Walking the Wainwrights in 30 Walks Walk 26 - The head of Great Langdale

13th August 2016

It's been an eventful couple of weeks which has seen me pick up an injury to my right heel bone more commonly known as Plantar Fasciitis which in English means I've damaged the heel tissue and tendon between the heel and my toes to which I've no doubt, has been caused by the strenuous and continuous walks I've been doing not just this year but last year too. On the face of it the main area of damage is to the heel which can be quite sore but thankfully I caught it early and after consulting my Doctor who has prescribed me anti inflammatory's and a host of information on how to ease and indeed deal with the damage tissue including simple methods such as rolling a frozen coke bottle under my foot which will help to stretch the tendon and keep down any swelling, the most important advice I was given was to keep active, how active though, I'm not sure.

Because of this I have decided to continue with my Wainwright project although had I have been less than half way through I wouldn't have had any other option than to shelve it, yet seeing as I'm so close to completion my thoughts are at least to give it a try although I am fully conscious that if I'm presented with the choice between my health and project, of course my health will always come first. Today I am joined by Rod Hepplewhite who before spending a week on the fells next week with family wanted to enjoy a rather more strenuous walk. Todays walk collects six Wainwright summits on the Bow Fell Group starting from Old Dungeon Ghyll before taking in the delights of the Mickledon Valley from where we gain ground on our first summit of Rossett Pike before passing Angle Tarn and ascending easily towards Esk Hause, from Esk Hause we collect Esk Pike before continuing over Ore Gap to our third summit of the day in Bow Fell from where we will descend over Three Tarns before gaining Crinkle Crags. Cold Pike is collected next gained easily by a grassy trod before descending pathless passing Red Tarn before collecting our final and sixth summit of the day in Pike O'Blisco although had the forecaster not got the forecast so wrong this walk wouldn't have got the green light as once again we learned how to make the most out of an incorrect forecast.

Wainwright Guide Book Four
The Southern Fells

-Crinkle Crags

Crinkle Crags is much too good to be missed. For the mountaineer who prefers his mountains rough, who likes to see steep craggy slopes towering before him into the sky, who enjoys an up-and-down ridge walk full of interesting nooks and corners, who has an appreciating eye for magnificent views, this is a climb deserving of high priority

Ascent: 4,989 Feet - 1,521 Meters
Wainwrights: 6, Rossett Pike - Esk Pike - Bow Fell - Crinkle Crags - Cold Pike - Pike O'Blisco
Weather: Rain Throughout The Morning, Gust Across The Summits, Turning Brighter Late Aternoon, Highs of 18°C Lows of 14°C
Parking: Rossett Bridge, Great Langdale
Area: Southern
Miles: 12.8
Walking With: Rod Hepplewhite
Ordnance Survey: OL6
Time Taken: 8 Hours 20 Minutes
Route: Rossett Bridge - Old Dungeon Ghyll - Mickleden - Cumbrian Way - Rossett Gill - Rossett Pike - Angle Tarn - Esk Hause - Esk Pike - Ore Gap - Bow Fell - Three Tarns - Crinkle Crags - Cold Pike - Red Tarn - Pike O'Blisco - Wrynose Fell - Redacre Gill - Wall End - Old Dungeon Ghyll- Rossett Bridge

Map and Photo Gallery


The Band, Great Langdale 07:15am 14°C

We had a arranged to meet at Old Dungeon Ghyll at 07:45 although I had actually parked at the parking spaces close to Rossett Bridge about half a mile further back, with Rod being a National Trust Member we had agreed to meet at the Hotel sometime between 07:45am and 08:00am although I must admit, I did arrive unusually early even by my standards.

I parked easily behind two guys preparing for a fell run and 'mornings' are shared as I get out and make way towards the back of the car. Due to my injury I had decided to retire my old Miendl walking boots due to a number of factors but mainly because they have lost their stiffness and the fact that I had worn a hole in the insole below the very heel that I've injured, a contributing factor, maybe. I had gone ahead and bought a pair of Gel Heels from my local Goutdoors which I hope would help with my heel injury, I was unsure how they would feel underfoot especially when out on the fell but to be honest, once I had slipped my foot in the boot and laced up, I had forgot that they were there almost instantly which was one niggle out of the way.

With my car locked I strode out crossing the Rossett Bridge and soon stopped to take this photo of The Band who's summit is below a mass of thick cloud, it was wet underfoot from the previous nights rain and I hoped that despite there being light showers 'here and there' we wouldn't see much in the way of rain...how wrong I was.

From the field besides Rossett Bridge I start to make my way towards Old Dungeon Ghyll, a journey that should only take five or so minutes and in that time a couple of cars had passed me one of which stopped, before I even had the chance to look up the driver wound down the passenger window and cheekily asked wanna lift!

It was Rod!

Aye why not I laughed, I threw my gear on the back seats and we drove the rest of the way to Old Dungeon Ghyll parking easily where other walkers are getting ready for a day on the fells. I left Rod to kit up as I looked for the toilets before returning minutes later finding Rod almost good to go. The air feels damp and here at valley level there isn't any real wind to speak of but I can feel water droplets in the air and decide to pack my camera in its case just in case it starts to rain, with Rod's car locked we head out around the back of the Hotel and joined the Cumbrian Way and into the Mickleden Valley.

Rossett Pike ahead from Mickleden.

We joined the path in conversation although in the back of my mind I was still unsure how my heel was going to react with a rough path underfoot especially where we had picked the path up behind the Hotel, I was quite pleased that after that first initial contact with rough stone my heel felt good although that dull pain was never far from mind it wasn't enough to cause me any major discomfort.

Ahead we can see Rossett Pike summit although this wasn't always the case as the cloud would come and go quite quickly indicating that it was much windier across the tops than it was here at valley level where the rain droplets that were floating about have now turned into a light shower.

Murky views back into the Mickleden Valley towards Pike O'Stickle.

By the time we had reached the path alongside Rossett Gill the light rain shower had progressed into a vertical downpour at which point we were still wearing shorts together with waterproof jackets, feeling hopeful we continued the ascent surrounded by the sound of falling water whether it be from the sky or from the fell side.

With the continuing rainfall we stopped to cover our packs with their waterproof covers and add baseball caps which, along with a hood is a great combo to keep the rain off the face, especially when your walking headlong into it. Re-shouldered we agreed to continue and agree not to add our over trousers just yet as we were still quite hopeful that by the time we reached Rossett Pike summit the rain would have cleared.

Heading towards Rossett Pike summit from the head of Rossett Gill.

We continued our ascent sometimes stopping to look back on a trio of walkers who had left Old Dungeon Ghyll soon after ourselves. The rain continued to fall and with the zig zags taken care of we agreed that just shy of the top of Rossett Gill we would admit defeat and add the over trousers at a craggy outcrop which would provide shelter.

De-shouldered we add our over trousers over the top of drenched shorts but it was still a comfort to not feel those summit winds mixed in with rain across the legs. While Rod re-shouldered I gaze over towards Rossett Crag as wave after wave of rain passes by, our path and indeed the fell side itself had been sheltering but once at the top of Rossett Gill we would be open to the elements, thankfully however, the rain had eased off slightly giving us enough time to make towards the summit before the rain returns.

Rossett Pike summit cairn.
There was no trip to the view point today.

Hanging Knotts seen over Angle Tarn.

Surprisingly we had passed two walkers heading towards Rossett Pike before passing three more as we crossed Angletarn Gill who had come from the direction of Esk Hause, they are carrying heavy packs and look to be on the retreat from a wild camp although judging by what they are wearing they're not fully prepared at all.

Another walker is passed as we ascend towards Tongue Head, he has a small dog with him which is running amock and chasing the sheep as Rod pointed out "your dog has run off" has it the guy replied with only a slight turn from his head, he simply wasn't bothered if his dog was chasing the sheep or not.

We peaked out close to Tongue Head as I remembered last Summers 'out and back' during my two thousanders challenge which I ran after leaving David and my pack back at Esk Hause, today Tongue Head looked so bleak and a world away from how I had remembered it.

The path levels out before the second tier rises steadily flanked by Allen Crags on one side and Esk Pike on the other, neither of which we could see due to the low cloud, it was a point where conversation died simply because of the rain and the fact that both our hoods were securely fastened down, a time to dig deep because this rain and this low cloud doesn't seem to going anywhere which now feels it could be in for the day.

With Esk Hause reached we make our way to the cross shelter with only a visibility of around thirty yards where not even England's highest ground can be seen let alone our next summit of Esk Pike. We pass the shelter and start to make our ascent on Esk Pike before feeling slightly disappointed we didn't absorb Esk Hause the way we normally would, not even a photo. The rock is slippy underfoot which causes me concern with just how precarious I can be with my injured heel at a point when you make mistakes because you are over thinking not to make them, if that makes any sense.

We both slip off one rock or another as Rod adds that water has now entered one of his boots, it's not the best feeling in the world especially when on a long walk but as fell walkers we have all learned to deal with it in our own ways. We peak out on the summit shoulder as visibility remains low, ahead through the cloud we can see a faint outline of the crags that make up the summit.

Esk Pike summit cairn.
We scrambled over wet rock before making our way towards the summit which had a bleakness about it to say the least all the while passing cloud scuppered any views and with this we took a summit photo each with our backs to the wind before starting our descent towards Ore Cap as concerns about how my heel would cope with the first descent of the walk started to play on my mind heavily disguised I might add by conversation.

Ore Gap.

Thankfully I needn't have worried about my heel which was coping well leaving me feeling more confident after desecending Esk Pike, we chatted during descent and passed a discarded fleece which lay just off path as Rod went onto say that he had passed a neatly wrapped sleeping bag while on the Howgills last week.

It was spoke of to keep to the cairns whilst crossing Ore Gap not through fear of getting lost but mainly because we didn't want to wander too much off path which can be easily done under such conditions.

Bow Fell appears through the cloud.
We rose steadily flanked by Hanging Knotts and Bow Fell Buttress neither of which could be seen as the low cloud remained. The conical summit of Bow Fell soon appeared followed by the sound of voices as the outline of three walkers are making a scramble over rock towards Bow Fell summit.

Bow Fell summit cairn.

The three walkers turned out to be fell runners who by now were making their descent from the summit, with Hi's passed we too scrambled the wet rock trusting footsteps first before reaching the summit cairn. Our visibility hadn't changed leaving this popular summit feeling eerie and isolated much like we had experienced on Esk Pike, the voices of the fell runners faded into the distance and all that was left was the wind and rain which by now was getting gusty and had a bite to it.

Cloud breaks as we look out towards Hanging Knotts from Bow Fell Summit
Despite this being one of those magical moments the cloud soon rolled back in and we were plunged back into a world of grey.

Descending Bow Fell towards Three Tarns.

We had to be especially careful in descending from Bow Fell summit as the rock was shockingly greasy and wet. We passed the top of the Great Slab but didn't venture out to get a closer look as we knew there would be nothing to see beyond the murk. More Olympic recoveries of our own are made as slip and slide over wet rock but we only managed to get a bronze each!

During the descent we are passed by two walkers making an ascent on Bow Fell and ask how far it was to the summit, I give them a detailed report before descending further where we pass a large group of teenagers guided by three older members who pass on their hello's. A break in the cloud reveals Three Tarns as Rod whips out his camera but I'm on the wrong side of the path to take advantage as the cloud soon rolls back in.

At Three Tarns walkers start to appear from The Band, some are waiting for others to arrive and then set about making their ascent towards the summit while Rod and I pass Three Tarns without so much as a glance over such the conditions.

It was agreed that we wouldn't be able to take any advantage in summiting any of the Crinkles on a day like today and opted to traverse around them instead, but in some cases, we simply had no option to ascend in able to descend.

Crinkle Crags summit (Crinkle four when traversing north to south)

We stuck to the paths and traversed around the Crinkles before arriving at the summit where Rod adds colour to the backdrop against the bleakness of the cloud "take it we're not descending via the Bad Step" Rod asked jokingly, dead right!

We took a bearings soon spotting the path that lead towards the top of the Bad Step before heading west from where we would pick up the path which descends around the back of the summit. I think I've only ever descended the Bad Step once which can be precarious due to the fact that you can't see where your putting your feet, descending the Bad Step when wet is just asking for trouble.

Anyway, Hows the foot Rod asked? good, touch wood as I tap my hand on my forehead.

Descending Crinkle Crags via the stone rake.

The Bad Step.

"Chicken-hearted walkers, muttering something about discretion being the better part of valour, will sneak away and circumvent the difficulty by following the authors footsteps around the left flank of the buttress" A.W

Oxendale and Great Langdale as we descend Crinkle Five (when traversing north to south)
After leaving the Bad Step behind we ascend Crinkle Five where we meet what appeared to be a father and son duo, with Hi's passed and still in cloud we start our descent as the cloud started to break up all around as Great Knott followed by Cold Pike appeared through gaps in the cloud which steadily got larger before the cloud disappeared altogether revealing the Oxendale and Great Langdale Valleys below us.

The Langdale Pikes seen over The Band.
Even after all the years I've spent as a fell walker nothing comes close to the watching the cloud peel away from the hill side, it all happened in less than a minute and I guess it's fair to say that the experience certainly lifted both our moods.

Pike O'Blisco seen over Great Knott with a glimpse of Red Tarn towards the right.

It was agreed while during the traverse of the Crinkles that we wouldn't stop for lunch until we were back at the cars this came from the fact that it hadn't stopped raining and it was best to just keep moving, with this as we approach our final two summits of the walk as my stomach was telling me that it was hungry and inside my pack I had a mini pork pie just waiting to be eaten.

Before our ascent on Cold Pike I de-shoulder not just to grab a snack as I also take my camera from its case and pack it away which was damp to say the least, my camera lens had smeared too and I managed to dry it with a dry sunglasses cloth which had been kept dry in the lid of my pack, another item that got rolled up and packed away was the rain hood for my pack, now where's that pork pie...

Views over Great Knott, Pike O'Blisco and Cold Pike.

There's more than one way to gain Cold Pike from Crinkle Crags, option one is to follow the path until you reach Great Knott then traverse off path via a grassy trod, option two (the route we took) was to traverse a second grassy path which avoids the depression in the centre of the photo thus keeping our feet dry.

It didn't work and we still got our feet wet (ish) although you couldn't blame us for trying.

All five Crinkles now completely cloud free seen here with Bow Fell.

Crinkle Crags and Bow Fell from Cold Pike summit.

We had watched a single walker take the lower path onto Cold Pike who had just left the summit before we arrived. We had made good timing in crossing the grassy path which was pretty still wet and boggy despite it being the 'higher ground' By the time we reached Cold Pike the sun was trying its best to come out which again lifted our general mood despite the fact that only half an hour ago we were on Crinkle Crags summit in almost zero visibility which begged the question had we met half an hour later we might of got our views.

Oh well never mind, at least we have them now.


Pike O'Blisco seen over Red Tarn.
We had left Cold Pike summit and headed south but on my account, not south enough as we fell short of where I planned to descend by around a hundred yards or so to the right as my original aim was to keep to the right of Red Tarn, instead we opted to traverse via a grassy trod steering ourselves towards the cairn at the top of Browney Gill where it was starting to get quite busy.

Views over Great Knott, Crinkle Crags and Bow Fell from Pike O'Blisco.

Crinkle Crags from Pike O'Blisco summit cairn.
We soon found ourselves at the cairn close to the top of Browney Gill and witnessed quite a few walkers ascending from the Oxendale Valley all wearing shorts and T-shirts to Rod and myself disgust (just jealous really!) while we are still decked out in waterproofs from head to toe by which point it was also getting quite warm under the afternoon sun yet instead of stopping to de-layer we continued until we reached the summit cairn.

In full view of Great Langdale and Kettle Crag we descend Pike O'Blisco via Redacre Gill.
We've still got quite a distance to go as I stopped to take this picture after leaving Pike O'Blisco summit, our route via Redacre Gill can be seen on the other side of the bracken where a depression can be seen along the ridge but before all that we've got a trio of rather precarious wet and slimey rock steps to negotiate found just below Pike O'Blisco summit.

The Band and Bow Fell from Wrynose Fell.
The heather is out and it looks just grand when set against the fell side.

Here's a close up.
The quality of light seems to be improving as the minutes pass.

Descending Redacre Gill with views of Blea Rigg, Side Pike and Lingmoor Fell.

We had reached the top of Redacre Gill where a stone staircase descends all the way (steeply in places) towards the road which links Great Langdale with Little Langdale via of course, the delightful Blea Tarn. We had met quite a few walkers on route towards Pike O'Blisco summit and commented on how we couldn't blame anyone wanting to enjoy the best of the day even if it meant waiting until lunchtime to get out onto fell side.

The Langdale Pikes from Redacre Gill.
The views over the Langdale Pikes were just outstanding.

The Blea Rigg ridge seen above the Langdale Valley seen with Side Pike and Lingmoor Fell.

The Mickleden Valley.
We reached the bottom of Redacre Gill and joined the tarmac road then started our steep descent towards Wall End Farm sometimes avoiding the tarmac altogether in favour of a grassy trod that had been cut through the bracken which was most welcome underfoot by which time the sun had been obscured by cloud but the afternoon heat remained and I for one was eager to delayer.

Rossett Pike seen over the Mickelden Valley looking much clearer now.

Views of Crinkle Crags seen above Wall End Farm.

It was agreed rather than to head back to Old Dungeon Ghyll with Rod to instead head back to my car where I could de-layer and start some foot stretches before the drive home, something that I didn't want to do whilst sat in Rod's car whilst eating lunch. We leave Wall End Farm behind and pass a bustling Great Langdale Campsite before arriving back at Old Dungeon Ghyll where I stood to shake Rod's hand and thanked him for joining me on a day where you wouldn't send the cat out let alone traverse the giants of Lakeland.

It's only half a mile back to Rossett Bridge during which time I use to reflect upon how well the day went and especially how it had ended before I go to overtake a local chap who asked had I had a good day and where had I been? I went onto explain our route as the chap nods as I rattle off the summits, he pauses and says "by-eck it was pi##ing it down so much this morning I didn't leave the house until lunchtime" aye I smile, I think we were on Bowfell at the time.


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