walkhighlands

This board helps you to share your walking route experiences in England and Wales... or overseas.
Warning Please note that hillwalking when there is snow lying requires an ice-axe, crampons and the knowledge, experience and skill to use them correctly. Summer routes may not be viable or appropriate in winter. See winter information on our skills and safety pages for more information.

Bowfell via South Gully + Crinkle Crags

Bowfell via South Gully + Crinkle Crags


Postby dav2930 » Mon Feb 26, 2018 11:55 pm

Wainwrights included on this walk: Bowfell, Crinkle Crags

Hewitts included on this walk: Bowfell, Crinkle Crags (Long Top), Crinkle Crags South Top

Date walked: 24/02/2018

Time taken: 8

Distance: 14 km

Ascent: 1073m

14 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 combination of a decent forecast for the weekend and the promise of well consolidated and frozen snow (what was left of it) made the prospect of a day out on the fells hard to resist. Only problem was deciding where to go. The Helvellyn coves would probably have given the most reliable snow climbs, but I fancied doing something I hadn't done before, so I plumped for one of the gullies bounding Bowfell Buttress, continuing to the top of Bowfell and possibly along Crinkle Crags if time and weather allowed.

Driving alongside Ullswater, Helvellyn came into view and looked magically alpine under a clearing sky. The coves still carried plenty of snow and I was very tempted to stop at Patterdale. I hadn't been up Nethermost Gully for many years and thought it would probably be in excellent nick, albeit with a big cornice at the top. I kept driving indecisively towards Kirkstone until thoughts of Bowfell Buttress gradually strengthened my resolve.

At the top of Kirkstone Pass a sign at the turn-off for The Struggle read 'road closed'. I stopped, once again stymied by indecision. Any water on the road would likely form an ice hazard, but then the road surface looked very dry. Then I noticed a campervan heading down in the direction of Ambleside and I thought 'If that can get down there then so can I'. So down I went, and reached Ambleside with much less hassle than would have been the case had the road been officially open.

Got parked at the Langdale Campsite and set off walking by about 9.30am.


our_route.gpx Open full screen  NB: Walkhighlands is not responsible for the accuracy of gpx files in users posts



I was disappointed to see the top parts of Bowfell and the Crinkles shrouded in clag. I wondered if I would regret my decision not to stop at Patterdale, but remained optimistic that the clag would clear off.

DSC03602.JPG
Path up Mickleden


DSC03603.JPG
Pike o' Stickle and Gimmer Crag


DSC03605.JPG
Approaching Rosset Gill


The gully I had in mind was North Gully, which runs up the north side of Bowfell Buttress. But from what I could see of it there didn't seem to be much snow in it - just a slim ribbon broken by bare rock in the lower third. That was a shame as I was looking forward to the ice pitch which guards the entrance to the gully when it's in good condition.

DSC03608.JPG
Bowfell Buttress emerges from the clag


From a bend in the path up Rossett Gill I took to the pathless slopes leading up to the crags. It was easy enough picking a route between the boulders and outcrops, keeping mainly to grass and crossing the occasional field of icy-hard snow.

DSC03612.JPG
Approaching the crags of Bowfell


DSC03613.JPG
Looking back down Mickleden


When Bowfell Buttress suddenly appeared in all its shapely splendour, I noticed a couple of climbers already established in North Gully, roped up and pitching it as if it were more than just a humble grade I/II. The leader seemed to be taking his time on what appeared a pretty straightforward stretch of snow. Hmm...

DSC03615.JPG
Bowfell Buttress, climbers in North Gully on the right


I made my way up into the sunshine at the start of the snow slopes, and stopped to put my crampons on. In the meantime another pair of climbers traversed under the foot of the Buttress towards the start of North Gully. I set off up the solid snow towards the toe of the Buttress where the snow flattened out to a ledge. The classic summer route looked dry enough to climb as a rock route. Meanwhile the pair ahead of me were looking long and hard at the rather bare entrance to the gully, then started to retreat. I asked them how it looked; they said it involved a tricky looking move over a chockstone with not much purchase above it. To go at the grade this initial pitch would need to be banked out with snow and ice. I took their word for it and joined them in backing off. They decided to go up by the Great Slab, which looked nice but easy. I thought about going that way but in the end decided to go up the gully bounding the Buttress on the left (south), which looked a bit more challenging, especially at the top. The gully sported a small cornice, which might prove interesting.

DSC03616.JPG
Bowfell Buttress with North Gully on it's right and South Gully on left


DSC03618.JPG
The Great Slab


The lower part was straightforward enough. The snow was iron hard.

DSC03620.JPG
Foot of South Gully


Gradually the gradient steepened until I started swinging the picks of my axes in. The placements were as solid as one could wish. But as I got higher, maybe 30 feet below the cornice, some of my placements dragged downwards when I tested them. Fortunately I was able to find more solid placements nearby. However, I was now beginning to wonder how firm the snow was going to be immediately under the cornice. It was getting harder to find placements that didn't drag downwards, and the angle was now approaching vertical.

DSC03621.JPG
High in South Gully, approaching the cornice


It took a lot of bashing around to get adequate purchase with the axes, but eventually I was perched within tapping distance of the cornice rim, which hung over my head. I crept up as high under it as I could, until I was able to reach over it and swing an axe pick into the top. Would it hold? Nope, it dragged. Tried again, and again, then on the third try it only dragged a bit. Not ideal, but it would do. So then it was a matter of releasing the other axe from under the cornice, relying on the one over the top, until I could swing the left one as far back over the edge as possible, hoping to find hard snow. Yes! Solid as a rock. Phew! All that remained now was to get my feet up, which of course I couldn't see. I stabbed in blindly with by right crampon and that seemed to hold ok. So then I stepped up until I could get my left crampon on a slight boss of the cornice which I could see, kicked into that, and finally stepped up over the top. Whahey! Something of a relief, but exhilarating.

DSC03622.JPG
Topped out from South Gully, looking down


Had a breather while I put the axes away then wandered up to the summit of Bowfell, bumping in to the two who'd come up by the Great Slab on the way. Lots of folks about. Had a good lunch stop in the sunshine and removed my crampons.

DSC03624.JPG
Classic view of the Scafells from Bowfell summit


It was just after 2pm by the time I was ready to set off again, so it was decision time. Crinkles or not? It didn't get dark 'till 6pm so yeah, Crinkles it was, being such a lovely afternoon.

DSC03627.JPG
Crinkle Crags from Bowfell


DSC03628.JPG
Eskdale


DSC03629.JPG
Top of the Great Slab


Just below the summit, near the top of the Great Slab, I was approached by a youngish chap on his own who wasn't quite sure of the way down. He was from Slovakia and struggled a bit with his English, but eventually got me to understand that he'd gone the wrong way from the summit and slipped on the icy snow and hurt his leg a bit (he actually said it was broken - if it was then he was putting on an amazingly brave face, as he was walking with barely a limp!). I noticed he had no rucksack, but at least he had a map. He was looking for the descent to Langdale via The Band. I said he could follow me as far as Three Tarns and I would then point him down the path for The Band. His name was Luba (I think), and when we parted at Three Tarns he shook my hand and thanked me. There were plenty of other people going down The Band and visibility was excellent, so, as I made my way towards the Crinkles, I was pretty sure he'd find his way down ok.

DSC03630.JPG
Looking back up to Bowfell summit


The walk along the Crinkles was a tranquil pleasure, crossing gentle snowfields and wending between, around and over the rocky bluffs and tops.

DSC03632.JPG
Bowfell from the path up Crinkle Crags


DSC03635.JPG
The Scafells from the northern part of the Crinkles


The final bit of excitement was descending the so-called 'bad step' on the far side of Long Top. There's an easier alternative to the west but I don't think I've ever traversed the Crinkles without including the bad step and I wasn't about to alter the habit of a lifetime.

DSC03649.JPG
Looking down the 'bad step' on the south side of Long Top


DSC03651.JPG
Long Top from the south top, the 'bad step' route follows the slanting rake, centre pic. An easier alternative goes well to the left (as viewed).


DSC03654.JPG
The Coniston fells from south top of Crinkles


DSC03655.JPG
Langdale Pikes from head of Browney Gill


The path down by Browney Gill required a bit of care as it was icy in places. A MR helicopter had been hovering about most of the day. Down in Oxendale two MR Landrovers were parked up. Not sure what that was about.

DSC03657.JPG
Great Knot (left), Crinkle Crags and Bowfell from Browney Gill descent


Walked through the campsite and was quite envious of the campers staying there on such a fine evening. Got back to the car at about 5.30. It had been an interesting day. Despite the disappointment of not doing North Gully, South Gully had provided an exiting enough alternative, and it had been a treat to be on the tops in such glorious weather.
Last edited by dav2930 on Fri Mar 23, 2018 8:38 pm, edited 1 time in total.
User avatar
dav2930
Mountain Walker
 
Posts: 1272
Munros:237   Corbetts:13
Grahams:10   Donalds:37
Sub 2000:1   Hewitts:161
Wainwrights:214   
Joined: Feb 13, 2015
Location: Cumbria

Re: Bowfell via South Gully + Crinkle Crags

Postby EmmaKTunskeen » Tue Feb 27, 2018 12:40 am

Aha. If I'd had a powerful telescope...! Sounds as though you had great fun. I wonder if the roped climbers were a teacher and a newbie, do you think maybe? How did you take the 'nearly vertical' photo, by the way? :clap: I really enjoyed your description of the softening snow and your cornice topping out. And love your photos too!
Realise it must be over 10 years since I last walked Bowfell and the Crinkle Crags :shock:
User avatar
EmmaKTunskeen
Mountain Walker
 
Posts: 159
Munros:25   Corbetts:17
Grahams:9   Donalds:4
Sub 2000:2   Hewitts:41
Wainwrights:41   Islands:12
Joined: Aug 19, 2016
Location: West Sussex

Re: Bowfell via South Gully + Crinkle Crags

Postby Guinessman » Tue Feb 27, 2018 9:12 pm

Nice one Dav, good route. Love that shot of Bowfell Buttress, looks like Pillar rock.

Have done that South gully in a lot less snow (virtually none really!) accessing it from the Band and the traverse. Had my westie with me and I recall large boulders up near the top and having to lift her over some.
User avatar
Guinessman
Munro compleatist
 
Posts: 1063
Munros:282   Corbetts:41
Grahams:26   Donalds:89
Hewitts:143
Wainwrights:214   Islands:13
Joined: Dec 28, 2009
Location: NW Durham

Re: Bowfell via South Gully + Crinkle Crags

Postby davekermito » Tue Feb 27, 2018 10:00 pm

Cracking route and photos! Nice one!
User avatar
davekermito
Hill Bagger
 
Posts: 50
Munros:5   Corbetts:2
Hewitts:200
Wainwrights:72   
Joined: Nov 10, 2011
Location: The shadow of the mighty Clent Hills

Re: Bowfell via South Gully + Crinkle Crags

Postby malky_c » Tue Feb 27, 2018 10:36 pm

That looked like a great day out - with a bit of fun getting through the cornice :shock: :lol: .

I can't imagine it will still be like that this coming weekend, when I'm in Keswick!
User avatar
malky_c
 
Posts: 5805
Munros:282   Corbetts:222
Grahams:219   Donalds:74
Sub 2000:250   Hewitts:256
Wainwrights:102   Islands:33
Joined: Nov 22, 2009
Location: Inverness

Re: Bowfell via South Gully + Crinkle Crags

Postby Alteknacker » Wed Feb 28, 2018 12:00 am

Looks like you had a great day there, the paucity of snow notwithstanding. And a bit of adrenaline! The account of surmounting the cornice was certainly interesting, no doubt more so for you at the time! I thoroughly enjoyed the read :clap: :clap: :clap: .

I've just been on Bowfell once, early in 2014 - a fair bit of snow too
IMG_0166 reduced.jpg
Looking back at Angle Tarn on the ascent of Bowfell.

....and although the rocks looked superb, I didn't really get a good view of the buttress because of clag; and I see now what a pity that was.

I remember the bad step well - this is what I wrote in my TR at the time: "It was an interesting experience following footsteps in the snow that suddenly stopped at a 5 metre vertical drop. Quite an awkward downclimb with snow and ice on the rock. A fellow walker I chatted to in the pub afterwards told me that it's known as "the Bad Step". Probably quite bad if you're at all iffy with heights." I probably felt more nervous than I otherwise would have done because I didn't have crampons on.

It's worrying how ill-equipped some folk are when they tackle hills at this time of year - your young guy was lucky to have bumped into an experienced mountaineer when he did. :roll:
User avatar
Alteknacker
Scrambler
 
Posts: 2652
Munros:167   Corbetts:29
Hewitts:195
Wainwrights:71   
Joined: May 25, 2013
Location: Effete South (of WIgan, anyway)

Re: Bowfell via South Gully + Crinkle Crags

Postby onsen » Wed Feb 28, 2018 9:19 am

Fine day to be out & about...enjoyed your report. :thumbup:
User avatar
onsen
Mountain Walker
 
Posts: 235
Joined: Oct 10, 2012
Location: The Great Southern Land, Australia

Re: Bowfell via South Gully + Crinkle Crags

Postby johnkaysleftleg » Wed Feb 28, 2018 12:53 pm

Great report of an exciting route up to a couple of Lakeland's finest. Love the picture of the Scafells with just the gullys filled with snow, they look very majestic. Always good to see sights normal walkers don't get to see of the bow fell buttress, I've been up there via the great slab which was awesome.
User avatar
johnkaysleftleg
Walker
 
Posts: 3015
Munros:25   Corbetts:10
Grahams:10   Donalds:3
Sub 2000:7   Hewitts:166
Wainwrights:214   Islands:8
Joined: Jan 28, 2009
Location: County Durham

Re: Bowfell via South Gully + Crinkle Crags

Postby trailmasher » Wed Feb 28, 2018 1:36 pm

A great walk any time of year, but in winter conditions 8) 8) Great report and pics dav :clap: :clap:

Like Emma mentioned the photo doesn't really show how steep the climb really was, but that's often the case when taking an 'uphill' picture :?

As I look out of the window the snow is clean, deep, and being topped up by the minute which will make for a good skirmish into the hills this weekend if it's still around :)
User avatar
trailmasher
Walker
 
Posts: 1109
Munros:11   
Hewitts:180
Wainwrights:214   
Joined: Nov 26, 2014
Location: Near Appleby - Cumbria

Re: Bowfell via South Gully + Crinkle Crags

Postby dav2930 » Wed Feb 28, 2018 6:58 pm

EmmaKTunskeen wrote:Aha. If I'd had a powerful telescope...! Sounds as though you had great fun. I wonder if the roped climbers were a teacher and a newbie, do you think maybe? How did you take the 'nearly vertical' photo, by the way? :clap: I really enjoyed your description of the softening snow and your cornice topping out. And love your photos too!
Realise it must be over 10 years since I last walked Bowfell and the Crinkle Crags :shock:

Thanks Emma. Likewise the powerful telescope! :lol: It was certainly a fun day and a much needed dose of sunny weather!
Yes it's possible that the roped pair were instructor/client, though I suspect both were likely relatively new to winter climbing, going by the leader's very tentative approach. At least they did the climb though, so fair play.
The photo you mention was taken some distance below the cornice. The gradient was probably about 60 degrees at that point. I had my axes planted in securely right in front of me so I could grab one quickly if I lost balance, and had my knees braced against the snow for stability. The angle became 'nearly vertical' (probably about 70 - 80 degrees) further up, just beneath the cornice (you can see where it steepens in the pic) - there was no way I could have taken a photo at that point as I needed to hold on to at least one axe all the time. Glad you enjoyed the description and photos. :D

Guinessman wrote:Nice one Dav, good route. Love that shot of Bowfell Buttress, looks like Pillar rock.

Have done that South gully in a lot less snow (virtually none really!) accessing it from the Band and the traverse. Had my westie with me and I recall large boulders up near the top and having to lift her over some.

Cheers GM :D Yes Bowfell Buttress does bear more than a passing resemblance to Pillar Rock when viewed from that angle! South Gully is of course the standard descent from the BB summer route, but that avoids the steep headwall. It's a steep, loose slog without much snow in it!

davekermito wrote:Cracking route and photos! Nice one!

Thanks Dave :D

malky_c wrote:That looked like a great day out - with a bit of fun getting through the cornice :shock: :lol: .

I can't imagine it will still be like that this coming weekend, when I'm in Keswick!

Cheers Malky. The cornice certainly spiced things up a bit! :lol: I didn't bargain for the fluffy snow underneath it, but really I should have anticipated that.
Looks like there'll be a seriously huge amount of snow on the fells this weekend - have fun! :D

Alteknacker wrote:Looks like you had a great day there, the paucity of snow notwithstanding. And a bit of adrenaline! The account of surmounting the cornice was certainly interesting, no doubt more so for you at the time! I thoroughly enjoyed the read :clap: :clap: :clap: .

I've just been on Bowfell once, early in 2014 - a fair bit of snow too
IMG_0166.jpg
Looking back at Angle Tarn on the ascent of Bowfell.

....and although the rocks looked superb, I didn't really get a good view of the buttress because of clag; and I see now what a pity that was.

I remember the bad step well - this is what I wrote in my TR at the time: "It was an interesting experience following footsteps in the snow that suddenly stopped at a 5 metre vertical drop. Quite an awkward downclimb with snow and ice on the rock. A fellow walker I chatted to in the pub afterwards told me that it's known as "the Bad Step". Probably quite bad if you're at all iffy with heights." I probably felt more nervous than I otherwise would have done because I didn't have crampons on.

It's worrying how ill-equipped some folk are when they tackle hills at this time of year - your young guy was lucky to have bumped into an experienced mountaineer when he did. :roll:

Thanks AK :D Yes indeed, the cornice induced a good dose of adrenaline; set me up nicely for the rest of the day! :lol: Glad you enjoyed the read.

The whole area around Great Slab / Bowfell Buttress is well worth exploring. BB itself as a summer route is magnificent and delectable, one of my favourite of the lower grade climbs in the Lakes. It makes a great solo, though I hesitate to recommend it as it's been upgraded in recent FRCC guides to HS. I don't think it's anything like HS, but in all fairness it's probably more than VDiff!

You did well to get down the Crinkles bad step with snow and ice on it and without crampons. It may be short but it's certainly steep and you'd do some damage if you slipped off it! :clap:

As for the young Slovakian guy, not quite sure why he picked on me with all the other folks around - maybe I looked a soft touch! :lol: Totally agree that ill-equipped (and clueless) people on the hills in winter is becoming a worrying trend. It certainly puts the MR services under pressure :?

onsen wrote:Fine day to be out & about...enjoyed your report. :thumbup:

Thanks onsen :D

johnkaysleftleg wrote:Great report of an exciting route up to a couple of Lakeland's finest. Love the picture of the Scafells with just the gullys filled with snow, they look very majestic. Always good to see sights normal walkers don't get to see of the bow fell buttress, I've been up there via the great slab which was awesome.

Thanks JK :D I've always thought the Scafells appear at their grandest from Bowfell. The great slab is a fabulous way to get up from the climber's traverse, a quite unique feature in the Lakes. I was very tempted to go that way as it looked really inviting! It is indeed an awesome place that every fell walker should get to see at least once in their career.

trailmasher wrote:A great walk any time of year, but in winter conditions 8) 8) Great report and pics dav :clap: :clap:

Like Emma mentioned the photo doesn't really show how steep the climb really was, but that's often the case when taking an 'uphill' picture :?

As I look out of the window the snow is clean, deep, and being topped up by the minute which will make for a good skirmish into the hills this weekend if it's still around :)

Thanks TM :D Yep, the amount of snow on the fells at the moment is incredible - the most I've seen for years. And it looks like there'll be even more by the weekend! Promises to be phenomenal - though likely very hard work wading through deep powder. Gullies to be avoided I think. I'll be off to Torridon with Karl. Goodness knows what it'll be like up there - if we even manage the journey! :lol:
User avatar
dav2930
Mountain Walker
 
Posts: 1272
Munros:237   Corbetts:13
Grahams:10   Donalds:37
Sub 2000:1   Hewitts:161
Wainwrights:214   
Joined: Feb 13, 2015
Location: Cumbria

Re: Bowfell via South Gully + Crinkle Crags

Postby past my sell by date » Thu Mar 22, 2018 2:01 pm

Hi Dave
great report and photos - especially of Bowfell Buttress. Nice to see some real firm snow in the Lakes. in my 25 years living there all I can remember is some soggy gullies on Great End and jumping down your "bad Step" in deep powder. Perhaps it signifies a sea- change. The Gulf Stream is steadily weakening, and if it inverts, the paradoxical effect of global warming could be a mini ice age in Britain and Northern Europe. shame I'm really too old to enjoy it :(
past my sell by date
Mountaineer
 
Posts: 622
Munros:282   Corbetts:84
Grahams:27   Donalds:6
Sub 2000:3   Hewitts:146
Wainwrights:159   
Joined: Apr 24, 2013

Re: Bowfell via South Gully + Crinkle Crags

Postby dav2930 » Thu Mar 22, 2018 11:36 pm

past my sell by date wrote:Hi Dave
great report and photos - especially of Bowfell Buttress. Nice to see some real firm snow in the Lakes. in my 25 years living there all I can remember is some soggy gullies on Great End and jumping down your "bad Step" in deep powder. Perhaps it signifies a sea- change. The Gulf Stream is steadily weakening, and if it inverts, the paradoxical effect of global warming could be a mini ice age in Britain and Northern Europe. shame I'm really too old to enjoy it :(

Hi Tony and thanks for your comments.
I haven't really taken as much advantage of the good conditions this winter as I'd have liked. The Great End gullies are very good when in decent condition, especially Central, which can sport a vertical ice pitch when lean. Interesting what you say about the weakening Gulf Stream. I've heard that too - something to do with the dilution of salt content in the North Atlantic caused by the melting Greenland icecap. Could mean Britain gets a climate commensurate with it's lattitude! :o Would be nice if it also meant dryer summers :lol:
User avatar
dav2930
Mountain Walker
 
Posts: 1272
Munros:237   Corbetts:13
Grahams:10   Donalds:37
Sub 2000:1   Hewitts:161
Wainwrights:214   
Joined: Feb 13, 2015
Location: Cumbria

Re: Bowfell via South Gully + Crinkle Crags

Postby past my sell by date » Fri Mar 23, 2018 12:02 am

dav2930 wrote: The Great End gullies are very good when in decent condition, especially Central, which can sport a vertical ice pitch when lean. :lol:

Yes and I also remember doing East Gully with water pouring down behind the ice - and washing away the stance I was standing on :lol: :lol: :lol:
past my sell by date
Mountaineer
 
Posts: 622
Munros:282   Corbetts:84
Grahams:27   Donalds:6
Sub 2000:3   Hewitts:146
Wainwrights:159   
Joined: Apr 24, 2013

14 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).



Walkhighlands community forum is now advert free

We need help to keep the site online.
Can you help support Walkhighlands and the online community by setting up a monthly donation by direct debit?



Return to Walk reports - Outside Scotland

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 5 guests