Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Taking the Boy up Bowfell (AKA the Eiger) via climbers traverse in winter

Video of the walk

Date: 3rd December 2016
Start/Finish: Old Dungeon Ghyll
Summits: Bowfell (2959 feet), Rossett Pike (2136 feet) [and the Eiger! 13,020 feet]
Distance: 9 miles
Elevation: 4076 feet
Time Taken: 6 hours

The Route : Clockwise from Old Dungeon Ghyll (far right)

It had been ages since I was last in the fells. Five months in fact. The main reasons were 1) getting a new job 2) having a child who needs driving to football-lots 3) bad weather whenever I planned a trip. Anyway, it was time make amends. My 9 year old was keen to get out for a hiking adventure and I had promised to take him up Bowfell. Stories of steep crags, exposed routes and stunning views had whetted his appetite and there was also the chance of some snow high up which added to the excitement. 

We parked up near the Old Dungeon Ghyll and headed off through Stool End Farm and up the Band. Patches of snow were visible higher up but the summit of Bowfell remained elusively under cloud. As he had managed Blencathra with ease in the summer I thought that the climbers traverse / great slab route would be good challenge for him, especially if there was a bit of snow around. However, as we didn't have axe's & spikes I was prepared to turn back or change routes if needed 
(I had checked the various web cams, weather forecasts and blogs and was satisfied that any snow/ice would be patchy and avoidable).

Stool End Farm

Oxendale Beck 

A friendly local

Pike O'Stickle

Looking back along the Great Langdale Valley

First patch of snow high up on the Band

We headed up the Band until leaving the main path to access climbers traverse (a detailed description of how to find the route is described here). At this point we encountered the first few patches of snow which the boy promptly jumped in, got his gloves soaking wet and his hands cold. No problem though. I has prepared for such eventualities and had a rucksack full of spare warm stuff. So on went the waterproof mitts and the conversation turned to famous mountaineers and epic alpine adventures. Before long his imagination was fired and we were embarking on the first ascent of the Eiger. He had great fun climbing up a steepish patch of snow using 2 poles and plenty of grit and determination. He felt like a real mountaineer and I was happy that the slope gradually levelled out at the bottom where there were no rocks to slide into if he slipped.  

Struggling up the the Eigers fiercesome north face !  

Up to his thighs on the 'Rote Fluh'

Kicking steps on the 'White Spider'

Having successfully conquered the Eiger we returned to Bowfell and made our way towards the climbers traverse. It was great to take my son along this narrow route which winds its way amongst some of Lakelands most spectacular rock scenery. The presence of a few snow patches added to the adventure. 

Climbers Traverse .....

..... or rather the Hinterstoisser Traverse!

Looking towards Bowfell Buttress

The water spout under Cambridge Crag

A hyperlapse video of climbers traverse

We stopped for a well earned rest and a bite to eat by the water spout at the bottom of Cambridge Crag before heading off for the final push up the steep boulder field by the famous Great Slab.

Views over Great Slab towards the Langdale Pikes

Scrambling up the boulder field

A misty Great Slab

From the top of Great Slab its just a short amble to the shattered summit of Bowfell. Unfortunately there were no views today so we didn't linger. Instead we headed quickly off towards Esk Pike but then got distracted by more large snow fields which just had to be walked over, slid down and jumped in.

Getting back below the cloud and about to 'bum slide' down this inviting slope

Views over to Esk Pike

How Exciting!?

By the time we had finished playing around it was clear that we wouldn't have enough daylight left to climb over Esk Pike and come back via Esk Hause as originally planned. Instead we took a short cut down to Angle Tarn at Ore Gap where even more large snow fields distracted us into further fun and frolics. By the time we bagged Rossett Pike and got down the Rossett Gill path it was going dark. Head torches were deployed for that last mile along the Cumbria Way back to the car. This made for a last bit of excitement before the end of a perfect lad & dad adventure.

Snowball action shot

The arty black and white shot of Angle Tarn

Bowfell summit now out of cloud ..... typical!

Trying to make a snow angel

Icing a limb threatening wound on Rossett Pike summit

Looking down Rossett Gill and back along the Great Langdale Valley

Next on the adventure radar .... The Matterhorn!