|OS Route Map →||Route file →|
Date: 11 Feb 2008
Start / Finish: Elterwater NT car park.
Maps: Explorer OL6 & OL7: English Lakes SW & SE.
|Day 1||Lingmoor Fell to Little Stand||6.9 miles / 3940 feet (11.1km / 1200m)|
|Day 2||Crinkle Crags to Ill Crag||4.7 miles / 2160 feet (7.6km / 658m)|
|Day 3||Scafell Pike to Thunacar Knott||6.9 miles / 2080 feet (11.1km / 633m)|
|Day 4||High Raise & Codale Head||6.8 miles / 680 feet (11.0km / 207m)|
A superb 4-day mountain circuit of the Langdale fells with an extension to Scafell Pike.
The weather was truly astonishing for mid February: four days of unbroken sunshine and very warm indeed once the sun was well up, and we walked in base layers for much of the day. We saw one lad by Angle Tarn wearing only shorts and boots with no top at all!. Our hopes were high of a good temperature inversion on this trip and there was one, but there was only a weak thin layer of inverted cloud. Nevertheless the combination of winter clarity and summer warmth made this an incredible backpack to remember. Only a few very small patches of snow remained now.
Conditions initially appeared as predicted: it was perishing cold in the car park but rapidly became warm as we climbed up towards Lingmoor Fell and the Coniston fells came into view.
Descending to the pass road just before Side Pike, Pike o'Blisco gained in stature with every step and we took the contouring path from the summit of the pass that joins the main route at Redacre Gill. It was hard work up the pitched path with four days of winter backpacking gear but we remained quite cool in the shade - a strange thought for mid February!.
We left the well trodden highway just before Great Knott and climbed L to the trio of tops of Cold Pike, a fine and often deserted area. Rounding the head of Gaitscale Gill brought us to the even less visited but excellent Little Stand with its summit tarns, where we made our pitch with a colourful sunset reflected in the water.
After a mild night there was a weak inversion of thin cloud and we could just see the Yorkshire hills peeping out on the horizon, distinguished by the unmistakable shape of Ingleborough, while nearer to hand were Black Combe and Harter Fell. The orange early light was catching the southern slopes of Crinkle Crags.
We managed the famous 'bad step' on Crinkle Crags with our winter gear by a joint effort: I went up first with my pack, reached down and took Vivien's, then helped her up the two big steps. It isn't technically difficult at all, but one does need a fair amount of leg and arm strength and it helps if the rock is dry.
The climb from Three Tarns to Bow Fell was very warm but the views were superb and there was a cooling breeze around the top. Down to Ore Gap and ascending Esk Pike, it made a change to see the fine views from this peak, it is usually misted out on our visits. Climbing past Esk Hause into Calf Cove there were many people descending from Scafell Pike, some looking rather surprised to see us going the other way, but fortunately we were spared the oblique inquisition from the dreaded Mr. Mountain Safety Man!. A helicopter was hovering on Esk Pike as if about to land, presumably just an exercise as we had just come down that way with nothing happening.
There were still quite a few stragglers including families with young children coming down from the Pike as we veered off L to Ill Crag, a pitch we had been promising ourselves for a while. There is a great view down into upper Eskdale from the edge below the summit rock pile.
A dawn start gave a warm orange glow on Scafell Pike as we set off to traverse the tangled boulder field before the final climb to the roof of England, the silence broken only by the cronk of a pair of inquisitive ravens, one of which flew into a photo we were taking from the summit.
Returning via Calf Cove and meeting an early fell runner, we detoured to Great End, an old favourite with fine views of its own and a good place to linger.
Descending to Angle Tarn out of the breeze it became incredibly warm and it remained so on the traverse of Martcrag Moor, and we were drinking a lot of water to stay cool and hydrated. The breeze picked up again approaching the steep climb of Harrison Stickle. Time was rather short to include the traverse around to Pavey Ark and we walked directly across to Thunacar Knott, making a pitch by the tarn.
It was noticably colder than last night but still fairly mild and frost free despite the clear sky locally. This morning the predicted bank of cloud had reached the eastern fells and there was a dense cap of cloud in a sharp line over the Helvellyn ridge, and it would persist all day. Walking to High Raise we saw a couple of deer, the first time we had seen them this far west in the central fells.
On High raise there were a couple of large orange ridge tents pitched at the NE corner of the summit plateau. We walked across to the last major top of the circuit Codale Head.
Our return route was the Blea Rigg ridge, an easy and very enjoyable undulating walk highlighted by some attractive little tarns. There is a splendid view near the start of Stickle Tarn with Harrison Stickle and the striated cliffs Pavey Ark above, while Codale tarn and Easedale Tarn are well seen to the left.