Saturday, 7 September 2013

Thunacar Knott, Sergeant Man, High Raise, Rossett Pike & Esk Pike

GPS Track
Date: 07/09/2013
From: Great Langdale

Parking: Great Langdale NT Campsite
Start Point: Great Langdale NT Campsite
Region: Central Fells

Route length: 13.1 miles (21km)
Time taken: 06:40
Average speed: 2.0mph
Ascent: 1558m
Descent: 1568m

Wainwrights on this walk:
Thunacar Knott (723m), Sergeant Man (736m), High Raise (762m), Rossett Pike (651m), Esk Pike (885m)

Additional summits: Black Crags (588m), Buck Pike (606m)

Other points of interest: Langdale Combe, Angle Tarn, Esk Hause, Ore Gap

Route: Raven Crag, Mark Gate, Harrison Combe, Thunacar Knott, Sergeant Man, High Raise, Stake Pass, Mansey Pike, Black Crags, Rossett Pike, Angle Tarn, Tongue Head, Esk Hause, Esk Pike, Ore Gap, Angle Tarn, Rossett Pass, Cumbria Way

There could only ever be one word to sum up this walk. Rain.

Lots of rain. All the different types you could want. Several at the same time even.

In an attempt to visit several of the more distant peaks accessible from Langdale, myself and a couple of like minded individuals organised a bit of an ad hoc trip at the start of September. The only problem was that date was set, fixed and immovable and in typical British fashion, the weather found out and quite literally rained on our parade. So, for what it's worth, he's how we got on (some of these are a friends photos. His camera had 'tough' written on the body, mine may as well have said 'useless').

Grabbing an early start, we had anticipated some poor weather but the forecasts were for intermittent showers rather than the sustained dousing we were subjected to. In fact, the day actually started out looking quite reasonable with some low, lingering clouds but a hint of brightness on the horizon. Waterproofs packed, we set off up towards Raven Crag, a route up to Harrison Combe we had investigated earlier in the year. After a stiff climb up the ravine we met the main path that leads between Loft Crag and Dungeon Ghyll. Up until this point, the rain had held off but, as we climbed higher, the drizzle began at the waterproofs came out.
Heading for the direct route up to Harrison Combe, Raven Crag
A short scramble up the ravine was required
The last view of Langdale before the rains came
By now, it became clearly obvious that navigating use a map and compass was going to be a futile affair. While maps are a great thing, they tend to be made out of paper and, as I'm sure everyone knows, a 1m square sheet of OS paper + a strong, gusty wind and persistent rain = all manner of complications. In addition to this, without anything to use a a reference point we were at risk of getting disorientated on the flat, quite featureless area behind the Langdale Pikes. Fortunately though, we had a secret weapon up our sleeve. On attached to my pack to be more precise. A trusty little orange box of tricks you may have noticed in several pictures in other posts. The Garmin Etrex 20. Or GPS for short.
Climbing the gloomy path to Harrison Combe
The flat landscape made for a challenging navigate.
With the addition of OS maps installed onto the machine, the GPS made light work of both telling us exactly where we were, which direction we were heading and, more importantly, where those hidden peaks were. Finding the low, sloping summits of Thunacar Knott and Sergeant Man may have been a tall order had it not been for the ability to drop a waypoint on the GPS and follow the electronic compass to the destination. We did this quite successfully to reach Thunacar Knott.
The summit of Thunacar Knott
Strictly speaking, Thunacar Knott is a subsidiary peak of High Raise or an outlier to Pavey Ark but was included as a separate chapter in the Central Fells, despite Wainwright describing it as 'completely photogenic' and 'deficient in interest'. Still, wrote about it he did, on the list it lives and visit it we did. Albeit briefly.
Consulting the map before the yomp to Sergeant Man
Setting our sights towards Sergeant Man, we carried on north, following a waterlogged path until it branched off to the right, curving around the top of the valley of Bright Beck, one of the feeder streams to Stickle Tarn. With the path becoming vaguer and the clouds obscuring visibility, another GPS waypoint successfully guided us to the summit of Sergeant Man.
Sergeant Man is in there somewhere
Proof we actually made it to the top
After imagining the splendid view from Sergeant Man and completing the summit formalities turned our attention towards High Raise (or we would have done if we could see it). As Sergeant Man represents another subsidiary summit of High Raise (much like Thunacar Knott) the plan was walk as the crow flies towards the summit using a compass bearing and another GPS waypoint. The climb is straight forward and other than dodging the many boggy areas that had formed thanks to the weather, there was little stopping us reaching the summit. Before long, the vague outline of the summit shelter and trig point appeared out of the gloom.
Making a beeline for High Raise
Reaching the summit
High Raise's trig pillar
High Raise, despite being a broad, featureless grassy dome is the highest of the Central Fells and is regarded as being the most central fell in all of the Lake District. It does provide a fine viewpoint of the surrounding fells but not on a day like today. Hunkering down in the shelter we had a quick snack before making the long descent down towards Langdale Combe, a fascinating glacial landscape or "a godforsaken place" as described by Skip.
Descending the slopes of High Raise
A look back at High Raise from Langdale Combe
The low clouds shroud Rossett Pike
As we descended, we emerged from the clouds and could final see something resembling a view. We were even taunted by a hint on sunlight in the Langstrath valley before it was unceremoniously blotted out again. Reaching the tarn at the top of the Stake Pass, we made the decision to continue walking and cross the ridge to reach Rossett Pike. The weather had lulled us into a false sense of security and, as we climbed, the clouds quickly dropped and the rain returned.
A brief glimpse of Rossett Pike over Langdale Combe
The weather closed in once again
Using a combination of luck, determination and the GPS, we reached to summit of Rossett Pike, the mountain that links the Central the to Southern Fells. Despite the wind and the rain, we paused for a quick sandwich (soggy in may case, that'll teach me to not keep it in a dry bag) before moving on to Angle Tarn, nestled beneath the towering crags of Hanging Knotts.
The summit of Rossett Pike
Angle Tarn with Rossett Pass in the background
Rossett Pike, after the clouds parted
Once again, the brief descent brought us out of the clouds and into some dryer weather and gave us a brief view of Angle Tarn and most of Hanging Knotts. From the offset, the plan had been to continue up to Esk Hause and climb Esk Pike and, thanks to the certainty of not being able to get any wetter, we plodded on, climbing the path up Tongue Head to the cross shelter below Allen Crags. The weather had saved its heaviest burst of rain for just this moment and made for an unpleasant climb up to Esk Hause. Once again, we had to use the GPS to make sure that we were following the right path to Esk Pike and that it was directing us towards the summit.
Climbing up towards Esk Hause in the driving rain
The shelter below Esk Hause
I found the climb up Esk Pike less demanding than I expected and all in all, it's a fairly steady tramp to the summit. Once again, no views to be seen but I'll have to re-visit this one for sure as I've read that the views of the Scafells and Bowfell are impressive to say the least.

Crossing one of the more entertaining parts of the climb up Esk Pike
Approaching the summit
Another summit ticked off
From Esk Pike, we descended down to Ore Gap, so called thanks to the red colour of the soil. We decided to give Bowfell a miss on this day, it had nothing to offer to us other than another climb so, we started the back to Angle Tarn and the Rossett Pass. We passed another group of walkers who looked a little concerned and were happy for us to confirm that they were indeed heading in the right direction to reach Angle Tarn. Turns out they were attempting Scafell Pike but had decided to turn back. A wise move.
Another view of Rossett Pike and the Rossett Pass
Rounding Angle Tarn, we climbed up to the top of the Rossett Pass which and were finally rewarded with a fine view of Mickleden. The weather had improved a lot by now and many of the lower peaks were clear of cloud.
Rossett Pike
Pike O'Stickle and Loft Crag
The path back into the valley vaguely follows Rossett Gill. I'm told that back in the day, the path actually followed the gill directly and was one of the reasons Wainwright seemed to dislike it so much. A new pitched route now follows the old pony route and is a much easier descent, apart from the odd section of slanting stones.
Rossett Gill and Mickleden
Aside from a brief shower or two, the weather had made a dramatic improvement by the time we reached the valley floor. We were even treated to some decent sunshine and a rainbow. Typical, now that we were off the fells. A long two miles along the Cumbria Way were required to reach the campsite and I was starting to feel some stiffness in the legs. It had been a long, tiring day battling not only the fells but the elements as well. It's easy to see how people can get lost if the clouds descend, even if they are well prepared. We were fortunate to be able to rely on the GPS for some sections but many people aren't as lucky.

This was the king of walk that could put someone off hill walking for life but I really don't mind bad weather at all, it doesn't bother me. I am however, going to have to repeat this walk, but only when the weather has cheered up a bit.