Great Langdale Valley,

Lake District, Cumbria

20th August - 22nd August 2010





Friday's walk from Elterwater in Great Langdale Valley.


The annual hiking club camping trip could not have come a moment sooner this year, if the truth be told, though perhaps not quite as soon as I thought. Work had been demanding and intense of late, resulting it my investing a fair bit of overtime for the company's benefit. I knew I had been working too hard, felt burnt out and so what transpired, as reflected on my facebook posting entitled "What a monumental cock-up! I'm definitely losing my marbles", was somewhat predictable, if I reflect upon that now.

"As the weekend drew closer, I found myself looking forward to a camping and hiking weekend in the Lake District with great anticipation. Or so I thought...  The day before departing, it was a real shame I did not insert the word 'tomorrow' in any of my e-mail correspondence with the person with whom I had arranged a lift.  The upshot of it all was that I arrived at the meeting point at nine yesterday morning.  A half an hour went by, an hour and then, finally, after two, I decided Bob Smith wasn't coming. Ah well, I thought, I have no option but to drive up there myself then.  It's a long drive up the motorway, around four and a half hours! I confidently announced myself as part of the Xerox group upon arrival at the campsite. The clerk behind the desk looked at me, somewhat perplexed, replying that he wasn't expecting any groups this weekend. After typing a query for a one John Adams into the database, the extent of my monumental and expensive cock-up finally revealed itself.....the booking was a week from now. Embarrassed, I got back into my car.  It was around four thirty in the afternoon and I didn't fancy driving back in the dark, so I hoofed it back down the motorway!  The rain chucked it down at times, making driving treacherous. I arrived back home around ten in the evening without encountering too much traffic. Today I was back in the office, having to respond to "I thought you were up in the Lakes" with regular and rather annoying monotony.  What a plonker."



Heading up The Band from Stool End Farm in Great Langdale Valley.

Great Langdale is a  valley in the Lake District National park in the county of Cumbria, in the northwest of England. Langdale is a popular location for hikers, climbers, fell-runners and other outdoor enthusiasts, who are attracted by the many fells ringing the head of the valley. One of the best known features of Great Langdale are the Langdale Pikes, a group of peaks on the northern side of the dale, also known as fells from the viking word fjell for mountain. England's highest mountain, Scafell Pike, can be climbed by a route from Langdale. Sca comes from the Viking skali for shelter, just as the mountains provided shelter from the prevailing weather to farms below in the valleys. Crinkle Crags is a fell that forms part of two major rings of mountains, surrounding the valleys of  Great Langdale and Upper Eskdale. The name reflects the fell's physical appearance as its summit ridge is a series of five rises and depressions (crinkles) that are very distinctive from the valley floor. In Old English, cringol means twisted or wrinkled.

Ascending The Band, the path is clearly visible from Oxendale to Red Tarn, left of Browne Gill and below Pike of Blisco (out of view).



View up Browney Gill towards Cold Pike, with the path below Pike of Blisco (out of view) to the left, leading down from Red Tarn.


John Adams on the upper section of The Band on the approach to Great Slab - the path can be seen continuing up to the left towards the col.



A smiling Bob Smith gets his second wind after we had initially left him behind on the lower part of The Band.


View towards Browney Gill, with Pike of Blisco above it to the left as well as the path heading to Red Tarn in the distance; Dave Ashby, a member of the Herts Ramblers Club, who lead the walk, with Tim Porter waiting (im)patiently,


Needless to say, Bob Smith did show on Thursday, 19th August, twenty minutes ahead of time, to be exact! We seemed to be making good time and stopped for tea. As luck would have it, an accident on the M6 necessitated a diversion via Preston (the highway had been shut by the authorities), which seemed to be the route everyone else had been taking. Despite staying off the highway all the way up to Lancaster, we regularly encountered further jams, arriving in Langdale the evening, having taken even longer to get there than the entire round trip the previous week had! We managed to get the tents pitched and then wandered up to the Old Dungeon Gill for dinner and to meet the rest of the gang. The hotel and pub takes its name from the waterfall of the same name. Ghyll or Gill is used for a stream or narrow valley in the North of England and other parts of the United Kingdom. The word originates from the Old Norse Gil. The outlook weather-wise did not look promising at all and it began to rain after dark, continuing throughout the night. Peering out of my small tent the next morning, conditions looked equally miserable. Nonetheless, I was up and showering at half six before retiring to the mess tent for a full English (the only time I ever indulge).

One thing I will say for the Brits, bad weather does not put them off, an extremely tenacious bunch they are! John Adams announced a walk that we see us stay on the lower ground, a wise decision, though we almost left Tim Porter behind, still in the process of taking a shower. From the Old Dungeon Gill we took a bus to the village of Elterwater and then went on some obscure route via Skelwith Bridge and Little Langdale Tarn, though I am not entirely convinced that those with the OS maps in their possession had a clear idea at any stage precisely where we heading. It was a question of improvising as we went along, the weather not helping either as it rained heavily for almost the entire duration of the walk. Having done a walk the previous year on a path between Great Langdale campsite and Elterwater, Bob Smith and I were now convinced that we had recognised this very path, as we came upon it in the forest, after traversing from Little Langdale Tarn. The only problem as we picked up the path was that we seemed to be gaining steadily in altitude and as soon as we found ourselves having reached a disused quarry, we knew we had made a mistake and that it was not the path in question. Clearly, the path we had been looking for was much lower down the valley, closer to the existing quarry. We had two choices, to either return back down the valley or to continue through the quarry in the hope of finding a way down the steep incline. The group elected to press on and eventually we found a way down, probably somewhere near Great Langdale Beck. Back at the campsite, I enjoyed a cider, a shower and forty winks, wondering up to the pub a couple of hours later.  Maeve and Andy, preferring more comfortable accommodation as an alternative to camping, had booked in at the Old Dungeon Gill Hotel for the weekend.


A tea break (L - R): Bernard and Bob, John Adams, Bob Smith.




Dave Ashby and John Adams up ahead in the clouds on Crinkle Crag prior to reaching The Bad Step.



Lunch stop just after negotiating The Bad Step.


View of Great Langdale Valley from Crinkle Crags, just belowThe Bad Step.


Saturday provided the last opportunity for a walk in the mountains. Whilst the upper reaches were shrouded in cloud, at least it wasn't raining. The plan had been to tackle Crinkle Crags, a circular walk. Unbeknown to me, Tim Porter and Dave Ashby had disagreed on whether to do the route clockwise (up Browney Gill via Oxendale) or anti-clockwise (via The Band). Dave preferred the latter and so we headed out past the turn-off to the Old Dungeon Gill, taking the road that leads to Stool End Farm. Two minutes after setting out, I returned to the campsite to fetch my rain jacket, which I had left behind. Passing through the farm, we reached the track known simply as The Band, a grassy ridge that leads up to the shoulder below Bowfell and ultimately a way up to Scafell Pike. Dave was keen on finding this route though had probably missed the point where the paths diverged, so, after a short tea break during which time visibility deteriorated, we continued up the more distinct path to the Col. The following link illustrates a walk via Rossett Pike and Bowfell, Though not from The Band, it is clearly visible on the map. Bob Smith seemed to be struggling and announced his intention to return back down again but after leaving him behind, he gained his second wind and rejoined the group. Visibility across the valley seemed to change with every passing minute as the wind constantly moved the cloud around.  It was fascinating to watch.


View of The Band from Crinkle Crags.



The group assembled on Crinkle Crags (L - R) Dave Ashby, Bernard Gardner, Peter Groves, John Adams and Bob Smith; Bernard refreshed after forty winks.

No sooner had we reached the Col, however, than we found ourselves in the clouds, making our way over one ridge after another along Crinkle Crags, in effect the opposite way that that to Scafell Pike, until we finally reached the Bad Step, a particularly difficult descent down a granite rock slab. The combination of buffeting, strong winds and poor visibility creates a cocktail that only serves to unnerve one and I would not attempt walks on any of the Langdale Pikes (or anywhere in the Lake District, for that matter) in poor visibility, on my own. Generally there is no singular way along Crinkle Crags and therein lies the problem that can lead one into difficulty under these conditions. It was a shame about the weather really, for on a clear day, one would be able to see as far as Windermere and beyond. We saw two hikers apparently having found an alternative route up from just below, along a grassy track, so whilst Dave and Tim negotiated The Bad Step, Bernard led the way down the safer path the two hikers had taken. I would guess that it is probably easier going up The Bad Step than down it. At least we had the benefit of being sheltered from the wind on the Great Langdale Valley side of the Crags at this juncture.



Descending towards Red Tarn from Crinkle Crags with Pike of Blisco just beyond, shrouded in cloud.


Pike of Stickle on the opposite side of Great Langdale Valley partially hidden near Great Knott; Almost at Red Tarn.



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