Sunday, 27 December 2015

Rossett Pike & The Langdale Pikes Walk

My mate Rob let me know that he and the family would be in the Lake District around Christmas. He invited me up for a walk and a meal so I made sure I reserved a day for it in my busy Christmas schedule. I was working with Rob around the time I got heavily into hill walking and started the Trekking Britain website. Rob is a big fan of the outdoors and loves adventure. I accidentally found this out one day when I was about to descend Striding Edge from the summit of Helvellyn and he suddenly appeared in front of me with his father. I have had some brilliant mountain days with Rob and his sons Callum and Conor. On a memorable holiday in Glencoe many years ago when the lads were young, we climbed Ben Nevis not knowing that Callum had actually broken his arm the day before, after falling out of a tree at the Red Squirrel camp site. I've seen Rob crapping himself on a frosty Sharp Edge and spent an incredible day with him on a traverse of Tryfan, Bristly Ridge and The Glyders. Its a shame we don't see each other as much these days as every day we spend on a mountain seems to provide memories we'll never forget. I was looking forward to meeting up with the guys but the weather had been absolutely shocking with the worst floods Cumbria had ever witnessed. Imagine my delight then when I looked at the forecast and saw that the day we had chosen was going to be the only good weather window in a month. 

Sunrise over Windermere from Ambleside

As I was busy around Christmas I wouldn't be able to stay over so it was an early start so I could get up there early and we could all enjoy as much of the short winter sunlight hours as possible. As I approached Windermere on the A597, the moon was just setting behind the Coniston Fells on the other side of Windermere and it was absolutely huge. I didn't bother stopping to take a photo as photos of the moon never seem to work out and always make you look like a liar. As I rounded Windermere near Holme Crag I had to stop to take a photo though as the sunrise was stunning. You just know you are going to have a great day on the hills when it starts like that. I arrived at the quaint self catering cottage they were staying in at Ambleside and we all sat and had a chat about the plans for the day whilst I met Rob's beautiful new family and caught up with the lads who had each grown about two foot since the last time I saw them in person.

Sunny Raven Crag above the Old Dungeon Ghyll

We made the decision to head towards the Old Dungeon Ghyll in the Langdale Valley. We know the surrounding fells well and its only a short journey from Ambleside saving us from wasting precious daylight hours in the car. Despite the recent flooding the roads were okay. The sun had now risen above the fells and it was turning out to be the best weather day for weeks. The recent floods were crippling local businesses financially with losses due to a lack of visitors put off by stories of impassible roads and dangerous conditions. We parked for free which was an incentive for visitors. An excellent idea and we made sure we visited the pub when we returned and supported the local business by consuming the local ale and flapjack of course. 

Langdale Valley fields, Lake District National Park
We still hadn't actually made a decision on which route we were going to walk. We scoured the maps and all came up with suggestions. Most of the suggestions we had all done before so we decided on a slightly quirky route to be a bit different. We decided to walk up Mickleden, ascend Rossett Gill, across Rossett Pike, over Stake Pass then ascend the Langdale Pikes. If the weather stayed good and we felt we had time try and find the illusive summit of Sergeant Man, the only Wainwright in the Langdale Pikes I was yet to bag. Our decision to ignore Bowfell and Crinkle Crags was due to the fact there was a cloud line at around 750m and both were shrouded in cloud which we weren't too sure would disperse.

Heading into Mickleden with Pike of Stickle above
We set off down the broad and stunning Mickleden valley. Conversation started as we made our way down the track which was littered with huge puddles that gave brilliant reflections of the surrounding fells. Rob, Callum and Conor are all die hard Norwich City supporters. Fortunately for them I don't hold it against them. I did however lay down the first ground rule of the day. As you may know I am a United fan ( there is only one United before you ask ). This season has not been a good one and our current form is absolutely abysmal. I therefore selfishly proposed that football talk be banned, especially as Norwich had just beaten us at Old Trafford the week before. Ah look up there! Buzzard circling thermals above Pike of Stickle... this was my attempt to change the subject as quickly as possible. 

Rossett Pike reflected in Mickleden track puddle

Rob & Conor following the Cumbria Way route through Mickleden

At the Stake Pass and Esk Hause sign posted cairn we went left and crossed the wooden footbridge towards the Rossett Gill ascent in the direction of Esk Hause. I love this ascent as it gives head on views of the alpine like north east face of Bowfell. As the cloud line was around 750m the cloud was hanging over the cliffs and buttresses adding to the atmosphere as we ascended. There was as always much conversation about the word gash as we approached the gash at the top of Rossett Gill.

Rob and Callum crossing Stake Gill, Mickleden, Lake District

Stake Pass and Esk Hause junction split, Mickleden, Lake District

Rob and Callum ascending Rossett Gill, Lake District
As we got closer to the top of Rossett Gill thin wispy clouds were also forming over the Langdale Pikes and Rossett Pike. After the stiff climb we eventually reached level ground as the path reached Angle Tarn at the col between Bow Fell and Rossett Pike. Here we turned right and ascended the short ascent to the summit of Rossett Pike. 

Looking down Mickleden from Rossett Gill, Lake District

Angle Tarn, Lake District National Park
We ate lunch on Rossett Pike watching the incredible scenes over Mickleden as cloud crept through from Stake Pass like a creepy mist and hid the valley below that we had just walked. Days like this can often feel more exhilarating than a blue sky sunny day. 

Conor, Callum and Rob having lunch on Rossett Pike, Lake District

Cloud creeping into Mickleden from Rossett Pike, Lake District
We headed north east along Rossett Pike towards Its other tops and eventually Stake Pass. It is the least trodden of the fells around the Langdale Valley skyline. Terrain is fairly tricky at times and it seems to go on forever despite looking short when viewed from down in Mickleden or on a map. Our perception of distance wasn't helped by the cloud which had now enveloped us. Rossett Pike, is actually a long ridge crammed between two larger mountain massifs. The steep Mickleden side of the ridge is a huge wall at the end of the valley. On a map you can see the ridge is split in two by Little Gill which at first we mistook for Stake Pass. The north eastern end of the ridge is like a separate top again which you have to climb up then descend to reach Stake Pass. We let Rob lead the way at this point. Whenever I walk with Rob he always has a moment where he likes to go off and walk by himself. I think he has a bit of a moment to himself. I do the same myself at times and understand so I leave him to it. The only problem of course is that Rob is then leading the navigation which our wet socks knew by the time we had crossed the boggy ground to reach Stake Pass. 

Rob leading us into a cloudy and boggy Stake Pass, Lake District

Conor admiring the contrasting view towards Langstrath, Lake District

We helped a couple with directions at Stake Pass then started the ascent of Martcrag Moor. The views behind us looking north over Langstrath towards the Northern Fells was completely clear and in complete contrast with the cloud that had now shrouded the fells we were walking. We took slightly different routes up Martcrag Moor and Conor and myself who were falling behind were suddenly the victims of verbal abuse from Rob and Callum. "Path Wanker" became the term of the day and was used extensively for the next few hours. 

Callum admiring Pike of Stickle from Martcrag Moor, Lake District

Rob heading towards Pike of Stickle, Lake District
On the ascent of Martcrag Moor we realised as most of the Langdale Pikes was shrouded in cloud it was pretty pointless treading wet boggy featureless ground to find Sergeant Man. We headed instead towards the unique dome shaped summit of Pike of Stickle. The views down into Mickleden from up there were awesome as the cloud continued to haunt the valley from above.

Atmospheric scenes as we approach Pike of Stickle, Lake District

Looking down into Mickleden from Pike of Stickle, Lake District

The summit of Pike of Stickle is a lot bigger than it would appear from a distance and has a fun scramble to reach its top. When we reached the top we didn't stay too long as there was now a chill in the air. We descended the fun scramble then turned right and followed the path over the hollow to Harrison Pike which we also ascended then quickly descended as it was chilly and there were no views just cloud. We allowed Callum to navigate the way down. As he almost led us off a cliff on the south side of Harrison Stickle it became apparent he had inherited his fathers navigational skills. 

Callum and Rob taking in the atmosphere on Pike of Stickle summit

Head of the Langdale Valley from Pike of Stickle, Lake District

Loft Crag from Pike of Stickle, Lake District National Park

Langdale Valley from Loft Crag gully, Lake District National Park
Navigation in cloud is always interesting and there was even more confusion to be had on deciding the best way to descend back down to the Old Dungeon Ghyll. We ended up at the top of the daunting looking Dungeon Ghyll path below Thorn Crag which I know definitely would take us back down to the valley. I hadn't been that way for a few years though and it did look like the path had eroded quite badly. After some apprehension and Rob's strop we finally made the decision to descend this way. The path was pretty scary in places and rock fall had left just a foot wide loose path in places with a sheer drop into the cold and dark Dungeon Ghyll far below. There was definitely an increase in human gases wafting around at this point.

Ascending Dungeon Ghyll path under Thorn Crag, Lake District National Park

Callum and Rob rounding Pike Howe, Windermere beyond, Lake District

The path eventually turns from rocky steps to steep grass, which was lethally wet and slippery. We all took turns at falling on our backsides and each time our compassionate fellow hill walkers sympathetically shouted "Path Wanker". Rob took more abuse than anyone as he had stiff soled boots which don't grip too well on wet grassy slopes.

Callum mocking his dad for falling over... again!

We ended up near the New Dungeon Ghyll then followed the bridleway back to the Old Dungeon Ghyll. To mine and Rob's amusement the lads had a working class argument mocking each other with comments like "Where's your degree". Rob then announced that he had been dreaming about me and cheese the night before. Not surprisingly things went quiet. We reached the pub where we met doggies, ate flapjack, called each other "Path Wankers", spoke about old times and I got mocked by the bar staff for ordering a shandy. Top day with the guys, even though we don't see each other much, I hope we keep meeting up and climbing mountains for the rest of our lives. We finished off a great day with absolutely delicious tea with Ha and Hong Yen at the cottage in Ambleside.

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