Sunday, 13 August 2017

A Langstrath Round

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Route: Stonethwaite, Stonethwaite Bridge, Smithymire Island, Bleak How, Eagle Crag, Sergeant's Crag, Low White Stones, High Raise, Sergeant Man, Thunacar Knott, Martcrag Moor, Stake Pass, Black Crags, Rossett Pike, Angle Tarn, Esk Hause, Allen Crags, Lincomb Tarns, Glaramara, Combe Door, Great Hollow, Tarn at Leaves, Bessyboot, Big Stanger Gill, Little Stanger Gill, Stonethwaite

Date: 13/08/2017
From: Stonethwaite

Parking: Stonethwaite
Start Point: Stonethwaite
Region: Central / Southern Fells

Route length: 14.3 miles (23 km)
Time taken: 07:41
Average speed: 1.9 mph
Ascent: 1,616m
Descent: 1,629m

Wainwrights on this walk:
Eagle Crag (521m), Sergeant's Crag (571m), High Raise (762m), Sergeant Man (736m), Thunacar Knott (723m), Rossett Pike (651m), Allen Crags (785m), Glaramara (783m), Bessyboot (550m)

Other Summits: Low White Stones (731m), Black Crags (588m), High House Tarn Top (684m), Red Beck Top (721m), Looking Steads (775m)

Langstrath is a major Lakeland valley, providing a direct route between Borrowdale and Great Langdale, carrying the Cumbria Way over Stake Pass. It is also a long valley, surrounded by some superb high fells, including all the outcrops and knolls that make up Glaramara and its satellites. Long summer days mean long walks and a circuit around Langstrath promised a lot.

The weather, fine and dry, would be one our side for the day and cloudless skies greeted our arrival in Stonethwaite. We were lucky enough to get a space in the village though there are a number of laybys along the approach road that had yet to fill. Even in the height of the summer holidays, the central fells were looking quiet.
It was a beautiful morning in Stonethwaite
Our chosen starting point was the imposing Eagle Crag, rising towards the head of Stonethwaite. It's well noted that, at first glance, the crags appear impassable yet a route up through them does exist, starting from the base of a broken drystone wall. A path can be found heading directly up the hillside before it swings to the left towards the foot of Eagle Crag (the crag that lends its name to the fell). A stile in the fence at Bleak How allows access to the heathery terraces beyond.
Eagle Crag
The view back along Stonethwaite at the beginning of the climb
The crags of Long Band above Greenup Gill
Stonethwaite from Bleak How
Rosthwaite Fell
The path zig-zags around the crags, utilising a damp gully on the way until the top is reached. A small cairn marks the summit, balanced on a tilted slab of rock, with crags a few yards distant to west and north. Views into Borrowdale are understandably excellent.
Stonethwaite and Borrowdale
Eagle Crag - the crag the gives its name to the fell
Sergeant's Crag and Langstrath
Sergeant's Crag
Borrowdale from the summit of Eagle Crag
Eagle Crag's summit
Around 1km to the south of Eagle Crag is Sergeant's Crag, linked to Eagle Crag by a boggy ridge and drystone wall. The ridge is a termination of High Raise, the parent fell of these two craggy outposts. Despite their inferior height, these two fells easily outshine their higher neighbour.
The ridge joining Eagle Crag (pictured) to Sergeant's Crag
Sergeant's Crag, Langstrath and Glaramara
Ullscarf
Sergeant's Crag summit
The route to High Raise
The climb up to High Raise is a pretty tedious slog up through rough grass, eventually reaching the rocky outpost of Low White Stones, the second summit of High Raise, which has sweeping views of the central fells. The bright morning sunshine had faded a bit - there was a cool breeze in the air - so we quickly made our way up to High Raise, en route to Sergeant Man.
High Raise
Sergeant's Crag
High fells at the head of Langstrath
A grassy climb to Low White Stones
Wythburn with the fells of Helvellyn beyond
Cairn at Low White Stones
The final climb to High Raise
The striking Rosthwaite Cam catches the sun
High Raise's trig pillar
Though unspectacular, High Raise is the highest point in the central fells and it is also regarded as the most central of all fells in the Lake District. These two facts combine to give good all round views. We had intended to pause on High Raise for a break but the shelter was busy so, instead, we made the short crossing to Sergeant Man to savour the view from there instead.
Sergeant Man
Codale Head
Like Eagle Crag, Sergeant Man is an outlier of High Raise, sitting atop the ridge that descends along Blea Rigg towards Grasmere and, like Eagle Crag, it also outshines its parent fell for interest and the views into Great Langdale are outstanding.
Sergeant man's summit
Pavey Ark
The Blea Rigg ridge descending to Grasmere
Thunacar Knott
Pavey Ark
With renewed energy levels, we set off once again, this time to Thunacar Knott (not much to mention about this one) before a very long circuit around Langdale Combe to the Stake Pass. Here the Cumbria way climbs out of Great Langdale and into Langstrath though I would not consider this the head of the Langstrath valley - that's a little further on.
Thunacar Knott
Martcrag Moor leading to Stake Pass
Bowfell and Esk Pike
The Stake Pass
Langstrath and Sergeant's Crag
Stake Pass
A tarn at the head of Langdale Combe
Langdale Combe and the ridge ahead to Rossett Pike
Continuing on, the path makes a long, steady climb up to Rossett Pike, crossing the minor tops of Black Crags and Buck Pike on the way. Rossett Pike (and the Rossett Gill pass) provide the link between the central and southern fells. After a cloudy interlude, the sun was back in full force and things were beginning to heat up. Knowing the undulating ridge of Glaramara was still to come, we opted against climbing Esk Pike, instead, following the path alongside Angle Tarn and up to Esk Hause. The 'true' Esk Hause (located slightly above our route) is the highest pass in the Lake District, located between Great End and Esk Pike.
Glacial drumlins in Langdale Combe
High Raise above the Stake Pass
Pike O'Stickle over Langdale Combe
Mickleden
Mickleden
Pike O'Stickle
The shady crags of Bowfell
Bowfell's Great Slab
Glaramara
Bowfell from Rossett Pike
Rossett Pike's summit looking to Esk Hause and Allen Crags
The Rossett Pass
The return leg back to Stonethwaite would take us along the full length of the Glaramare ridge - one of the Lake District's great routes. Rocky turrets line the whole route and, if I had to choose, I would suggest it's probably one of the most navigationally tricky areas of the national park, especially if you find yourself in the mist.
Angle Tarn and Esk Pike
Hanging Knotts and Angletarn Gill
Rossett Pike
Anlge Tarn and Hanging Knotts
Langstrath
Looking back towards Rossett Pike
Great Gable and Green Gable
Esk Pike from Esk Hause
Great Gable
Allen Crags is first, a rocky dome a short climb from Esk Hause before the minor peaks of High House and Red Beck Top are crossed. Looking Steads, the minor peak to the south is a subsidiary of the main peak of Glaramara.
A large cairn its atop Allen Crags
Panorama from Allen Crags
Bowfell and Esk Pike
The ridge leading to Glaramara
Lincomb Tarns
Allen Crags
Bowfell, Esk Pike and Allen Crags
Bowfell
The top of Glaramara
Glaramara's summit
The fell’s unusual and pleasant-sounding name, previously only applied to the summit rocks, has now been accepted as the name for the whole fell. Like many fells of the district, the name comes from a series of Old Norse words which in this case is translated as “Hill with the mountain hut by a chasm”.
Combe Head and Borrowdale
We pressed on having visited the two tops of Glaramara, descending through Combe Door - a large grassy ramp - to reach the upper slopes of Rosthwaite Fell. More rocky projections protrude from the ridge here; Dovenest Top and Rosthwaite Cam being the two most noticeable. It's largely pathless until you reach Tarn at Leaves, a small tarn below Bessyboot, our final 'summit' of the day.
The Jaws of Borrowdale, Derwentwater and Skiddaw
Combe Door
The Combe
Rosthwaite Cam and Dovenest Top
Rosthwaite Cam
Tarn at Leaves and Bessyboot
Rosthwaite Cam
Bessyboot's summit
Bessyboot is just a large rocky knoll on Rosthwaite Fell, certainly not the highest point, but one that does have a superb view, especially now that the sun was lower in the sky.
Grange Fell and Skiddaw
The final task of the day was to get back down to Stonethwaite. Luckily, having walked in the area before, I know of the path that runs down alongside Big Stanger Gill - surprisingly unmarked on the map. It's a substantial path with stone steps leading down the steepest parts so it comes as a surprise that it's omitted. We eventually reached the bottom where a short walk along the road leads back to the village, concluding a very satisfying outing.

Big Stanger Gill - the secret to getting off the fell
Big Stanger Gill
Great Crag and Grange Fell
Castle Crag and the Jaws of Borrowdale
White Crag above Stonethwaite