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

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Fairfield & Seat Sandal

Date : 30th May 2009
Wainwrights : Stone Arthur, Great Rigg, Fairfield, Seat Sandal
Distance : 6.7 miles (10.8km)
Height Gained : 3168 feet (966 meters)
Time Taken : About 4 hours

The Route : anticlockwise from Grasmere

So far Fairfield had not been kind to me. I had stood on the summit twice in the last few months and seen diddly squat both times. This time I was taking no chances. The forecast was perfect and it was shorts and T-Shirt temperatures. I also had company today in the form of my 11 year cousin-in-law. I wanted to take him on a familiar route which was not too far or too difficult. I also desperately wanted to see a view from Fairfield summit so decided to repeat the walk from a few months ago and maybe tag Seat Sandal on at the end if the little lad could manage it. 

Grasmere from the path up to Stone Arthur

Looking over Stone Arthur to Grasmere

Glimpses of Grisedale Tarn with Seat Sandal left and Helvellyn right

 Despite it being essentially the same route as last time it felt completely different in the bright sunshine. It certainly makes a difference when you can see where you are going! The views I was denied previously on Fairfield summit were now laid out in all directions. Third time lucky.

Fairfield summit view over the Deepdale valley towards St Sunday Crag

Fairfield summit view towards Helvellyn

Glimpses of Ullswater down the Grisedale valley

Great Rigg and views back to Grasmere

Looking over to Seat Sandal

At Grisedale Hause we had a quick debate as to weather Seat Sandal was manageable. He felt fine so on we went up the steep ascent following the tumble down dry stone wall. The summit of Seat Sandal is largely a flat grassy plateau with superb views down the length of Grasmere and over Helm Crag to the Langdales. It would make a great wild camping spot.

Grisedale Tarn

Yours truly on Seat Sandal summit

A distant view of Easedale Tarn from Seat Sandal

Grasmere from Seat Sandal

Thirlmere from Seat Sandal

On the descent path - the little un did good

Wainwright count = 10/214

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

The Deepdale Horseshoe from Patterdale

Date : 21st April 2009
Wainwrights : Hartsop Above How, Hart Crag, Fairfield, St Sunday Crag
Distance : 8.9 miles (14.4km)
Height Gained : 3377 feet (1029 meters)
Time Taken : about 5 hours (due to dismal visibility)

The route : anticlockwise from Patterdale

 Having been denied a view on Fairfield last month I decided I might have more luck tackling it from the other side. I didn't. Its a shame because this looked like a great route around one of the quietest and prettiest valleys in the region. Unfortunately though, I walked into clag at about 500 feet on the way up Hartsop Above How and didn't see more than about 50 feet in any direction until halfway down St Sunday Crag 5 hours later. I didn't take a single picture. At this stage I was not yet a Wainwright bagger and so walked right past Birks without even visiting the summit, which is a great excuse to do this walk again in better weather.  

Wainmwright Count : 9/214

Monday, March 9, 2009

Fairfield from Grasmere

Date : 9th March 2009
Wainwrights : Stone Arthur, Great Rigg, Fairfield.
Distance : 6.5 miles  (10.5 km)
Height Gained : 2758 feet (841 meters)
Time Taken : 3 hours

The Route : anticlockwise from Grasmere

 Three weeks after my first solo hike I was back in Grasmere, this time with intention of climbing Fairfield. This was a considerably more substantial proposition than Helm Crag, especially as it was still quite wintery on the mountain tops. I set off towards my first fell, Stone Arthur, along a good path. About an hour later I was on the summit of this craggy outcrop which is a Wainwright all by itself but in reality is just a gnarled protuberance on the shoulder of Great Rigg.

The view over Grasmere from early in the walk

Looking over to Helm Crag

The view from Stone Arthur

Looking up the Greenburn valley towards High Raise from Stone Arthur

A straight and steady path then leads up to the summit of Great Rigg itself. At this point the weather took a turn for the worse. Dark clouds appeared and it started snowing. The wind then got up and by the time I reached Fairfield summit I was in a virtual whiteout. The following pictures were taken opportunistically during gaps in the cloud. The video was taken just under the cloud base on the approach to Fairfield. There were no summit views.

Great Rigg is up there somewhere

Looking back to Great Rigg from the path to Fairfield

Looking along the Fairfield Horseshoe to Windermere

The large summit plateau seemed quite disorientating in these poor conditions but I trusted my compass and headed off in easterly direction until a path appeared which wound its way steeply downwards. As I passed through the cloud level I got my first glimpse of Grisedale Tarn which was a fine sight and very reassuring that I was indeed on the right side of the mountain.  

Seat Sandal comes into view while descending from Fairfield

Grisedale Tarn & the Grisedale valley

Looking over Grisedale Tarn to Dollywagon Pike & Striding Edge

Looking back up to Fairfield summit which is now clear !

The Tongue Gill valley and the route back to Grasmere

It was lovely walk back down the Tongue Gill valley to the road. The bad weather passed over as quickly as it came and the sun was shining by the time I got back to the car. I was just unlucky with my timing on this walk. If I had been on Fairfield summit 30 minutes earlier or later I would have enjoyed a summit view. Ah well. A good excuse to come back soon.

Wainwright Count :  6/214