Pike o'Blisco to Esk Pike via Crinkle Crags and Bowfell

Outline of Route
Old Dungeon Ghyll - Pike o'Blisco - Cold Pike - Crinkle Crags - Bowfell - Esk Pike - Esk Hause - Rossett Gill - Old Dungeon Ghyll (Grid ref. NY 286060)
Total Distance 11.3 miles, Total Ascent 4800 feet, Equivalent Distance 20.9 miles

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Escape Routes

  1. Descend from Red Tarn via Oxendale.
  2. Descend from Three Tarns down The Band.
  3. Descend from Ore Gap to Angle Tarn and return via Rossett Gill.

Details of Route
Starting from the Old Dungeon Ghyll Car Park - the charge for a car is currently around £6.00 for 12 hours - exit past the front of the hotel and over the little bridge. Turn right at the "main" road and follow it as it turns left, bears right and then left at Wall End up a steep bank. The path to Pike o'Blisco leaves the road to the right: you will see it cutting across the fellside before you reach it (photo). It crosses one main tributary of Redacre Gill and then a second, which it follows steeply upwards, a slight distance away. The source of the gill is a minor ravine which can be seen up the fellside. Continue up this path, quite a lot is now paved, with the beck nearby on your left until you emerge onto flatter ground, from which the the top of Pike o'Blisco can be seen. Looking across the valley the three Langdale Pikes are clearly defined: Loft Crag - often forgotten - merges into the background from many other directions (photo). As you approach the rocky summit you can pick out the various interesting scrambles to the top (photo from The Band). From the summit the rugged east faces of Crinkle Crags (photo) and Bowfell are awesome, but just wait till you get there! Once, in hill fog, I tried to use a compass up here. It has never failed before or since but it did then (postscript: I found no such problems on a subsequent visit).

Aim for Grey Friar, the rightmost of the Coniston fells, and set off down the hill to find the path to Red Tarn. Head for the right of Red Tarn and cross the beck as it leaves the tarn heading north to Oxendale and Langdale. Follow the path up the other side, with the crags of Great Knott to your right until you reach its shoulder. From here you can simply make a beeline for the summit of Cold Pike on your left. There are good views of the neighbouring Crinkle Crags (photo) and Pike o'Blisco (photo) but, on a clear day, the highlight is the prospect down the Duddon valley to the sea. Return to the path above Great Knott and follow this easy route to the first summit of Crinkle Crags.

Continuing over this first summit and down to the col one is filled with foreboding by the precipitate drop into Great Cove on the right and the steep and apparently impossible gully (photo) the path leads to. Never fear, you do not have to negotiate the enormous chockstone you see half way up: you can clamber up the right-hand side of the gully before you reach it, at the so-called Bad Step (photo). The path leads you directly to it: there can be no mistake. The handholds and footholds are confidence-inspiring and one can haul oneself up safely with just a little effort. From here it is easy to pick one's way up the rocky path to the summit of the second, and highest, of the Crinkles. Those who feel they are not up to the Bad Step should return to the col and turn along a path to what is now their right. This takes them in a right-hand semicircle, via an easier ascent, to the summit - or so I've been told.

There are no more shocks as one continues north over the three further Crinkles but it is still an interesting traverse and eventual descent to Three Tarns. Bowfell looms ahead with the steep crags of Bowfell Links to the left of the clearly defined, well-worn path (photo). As one gets level with the top of the Links it's worth taking the path off to the left that runs along the top of the Links to the summit, rather than the main path. Bowfell's is a beautiful conical peak (photograph from High Raise) that has commanding views all around (360° panorama). That of the Scafells is particularly good (photo) and (photo). It is deservedly, and perhaps unfortunately, popular.

The path from Bowfell continues north, then west to Ore Gap, and on to Esk Pike (retrospective photo). This is a pretty enough high peak (360° panorama), and would be more significant were it not for the proximity of Bowfell, the Scafells, Great End and Great Gable. The views are notably fine down into Eskdale and across to the Scafells. The path continues north west (photo) down the ridge to Esk Hause, then right towards Allen Crags where it meets the path from Sprinkling Tarn to Angle Tarn. Turn right again here and follow the path towards Angle Tarn. A short detour to the left to Tongue Head provides a fine view of Langstrath (photo). Continue past Angle Tarn, over the ridge to the right of Rossett Pike and down the steep path by Rossett Gill. Pike o'Stickle looks fine from here (photo). Thereafter the path along the valley floor of Mickleden provides a comfortable stroll back to your starting point.

This is a marvellous route that holds one's interest throughout, providing good ground underfoot, classic rock scenery and dominating views. It also has the advantage that at three points, Red Tarn, Three Tarns, and Ore Gap one can decide to abort the rest of the mission and return to base. There is fine view of Crinkle Crags (photo), and a further fine view of Pike o'Stickle and Loft Crag from The Band (photo), should you chose to descend from Three Tarns. If you are returning south after your day's walk you may get a glimpse of the Langdale skyline like this.

Rev. 02 September 2014

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