A Slither Around the Langdale Pikes

10 01 2016

Dec 2013
In the good old days, I used to get invited to the fabulous Adventure Peaks Christmas Party at a posh country house hotel in Ambleside. This was a weekend do and there was usually at least one day’s organised walking, complete with transport, and then a great party and Christmas Dinner on the Saturday night. Unfortunately, as I’ve been too busy Munro/Top-bagging, I haven’t been a proper customer of theirs for a few years and have now been dropped off their list of invitees. This walk was on the last one I attended Christmas 2013.

Langdale Valley


(click on photos for full size-resolution)

The organised walk for the Saturday was a ‘Seven Tarns’ walk mainly over Blea Rigg. I have to admit to hating Blea Rigg and the hills along that ridge with a vengeance but, as there was transport to the Langdale Valley, I asked if I could come on the transport (it’s very expensive for parking up Langdale), do my own thing and meet up with them when they came back from the hill – I was confident I’d be back first. They agreed and very kindly gave me a printed off map sheet of the area to take with me.

The day dawned (or rather didn’t really) dull, cold, windy and very wet. That doesn’t put us dedicated fell walkers off though does it? I put all my waterproofs on and clambered into the minibus. We parked up near the New Dungeon Gill Hotel for the start up Stickle Gill/Mill Beck.

I was trying a new route and wasn’t really sure how to get to my desired path – that on the north side of Dungeon Gill and which follows it through the gap between Harrison Stickle and Loft Crag – I knew it started somewhere on the other side of Stickle Gill. I crossed the river and went up the opposite side of the Gill to the group and, after much up and down the fellside, eventually managed to make my way onto the correct track. I’d wasted around half an hour though – good job I was doing a shorter walk than them!

As I made my way up the fellside above the spectacular Dungeon Gill, I noticed that the wind speed was pretty high – it was to get much worse as it funneled through the gap between the peaks above though!

Dungeon Gill Start
Dungeon Gill early on – Harrison Stickle on the right

This path is pretty steady most of the way up, just having one steep section below the small crag of Pike How.

Dungeon Gill(portrait)

I plodded on up into the rain and against the gale – luckily, all the tops were still out so there was still a view. Eventually, the strip of ground the path occupies becomes much narrower as it prepares to head into the gill on the south-western wall of Harrison Stickle. This is where the views and the path get pleasantly exciting.

Path Entering Dungeon Gill Gorge

Unfortunately, at this point, just as I met some guys coming the other way and was passing a huge boulder, the wind suddenly blasted through the gap. I was picked up and hurled backwards hard and looked behind me where I was headed and saw I was about to hit a huge boulder about four feet tall. With a desperate move, I managed to quickly do the splits over the boulder top instead of hitting it and, fortunately, landed on my feet the other side. I would have looked pretty stupid if I’d fallen over it in front of the group of lads. I bet they were surprised by my sudden athleticism – I certainly was anyway!

The path through the gap on the sidewall is quite narrow and a bit loose but there are no problems. Good job really as no-one could really ignore the view here…

Dungeon Gill Upper

Looking back…

Dungeon Gill Top-looking out

I exited the gill onto the soggy moorland above and headed for the scramble up the back of Pike o’ Stickle (photo taken on a better day)

Pike O'Stickle

There are several routes up the back and I’d recommend folk take one of the more scree-ridden routes rather than a rocky route if it’s wet as the rock is very greasy. However, I must have been feeling very brave this day as I chose a bit of a slippery monster to ascend. Another guy was following me and, when he saw where I’d headed up – and how slippery it was, he soon chickened out (after gazing up in horror for a while) and took a more sensible route. The rock was horrendously greasy and I spent some time wondering whether I’d end up clattering back down again – luckily I made it to safer ground – my climbing wall experience must have been paying off!

I chose a safer route back down but still ended up descending most of the route on my bum. Then I set off straight back across the boggy moorland to the path I’d come up on as that is the one which continues up Harrison Stickle. This path was absolutely fine and I was soon on the summit.

From Harrison, I quickly re-visited Thunacar Knott – a slightly raised rocky area behind the fell, and then headed for the top of Pavey Ark. Luckily, now I wasn’t in a gap, the wind was much less up here…

After a quick traverse of Pavey Ark’s top, I mused briefly about whether I had time to go over to Sergeant Man, a favourite little peak of mine. In the end, I decided I didn’t really so I headed off for the ‘North Rake’ down the back of Pavey. This is a steep and fairly rocky rake but simple and safe enough.

Pavey N Rake-Stickle Tarn
Stickle Tarn from North Rake

It was very soggy crossing to the good track on the far side of the tarn but worse was to come really.

Pavey Ark&Stickle Tarn
Pavey Ark across Stickle Tarn on a better day

Pavey Ark
Jack’s Rake on Pavey Ark (which I haven’t done yet) rakes across from bottom right to top left)

The descent down Stickle Gill is stone-pitched and, like a lot of old stone-pitching now, is getting pretty dangerous in the wet due to the stones getting mossy and therefore lethal in the wet. This was to be my lot for nearly the whole descent and, having not long recovered from a broken wrist due to a slip on wet ground, I was more than cautious on the descent.

At one point, I went completely wrong and didn’t follow Mill Beck closely enough, missing a steeper part of the descent. I ended up having to cut across the fellside to the next descending path (the one the group would have taken in the morning to get up Blea Rigg) – this was horribly greasy and much steeper.

By now, I was going so slowly down the slippery stones, I thought the others might already be back and waiting impatiently for me. I was quite wrong however as, when I got back to the small open shelter in the cold, damp carpark, I had to wait at least a couple of hours. I could have gone in the pub if I’d taken money with me but I’d neglected to bring any out with me 😦

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24 responses

30 09 2017
George

I took that way up a few months ago (in better weather happily). The views down into the gill are magnificent. Wonderful pics.

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30 09 2017
mountaincoward

I’m determined to take it again soon as my walking buddy hasn’t done it yet

Liked by 1 person

2 03 2016
fedup

I think the stone pitched paths here where among the first they ‘repaired’, later ones seem slightly less lethal! I tend to approach the Pikes from Stonethwaite & High Raise just because its less road miles and Langdale is pretty much off bounds to me in summer!

If its any consolation I always slip/trip when there are on lookers, when I’m by myself I’m pretty steady on my feet!

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2 03 2016
mountaincoward

Yeah I don’t really go down Langdale in summer if I can help it – chaos!

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17 01 2016
surfnslide

Not been up there for years. Used to know it well when I did my thesis around those parts. They are indiscriminate in terms of threats to personal safety. I hurt my coxyx on Harrison Stickle when sliding down on a bivvy bag in a juvenile manner, it’s never been the same 🙂

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17 01 2016
mountaincoward

LOL- you’ve got to do it though! I once slid down from Red Tarn, Helvellyn in my waterproof trousers all the way down to the valley on the grass. I thought it was great fun but onlookers thought I was nuts! 😉

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22 01 2016
surfnslide

Done a few grass slides in my time. Best snow slide was pretty much the full length of Red Burn on The Ben. Glissaded over a cliff once as well on The Saddle.

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23 01 2016
mountaincoward

Ouch to the glissade! Weren’t you injured? or was the snow soft and deep where you landed?

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23 01 2016
surfnslide

Very lucky, it was soft and deep. Some friends then decided to follow me down. We were young and Very stupid! 🙂

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23 01 2016
mountaincoward

I bet you all ended up in an amusing heap! 😉

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13 01 2016
McEff

You jogged my memory there, Carol. I once climbed up the back of Pike o’ Stickle and it had been freezing hard, so the greasy rocks all had a coating of glassy ice on them. I spent most of the ascent on my hands and knees.
Lovely pictures.
Alen

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14 01 2016
mountaincoward

It can be a tricky beggar in bad conditions!

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11 01 2016
tessapark1969

Oops re the pub!!

I agree about stone pitched paths – lethal in the wet or under icy conditions.

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11 01 2016
mountaincoward

Yeah – and that’s a huge problem really because it means that, once again, people will go to the side of the path like they did before it was stone-pitched.

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11 01 2016
45degreesmc

Schoolboy/girl error!! Always put some money in your bag if there’s a pub at the bottom of your descent route…………or at least make sure your companion has….

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11 01 2016
mountaincoward

I usually carry about £1 but think I’m going to have to up that amount as you can’t really get anything for a quid nowadays!

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10 01 2016
underswansea

Great photos and report. Must have been quite a wind – luckily you pulled out the ballerina move. It does look damp and slippery. Nothing like having to slide down on your arse. The older I get the more bum sliding I do. Take care. Bob

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10 01 2016
mountaincoward

It was just really windy where it was gusting through the narrow gap between the 2 peaks – the rest of the walk wasn’t too bad.

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10 01 2016
Blue Sky Scotland

Great set of hills and photos but I think I’d be in the pub with a coke and good book from the off in those conditions. The weather is appalling at the moment-grey, heavy rain, just above freezing- and this is one weekend I’m going nowhere.
.

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10 01 2016
mountaincoward

It wasn’t too bad here this weekend – some sun on both afternoons. But Richard insisted I take him to Richmond for his birthday and we had a fine drive changing routes and backtracking to try to avoid the worst flooding!

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10 01 2016
chrissiedixie

Funnily enough, one of the few times I’ve actually been picked up and blown over was on Harrison Stickle!

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10 01 2016
mountaincoward

Maybe it’s anti-women – the gang of blokes all seemed okay. Mind you, the wind was behind them and I always think that’s a bit safer.

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10 01 2016
Gaslight Crime

Old favourites of mine!

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10 01 2016
mountaincoward

That new route was certainly a favourite of mine – I have to take Richard on it now as I’m sure he’d love the spectacular gorge scenery…

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