Late in the Langdales
Late in the Langdales – 214 summits in 214 days
Appalling weather over the Bank Holiday weekend forced us to make our way back home to Kendal earlier than planned. As the afternoon wore on, the rain finally stopped. I had an unplanned chance to make the most of it.
I drove against the traffic into the heart of the Lakes, a steady stream of cars heading the other way. I reached the Old Dungeon Ghyll in Langdale to find plenty of places to park, and headed off, contouring under the crags, jumping over all the puddles.
Water was streaming off the hillside, streams in full spate, from a combination of melting snow and the incessant rain. I crossed the footbridge and jogged up the steep path to Stickle Tarn, a single tent near the weir marking a great place for a wild camp.
The clouds were breaking up, blue sky was showing through. I’d hoped for clear tops, as I wanted to recce the Joss Naylor Challenge route from High Raise to Great End and this evening was perfect.
I found a faint path next to a small, lively stream, making a bee line for Sergeant Man, great views of the Langdale valley opening up below, patches of old snow scattered about. The summit stuck out, an obvious rocky lump amongst an expanse of flat wetland and bog.
It was hard to believe the last time I was here was in a whiteout and I couldn’t even find the summit first time around. It was a short, more or less flat run on to the plateau of High Raise.
New territory for me from here. I’d not been on this section of the “Joss” through to Rosset Pike, and a thin brown trod line marked the route, winding in and out of gullies. It was fast running, and I was soon at Stake Pass, then along the ridge with Mickleden stretched out below, watched over by the near vertical Langdale Pikes.
Someone’s been busy. Small cairns marked the route up to Bowfell, a mixture of steep sheep trods and scree, the views making the tough hands on knees effort worthwhile. It seemed to go on much further than I remembered from all my training runs for the “Bob” last year.
A scramble over the final summit rocks, the jagged Scafells outlined clearly. Familiar territory through to Esk Pike, following the ramp of horizontal rock jutting out of the hillside, a natural road.
Great End was shrouded in cloud, so at the col of Esk Hause, I decided to give this a miss, and veered off right to bag the small summit of Allen Crags.
More dark cloud was gathering now and looking ominous above the higher peaks. I made good time on the descent to Angle Tarn, short cutting the stone path zig zagging alongside Rossett Gill, taking the steep grassy option instead. I ran alongside the path, weaving in and out of small rocks, jumping over streams.
A flash of a small brown bird from under my feet, and I stopped, finding the Meadow Pipit’s nest hidden under dead bracken stalks. Four olive brown eggs in the tiny cup lined with dried grass.
Along the side of Mickleden beck a half remembered bird call. A sandpiper? Could they be back from Africa already? I slowed down, thinking I must be imagining things, then caught sight of two common sandpiper, already staking out their nesting territory.
Huge hailstones pelted me on the final section, urging me to run faster back to my van, then the clouds parted again and sunshine streamed through.
I changed into warm dry clothes and set off for home, feeling an enormous sense of gratitude for being able to live in such a fantastic part of the world. I saw no-one on my evening run and had the mountains to myself. The roads were quiet too all the way back to Kendal, one of the bonuses of setting off to Langdale late in the day.
My little boy Ash had just gone to bed, although he was still awake, so there was still time for another bedtime story.
4 Wainwright summits today, that’s 132 down, 82 to go.
© Graham Patten