It is half-term. Chance for a run of Wainwrights bagging. I suggested the idea to Hannah; that we should aim for ten Wainwrights this week. She gave me a funny look, but smiled. We missed the weekend; the weather was glorious, yet there was work to be done at home. So today is Monday, our first day out.
We pull into the three shires – not the pub! At the top of the Wyrnose Pass, the grey, rain-soaked cloud is heavy, and cloaking the mountains. We can only just see the path leading away from our car. “We’re going up there,” I said to Hannah, trying to sound convincing, as though the lack of visibility didn’t really concern me. She just shrugged her shoulders.
“It’ll be a good opportunity to practice your compass skills,” I said, trying to encourage her. I had given her a compass over the weekend; it was now among the contents of her rucksack.
As we set out, the cloud invitingly lifted for a few seconds and we could see the path ahead, winding like a snake over the moraine. Our first objective, Pike O’Blisco, looms above us. A beautiful mountain, shaped just like mountains should be. Its prominent summit overlooking the Langdale valley, affording superb views of the hills.
Then, just as quickly, the clouds drop again. Behind us, the bulk of Wetherlam rises majestically, its head wrapped in cloud. Like a raging bull, it tries to throw them off. Clumps, like cotton wool, catch in its horns, while wispy trails thread their way down its flanks. Intermittently, we can see the ridge break out from underneath ragged, grey-white smoky plumes.
Soon, the way ahead clears. The forecast informed us that the morning would become bright, with sunny intervals, remaining dry, that was all we needed to keep us going.
On our right, Long Scar appeared on stage, as the curtain of mist drew aside. The crag is popular with climbers, and Hannah suggested that we go there – for a bit of an adventure, she said. Already she was enjoying scrambling.
“We’ll go to thread the needle,” I said. Her puzzled look, indicated that she thought I was crazy. We climbed across the boulders and onto the, don’t-tell-your-mother-about-this, ledge, which traversed the crag.
Don’t tell your mum!
A precariously perched rock spire, about 30 feet tall – according to Alfred Wainwright – sat on a rocky plinth. I was surprised it hadn’t yet toppled over. We take a few pictures and then traverse out along the, you-can-tell-your-mother, ledge and head towards the summit of Pike O’Blisco, our 12th Wainwright.
The views of Bowfell and the Crinkles are breathtaking from this plateau, it seems as though we are walking along the top of the world. The summit cairn comes into view. We thank God that the clouds have lifted and we can gaze upon the beauty of His creation all around us.
Best table for a snack
Now, time for a snack in what must be one of the best dining shelters in the whole of the Lake District. A semi-circular wall of stones is perched right on the edge of the crag. We even manage to take a picture of us both relaxing in the shelter, using the cairn for a tripod, and setting the camera on delayed timer.
After Red Tarn, we climb out on the path towards the Crinkles. Fix the Fells have done a great job here in repairing this heavily eroded path. While we walk, I recollect the last time I was here, probably about 20 years ago, when this path, which winds its way past Great Knott, resembled a red motorway. It must have been at least 50 yards wide then. Now, there is no sign of the massive erosion that once scarred the landscape. Some people said that the path was visible from space.
Fix the Fells
Last summer, I was talking to some of the Fix the Fells team as they worked on this path. Ian Gray one of the rangers commented that they had managed to recover most of the path with the natural vegetation. “Our work,” he said, “aims to keep people on the path and help the natural landscape to regenerate. Today, their work is covered by deep snow.
The cloud begins to drop. I give Hannah a quick lesson about using her compass; showing her how to take a bearing while we can still see landmarks. Cloud quickly envelops us, as we head for the first of the five Crinkles on a bearing of 300 degrees. Hannah hasn’t yet figured out the difference between the wobbly red needle and the red one underneath. She is really impressed when we emerge from the cloud exactly where we aimed to be. A rock gives some cover from the northerly wind; time for a cup of tea and a snack.
Crinkle Crags comprises five summits, known as Crinkles. The second, heading north, is the highest point, and can be precariously ascended by an overhanging slab wedged in a gully. That was not going to be our route today.
We were making tracks in the snow. The first walkers of the day. Yesterday’s footsteps were filled with new snow over compact ice, it made the walking precarious. Occasional stud marks reminded us of the fell runner we had seen earlier, as we had climbed away from Red Tarn.
Hannah fought through deep snow, and enjoying scrambling among the rocks. In the gap, just before the second summit, I pointed out the overhanging slab and the route up the side wall; then wished I hadn’t, as I had to discourage her away from wanting to do it. Youth sees no danger, the wise avoid it! We follow the path around the base of the crag, and climb onto the ridge north of the two cairns which mark the highest point of the Crinkles.
Time for our lunch stop; tucked away from the wind in a southerly facing rock crevice. Behind us Bowfell looms – a majestic mountain. A fortress of rock, foreboding, demanding respect, and respected. After lunch we spend some time – along with another six people who had suddenly appeared – gazing upon the amazing rocky buttresses that ripple along its southern flanks.
It is not our objective today, because time is against us, and I want to save this mountain for summer, when we can walk over it, and enjoy it, without having to worry about the dangers of ice and snow. In summer we can stand at the top of the Bowfell Slab and look down into Langdale, without being too concerned about whether an icy slip is going to send us down a slippery slide into eternity.
Cold Pike – Little Crinkles
We still have another Wainwright to climb. I have saved Cold Pike for last, because it will be easier to traverse to from the Crinkles, rather than climbing it from Red Tarn. We descend past what is now the last Crinkle, and head across the moor, following the path over the bog. Many people describe Cold Pike as miniature Crinkles, because of its line of rocky knolls. The true summit lies at the north end of the ridge, giving views of the Langdale Pikes pinched between Great Knott on the left and Pike O’Blisco on the right.
The descent from the southern end of the ridge, bears east towards the main path leading up from The Three Shires – the path we had walked along five hours before. On the map a marked path heads south towards Rough Crags, but I decided the better option was to cross at the head of the streams and join the main path. I had noticed, on the way up, that a lot of fences had been erected around the base of Rough Crags. I couldn’t perceive a way through.
Happily, we trot down the stone stairway, back to Wrynose, the car, and home for a hearty cottage pie and a pint or two. Another three Wainwrights ticked off and a really enjoyable day. The route along Crinkle Crags is a fantastic mountaineering experience that we thoroughly enjoyed.