Langdale -- March 2011

Sunrise over Ambleside

My recent weekend in the Lake District really was a trip of emphatic contrasts. The trip had been unexpected – my friend Rich had suggested it only a couple of weeks before. I love it when opportunities to get away for the weekend crop up at short notice – life is all the better for such surprises! After wrestling with the M6 Northbound on Friday night we parked up in a secluded spot close to Skelwith Bridge before heading up a sleepy Loughrigg Fell bathed in bright moonlight. The lights of Ambleside to the east and Windemere to the south east twinkled in the silvery murk as we set up our shelters. Despite the near perfection of the pitch site I slept fitfully, annoyed that I had somehow managed to set up camp on a slope. We woke early and were greeted with this wonderful view across to Ambleside as the sun poked above the hills beyond.

Elterwater in the morning light

Our route for the weekend would take us along the northern fringe of Great Langdale from our overnight spot atop Loughrigg Fell across to the Langdale Pikes via Blea Rigg. After a wild camp at Angle Tarn (the Angle Tarn nestled below Bow Fell), the plan was to traverse the southern side of Great Langdale taking in Crinkle Crags and Pike o Blisco. We set off early on the Saturday morning and swiftly gained Blea Rigg, pausing only to grab a few snaps. The visibility was excellent and the sun warm and bright.

 

Elterwater magic

Next stop was the Langdale Pikes, a fun collection of summits poking above Stickle Tarn, before a speedy yomp westwards to join the hummock of Rossett Pike at the head of Great Langdale. The first day’s allotted mileage of about 20km was behind us by 15:30.

 

Langdale wrinkles

After toying briefly with the idea of summitting Bow Fell the same evening we opted for a leisurely evening instead and set up camp at Angle Tarn just as the weather started to deteriorate. Before long the clouds had built up and the wind had started to whip across the tarn to buffet our tents. An icy chill descended as the sun set.

 

Angle Tarn tranquility – the calm before the storm

It was a fairly wild night, with rain, wind and even snow. The rain would continue for the rest of the weekend. Sunday, in contrast to the glories of the preceding day was a bit of a washout. Our climb of Bow Fell was undertaken in very poor visibility. A hundred metres above the tarn the rain turned to snow and the ascent became a battle. Needing to keep moving to keep warm in the wintry conditions, progress was frustrated by snow obscuring the path. Occasionally a cairn would be spotted in the distance, the only other reassurance was the compass bearing taking us haltingly upward onto the summit. After descending towards Three Tarns we opted for a relatively benign descent down The Band to Great Langdale rather than attempting Crinkle Crags. Trail-running shoes with mesh uppers and sludgy snow really don’t make for comfortable or safe walking on the high fells! Instead of a trudge back to the car along the valley we ascended back up from Langdale to the unexpected crinkliness of Side Pike and Lingmoor Fell. Not having ventured across these tops before I was surprised by the occasional technical section on the path. Route finding in the poor weather also was a challenge. Watch out for the disused quarry atop Lingmoor Fell! The sturdy fence and high stone wall along the top of the fell breaks only briefly to allow any unwary souls to fall into the abyss. After a frustrating few minutes trying to find a safe route off the fell we were soon descending through pleasant forest to Elterwater prior to tramping back to the car in a typical Lakeland drizzle. nNo photos from Sunday. The weather was simply too awful. A great weekend in all though.