Sunday, 5 December 2010

Harrison Stickle via Stickle Tarn

We had a right love and hate relationship with the snow this weekend. The plan for the weekend was to go to Oslo to see A-Ha's last ever concert in their home town as Nicky is a life long fan. However we got to the airport and boarded the plane on Saturday morning only to be told that we couldn't go anywhere as Amsterdam's Schiphol Airport was a foot deep in snow and any flight heading their way would have to stay precisely where they are. For is this meant sitting on the apron at Manchester Airport. We waited for four hours until we had to make the decision to get off the plane which luckily we could as we only had hand luggage. We basically had to make it to Amsterdam for a 1:30pm flight which had now been cancelled and the evening flight too was cancelled so we wouldn't have made or been able to cancel the hotel. We've lost a lot of money unfortunately and Nicky was devastated not to make it to the concert. So after a down Saturday I decided we had to get up early Sunday and make our way to The Lakes to make the most of the snow instead and turn it in to something good.

Nicky heading toward Pavey Ark

Knowing we would probably be getting up early but not drastically early, I knew by the time we got the the Lakes we would probably only have at the most four or five hours of daylight. So I had to plan a shorter walk than normal and also take into account the fact we would be slower if the snow is as deep as reports say it is. I decided on the Langdale Pikes from Stickle Barn Tavern up the Stickle Ghyll path as I knew the roads would most likely have been cleared out to Langdale and it is easy to get to once you get off the M6, so saving some time. After de-frosting the car we set off into the a perfect cold, crisp, and clear blue sky winters day. The cars thermometer as we got to Kendal showed the temperature outside to be -8 degrees Celsius. As we came over the hill towards the back of Bowness we looked forward to see a wonderful sight, there was a cloud inversion over the whole stretch of Windermere and above it the huge white snow covered Consiton Fells.

Stickle Tarn

I love how on winters days like these with perfect clarity the mountains look twice their normal size and so much closer. The roads were clear all the way to Langdale. When we arrived I was surprised to see so little people around. The National Trust's Stickle Ghyll car park was fairly treacherous with a good nine inches of snow on the ground. I went through my usual stomping around effing and jeffing at the ridiculous cost of parking to go for a walk in the Lake District. We set off from the Stickle Ghyll car park and headed up hill on the left hand side of the Ghyll. The water falls were iced over with icicles and formations looking magical. Mounds of snow on boulders in the ghyll added to the magic. After a short steep climb we crossed a wooden foot bridge over the ghyll then continued our ascent on the other side of the ghyll. One pair of walkers we kept passing had a beautiful Bearded Collie and Spaniel that were clearly loving their adventures in the snow. We eventually rounded Tarn Crag and crossed Stickle Ghyll at the boulder field before reaching the dam at Stickle Tarn.

Wild scene on Langdale Pikes plateau

Stickle Tarn was completely frozen over and looked as good as it always does but even better that normal as its back drop the stunning Pavey Ark was covered in snow creating a grand monochrome scene. We ate a chocolate bar at the tarn and headed then headed left to the south western shore of the tarn before starting the ascent to the col between Pavey Ark and Harrison Stickle. The ascent is steep and quite dangerous in winter conditions but the snow was two foot deep powder with no frozen layers at all so a fall would just see you buried in snow instead of sliding down the hill side. We didn't even bother to get our crampons or ice axes out as the deep snow gave a certain security you wouldn't normally have on a hill side covered in frozen snow. This two foot deep obstruction was like every step we were walking over a fence, we followed the steps of those who had gone there before us but the going was still pretty tough. At one point Nicky said it was like walking through whipped cream!

Myself on Harrison Stickle summit

We topped out on the col and walked across to the large bowl shaped Langdale Pikes plateau. As we reached the plateau clouds came rolling in for literally only around ten minutes and added a wild an desolate atmosphere to the place. As we headed towards Harrison Stickle the cloud was starting to break up and was leaving small brocken spectres and halo effects as the low winter sun hit the summit rocks and the remaining cloud. The cloud was gone by the time we reached the summit and the views were incredible, though it was absolutely freezing now we had stopped. We headed off StickleGhyll gorge skirting Harrison Stickle. The path was quite scary in parts as here you knew if you slipped there was a good chance you'd end up in that deep Dungeon Ghyll gorge below. Eventually the path eases off and ascends over a grassy slop towards Pike Howe. Pike Howe is a wonderful rocky knoll that sits in the most perfect position for gazing down the wonder of the Langdale Valley. Nicky topped out on Pike Howe while I took a picture and we then took the zig zag path from behind Pike Howe back down to Stickle Ghyll. We topped off our exhilarating walk with a hot chocolate sat by the wood burner in the Stickle Barn Tavern looking out at the beautiful snow covered fells. Perfect Day!

I have uploaded the photos from the walk here.

Route Map...


  1. There is some great photos there Jamie. Very nice day to be in the hills.

  2. Great post, I was up there myself the day before you, unfortunately I was there while the snow was falling so did not enjoy the excellent views you had, never mind eh!

  3. Aye those calm after the storm days with perfect blue skies and clarity are great, been lucky enough to have two of them in the last fortnight.