I was due to pick Rick up at 7.15. The alarm rang at 6.30; Sue woke, assumed I had left the bed, and went back to sleep. I didn’t hear the alarm at all, but woke with a jolt at 6.59.
Somehow I managed to be only 5 minutes late at Rick’s house, and we made it up to our rendezvous point in Lancaster a couple of minutes before Stuart pulled in to collect us for the onward journey. He had Peter and Richard with him, but the Jeep fitted us all comfortably.
The day’s plan was to walk Bill Birkett’s route ‘LAN5’ – The Greater Traverse of The Langdale Pikes, featuring nine ‘Birketts’ and six ‘Wainwrights’, not to mention seven ‘Lakeland 2000ers’, for those who count such things.
We started up Stickle Ghyll at 9.50am, at something of a sprint that left Richard searching from time to time for more lung capacity.
An icy north easterly wind greeted us at Stickle Tarn, but we soldiered on and enjoyed the easy east ridge of Pavey Ark. As we ascended, the ground became increasingly slithery due to a veneer of grease that could just as well have been ice. In fact it turned to ice as we neared the summit.
We had decided against tackling Jack’s Rake, and those who did go that way seemed to be taking their time in today’s greasy conditions, so our easier route was a good call.
After stumbling around on the lumpy rocks of Pavey Ark’s broad summit, we headed off to gain Thunacar Knott’s easy summit. The cloud base had been lurking just above our heads and had indeed obscured some views – mainly those towards Bowfell and the Scafell range – so we were pleased when it lifted a little, gracing us with sunny periods for the rest of the day.
Our highest point of the day, Harrison Stickle, came next. Its summit rocks sported an icy rime. We slithered some more before heading off to climb Thorn Crag.
But none of us was sure where Thorn Crag was. I think we concluded that it was the small lump on the left of the picture below. If so, we missed it, as we descended directly from Harrison Stickle to the heathery hollow. Then we traversed the entire ridge from the centre of the picture up to Pike O’ Stickle, from where the picture was taken. I now think the first of those summits may be Thorn Crag, after which we met a couple who had traversed below it on their way to the loftier summit of Loft Crag, seen here to the right of the picture.
It had taken three hours to reach the top of Pike O’ Stickle, and we were pleased to find a sunny position on the summit (pictured at the head of this posting) that was sheltered from the wind and afforded excellent views. Rick was particularly happy to have made it – his dickie shoulder had not appreciated the vertical variant route chosen by Peter and Richard! Our eyes were however particularly drawn to a figure that was half way up the sheer face of Gimmer Crag, pictured below in the distance. The figure failed to move during our tenure at the top of Pike O’ Stickle, despite much shouting. We were worried for the person concerned, but saw no evidence of a rescue taking place. The jets and trainer planes that buzzed us for a while weren’t capable of hovering.
As we moved on across Martcrag Moor the low sun cast a lovely light on Allen Crags and Glaramara and beyond to the Skiddaw summits. It was a glorious afternoon, with innumerable Lakeland peaks laid out before us.
Whilst the path hereabouts has been improved, there remain boggy sections that tested our footwear. It passed the test – I don’t think anyone’s feet got wet. My new Scarpa Mantas, on just their third outing, were superbly comfortable and supportive – just the job for these conditions.
Stuart adopted a classic pose.
We reached Stake Pass soon after 2pm, so had plenty of time to enjoy the low ridge that leads over Black Crag and Buck Pike to Rossett Pike, the last of today’s summits. It wasn’t so icy up here, and there were lovely views down Mickleden, with sunlit Pike O’ Stickle standing as a sentinel above the deep glacial valley.
A group of four men were the last people we encountered, having seen about 20 others on these hills today. They were bumbling around in the Rossett Pike/Black Crags area, and eventually descended Rossett Gill, way behind us. I suppose not everyone is as familiar with this terrain as our little group may have been, but those four men did seem to make hard work of getting off the hills!
We were happy to reach the Jeep at 4.50 pm, shortly before darkness took over. The Stickle Barn was shut, but we managed a fireside pint and post walk banter in the New Dungeon Ghyll Hotel, before wending our way homewards, deeply satisfied after yet another successful outing.
A full slide show (29 images) is here.
Our 16 km route with 1100 metres of ascent took seven hours and is shown in outline below. It’s a good one, and would be relatively easy even in winter conditions.
The header refers to ‘Great British Ridge Walk Number 13. This is ‘The Langdale Pikes via Jack’s Rake’. Variants are allowed. So, as we climbed all the summits and walked the ridge, I think we can say that walk was accomplished. Jack’s Rake will however be revisited in dry conditions. It’s a great route that I haven’t been on since backpacking it with Andrew and Gary on 8 June 2005. Here they are on the route; happy days…