Sunday, 15 April 2018

Langdale Pikes

Pike o' Stickle, Great Gable behind
Saturday, 14 April 2018

Ascent:       1240 metres
Distance:    15 Kilometres
Time:          5 hours 35 minutes

High Raise              762m     2hrs 49mins
Sergeant's Man        736m     3hrs   7mins
Thunacar Knott       717m     3hrs 30mins
Pavey Ark                697m     3hrs 42mins
Harrison Stickle      732m     4hrs   3mins
Pike o' Stickle         708m      4hrs 32mins
Loft Crag                 692m     4hrs 45mins

It was Alan's 70th birthday weekend and we assembled at Newby Bridge in the Lakes. I had thought that the logical walk should the Old Man of Coniston but Alan decided on the Langdale Pikes. Eleven of the party went for a sail on Windermere with four young children and eight of us and a dog headed for Great Langdale. I am not used to walking in large groups and when the car park at the Old Dungeon Ghyll was full with only a dubious place for one car, two of us returned to the New Dungeon Ghyll to find some parking and then set off to catch the other six. The summits were still in the cloud as we walked up Mickledon and met them at the foot of Stake Pass.

It is a well-graded path up Stake Pass that has been well reconstructed by the Lakeland pathmakers. Despite a heavy cold, I was walking well and enjoyed a conversation with one of the four people I was unacquainted with, a young teacher who hailed from Lerwick but taught in Edinburgh. We got carried away in conversation and arrived at the drumlin field having escaped from the rest of the group. We waited for the group and we had a drinks break before starting the meandering path through the drumlin field.

At the high point of the pass, I spotted a cairn for what I assumed was a path to High Raise. The path was veering in the wrong direction and became indistinct and after crossing a bog below Thunacar Knott it curved towards Pike o' Stickle. It was not the path that I had thought so I decided to leave the rest of the group and make a sharp turn and take a rising traverse towards High Raise. It was a good two kilometres away and I doubted if anyone would have thanked me for dragging them up the grassy and boggy slope. High Raise is a flattish hill in the middle of nowhere. But what a wonderful viewpoint to capture the whole of the Lakeland hills. I met a man who had recently bought a flat in Kendal so that he could climb the Wainwrights. He drove taxis when not walking and said it was a lifestyle decision after his divorce and he had an army pension and business in Dubai to support him. He was clutching his bible, Walking the Wainwrights, a book by Stuart Marshall that condenses the 214 Wainwrights into 36 day-sized walks. 

On returning from High Raise it was time to turn on the afterburners as John had said he would wait for me at Pike o' Stickle. Sergeant's Man was an easy ten-minute walk from High Raise and I wasted no time at the summit before heading back over to Thunacar Knott. I realised that it was well over an hour since I had absconded from the group and that they probably would have had lunch on Pike o' Stickle and be heading for Pavey Ark, the last of the four Wainwright summits that make up the Langdale Pikes. So I headed for Pavey Ark and by walking in the opposite direction I hoped to meet up with the others. My logic was sound but they had decided to give Pavey Ark a miss and to descend after Harrison Stickle. I saw them 40 metres below me as I was on the traverse from Pavey Ark. I hollered and they looked up but didn't recognise me. I was not going to forsake the remaining three summits to go down with them and John was not with them. I continued across to Harrison Stickle. It is a stiff final climb before the summit, which was occupied by a dozen or so walkers and about the same number of dogs.

There was no time to stop because John was probably waiting along the route, so I continued down the path towards Pike o' Stickle. As I reached the bealach before Pike o' Stickle I noticed someone huddled on the ground. He looked familiar and it was John, he had strained his Achilles tendon the previous day and it had got progressively worse so he had decided to wait for me at a place that he thought I would pass. We agreed that he would begin the descent and that I would climb Pike o' Stickle and Loft Crag and hope to catch him. Although I have been up the Langdale Pikes half a dozen times, it is a long time since my last visit and the terrain did not seem familiar. There is a gently rising path followed by a steeper and rockier climb to the summit. A couple from Somerset were admiring the views on their first visit to the Lakes and we struck up a conversation about the Dolomites of all places. By this time the cloud of the morning had given way to mid-afternoon sunshine with good visibility so their enthusiasm for the Lakes was understandable.

It is a quick walk with a minimal ascent to Loft Crag where there were no other walkers. After some last photos looking back to Great Gable and the Scafells, I took a direct route down to the path that runs back to the New Dungeon Ghyll hotel. It is well made with stone steps for much of the route that made for a quick descent, I caught John just before the gate leading to the final section to the hotel. The other six were enjoying a drink outside the Dungeon Ghyll so we joined them in celebrating Alan's birthday walk with a local real ale. They seemed to have enjoyed the walk that had included both Pike o' Stickle and Harrison Stickle. I was not admonished and they seemed unconcerned that I had taken the liberty of disappearing to climb High Raise, Sergeant's Man, Thunacar Knott as well as the Langdale Pikes. It had been a good day on some of Lakelands most popular hills.


Through the Drumlins on Stake Pass
At the top of Stake Pass before I led them astray
Scafell Pike from High Raise
High Raise,  Sergeant's Man and Pavey Ark from Harrison Stickle
Harrison Stickle and Lodge Pike from Pike O' Stickle
Harrison Stickle
Great Langdale from above the New Dungeon Ghyll

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