An Oxendale Round

The Band, highway to Bowfell by Andy Wallace Andy FellwalkerWhen I arrived at the Old Dungeon Ghyll car park it was dry and bright but there was angry looking mist covering Crinkle Crags and Bowfell. Out of the car park and at the the road turn right, straight ahead is a gate with a kissing gate that gives access to the Stool End farm road. The path or “no path” is clearly marked through the farm buildings to the barred gate on the other side of the farm.

Shortly after passing through the gate an obvious path sets off up The Band on the right hand side. This path has recently been repaired and now provides an erosion free walk all the way up to the ridge. The visibility isn't too bad in spite of a heavy shower of rain, at least I can see the mist obscuring Bowfell which is more that I usually see on this route.

Bowfell Climbers Traverse by Andy Wallace Andy Fellwalker Once the gradient eases there is an easy walk for a while, you come across two cairns that don't seem to have any purpose, as I found out again. I thought these were the markers for the start of the Climbers Traverse path but having made an unnecessary climb over grass I could see the path in the distance. The Climbers Traverse path starts after a series of three cairns and is straight ahead where the path to Three Tarns veers away to the left.

The path is a mix of boggy ground and boulders until the final section where you find an unexpected reconstructed path, at the top of which the path begins to traverse the steep side of Bowfell. The path is obvious and level with just the occasional rock to step over, the steep drop down being the only slight concern with the rocks being quite slippery in the damp conditions. After passing through a small rock gateway you are suddenly next to the imposing wall of Flat Crags with Bowfell Buttress in view.

Flat Crags supporting the Great Slab by Andy Wallace Andy Fellwalker The path fizzles out and you have to find your way over to the base of Cambridge Crag, recognisable by the spring at its base. Pause for thought here, surrounded by massive crags with a view down into Mickleden dappled with sunlight. Mist caps the Langdale Pikes and there is the constant buzz of helicopters delivering bags of boulders to Pike o' Stickle.

From the base of Cambridge Crag a bouldery path leads steeply up to the left between the crags and the unmistakable Great Slab. At the top of the path turn right for the final climb to Bowfell summit, reached by clambering over greasy boulders. In the mist you have to be sure which direction you leave the summit of Bowfell, retrace you steps back to the cairned path. After following the cairns back the way I came, past the Great Slab, the path suddenly becomes wider, eroded and slippery in parts.

A view of Great Langdale from the descent of Crinkle Crags by Andy Wallace Andy Fellwalker Suddenly again, the path forks and with no visibility it isn't easy to realise that you have arrived at Three Tarns. Don't take the path going left, it goes back down to The Band, keep straight ahead over wet ground and you will eventually reach a path rising slightly to the right. This is the first time I have found the path first time without having to wander around for half an hour looking for it, I suppose I should use a map and compass, it's what they are for.

Having found the path it leads you to the Crinkle Crags ridge, the only difficulty is to decide where the cairned summits are, the path will lead you around them and in the thick mist it isn't always easy to find them. The highest point should be recognisable, three cairns are there that are much larger that any of the others on the other Crinkles. On reaching the first cairn if you head towards the other two that are close together, and take the obvious path to the left it will lead to the Bad Step, not something I want to descend on a damp day.

A view of the Langale Pikes from Pike o Blisco summit by Andy Wallace Andy Fellwalker There is a less obvious path to the right that eventually leads to a small col where an ancient cairn indicates the start of the alternative way down. The path isn't easy to find but once found is very obvious and leads to the col between first and second Crinkles. Then the path up to the first Crinkle is obvious, the summit being a crinkly ridge in its own right. The path then takes an easy route down to Red Tarn and at this point I got below the cloud base, no I didn't the mist is beginning to clear, views are opening up, the sun is beginning to shine.

From the crossroads of red paths near to Red Tarn there is an obvious path, rocky and interesting, leading to the substantial cairn at the summit of Pike o' Blisco. For a relatively small hill Pike o' Blisco has a number of interesting little scrambles especially on the lesser used routes. Having strayed down one of these lesser used routes I decided I didn't fancy the wet scramble down grass and rock so I climbed back up again to find the real path.

The real path has its interesting points, a bit more interesting to descend than to climb but not really difficult. Finally the long reconstructed path downwards, pleasant walking in the warm sunshine down to the road and back to the car park.

How nice it is to be able to see Bowfell bathed in sunshine when only a couple of hours ago it was completely covered in mist and without views. Oh well, maybe next time.

Andy Wallace 24th May 2003

© 2003 - 2017 By Andy Wallace. Reproduction of this work in whole or in part, including images, and reproduction in electronic media, without documented permission from the author is prohibited.

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