Sunday 21st September – Old Dungeon Ghyll to Bowfell and Scafell

A bit of a change from the usual Yorkshire Dales walks this week. Not that there is anything wrong with the Dales; a beautiful area with some wonderful scenery and decent pubs too. The only downside is that it isn’t in Lancashire, however, despite that shortcoming, it won’t stop me going over the border – or ‘defecting’ as someone put it once. Now, defecting is a word you have to be careful with, and not to be confused with defecating, which is a wholly different thing – keep an eye out for the spellchecker ‘cos if it adds an extra ‘a’ you are in the ****!

This week I went up to the The Lakes, or “t’lakes” as I probably pronounce it. I was with two friends, Steve and Colin. Colin spends a lot of time out of the country, and when he is here is very active with family commitments and other stuff, so trying to pin him down and commit to a walk is a feat in itself – think of audience with the Pope and you are on the right path. Steve is a different animal; mention the words “walkies” & “lakes” in the same sentence and all previous commitments magically vanish – a bit of a pavlovian reaction in my opinion, but at least I do know where his priorities lie which makes walk planning easier. Colin and myself had been saying for well over six months that we should get together and do Scafell Pike, and about three days before we drove up there we came to the conclusion that Sunday would give decent weather. Steve didn’t get consulted, only a text message two days before to say “Scafell, walkies, Sunday????”…Not being a chap to mince his words, he came back with a “YES!”, the capitals and exclamation mark confirmed the seriousness of his commitment, so that was that.

The aim was to do Scafell from The Old Dungeon Ghyll, however as you’ll read, if you get that far without falling asleep, this did get changed whilst we sat at Bowfell summit.

Steve lives quite close by, so I went and collected him a 7:30am on Sunday morning. I never knew Sunday had two 7:30’s in it! We met up with Colin just off the motorway outside Bolton as he had come from the other side of Manchester, and he very kindly offered to drive up there. We put the rucksacks etc into the boot, and piled into his motor. As I had done the breakfast before setting out, of a couple of rounds of bacon & sausage sarnies each , I retrieved these from my rucksack before we set off to consume on the way up. As the roads were quiet we made good progress up to Jct 36 of the M6, and then through Ambleside to Skelwith Bridge and then up through Langdale before parking at the Old Dungeon Ghyll.

Distance: 11.24 miles
Ascent: 5,240ft
Sandwiches: Ham salad, Brie and cranberry
Soup: None.. too warm, no cold tinnies either.

Route Profile from ODG to Scafell, via Bowfell
Map of route from ODG to Scafell Pike via Bowfell
3D View of route

The weather was glorious as we parked up, with clear blue skies and dry ground underfoot. We had had only 10% of average rainfall for September so it had been a good month to get out. We changed our footwear, put the rucksacks on, and I pondered whether to take my camera bag or not. In the end I just took the camera in my rucksack and a couple of useful lenses instead of the whole shebang. I was trying to save weight and didn’t fancy lugging the camera bag 10 miles or so. The rucksack was heavy enough.

We exited the car park and crossed the stone bridge over Mickleden Beck and walked on the macadam road in the direction of Stool End Farm. We passed through a kissing gate and ambled along the easy farm track leading to the farmhouse, taking in the glories of the Langdale Pikes along the way. We passed through the farmyard to arrive at the footpath which would lead us up the steady climb of The Band.

Looking up Mickleden with Pike of Stickle and Loft Crag to the right

We started up the well marked path, and noticed a few other walkers who were ahead of us. The climb would be constant for the next two hours or so and this meant a number of pauses to take in the views – nothing to do with getting my breath back, mind, just admiring the vista. Honest! Usually I can get into a walk as soon as I get out of the car, but on this occasion it just wasn’t happening. I also felt that I had no energy at all and this made the ascent more of a trial. Colin, though was the opposite; he was off like a rabbit out of a trap and was soon marching off into the distance at an astonishing rate. He is a keen, and regular skier, and had underplayed his fitness hand on the drive up. I’ll tie his boot laces together next time – that’ll learn ‘im!

We made slow progress up the band, and took time to enjoy the ever increasing view down the valley of Great Langdale. There was a bit of haze around which reduced the distant horizon to nothing, but the bright, warm sun made up for the slightly reduced visibility.

Steve pausing to turn his back on the view just below White Stones, with Great Langdale in background

We continued upwards, puffing and panting, heaving and wheezing…or maybe it was just me?! Going past the area marked as White Stones on the map the path thankfully levelled out a little and gave me a chance to catch my breath. Soon enough, though it increased again and my breath soon left me. 

The path leading up to Three Tarns and Bowfell from just above White Stones

We continued a cycle of walk up, pause, look around… walk up, pause, look around, and several other groups of walkers were doing the same thing. We kept overtaking them, them overtaking us or walking together. We eventually arrived at Three Tarns after a two hour climb, and decided that we should sit and have a sandwich here and take in the view west over to the Scafell range. I had camped here about twenty years ago one winter and the view from the tent whilst cooking breakfast in the morning was superb.

The Scafell range from Three Tarns

It was good to take the pack off, and my overshirt too, so I could sit there in my T-shirt base layer and feel the very slight breeze wafting over me, cooling me down. I lay back and stretched out on the grass, savouring the sandwiches that Steve had made and my legs enjoying the short respite, prior to starting to ascend the side of Bowfell Links to Bowfell summit. As we sat there we noticed that there was the odd fluffy cloud floating around now, whereas earlier on in the day it was a clear sky. Could there be more to come in? From past experience, you can never predict what will happen up here, you just place your bets. The day was very still, with hardly a breeze to be felt which was rare. We packed away our lunch and reluctantly stood up and hauled our packs back on. We walked back past the Three Tarns and took the obvious path to the side of Bowfell Links, and started the ascent up the pitched stone path that lead to the summit.

The path was busy, and at one point we stood to one side to let a large group of teenagers pass us on their way down. Steve was convinced a bus had pulled up somewhere above us and dropped them off as there were so many of them. The going underfoot was quite difficult as the path snaked upwards and it was littered with small stones and rocks, with the addition of sporadic stretches of pitched stone paving done by the conservation volunteers. After a time path started to level off a bit as we got to the “Great Slab” and Steve went off and clambered up a small rock face to investigate it, as he had seen it mentioned in a Wainwright book (and it is also noted on the OS map). He came back with the confirmation “Yeah, it’s like a big rock slab sort of thing” – good to know AW and the OS were on the ball.

A “Big rock slab sort of thing” on Bowfell with Pike of Stickle in background

We progressed upwards to Bowfell summit. At this point Colin came back into view, sat up there on his lofty perch taking in the panorama, looking like the master of all he surveyed. Getting to the summit is akin to walking through a quarry, and careful placing of the boots was required. The summit mound is just a pile of shattered rocks, and is more of a scramble than a walk. When we finally got there is was like being on top of the world. It is the sixth highest peak in the Lake District and Alfred Wainwright listed it as one of his ‘best half dozen’ Lakeland peaks.

The summit was busy with walkers and a number of fell runners too. I take my hat off to fell runners and really admire their stamina to run up those hills, just walking them makes me tired. I did also notice that fell running seems to have undergone an image makeover. Twenty years ago it was confined to very wiry men with beards and well worn Ron Hill running gear; now it is all Lycra, Camelbak hydration packs and GPS/heart monitors predominantly carried by young female fell runners, and not a beard to be seen anymore. Beards seem to be worn by hipsters these days, and I can see how fell running wouldn’t be a lifestyle choice in Hoxton.

The view down to Three Tarns and Crinkle Crags from Bowfell summit

We sat on Bowfell summit for around fifteen minutes, just drinking in the view. It really is spectacular from here. As we sat, we noticed the clouds gathering out to the west and beginning to encroach on the Scafell range. This didn’t bode well for the remainder of our route.

The Scafell range from the summit of Bowfell

The clouds started to gradually encroach on Scafell Pike, with misty clouds clinging to the gullies, and the lowering sky was beginning to engulfed the summit. We decided we should take a detour from the route we had agreed upon. Why schlepp around to Scafell to walk in the mist, when we could just as well drop down to Three Tarns and do Crinkle Crags instead? It sounded like a good plan.

Lingcove Beck and Moasdale from Bowfell summit

After agreeing on our revised route, we said farewell to the summit of Bowfell and descended the rough path back to Three Tarns. We arrived at the col, and took the path straight over it passing the tarns, and started to climb up back to the ridge high above Shelter Crags. The path here then took us along the Crinkles.

Bowfell Links from Gunson Knott

The name Crinkle Crags reflects the fell’s physical appearance as its summit ridge is a series of five rises and depressions (crinkles) that are very distinctive from the valley floor. This was the first time I have done it from North to South, I have always done it the other way around, and this time missed out the ‘Bad Step’.

Mickle Door from Crinkle Crags

We continued along the until we got to Long Top where we stayed for several minutes chatting to a married couple from Windermere and discussing what we could see in the view to the west.

Looking south west to Hard Knott from Long Top

We then took the easy path that descended steadily above Great Knott and took much enjoyment in the brisk progress that could be made. The path here was littered with large bags of boulders which we guessed were for the use of the conservation groups to make pitched stone paving for erosion prevention, and obviously dropped off by helicopter. We arrived at Browney Gill, the beck that forms the outfall from Red Tarn and started the steeper descent down a long series of very well made pitched stone steps. I was pleased to have brought my walking pole as this helped a bit, but after a while it did take its toll on the knees. Steve had to stop and knock back a couple of painkillers to assist with his descent.

We eventually got down to Oxendale Beck where Colin was sat next to the beck waiting for us to appear. He had gone on ahead of us and had spent the descent chatting to a chap who had run a marathon the day before, and had just come back that week from doing the GR20 in Corsica, a walk that is ranked as one of the worlds toughest hikes. Just what you need to highlight your own inadequacies is a fanatical athlete telling you how good he is.

Looking down Oxendale and Great Langdale from Brown How

We shuffled our way along Oxendale and back to Stool End Farm. We hobbled back through the farmyard which we had so easily strolled through earlier in the day and made our way back to the car at the Old Dungeon Ghyll. This last mile seemed to take forever. It seemed ages before the car came into view, and when we got to it, we changed our footwear again and headed to the ODG for a pint prior to making the journey back home.

We sat outside the pub as the sun gradually started to set with our drinks in hand and we agreed that we must come back and do Scafell. This next time we would stay over and do it from Wasdale, nevertheless, we all agreed that it had been a great day and we should make a point of doing it again in the not too distant future.

Sunday 31st August 2014 – Crummackdale to Moughton and Sulber Nick

It seems sometime since my last post. Again, the weather has been poor for several weekends and one Saturday, Mrs MuddyBoots even lit the log burner – in August!! Methinks I’ll be getting our winter order of logs in earlier this year. Is there anything more tedious than stacking wood? Maybe it’s just me, but I try to get it looking very neat, and that neatness is probably where the ‘tedium’ problem lies.

This weekend I sat down and looked at the map and for some reason Crummackdale really jumped out at me. It is located just north of Austwick, where I have been before, but about 20 years ago. Admittedly, I have slept since, so I cannot remember much of my last visit. I was quite surprised that I came to a decision of where to walk so quickly. It does happen like that occasionally. I get it sometimes with writing music; I can sit there at the piano for an hour and nothing is flowing so I just pack it in and go and do something else, and other times I can sit down and the ideas just flow out, and I can knock out the the guts of two or three compositions in one very creative session. So it was with the map this time. I was particularly drawn to a small hamlet called Wharfe and decided that it should be our starting point for this minor jaunt.

Distance:  7.32 miles
Ascent:  943 ft
Sandwiches:  Home-made ham salad on home made wholemeal bread
Soup:  Too warm, so took a couple of ice cold tinnies!

Route Profile
Route Map
3D Route View

We drove up to Austwick, passing through Ingleton along the way. I was quite surprised by how large Austwick appeared to be. Although I have been before, I had recollections of it being a small-ish, typical Dales type village, such as Kettlewell, however there were quite a few more modern type of houses built on the periphery of the village which surprised me. We passed through Austwick and headed along the narrow road to Helwith Bridge. We found a small lay by to park in, which was situated just below the secluded hamlet of Wharfe.

We got out of the car, opened the boot and changed our footwear, and then we grabbed our respective rucksacks, and my camera bag, and we then set out uphill to the hamlet of Wharfe.

Barn in hamlet of Wharfe

What a gem this hamlet is! It is a collection of 14 dwellings with a population of around 30 people, and its claim to fame is it is the only settlement in Crummackdale. All the houses are linked by small farm tracks and there is no macadam surfaces in the hamlet at all; in fact, all the roads are private too, but are marked as Bridleways on the OS maps.

We exited the seclusion of Wharfe, and walked along a very narrow, and quite claustrophobic, overgrown green lane that had high drystone walls to each side.This lane continued gradually rising up and heading further into Crummackdale.

Drovers Lane heading leading to Crummackdale

We continued our way upwards, and passing beneath the limestone cliff of White Stone we spotted a climber dangling off his rope halfway up the cliff face. We watched him for a short time, but he didn’t seem to make any progress at all and his mate on the ground belaying him was probably bored to tears too, so we continued on our way into the valley. We also noticed that this green lane was littered with brambles and much of them bearing succulent looking fruit too. We said we would pick some on the way back and fill our empty lunch boxes with the dark fruit.

We took a right fork in the lane and walked along the track that runs parallel to Austwick Beck. The walls were not as high and enclosing here, and the view into the valley was opening up a bit and getting more attractive as we climbed ever higher.The gain in height was barely noticeable which made for easy walking.

Looking up Crummackdale to Moughton Scar

We have got quite used to there being very few people about and about in the great outdoors when we are out walking which is probably due to use going to some remote, or difficult hills. It was a lot different today though, and it really showed the popularity of ‘limestone country’ as there were always a number of other walkers in view.

The only field barn in Crummackdale

As we approached the only stone field barn in the valley, we took a sharp right turn on the lane, which by now had walls that were falling down instead of towering above us, and headed towards what was shown on the map as “Moughton Whetstone Hole”. The green lane started to rise up quite steeply here, so we decided it was time to sit down on a rocky outcrop, take a rest and have a sandwich and enjoy the view looking down Crummackdale. 

Lunchtime view

As we tucked into the comestibles, Mrs MuddyBoots surprised me here by whipping out a cold tin of beer taken from the freezer that morning that she had secretly stashed in her rucksack. I can tell you that this went down very well with the accompanying sandwiches I had made, and I could have sat there all day looking at the view and drinking cold beer. 
The cold beer was so enjoyable that I think she may have started a tradition for future walks, although she will only realise this when we pack the bags for the next one and it gets laden with cold cans of beer. After resting for sometime, we decided that we should get a move on, and packed away our things, shouldered the packs and picked up the pace again.

We passed Moughton Whetsone Hole but couldn’t see anything due to the four feet high bracken. There was the remains of small stone building, but the bracken was impenetrable so I didn’t go and investigate. After doing some research afterwards it turns out that the Moughton Whetstone is a concentrically banded, (reddish-purple and green), striped mudstone that was quarried to make whetstones for the Sheffield razor industry. This ‘quarry’ wasn’t very obvious as we passed by. The ascent got steeper as we approached the head of the small side valley and we finally climbed up onto the limestone plateau that is marked as “Moughton” on the map. (It is pronounced “Moot’n” just in case you were wondering!). 

The track leading down to Moughton Whetstone Hole

As we reached to edge of the plateau at Moughton, the whole view over Ribblesdale opened up and we had ‘big skies’. The view to Pen y ghent was also glorious. 

Pen y ghent from Moughton
Pen y ghent from Moughton

We walked along the plateau and enjoyed the easy progress and soft grass after the ascent up here. We passed several grouse butts used for shooting, and a number that were now just piles of stones, and headed along the path towards a substantial drystone wall that dissects the limestone pavement at Moughton. We crossed a timber ladder type stile and then walked parallel to the Ribblesdale side of the wall. We walked quickly and enjoyed the extensive views we were getting from this elevation, and it was a complete contrast to the claustrophobic walls on the green lanes we experienced in Crummackdale earlier. We were heading along the path towards Sulber Nick, which is the main footpath that is used to go from Ingleborough to Horton in Ribblesdale when doing the 3 Peaks Challenge. As we walked we were crossing exposed parts of limestone pavement and looking closely at the clints and grikes that are their predominant feature. Hidden deep with the fissures were various ferns that had grown due to the limited chances of being eaten away by sheep.

Lamb’s tongue ferns growing in limestone grikes

As we approached Sulber Nick, we climbed up onto a higher limestone plateau that was shown as “Sulber” on the map. At this point I decided to get some more photographs of Pen-y-ghent. As with many photographs, waiting for the “right light” can test the patience of even Job, and I did eventually get some decent ones with the hill illuminated. 

Pen Y Ghent from Sulber Nick

By the time I had finished fiddling with the camera Mrs MuddyBoots had wandered off as she has no patience for waiting around. This would be no problem in itself, but seeing as she doesn’t map read, (and is not interested in learning how to), and didn’t know the route we were taking, she could have been anywhere. So I headed off rapidly towards the path known as Sulber Nick in order to try and catch her up. Once on the path I couldn’t see her as I had expected, so I climbed the side of the path onto Sulber plateau itself  (the path runs down a route slightly below the level of the surrounding ground). Once high up, I scanned a full 360 degree horizon and still couldn’t see her…hmmm, maybe she is walking along the edge of the scar between Moughton and Sulber?… or should I go back to the spot where I was taking photos? What if she is not there? Do I go back to the car and wait there? Does she know where we are supposed to be going? Does she know how to get back to the car? all sorts of thoughts were going through my head. In the end I got my phone out, luckily there was a signal, and I called her. Just as her phone was ringing I spied her through a five bar gate sat on the grass just below the Sulber plateau, overlooking Ribblesdale in the general direction of Pen y ghent. I was relieved! We then had a robust discussion about not wandering off and getting lost, and it turns out it was my fault for ‘just abandoning her’ and during the course of this interchange between us, to add insult to injury, it transpired that not only had she sat there drinking the remaining cold tinnies in her rucksack, she had eaten all the bloody chocolate as well!

Signpost above Sulber. We took the route towards Clapham

We continued along to the signpost above Sulber and took the path leading to Sulber Gate. A number of other walkers passed us going in the opposite direction towards Horton in Ribblesdale and judging by their gait, and pained expressions on their faces, they were completing the 3 Peaks Challenge. I have done it about 5 times now, and my fastest time was around 6 1/2 hours. I certainly couldn’t do that time now… it would probably be a three day walk with a long rest in each pub between the hills. You do have to keep your fluids in balance.

We approached Sulber Gate and were completely blown away by the view from the top, down Crummackdale. It was fabulous, and completely unexpected. It just appeared as we approached it. I find that this surprise, or unexpected view is one of the great things about hill walking and it still never ceases to bring a smile to my face when great and extensive views ‘just appear’ in front of you.

View down Crummackdale from Sulber Gate

We went through the gate at Sulber and it was reassuring to see that the name on the map matched the physical object on the ground – it said ‘Sulber Gate’ and there it was! We headed along the bridlepath that ran along the edge of the scar and after making speedy progress along the lush, flat grass the path took us downhill to the farmstead of ‘Crummack’. This leads to the obvious question; was the Dale named after the farm, or the farm after the Dale? Answers on a postcard please as I don’t know either. 

We continued the steep descent to the farm, and went past a mountain biking couple who were completely off-route and appeared to be having ‘a domestic’ from the look of things; he was in front and she was behind him and appeared a bit sulky too! (stop giggling at the back – we’ve all been there haven’t we!) We eventually got onto Crummack Lane and enjoyed the downhill stretch very much. At a junction in Crummack Lane, we took a left fork that headed towards Wharfe, instead of the right fork that went towards Austwick, and continued making quick, if weary, progress until we came upon a ford in the lane, with an adjacent clapper bridge near to Wash Dub Field

Clapper Bridge at Wash Dub Field

We stopped and rested on the bench at Wash Dub Field. This clapper bridge over Austwick Beck in Crummackdale is believed to be 15th century and links two green lanes. There is an adjacent ford where animals and carts could cross. To the left is Wash Dub Field (when approached from Wharfe). In late spring and in early summer the beck was dammed to make a large pool and the sheep were washed to remove parasites, the Wash Dub was still in use as late as the 1930’s. I would have liked more time to investigate, but Little Miss Impatient was off along the green lane back to the hamlet of Wharfe. I reluctantly followed, thinking of not wanting to be in the position of the earlier mountain biking couple. This last mile really seemed to take a long time and I found it difficult going, maybe it was due to us retracing our steps from earlier in the day and this part of the route was familiar to us. Who knows! We continued to drop down the lane passing hundreds of blackberries that were ready for picking, some of them were huge – sadly, we really didn’t have the energy to stand there collecting the juicy berries now, as we had thought on passing them earlier in the day. It was a sure sign that autumn was on its way, and as John Keats succinctly, and famously put it – Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness, close bosom-friend of the maturing sun” which seems to compress Autumn into just one sentence in my opinion.

Blackberries waiting to be matched with Crumble & Custard

Once again we passed through back through the hamlet of Wharfe and admired how attractive it was and said we would make a point of coming back here at some time in the future.

The view from Wharfe, south west towards Austwick

We soon got back onto the macadam road surface just outside of the hamlet and descended down the small, steep hill to where we had parked opposite a field barn. I unlocked the car, and then opened the boot. We changed our footwear and dumped the rucksacks and camera bag into the car boot, and then breathed a contented sigh as we sat down into the comfortable front seats. A quick turn of the ignition key, and we were on our way back home where a hot bath to ease the weary legs seemed to be just what the doctor would have ordered had he been there to diagnose our aches and pains.