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Langdale Pikes from Grasmere / 2 days / 13 miles (21km)

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Date: 28 Oct 2008
Start / Finish: Grasmere.
Maps: Explorer OL6: English Lakes South West & OL7 South East.

Day 1High Raise & Langdale Pikes7.1 miles / 2790 feet (11.4km / 850m)
Day 2Thunacar Knott & Far Easedale5.7 miles / 540 feet (9.2km / 164m)

A circuit of the Langdale Pikes from Grasmere, approaching via Easedale Tarn and Codale Tarn and returning down the Far Easedale path.

This trip was just three days after the ferocious weather in the Lake District at the weekend, which saw the OMM (Original Mountain Marathon) event cancelled a few hours after the start (amid a storm of media controversy and sensational misreporting) and chaos in the region as the rescue teams and services struggled to cope in the worst conditions in living memory. The rainfall had been colossal and the valleys were severely flooded with some road closures, and we thought it prudent to aim for an easy start close to a major road in case of problems - this is a minor variation of our previous Easedale routes.

Day 1 - High Raise & Langdale Pikes

Parking in Grasmere is now even worse since our last backpack from here: on previous visits out of season, we were happy to pay the requested charge in the honesty box to support the church but there is now a notice prohibiting overnight parking. Luckily there was just one empty parking bay on the main street which is unrestricted at this time of year.

On the popular highway up to Easedale Tarn there was surprisingly little evidence of the weekend weather excesses: Sourmilk Gill looked impressive ahead to be sure, but no more than it normally does after a typical Lake District rainy spell. An arctic mixed northerly weather stream had been predicted for this week, and the crystal clear air and blue sky emphasised the rich autumnal colours of the bracken and foaming white of the falls.

Sourmilk Gill
Sourmilk Gill (28 Oct 2008__09:06:03)
Sourmilk Gill & Helm Crag
Sourmilk Gill & Helm Crag (28 Oct 2008__09:10:40)
Easedale Tarn, Seat Sandal & Fairfield
Easedale Tarn, Seat Sandal & Fairfield (28 Oct 2008__10:19:26)

It was quite warm ascending in the shelter of Easedale but the sky rapidly clouded over above the falls and it started to snow - well sleet really, it didn't settle - and the vivid colouration disappeared from the landscape. Codale Tarn was disappointingly grey but this is a splendid spot usually bypassed by the crowds heading directly up the valley.

Codale Tarn
Codale Tarn (28 Oct 2008__11:16:30)

Climbing past the frozen pools to Codale Head, the grey vanished to be replaced by excellent turbulent skies and the views were superbly clear, with a dusting of snow on the crest of the Helvellyn ridge and St. Sunday Crag.

We were expecting a bitingly cold wind on the tops and were kitted out accordingly, but somehow the first icy blast of the winter season always manages to be worse than we expect and on the gradual climb to High Raise, the dominant mountain of the group, we were walking right into the teeth of that northerly blast and wishing we had nose guards. This wintry stream came early in the season and I imagine that our bodies are not acclimatized to it, at any rate the best we could do was to hold our mountain gloved hands over our faces. The picture from the summit of High Raise turned out quite sharp, which is pretty good considering my hands were freezing in the buffeting wind and I couldn't see anything in the viewfinder through my tear-filled eyes.

Eastern fells from Codale Head
Eastern fells from Codale Head (28 Oct 2008__12:56:50)
Northern fells from Codale Head
Northern fells from Codale Head (28 Oct 2008__12:57:01)
View from High Raise
View from High Raise (28 Oct 2008__13:51:42)

On the lee side of the mountain the calm sunshine was very welcome as we strolled along the squelchy path to the col and onwards to Pavey Ark, threading our way through the maze of partly frozen bogs and pools to the rocky summit area. It was half-term again and many walkers were starting their descents to Langdale as we curved around to Harrison Stickle, the main magnet of the group and giving wonderful clear views today.

View from Harrison Stickle
View from Harrison Stickle (28 Oct 2008__15:21:38)

Curving down into Harrison Combe we found a good dry spot in the shadow of Pike of Stickle for a pitch, shielded from the icy wind. As soon as the sun sank behind the prominent rock pile the temperature dropped like a stone and the tent quicky developed a veneer of frost, no colourful sunset sky this time but an outline of silhouetted black peaks. The clear moonless sky later was jet black and one realises how much of this splendid starry vision is denied to us by light pollution.

Pitch below Pike of Stickle
Pitch below Pike of Stickle (28 Oct 2008__16:36:23)

Day 2 - Thunacar Knott & Far Easedale

Today would be very different: at dawn it was snowing on the tent. The swirling clouds parted briefly to show a colourful early sky through the porch, but for the rest of the day the vibrant colour would be sucked from the landscape by the thin snowfall and grey skies. Different - but still highly enjoyable: the wind had died down and these tops were free of mist, and it felt milder as we set off up the frozen slopes in the eerie silence of the falling snow to reach Thunacar Knott. The very thin snow covering had accumulated on the summit tarn and rocks to make a most pleasing scene.

Dawn sky over Harrison Stickle
Dawn sky over Harrison Stickle (29 Oct 2008__07:28:58)
Pike of Stickle
Pike of Stickle (29 Oct 2008__08:19:30)
Thunacar Knott summit
Thunacar Knott summit (29 Oct 2008__08:29:09)
Thunacar Knott tarn
Thunacar Knott tarn (29 Oct 2008__08:33:17)

Returning to the col before High Raise, we took the slanting path towards Sergeant Man, and navigated our way through this rather confusing area of knolls and frozen bogs in a brief period of mist back to Codale Head. From here we picked up the path down to Broadstone Head, passing the attractive Ash Crags tarn.

Ash Crags tarn
Ash Crags tarn (29 Oct 2008__10:36:26)
Ash Crags tarn
Ash Crags tarn (29 Oct 2008__10:38:37)
Broadstone Head & Ullscarf
Broadstone Head & Ullscarf (29 Oct 2008__10:47:10)

By the time we reached Broadstone Head the dense mist had really set in for the day, and we decided to return in the valley on the Far Easedale path, a new route for us and a good one, passing the attractive waterfalls which more than compensated for the greyness above.

Lower down the valley the sleety snow turned to constant light rain, but nothing seems to dampen the spirit of the multitudes milling around in walking gear in Grasmere, even on a wet Wednesday in late October - it was just as packed as ever.