The Great Langdale Valley is home to some of the best fells in Lakeland. This walk will be covering the impressive traverse of Pike O’Blisco, Great Knott, Crinkle Crags and Bowfell before returning via Angle Tarn and Mickleden via the Cumbria Way.
In my last blog post covering High Raise I talked about being in a Dip for over six weeks continuously, and how I try to break such cycles of poor mental wellbeing. When I left Lakeland after my previous four-day break, I returned home and it was soon apparent, I was still in a dip and my trip had only temporarily helped my current situation, whilst I was on the fells. This brings me to the point that although nature sooths and improves mental wellbeing it is not a cure on its own.
Resilience and education play a vital role in any hope of recovery, if recovery is not possible for whatever reason, then the goal should be to aim for a fulfilling life with meaning. This unfortunately is where most people struggle through no fault of their own, wellbeing issues can render most people unable to function on a daily basis. Unable to dress and wash themselves and eat a proper meal, some turn to alcohol or drugs to bypass the feelings that mental illness brings, but that only keeps people stuck further into the cycle.
Going through a recovery college myself, I set myself goals to get up everyday and eat breakfast. Start interacting again with the world around me and educated myself about a good healthy lifestyle. Eating healthy alone does not cure anything no matter what you hear, trust me I have tried that route and so have many others. Communicating with friends and starting to open up about the struggles of living with a serious condition help’s so many people, you would not believe. Unfortunately, many people do not do this through fear of stigma and being judged. The world needs to become a more understanding and compassionate place for sure.
Whilst home and found myself still unwell, I had a decision to make? How long will this dip last it has been over a weeks now and the last serious dysfunctional dip I had was in the spring that lasted over two-weeks. Experience had taught me it could last for however long it wanted to last. I knew I would eventually come out of it, but I had to look after myself in the here and now. So, I arranged with a friend to return to Lakeland two days after coming home for three days. So, on the Sunday I travelled to YHA Ambleside to meet up with Paul, who is ex armed forces and has his own struggles with PTSD.
We had met in September 2019 at YHA Buttermere and talked about the struggles and formed a kind of understanding that most do not. Paul’s attitude on life is refreshing for somebody like me and we tend to take the piss out of each other and have some much-needed banter. We decided on two walks with the other being The Langdale Pikes which I have already covered on my website in the past.
The Great Langdale Valley is some 12,170 acres, much of it in the care of the National Trust, who have ten farms here. The valley stretches from Ambleside through Clappersgate, Skelwith Bridge, Elterwater, Chapel Stile, to Dungeon Ghyll Hotel, and the glaciated valley of Mickleden.
The surrounding fells include Pike O’Blisco, Crinkle Crags, Rossett Pike and the Langdale Pikes – Pike O’Stickle, Harrison Stickle and Pavey Ark.
On the Monday morning we got up and had breakfast and I was feeling a little better in myself, possibly because I knew I was in a place proven to sooth me. We then travelled the short distance to The Old Dungeon Ghyll Hotel and parked up. The weather was clear sky’s but it was cold and there was fresh snow on the upper fells. I had wanted to do Pike O’Blisco and Crinkle Crags last summer but never got the chance, so was looking forwards to what theis route had to offer.
Although there was fresh snow on the ground there was not enough for the use of crampons so off, we set out of the car park and headed right and South along the road past the camp site. This road is the link to Wrynose Pass that passes Blea Tarn (Side Gates Road). The road is rather steep and just before it bends left at Side Pike, we left the road and headed right at Redacre Gill, there is another path further up be we took this one and they join further along anyway.
The path is grass for a while and then turns to scree and eventually steps near the wooded area on the right as you head up to the first peak which is Pike O’Blisco. Now to say I had spent the previous week in the lakes I was struggling heading up to the summit and my back started to hurt which was unusual, I later found out it was my boots causing the problem given they were full winter boots but a little too heavy for my frame.
The climb from the road to the summit of Pike O’Blisco across Wrynose Fell is around 600 meters and there is no respite, its is not to be underestimated and I had to take a few rests before I eventually got into my stride. There is not much in the way of views straight ahead as you climb upwards, but the views behind of the valley and to the right of Pike O’Blisco were something else, with the autumn colours and rising sun casting its shade.
Every now and then we stopped to take images but eventually made our way to the summit. There are some craggy bits and a few enjoyable scrambles along the way. The views were now starting to open up and with the clear sky, we could see for miles around. We had a few minutes rest before heading to our next destination of Great Knott which involves a small descent before climbing once again to its summit. You will pass Red Tarn at the crossing off the path coming up from Wrynose Pass, I was really starting to enjoy this walk and the company and my mood was lifting.
At the summit of Great Knott we got talking to a fellow hiker and had a bite to eat whilst taking in the views of Bowfell to the North and Sca Fell and Scafell Pike to the NNE with their snow topped peaks. We could have been mistaken for being in the Alps such was the view, had we not known better. The sun was warming up and I was starting to feel alive which is why I reach out to the mountains; its kindness was soothing me.
Our next destination was Long Top; the mountain is one of the most distinctive in Lakeland. It has a unique profile of crags which can be identified from most other summits and offers some very good light scrambling along the top. The summit is called Long Top with a small tarn nearby called Long Top which is the highest tarn in Lakeland. The mountain is made up of 5 separate peaks. Wainwright lists Crinkle Crags in his top 6 summits and also the ridge walk along the top and up to Bowfell as the “Best Ridge Mile in Lakeland. I have to agree with Wainwright on this matter given I was really enjoying the experience and so was Paul.
The terrain at this point was very craggy and scree in places and large rock formations that meander around the ridge. To get onto the ridge at Long Top you will be faced with two options, The infamous “Bad Step” or a traverse around it to the left. We chose to scramble “Bad Step” which is a little exposed to the right but nothing like the “bad Step” on Sharp Edge. The scramble is a couple of metres high and it is just a case of thinking about where to best place your hands to get an uplift. The scree path to the left totally avoids this so you do have a choice.
Once on Long Top you will you will make your way across the cairn marked path and skirt the edge of Gunson Knott, the views to the right near Mickle Door can be pretty impressive and if you are scared of heights do not look right. Keep following the path as it slowly descends past Shelter Crags to Three Tarns. The views left and right here are some of the best your will experience in Lakeland and it is a good job, because the next point of call on the route will be the steep ascent of Bowfell Links which on our visit had snow drift covering the steps. With Bowfell being the highest point of the route at 859 Metres at least you know once you reach the summit it will all be downhill afterwards and that should spur you on. Take your time and rest if need be, as I say it is about the experience not the time you completed.
Once at the summit of Bowfell we found it pretty busy to say it was a Monday, but people obviously had the same idea of making the most of the crisp and clear early November weather. Again, from the summit the views are some of the best in Lakeland with a 360 panoramic view of the Lagdales, Scarfell Range and Great Gable.
With time getting on we made our descent past Bowfell Butress to Ore Gap which is well marked by cairns, but with snow on the ground you do have to keep vigilant not to end up too far right. Our next destination was Angle Tarn and I will point out that the path down and around to the tarn is not very clear in places and you may find yourself off the path at times. But check your map or use common sense and make a path for yourself if need be. Eventually it does appear again heading East to the shore of Angle Tarn.
Angle Tarn water looked dark compared to the summer when I was last here, when it was so inviting during a heatwave. The backdrop of Hanging Knotts makes this place special and I have on many occasions sat at the shore chilling whilst taking a break and admiring the view. From the tarn take the steps South which will lead you upwards to the left-hand side of Rossett Pike before the long descent down Rossett Gill before joining the Cumbria Way.
I found the descent arduous and the steps and terrain difficult, it may have been through tired feet but it is not straight forwards fore sure. It zig zags its way down between Rossett Crag and Green Tongue before eventually levelling out has you reach the Cumbria Way. As the Cumbria Way passes through Mickleden the view upwards both left and right again are aesthetically pleasing to the eye. Pike o’Stickle above to the left and Crinkle Crags to the right which where now darkened and silhouetted with the sun behind them.
The Cumbria Way brings you right out at the back of The Old Dungeon Ghyll Hotel and this provide ample opportunity for a well-earned drink in the bar. In my case Lime & Soda. The bar is in keeping with its age and it is like going back in time. They also serve good hearty meals, but for me and Paul it was back to the YHA for some well-earned tea.
This route is one of the best routes I have enjoyed in Lakeland and maybe a mix of clear skies and snow added to the experience to make that judgement, but I will be back in the summer to do it again just because I enjoyed it that much. Its not easy and it provides scrambles and craggy ridges but on the same token it is not the hardest route I have done either. Wainwright knew his mountains for sure.
Getting out into the mountains helped me through a difficult period and provided some respite of a dip that finally ended in Mid-December 2019. Since that day I have remained unwell but stable and I can at least cope at that level.