The Langdale Pikes and Sergeant Man

Outline of Route
New Dungeon Ghyll - Loft Crag - Pike o'Stickle - Harrison Stickle - Pavey Ark - Thunacar Knott - High Raise - Sergeant Man - Blea Rigg - New Dungeon Ghyll (Grid ref. NY 296064)
Total Distance 6.5 miles, Total Ascent 3400 feet, Equivalent Distance 13.2 miles

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Escape Routes

  1. Descend the path between Harrison Stickle and Pavey Ark to Stickle Tarn and via Stickle Ghyll to the NDG.
  2. Between Sergeant Man and Blea Rigg there is a path to Stickle Tarn and thence to the NDG.

Details of Route
This walk has expanded somewhat since I first posted the outline. As I was sitting on Pavey Ark at 10.30 am, having already completed the three previous tops, I decided it was not yet time to go down to the car and return home, hence the extra summits. For many people their first view of the Langdale Pikes is the famous one across Lake Windermere from the road approaching Ambleside. They look so dominating from there, like lions in wait, that it's easy to forget they're not even in the highest fifty of Lakeland fells, and as such relatively easy to climb (photo).

Starting from the one of the New Dungeon Ghyll Car Parks - the charge for a car is currently around £6.00 for 12 hours - head past the hotel complex and out onto the open fell. Avoid the footbridge that crosses to Millbeck, and the path uphill on the left-hand side of Stickle Ghyll, and turn left, alongside the wall, to a gate. Go through this gate and turn right, alongside another wall to another gate that gives access to the foot of Dungeon Ghyll. Turn left, over the beck, and follow the clear footpath up the fellside on the left bank of the Ghyll. A faint path can be seen on the other side of the Ghyll. It's an interesting route to Harrison Stickle that follows the Ghyll, requiring some scrambling towards the end. This path, however, continues straight on when the Ghyll bends to the right, providing good views down into its upper reaches (photo). There are also good views down the valley towards Windermere, and across to Pike o'Blisco where the ascending path is clear to see (photo). Further up the fell, when the Ghyll is left behind and flatter ground is reached (photo), take the left hand track where the path forks. This leads between Loft Crag on the left and Thorn Crag on the right. The ascent of Loft Crag, the often forgotten third Langdale Pike - it has Gimmer on its flank and deserves better - is simple from here.

There are good views of the Crinkles and Bowfell from here but the rocky dome of Pike o'Stickle beckons (photo). The path is clear, leading firstly to the top of the gully where the stone axe factory operated. There is a notice here that is so badly eroded in can only be read with the help of reflected light. Its topic is erosion warning - of the gulley. Continue round to the northern side of the Pike where the scrambling is easier to the top. From here there's a fine view of Mickleden, 2,000 feet below, the Rossett Gill path is clear to see, and Bowfell looks even better. Return along the path from Loft Crag (photo), but skirt the summit and head for Harrison Stickle. This is the last proper climb of the day, and ample reward is found in the fresh views of Langdale (photo), Stickle Tarn and the awesome face of Pavey Ark, where Jack's Rake is clear to see (photo).

Descend northwest from the top then head northeast to Pavey Ark. This is rocky terrain demanding care where one puts one's feet and a bit of clambering onto the summit. The adventurous may wish to explore the top of the Jack's Rake route, reached before the summit of the fell. There is a pinnacle at the top, which can be seen over a bit of the summit wall, with the fearsome drop of Little Gulley to the right and the Rake to the left (photo). Take care!

Head west, and then northwest, along the well-used track to Thunacar Knott and then north to High Raise. As one progresses along this path more and more of Langstrath becomes visible, as do the High Stile ridge and, surprisingly impressive, Honister Crag. Bowfell, too, looks at its best (photo). Sergeant Man is not visible from here and it's not easy to work out the direction without using a compass - it's roughly southeast. In reasonable visibility keep Wetherlam in one's right peripheral vision and Fairfield in the left and walk straight ahead. There are two iron fence posts on the way so if you spot these you're on the right track - literally. Sergeant Man comes into view at about the same time as a path appears from the right, this leading to the summit. Sergeant Man looks not so impressive from this direction but once on the summit you find the ground disappearing in front of you (photo). Leave the summit, heading north, and then follow the path southeast towards Blea Rigg, where there are good views of Easedale (photo).

In bad visibility it is sensible to return via the path to Stickle Tarn and down by Stickle Ghyll. There are, however, quieter and equally interesting routes down. Head towards Pile o'Blisco - roughly southwest - and soon you should pass a sheepfold on your left. Further on you should spot a broken-down wall at the top of a little col. To the left here lies the impressive Whitegill Crag (photo), a favourite for climbers. There is a route down the gill from here which you can follow if you're familiar with it, but it is one of those cases where you should have ascended the route before considering descending it. It is, in any case, vertigiously steep. Return to the broken-down wall and follow it over the rise and down into the valley. Cross the beck when you get the opportunity and continue down on its right bank along what becomes a clear path down to Millbeck and the NDG.

Rev. 02 September 2014

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