Friday, July 31, 2009

Crinkle Crags & Bowfell via Climbers Traverse

Date : 31st July 2009
Route : From Stool End Farm up the Oxendale path to Red Tarn then Crinkle Crags and on to Bow Fell via climbers traverse and back via the Band
Wainwrights : Crinkle Crags, Bowfell
Distance : 8.13 miles (13.1km)
Height Gained : 3528 feet (1075 meters)
Time Taken : 4.5 hours

The Route : Clockwise from Stool End farm

In my humble opinion, this is simply one of the best walks in the UK and includes, according to Wainwright himself, the finest ridge mile in the Lake District. The forecast suggested cloud rolling in from midday but clear skies up until then. I therefore left Preston at some ungodly hour, parked near Stool End Farm and had set off before sunrise. A steep but steady path climbs from the Oxendale valley up towards Red Tarn.

Crinkle Crags and Bowfell at 5am

The morning sun just touching Crinkle Crags

Sunrise over the Great Langdale valley

Looking back towards the Langdale Pikes

The red path to Red Tarn

Red Tarn and the Coniston Fells
From Red Tarn the onwards path levels off a little as it heads towards the first Crinkle. 

Looking over Cold Pike towards the Coniston Fells

Looking back towards Pike O'Blisco

The onwards path to Crinkle Crags

Views down the Great Langdale valley

The Scafells come into view

Crinkles 2 &3 from Crinkle 1

Once on top of the first Crinkle it becomes very obvious that Crinkle 2 is the highest point of the ridge. An obvious path leads directly onwards towards the crags where the notorious 'bad step' is waiting. At first it seems impossible to climb up until you realise that the solution is a fairly simple rock climb up the crags directly right of the 'step'. For those of a nervous disposition there is an alternative way up which skirts the left side of the crags without having to resort to the use of hands. Once on top of Crinkle 2 you are stood on the summit of Crinkle Crags.

The path towards the 'bad step'

The 'Bad Step'

Crinkle 2 summit view back over Crinkle 1 towards the Coniston Fells

Crinkle 2 view along the ridge towards Bowfell
From Crinkle 2 it is a simple matter of following the path along its ups and downs across the remaining Crinkles before dropping down to the 'three tarns' Col. 

The Great Langdale valley from Crinkle 3

The Scafells across the Esk valley

Bowfell over the final Crinkle

From three tarns the obvious path up to Bowfell is clear to see on the picture above but I really wanted to find the infamous 'climbers traverse' which ascends on the eastern side. From here Bowfells finest aspect can be appreciated; huge crags, impressive rocky buttresses and the aptly named 'Great Slab'. The climbers traverse is not shown on OS maps but I had briefly studied Wainwright's pictorial guide before setting out. From three tarns I would either have to descend along the Band before picking up the traverse path somewhere off on the left, or head up the main path seen above but then attempt to skirt round to the right and pick up the traverse around the south eastern shoulder. I opted for latter and thankfully managed to stumble across the meandering path without too much difficulty. The traverse is an old route used by rock climbers to access the Bowfell Buttress and Cambridge Crags. It winds it way underneath Bowfells most impressive rock scenery. For a guide to finding the climbers traverse from 'The Band' click here

The Climbers Traverse path

Bowfell Buttress

 Just as I reached the spring by Cambridge Crags where Wainwright recommends stopping to refill your water bottle, the clouds came in. From here a path doubles back to climb diagnonally upwards along Cambridge Crags. I scrambled as quickly as I could safely manage up the steep path but by the time I reached the Great Slab visibility was lost. 20 minutes later I was on the summit but there was nothing to see so I headed down the main path on the southern side back to the three tarns and then descended via the Band. 

The spring under Cambridge Crags

The upwards path along Cambridge Crags

The cloud descends over Great Slab

Half an hour earlier and I would have just made it to a cloud free Bowfell. Ah well, the early start did reward me with great views from the Crinkles. This really is my idea of perfect mountain scenery. It has everything I enjoy about hiking in the Lake District. I have a feeling I will be revisiting this area many times. 

 Wainwright Count : 12 / 214