Rossett Pike via Rossett Gill Direct

19 10 2016

Tue 27 Sep 2016
Another trip to get one of Richard’s remaining Wainwrights – he just has 4 left now… As is usual, halfway through the walk we split up as I wanted to do Rossett Gill proper. After hearing so many ‘horror stories’ about it, I wanted to see what all the fuss was about.


click on photos for full size/resolution – all Richard’s digi-camera

As so often happens, after a wonderful week’s weather while I’d been working, the minute we went away on our walking trip, the weather cracked up completely. The morning of the walk the weather forecast had promised it would stop raining by 1100 – we hoped it would as it was exceedingly wet and the cloud level was actually in the valley bottom!

At 1100 it still showed no sign of stopping raining so we set off anyway as it was nearly an hour’s drive to get to our start near the Dungeon Gill hotels down Langdale. On arriving in Langdale it was still vile and we could see the rain sweeping across the valley – ugh. We decided to stay put in the car – at least we’d got free parking as it was mid-week and out of season – the horrid weather probably helped too!

We were lucky to be looking directly at my first ever rock climb of Middlefell Buttress so I kept putting the wipers on to show Richard where I’d climbed – I’m still in awe that I did that climb. I think he got fed up of looking at it well before I did!

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After about half an hour, we decided to adjourn to the Old Dungeon Gill bar. By 1300, more or less on the dot, it finally stopped raining, the valley sides came out and the sun tried to show through. We’d already got our boots and waterproofs on so we set off for the path up the Mickleden Valley.

It is quite a long walk in along the valley bottom but very pleasant apart from the fact that the path was now a mild river – it was sunny now though. We sploshed along happily, Richard taking many photos – I hadn’t bothered to bring my camera from our accommodation as it was so vile in the morning. I have enough problems with my chest limitations now without lugging my heavy camera.

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I was very lightly laden – I just had my flask in my water bottle carrier and that was it. Richard had his usual heavy rucksack – I felt sorry for him but I do keep telling him to throw most of the stuff out of it. For the Lakes, you just don’t need to cart the same level of emergency gear as you need for the wilds of Scotland.

At the valley head, there is a rock with the two routes carved on it – our ascent route to the left and our proposed return of Stake Pass on the right. We weren’t sure at this stage whether we’d come back over Bowfell or not though as it is a favourite fell. It was pretty windy though.

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Great views back down the valley, especially to Pike o’ Stickle…

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Rossett Pike and Rossett Gill

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We plodded upwards on the path, me going very steadily for my chest’s sake. The path was stone-pitched and sticking quite close to the side of Rossett Gill. At one point, however, it started to veer away from the gill. I asked for the map and, after a quick check, decided we were actually on the old Pony Path – a very mild route. Richard continued on that route while I headed back for the gillside…

Richard continued clicking away…

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The bottom of the gill is exceedingly mild and so it wasn’t a problem that I’d missed the start. At this point, however, I couldn’t descend the gill side as it was a slight crag. I continued up the fun and rocky ground rising beside the gill on the true right bank – it was quite clambery.

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I kept peering over the edge until I could see a grassy route down into the gill proper and descended into the gill bed. This was just really a mass of boulders but none of them seemed loose – looking up there didn’t look to be any problems at all – I couldn’t imagine what all the fuss was about!

I never really found any kind of path and I’m not sure there is one as such. There was plenty of route choice though. Sometimes you had to cross the beck due to an impassable section of rock on the gill side. Sometimes I went up the middle of the beck for fun. I was getting pretty wet but it was warm in the gill and I found it fun.

The only problem I was having is that, with my now diseased and obstructed lungs, I couldn’t get enough breath to keep going as I was having to use my hands a lot and was getting very short of breath. That meant I kept having to stop and puff for a couple of minutes – I never used to have to do that 😦

After lots of fun I neared the top and looked up to my left to see Richard just coming in on the Pony Path above me – good timing.

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Rossett Pike as Richard’s Pony Path headed to join the top of the gill

As we met up, my chest started with a violent coughing and wheezing attack and I had to sit for quite a long while on a rock, completely unable to move. I took my inhaler and eventually reached a stage where I could get up and continue. It must be more than 10 years since I’ve had to use an inhaler on a hillwalk though 😦

While I recovered, I sent Richard down the gill a little way to take photos of it…

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Although I’d got my breath back, I found I was very weak and couldn’t rush at all so plodded wearily behind Richard on the very easy path to Rossett Pike itself. It’s hardly any climb or distance from the col and I’m not sure why people miss it out so much – I’d been up it twice before and Richard was with me at least one of those times so he must have declined to do it at the time.

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There are 2 rocky summits – we were both sure the nearest was the higher but the second one had the cairn. I saw another, slightly lower, peak with a cairn further along and headed off out of the blasting wind for that – I believe this is the Mickleden Cairn.

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I was hoping we’d be out of the wind so we could sit in the sun for a break but we had to come back towards the main summits for that. We eventually found somewhere to hunker down out of the wind and in full sun and stopped for a hot drink and half a piece of coconut slice each.

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I decided that, with the blasting wind and my ailing chest, we couldn’t really add in Bowfell – Richard said he was happy just to follow the ridgeline along to the Stake Pass anyway. We clambered down to the path heading off that way meeting a huge walking group coming the other way.

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We’d seen on the map as we set off that there is a path shortcuts the route to the top of Stake Pass. As we reached a small col just before a rise to another peak, Richard spotted it heading around the right-hand side of the peak – it looked like a sheep path but I said we’d go and investigate.

The path looked quite a good one and we followed it off around the front of the craggy peak and it was indeed the path marked on the map. It’s well worth taking this path as the normal path goes a long way out of the way to reach the top of the Stake Pass path.

We upset a few sheep who thought they were grazing out of the way of all the walkers – the path probably doesn’t get used much. Soon we were heading down a short, grassy slope to the beck and the top of the descent path.

Stupidly, we found a place to cross the beck and hopped across. I then realised we were supposed to stay on the original side for our descent – duhh!

The Stake Pass path is a truly lovely path – well made with very gently graded zig-zags all the way down. We met a guy coming up with a huge pack heading for Borrowdale and told him he hadn’t far to go to the top of the pass. I was sad to see many people have been short-cutting the zig-zags of the made path and heading straight down – possibly mountain bikers as they seem to be the main culprits for that kind of thing. I do wish people wouldn’t though – the made path is there to prevent further erosion of the hillsides!

At the foot of the pass we found another sunny spot out of the wind and stopped for another coffee. The large group we’d seen approaching Rossett Pike were just below us after descending one of our ascent routes – I suspect the Pony Path as I think the Rossett Gill direct route doesn’t really get used nowadays.

A nice stroll back along the valley on a now-drying path got us back to the car – we’d been four hours 15 minutes. As we approached the car, we looked around to see the hills behind had clouded in again and bad weather was once again approaching. Very satisfying to fit the walk into a good weather window 🙂

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17 responses

23 10 2016
McFadzean

Nice walk that, Carol, and some lovely pictures. Sorry to hear about the trouble with your lungs. Walking’s hard enough without further complications.
I’m afraid I empathise with Richard and the heavy rucksack brigade. The day I leave my full set of waterproofs, bivvy bag, gloves and woolly hat in the car is the day I will probably need them.
Cheers, Alen

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23 10 2016
mountaincoward

Walking up hills is definitely hard enough with a full chest – it’s pretty horrid with only half left 😦

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22 10 2016
underswansea

Very fine post and photos. Sounds like an enjoyable hike. I noticed your hands on your hips with your elbows back. This is to keep your lungs ‘open’ as my father used to say. I notice small creeks in many of your photos. They seem to originate from springs, Am I right about this? Most of the small creeks in our mountains originate from melt. Take care. Bob

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23 10 2016
mountaincoward

I was wondering whether to explain why I was always shown in photos with my hands on my hips and my elbows back but you’ve explained it perfectly!

Our creeks (or becks as we call them) are all from springs. We sometimes get new becks flowing down hillsides in wet weather which are just run off but we don’t have any meltwater here. There are probably temporary ‘burns’ in Scotland from meltwater.

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21 10 2016
chrissiedixie

We came down a Rossett Gill Path many years ago (25?) and I’ve often wondered if that’s the one people ‘talk ‘ about…. If it was, other than steep, I don’t remember any problems…..

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23 10 2016
mountaincoward

I couldn’t find anything ‘horrible’ anywhere so I’m not really sure what route people get worked up about…

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20 10 2016
Blue Sky Scotland

That was one of the first rock climbs I did in the Lakes as well and remember it was highly polished though not a bad route. Always surprised by the sheer amount of bare rock in the lakes, both low level and on the highest ridges. Had mountain bikers race past me on the second day down there and they fairly rip up the remaining grass paths that are left.

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20 10 2016
mountaincoward

Very polished indeed! I think it’s just about every English person’s first rock climb from what I’ve gathered talking to other climbers 😉 Surprised to see a Scot starting out on it though…

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20 10 2016
tessapark1969

Nice report and useful as although I have now done a lot of the Langdale fells I haven’t done this one.

Sorry to hear the chest isn’t good though 😦

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20 10 2016
mountaincoward

Well this is a nice quick walk for a half day – and 2 handy pubs for your return 😉

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20 10 2016
smackedpentax

I have been really lazy lately and haven’t been far this year at all – apart from a long weekend in Scotland in March and one in Northumberland a month ago. And seeing I am not that far from the Lakes it is a wonder that I haven’t been there for a couple of years. Looking at Richards superb photos and reading about your inspiring adventures makes me want to slap myself hard and get out there this weekend, which is what I just may do as autumn in the Lakes is really beautiful.

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20 10 2016
mountaincoward

I really, really hope I live in Cumbria one day!

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20 10 2016
Gaslight Crime

Grand pictures. A year or two since we were over there, though keep seeing it from a distance John B.

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20 10 2016
mountaincoward

It’s not often we get down Langdale as it’s just too popular for us. Great out of season though – we should go more often – it’s a really spectacular place.

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19 10 2016
mbc1955

I once wrote a semi-serious book about collecting the Wainwrights which included a Glossary for the term MBB – it stood for Mountain Bike Bounty. To collect, you didn’t scalp them, you brought in the still-warm cycle shorts…

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19 10 2016
mbc1955

I’m very sorry to hear what you have to say about the Stake Pass zig-zags. When I was being introduced (forcefully) by my Dad to the fells in the Sixties, the ‘short-cuts’ that had smashed through the original path were a menace and a curse that I thought we’d got rid of, and to hear that these are being reintroduced by idiots (execrate mountain bikers!) is heart-breaking!

As for the Rossett Gill section, you should read the original Wainwright Southern Fells. You took a direct route that sounds as if it’s reintroducing the even more destructive ‘short-cuts’ that made the place truly infamous, whilst Richard followed the old zig-zag route relaid in the Nineties by the NT. The true pony route was further east, well away from the Gill, and shares only the top ‘zag’ with Richard’s route.

I had the fortune to be able to descend that route once, completing a traverse of the Crinkles/Bow Fell/Esk Pike/Esk Hause, and it was a complete delight but, according to Chris Jesty, ten years later, every trace of the route had vanished from the ground.

PS: Bless my much-missed Dad for what he did for me!

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19 10 2016
mountaincoward

I think I’d have left very little mark of my progress in ascent as I wasn’t slipping at all and was merely going from one boulder to the next in most places. That and having a bit of a paddle up the beck.

But the mountain biker destruction of zig-zag paths is starting to really upset me. There used to be a superb old zig-zag path from Carlside col up onto Skiddaw’s South summit which had 27 zig-zags and was nice to walk up. Now the bikers have found it, it’s turning into one horrible straight gully😦 They’ve also started cycling down Hobcarton End from Grisedale Pike (they have no right to do either route as they’re footpaths and not bridleways) – that’s a horrendous gully now – it used to be gentle steps. I wouldn’t mind but there are so many routes now made just for mountain bikers that I can’t see why they have to trash the walking routes on the hills. Makes my blood boil!

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