27 October 2010

Jack's Rake and the Langdale Pikes

» A circular route taking in (amongst others) Pavey Ark, Sergeant Man and the Langdale Pikes, with an ascent of the infamous Jack's Rake to liven things up a bit.
Distance: 7.3 Miles | Time: 6h 4m | Difficulty: Medium with Scramble

It's funny how the hills can be packed with people yet the roads be dead.  You'd think that if the schools are on vacation, and parents are having days with their kids it'd be even busier than normal; with car loads of bobble-hatted day-trippers heading for the National Parks.  But that's how we found it on an excursion to the Langdale Pikes yesterday, the hills were alive yet the roads had that zombie apocalypse quality to them.

Rocky Outcrop

The weather was cold and crisp, hovering just below freezing, with seemingly endless clear, blue, skies providing an ever unfolding vista as we made our way through the Lakes - from the rocky crags of Pavey Ark the tiered summit of Ingleborough was clearly visible over 35 miles away. All in, it was a fabulous day for hiking...

Quick Links: The Map | Photos on Flickr | GPX file for your GPS device

As is sadly becoming commonplace we were, again, missing a Mk.I Telfaller (Quantity: 1) from this excursion (Note to Tezza: You need to loose that job of yours matey and get yerself out on the hills!), so unburdened by loopy dogs or pork-pie munching compatriots we crossed the innkeeper's palm with silver (or at least the decimal equivalent; £4) for letting us park the Fellmobile in their field and began our ascent up the side of Stickle Ghyll.

New Dungeon Ghyll Hotel

There's a couple of routes straight up to Stickle Tarn, both running to the side of the gill. The right hand trail is the more favoured of the two, winding its way up the hillside over picturesque footbridges and waterfalls. The left hand path is the more worn and less well-kept, starting with a very steep ascent, leveling off before a second ascent where it joins the other path for a final slog up to Stickle Tarn. So you can guess which route we took.

It's a good pull up to Stickle Tarn. But once you arrive, you're well rewarded with fantastic views out over Langdale towards Windermere and the impressive sight of Pavey Ark reflected in a tarn as smooth as a mill-pond.

Pavey Ark

Pavey Ark was home to real objective of this trip; Jack's Rake. A series of gullies, fissures and exposed sections working their way diagonally up the front face of the outcrop. Classed as a Grade 1 scramble (and I'd say it was closer to a Grade 2 than a 1, particularly when it's covered in pockets of ice and there's freezing cold melt-water cascading down it...). On the above photo it runs from the base of the gully on the right, winding it's way up the rock-face to the left - if you stare at it long enough the route makes itself apparent.

As ever it's a do-it-at-your-own-risk undertaking. Not recommended for people with short arms or legs, lacking in confidence, or suffering from vertigo, however you don't need to be a built like a climber to accomplish it, just relatively fit. I did manage to spot Lesley on some more suitable routes for her frame - but this involved going off-path into very precarious situations at times.

Langdale and Windermere

Of course, as the group of lads ascending in front of us were letting the world  and their dog know; if you have some "custom made boots with special extra sticky vibram soles" (made by Hi-Tec I might hasten to add,) then you can clamber up the Rake like a monkey whilst performing your "three point tension" moves. 

N.B. For the sarcastically challenged, this is a joke. Vibram is pretty useless when it comes to grip on slippery rock, most things are. Salomon's Contagrip system is slightly better, but it still won't turn you into Spiderman. Also, I wouldn't trust Hi-Tec boots as far as I could throw them.

I'm not a brand snob, I just believe in the right equipment for the right situation and Hi-Tec boots are fine for people who might use them 3 or 4 times a year to walk round a reservoir, but any more and it's like burning £50 notes. As for the three point tension moves, well any fool can string three words together and sound knowledgeable...

Anyway I digress, on reaching the top of Jack's Rake there's the usual feeling of elation, and also one of overcrowding as you find it's busier than the summit of Scafell Pike usually is.  But what a view to be had on an October day like this.

The Scafells, Glaramara, and Esk Pike

From the summit of Pavey Ark we chose to free-walk a route round to the top of Sergeant Man through the bogs at the top of Bright Beck. The freezing temperatures kept the ground underfoot mostly crisp otherwise it would have been quite a muddy undertaking, but better than Tel's face-plant on Buckden Pike... Wainwright considered Sergeant Man to be a "compelling challenge", but even if you're climbing it from Bright beck in a blindfold it really doesn't have any real appeal to someone looking for a challenge.

From Sergeant Man it's a yomp over to the summit of High Raise (Sergeant Man's actually a sub-peak of High Raise, but that's all academic really) with the trig point offering up fantastic views towards the Scafells, Esk Hause, the Gables, and Glaramara. 

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What with Jacks Rake and a few of the peaks out of the way it was about time we made a point of getting the Langdale Pikes themselves under our belts. So it was back over Thunacar Knott to a) bag another peak, and b) pick up a bearing to Pike O'Stickle - not the biggest of the pikes, but not the smallest either.

At 709m Pike O'Stickle is the second highest in the Langdales, a rocky pinnacle rising sharply from the valley below and providing us Fellfallers with the opportunity to devise an interesting route up and down over the north-east face allowing us to pick up the next of the pikes immediately afterward. 

Not only did Pike O'Stickle give us a bit of excitement after Jacks Rake (there are exciting routes up, just detach yourself from your sense of mortality and you'll soon discover them) but it provided an ideal vantage point for watching the Great North Air Ambulance swoop in to rescue someone who'd come to grief on Harrison Stickle.

Pike O'Stickle

Leaving Pike O'Stickle behind it was on to the smallest of the bunch, Loft Crag. From Mickleden below it's nothing to be sniffed at, but approached from behind it's pretty insignificant. Nevertheless it was there so it had to be done before ascending the daddy of the Langdales; Harrison Stickle, as the light started to fade.

From the top of Dungeon Ghyll it's a nice climb up to the summit of Harrison Stickle, a little scrambly at times to keep the interest levels up and the volume of people on their way down meant it made sense to keep off the path and on the rock most of the way.  At 736m it's the tallest of the three peaks of which the Pikes are composed, and as such is the most popular, with plenty of routes up and down  - including a proper "you must be mad" scramble up from Thorn Crag, but that's excitement for the future.

Going Home

Leaving the summit behind it was time to retrace our steps back down to Dungeon Ghyll and re-summit Loft Crag to pick up the path down past Gimmer Crag and on to Mark Gate and the Hotel where we started that morning.

All in the route was 7.3 miles and a whisker over 6 hours to complete with a couple good stops for a bite to eat. Total ascent was 1100m, not bad considering.

The Map

OS Maps: Landranger 90 | Explorer OL6

View the trip at | See all the pictures on Flickr | Or go get the GPX file
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