difficult it might have been in cloud. Aside from the threat of inhuman weather, we had two good reasons for getting a move on down from Sergeant Man: we might run out of daylight, and Al's feet were getting cold in his admirably light footwear.

f17 tundra.jpg
From Thunacar Knott to High Raise.

f18 High Raise.jpg
High Raise summit, high point of the day, 2499 feet.

f20 Al waits.JPG
Al wants to get down from Sergeant Man.

f20a to Tarn Crag.jpg
To Tarn Crag next, somewhere over at 3 o'clock.

My map and compass, together with Al's memories of running the general territory combined to enable us to find the way to Tarn Crag summit. The route seems to exist grudgingly: no paths to speak of and a landscape that couldn't decide whether it was crag, grass or water. I swore quite a lot, feeling my expensive Scarpa boots deserved better than plunging through filth. We were out of the snowline, but also would be out of daylight very soon. It was 4.30 pm by the time we started the climb to Blea Rigg, not as high as we'd been but still 'rather high' for a benightment. I knew from recent walks it was total lights out by 5 pm. With the added threat of hail which seemed about to settle in (we got a brief facial-lashing), we agreed we needed to 'sack this off' (Al's words) if the bit I reckoned was the summit wasn't. Fortunately it was, and we squeezed it in before nightfall, and 'enjoyed' a final trek by head torch back to Stickle Tarn and down to New Dungeon Ghyll car park.

f21 Tarn Crag summit.JPG
Tarn Crag summit success.

f22 to Blea.JPG
On to Blea Rigg, running out of time.

f23 Blea summit.JPG
Only just got Blea Rigg summit in.

f24 dark return.JPG
Dark return to Stickle Tarn and down.

Verdict: a great success, another high level route done and no less than 9 more W's in the account. It would have been annoying beyond words to have had to go up there again one day just to notch off the drab Blea Rigg. I was one happy(ish) Wainwrighter. But the weather Gods had been merciful. A big thanks to Al, without whom I wouldn't have got out there at all on this day, and I'd be stacking up a hefty backlog.

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Last edited by The English Alpinist on Fri Jan 22, 2016 11:27 pm, edited 1 time in total.
The English Alpinist
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Re: 100 up in the Langdales

Postby trailmasher » Wed Jan 20, 2016 6:44 pm

Damn decent report and pics there TEA :clap: and I must concur that Tarn Crag is a bit of a devious one to reach in bad weather :( Only another 20 odd and your halfway there mate :wink: Keep it up and keep safe :clap:
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Re: 100 up in the Langdales

Postby dav2930 » Wed Jan 20, 2016 9:14 pm

Another entertaining report TEA. Congratulations on reaching the century :clap: At this rate it looks like you're in with a chance of succeeding in your campaign. Understandable that you got a bit sick of this winter given the weather we've had, but let's hope the recent snow is a sign of things to come.

That was a good haul of W's there, and well done for including Jack's Rake. Me and a mate did a similar round back in October, starting from Grasmere and including Silver How but omitting High Raise. I agree that Tarn Crag is a confusing little lump. :?
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Re: 100 up in the Langdales

Postby Guinessman » Thu Jan 21, 2016 9:30 pm

Excellent effort. Did Jacks rake back in September in damp conditions so I can appreciate your efforts on wet snow. Keep up the effort. :clap:
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Re: 100 up in the Langdales

Postby ChrisW » Mon Jan 25, 2016 5:44 am

Congrats on making the 'ton' TEA, some really great photos along the way to, that little dusting of snow on the tops really brings the mountains to life. Nice to see you escape with some decent weather too, I can understand your tiring of winter (though it looks like there's another bout coming over the atlantic right now :shock: ) Keep on keeping on mate, great effort today :clap:
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