Date: 17 November 2018 Weather: 10’C, sunny, light winds
Height gain: 2,267ft Distance: 5.0 miles
Time taken: 6 hours 25 minutes Wainwright count: 52 & 53 of 214
Route: From the car park across the road from the New Dungeon Ghyll hotel and up Stickle Ghyll to Stickle Tarn then left up Harrison Stickle, across to Pavey Ark and down North Rake back to the tarn and down Stickle Ghyll to the car park.
We moved up here on 2 November and I said that I’d like to head up to Stickle Tarn on the first nice day we get and tick off our two favourite Langdale mountains. Well, we didn’t have to wait too long as a beautiful day dawns and off we go up this fine pair:
The photo is taken on a different walk three months later, but it’s such a great introduction to where we’re heading today I had to include it.
It’s a Saturday and a lovely day but given that it’s mid November we don’t worry about heading for the very popular Langdales – in retrospect a big mistake.
We reach the car park at 10.15am and squeeze into one of the last available spaces. There are people all around us propped up against their cars or mini-vans booting up and there’s a lot of chatter going on as most are in groups of four or more.
We quickly get our boots on and head off on the very familiar route we haven’t done in such a long time. It’s 1,300ft of ascent to the tarn and it’s steep and energy sapping. We’re mopping the sweat off our brows on the sunshine, as is everyone else we pass and who passes us (one good thing about lots of people making the most of a lovely day is that some are actually slower than me).
After just over an hour and a half of hard effort we finally make it to one of my favourite places on the planet, Stickle Tarn:
It’s very busy up here and we walk left for a little way to find a rock to sit on away from other people. The view straight up to Pavey Ark is stunning:
We sit here for quite a while enjoying the views and the sunshine and trying not to let the noise of everyone around us bother us too much. Eventually we decide we really must set off. We would normally head around the tarn and up Pavey Ark first via North Rake but today we decide to do something completely different and head up Harrison Stickle first. The path is directly behind where we’re sitting and we’re the only people who set off in this direction.
It’s steep but the path is clear and not challenging to follow. We have great views down towards the tarn which is getting smaller as we climb:
We also have good views straight across to Jack’s Rake which has a steady procession of very brave souls going up it today. S did it once in his teens – I won’t be trying to emulate his feat.
We huff and puff up our route and our energy is flagging by the time we finally reach the shoulder 700ft above Stickle Tarn. We turn left and head for the summit of Harrison Stickle – only 250ft above us but it feels harder work than it should and seems to take an age, although it’s only an hour since we left the tarn when we finally reach the top:
It’s beautiful up here in the glorious weather although we’re exhausted. We snuggle ourselves into the rocks just below the summit for a bit of recovery time. As we sit the hoards come past us in both directions, very few people enjoying their climb quietly. A particular highlight is the party of older teenage girls singing “She’s coming round the mountains …” at the top of their lungs which I’m sure everyone out in the Central fells today has a chance to enjoy.
After 10 minutes of sitting therapy we start to wander around the fantastic landscape and take our photos – here looking over the top of Pike O’Stickle towards Bowfell and the Crinkles to its left, Scafell Pike immediately behind it, then Great End and after a gap the distinctive shape of Great Gable on the right of the picture:
… and carrying on along that ridge with Great Gable on the left then Green Gable, Glaramara and Grasmoor and the Keswick fells on the right:
Looking south west into the sun is Pike O’Blisco on the far right with Grey Friar behind it then Dow Crag and Consiton Old Man and Wetherlam on the end of the ridge – Windermere is then down there somewhere on the left:
After taking our photos we wearily make our way across the half mile of craggy undulating ground to Pavey Ark:
It’s so long since I’ve been up here on one of our favourite mountains (one of my first on our first holiday up here together in 1993) but we’re almost too tired to enjoy it. We take a few snaps of the views before heading down, here looking north east towards the Helvellyn range and Fairfield on the left:
Time is getting on and it’s already 3pm, only another hour before sunset. I ask which way to the descent route, looking hopefully across to the easy looking gradients from High Raise to our left. S tells me we’re heading down North Rake – yikes, that’s a rock climb and a descent I have done once before in desperation when showing signs of hypothermia one New Year holiday decades earlier.
Apparently I have no choice so down we go – very slowly. North Rake turns into Easy Gully (not in descent it’s not!) and we get to the point we always find very awkward – we can see grassy paths to Stickle Tarn below us but it looks like crags to get down first wherever we turn.
A man and his young family catch us up and decide to carry on on the path but it looks way too steep to me. We bear right and very slowly pick our way down crags and steep grass until finally we reach the far end of Stickle Tarn and start the walk on the undulating path that runs along the side of it back to the dam and the start of the Stickle Ghyll descent. It’s now close to 4pm and the light is fading on this beautiful day:
We stop for a quick afternoon tea to fortify us for the knee busting descent down the Ghyll . It’s steep but not difficult (when not covered in ice as it was in December 200x, one of the worst two hours of my life). We make good progress in the fading light, needing our headtorches for the last 300ft or so – even with these it wasn’t easy to see our feet, perhaps we should invest in better ones – but we make it back to the car in one piece with no falls in the darkness.
It was a beautiful day and a real treat to be out in the Langdales but in hindsight we weren’t quite ready for the physical challenges of a Langdale walk. We’ve also learnt a valuable lesson – stay off the very popular mountains on nice weekend days no matter what the time of year – the sheer amount of people, chatter and singing did have an impact on the day.