When I parked at the Old Dungeon Ghyll it was dry, but there was plenty of mist on the hills and I had no idea what kind if a day it would turn out to be. I walked along the road past Wall End and then started to climb upwards; just before a sharp bend to the left, I veered off to the right to follow a faint path across wet ground before rejoining the usual path. It is an easy gradient on rough ground at first, until you have to cross a rugged mountain beck, just below a waterfall. After crossing the beck you begin the long, steep trudge up a reconstructed path that takes you eventually to a cairn marking the start of the interesting bit of the climb.
There was, by that time, a brilliant view of the Langdale Pikes; I had a feeling that the mist might clear, probably around 3pm when I was on my way down. At the top of the reconstructed path, there is level ground for a while, as you walk across a wide shoulder over rough ground until reaching the first of the rock steps. You can detour around the the small chimney if you want to, but it presents a nice little challenge, especially when the rocks are wet. As you continue upwards, there are another couple of smaller obstacles to clamber over; the path is difficult to see sometimes and I have taken several different routes up to the summit plateau of Pike o' Blisco.
If you get it right there is a shallow, stony gully in which to make the final climb to the small gap between the two summits; the one of the left is worth a visit bit the one on the right is the higher summit, it has a larger and more impressive platform and usually has the larger cairn. From the summit of Pike o' Blisco I descended on a rugged, eroded path to col, close to Red Tarn, before crossing its outflow stream and on to join the main Highway to The Crinkles. The path was busy with walkers, but none of them took the same diversion as I did; at the highest point on the path I turned left and walked up the grassy slopes.
There was no path at first but I did eventually find a faint trod of flattened grass, it led me up around crags to the summit platform of Cold Pike; there are two other platforms, slightly lower but each with cairns good-looking enough to be summits. I descended on another faint path in the direction of Crinkle Crags; just below the summit outcrops I found the former electrified fence and an unexpected group of cairns. I followed the line of the fence at first, but it heads across rougher ground; I ended up walking across wet ground and rejoining the main path. There were still lots of people on their way to Crinkle Crags, it was still dry but the mist was still hiding the Crinkles.
Sure enough, I was in the mist before I starting climbing the rugged ridge leading to Crinkle Crags. It starts off as a rugged interesting ridge walk up to the first summit cairn; a short descent to an obvious col gives you plenty of opportunity to contemplate the Bad Step ahead. A steep scree slope leads you up to an impossibly steep-looking rock face; not quite impossible though, nature has left enough indentations to make the climb up the ten-feet high rock look easy. Some of the first-timers who see me do it need a hand to get up, others decide to descend the scree slope and take the easier looking path off to the left.
Above the Bad Step, I was surprised to meet someone coming down towards it, but he bypassed it by making a steep detour round to left of it; if you didn't know there was a way round, as I didn't, you probably wouldn't dare to go there. Having got up the Bad Step, you still have to clamber over more rocks before reaching the easier gradient over rocky ground to a big cairn; bear right to reach the summit cairn perched on top of a sloping slab. From the summit you again bear right, it seems too steep at first but you will soon see a line of cairns; it is of course easy in good visibility to head for Bowfell.
You will reach an obvious grassy col with an obvious steep drop down to the right, it is a distinctive place even in mist. The obvious path continues ahead, missing out the next Crinkle; the rocky ridge is more of a challenge in the mist, but that is no excuse for missing out on any of the summits. The path isn't always very obvious if you visit each of the summits; even if you lose the path you can carry on along the ridge, although it sometimes means descending the big red boulders - just be careful when they are wet. The final, and least obvious Crinkle summit is on the higher ground above, and to the right of a small tarn; it gives a very impressive view of Bowfell in good conditions.
After the small tarn, you start to descend on rough ground; there are more cairns to be found on higher ground if you are feeling fit and have enough time. As I got down to Three Tarns the mist cleared; after crossing the flat ground with the two intact tarns on my left, I started to climb up an obvious, eroded path. On the steep, eroded climb to Bowfell, there was now a clear view of the ridge looking back to Crinkle Crags; from the summit, the view saw just a few wisps of cloud left on the Scafells.
I walked over to the top of Cambridge Crag, it isn't often I have good visibility at this summit; I had a great view of Bowfell Buttress, but I couldn't make out what it was at first. I can't remember it not being misty there; after walking over a rocky, uneven ridge to the top of Bowfell Buttress you get the best view of the Great Slab. The wide, undulating ridge cum summit plateau is unexpected, there is an intoxicating view of Scafell and Scafell Pike as you walk to the subsidiary summit at the end of the ridge.
From there, you can find an unlikely descent to Ore Gap; there are occasional traces of a footpath and an unexpected cairn near a small tarn. The gradient is easier after passing the tarn, and you soon rejoin the main path; the path itself promptly disappears amongst boulders, but a line of cairns leads you to Ore Gap. I walked across the red ground at Ore Gap and started to climb the eroded path up to the summit plateau of Esk Pike; colourful volcanic stones lead you up to the summit cairn, made of the same colourful rocks, from where the hidden shelter behind a small crag becomes visible.
The descent to Esk Hause is always much easier in good visibility, it is easy to lose the path amongst the loose stones and rock; you can't go wrong when you can see the way ahead. After getting to the hause, I walked down to the cross shaped-shelter, and turned right on the recently repaired path down to Angle Tarn. You have something of an unwelcome climb once you cross the outflow from the tarn; a large cairn welcomes you to the crest of the path, then the repaired path leads you to the old Pony Track taking you down to the valley.
It is a rugged path to walk down and the ponies must have hated it; once you reach level ground it is still a long walk back down Mickleden, although the moraines were interestingly bright and colourful in the late afternoon sunshine.
Andy Wallace 11th October 2008
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