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100 up in the Langdales
by 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: 1267m3 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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
by trailmasher » Wed Jan 20, 2016 6:44 pm
by dav2930 » Wed Jan 20, 2016 9:14 pm
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.
by Guinessman » Thu Jan 21, 2016 9:30 pm
by ChrisW » Mon Jan 25, 2016 5:44 am
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