Saturday, 29 September 2018

The Langdale Pikes via Jack's Rake

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Route: Stickle Ghyll, Whitegill Ravine, Blea Rigg, Stickle Tarn, Jack's Rake, Pavey Ark, Sergeant Man, Codale Head, High Raise, Thunacar Knott, Harrison Stickle, Harrison Combe, Pike of Stickle, Loft Crag, Mark Gate, Stickle Ghyll

Date: 29/09/2018
From: Great Langdale

Parking: Stickle Ghyll
Start Point: Stickle Ghyll
Region: Central Fells

Route length: 8.7 miles (14 km)
Time taken: 07:05
Average speed: 1.96mph
Ascent: 1,088m
Descent: 1,094m

Wainwrights on this walk:
Blea Rigg (541m), Pavey Ark (700m), Sergeant Man (736m), High Raise (762m), Thunacar Knott (723m), Harrison Stickle (736m), Pike of Stickle (709m), Loft Crag (682m)

Additional summits: Codale Head (732m)

Other points of interest: Jack's Rake

I was back in Great Langdale again for a round of the legendary Langdale Pikes. This would include the exciting ascent of Jack's Rake, a graded scramble on the face of Pavey Ark. Having convened in the Stickle Ghyll car park, we geared up, kicking off proceedings by heading to Whitegill Ravine, a dry gully that runs up to the higher fells.
The Stickle Ghyll path - not for us today
Great Langdale
You can access it by following a path from the rear of the Old Dungeon Ghyll Hotel, behind Millbeck Farm and passing through some woodland to its base. There, it runs directly up onto the Blea Rigg ridge beneath the watchful Whitegill Crag. It's a much more agreeable route than the Stickle Ghyll path, which can get very busy. In the ravine, we saw very few people.
Looking up Whitegill Ravine
Whitegill Ravine and Great Langdale
A tree stands around halfway up the ravine
Great Langdale
Sun over the Coniston fells
Though the sun was shining, a cool breeze was funnelling up the ravine, adding a certain chill to the proceedings. That said, the weather promised to be dry and sunny for the entire day so I can't complain too much. After scrambling out of the top of the ravine, the summit of Blea Rigg is a short walk away, across grassy, pathless ground.
The Blea Rigg ridge
High Raise
The summit of Blea Rigg
Easedale Tarn
From Blea Rigg, we crossed the undulating moorland, following the line of a vague path as it passes a succession of rocky tops that define the Blea Rigg ridge. This path took us to Stickle Tarn where we skirted around the north shore to get a foothold on Jack's Rake. On your approach, the rake can clearly be seen on the face of Pavey Ark, especially if the weather is good.
Pavey Ark catches the sun
Jack's Rake - the diagonal groove running up the rock face
Our first task was to reach the bottom of the rake, which is located a short distance up a loose, boulder path. If you spotted the rake on the face of Pavey Ark then finding the bottom should be straightforward. One common problem on Jack's Rake is congestion so, if a group have recently started ahead of you, it's worthwhile giving them a 10 or 15-minute head start.
Stickle Tarn
The foot of Jack's Rake
Before I go into detail about the rake itself, it's worth summarising it for the benefit of those who haven't done it. In short, it's a Grade 1 scramble meaning that a small degree of rock climbing is required, using both hands and feet and some semi-technical moves. As with most scrambles, a good head for heights and confidence on rock is essential.

Jack's Rake is largely confined into a rock groove, protecting from the sense of exposure though a few ledges offer no such protection. It is perhaps best described in sections, the first being the steepest from the foot of the route to the lonely Rowan tree, silhouetted on the skyline.
Starting up the rake
The groove runs up to the small tree on the skyline
A steeper section leads to the tree
Stickle Tarn
Looking down the rake from the tree
Stickle Tarn
The tree
The rock can be greasy and wet, even on a dry day so care and attention are certainly the order of the day. This steep section is technically quite straightforward, rising up to meet the tree. The rocks and holds in Jack's Rake can be unreliable to make sure you check them before committing to a move.

Upon reaching the tree, some more easy scrambling leads to the first of the exposed grassy ledges, where you may find yourself waiting for another party up ahead as the next obstacle is an awkward chimney that should be tackled head-on, rather than trying to skirt around it. More easy scrambling awaits along with another grassy ledge.
Continuing past the tree
Stickle Tarn below
The grassy ledge
The chimney after the grassy ledge
Above the chimney
Continuing up, you'll reach a groove that runs up next to a large, slanted rock. Again, this is best-tackled head on and is perhaps the crux of the whole route. Once past this obstacle, a series of blocks and easy clambering will get you to the summit (you're on the right track if you have to climb down a few rocks before the final ascent).
The second ledge
The groove and slanted rock
The final series of scrambles
Finishing off the rake
In all, it took us around 20 - 30 minutes to complete the rake. Unsurprisingly, it was busy on top of Pavey Ark but we took the time to marvel at our modest triumph before continuing on towards Sergeant Man.
Pavey Ark's summit
Stickle Tarn and Great Langdale from Pavey Ark
The Fairfield range
Great Langdale and Windermere
High Raise
Sergeant Man
A path makes a sweeping circle at the head of Bright Beck as it slowly rises to the domed summit of Sergeant Man. Neighbouring Sergeant Man is the oft-ignored top of Codale Head, a small dome that has a classification as a Nuttall. After these two smaller tops, the broad summit of High Raise was next.
Pavey Ark and Harrison Stickle
Sergeant Man
Blea Rigg
Codale Head
The summit of Sergeant Man
High Raise
Codale Head's summit
High Raise is the highest of the central fells and usually regarded as the most central fell of the Lake District. Its height and central positioning give it a sweeping panorama that includes Bowfell, the Scafells, Helvellyn and Blencathra. On really clear days, the peaks of Yorkshire can be seen.
Looking to Low White Stones
Borrowdale
Rosthwaite Fell and Fleetwith Pike
Skiddaw
Looking north from High Raise
The summit of High Raise
Not far from High Raise is the 'blink and you'll miss it' top of Thunacar Knott. A strange addition to the Wainwrights fells - it's not particularly prominent, nor does it have an astounding view. I don't think your walk would be diminished if you gave it a miss.
Thunacar Knott
So, back to the pikes and Harrison Stickle. The path heading south from Thunacar Knott leads straight to Harrison Stickle by way of a small depression at the eastern face. Once again the view, when you get closer to the edge, are pretty dramatic as the fellside falls away sharply to the tarn below.
Harrison Stickle
Pike of Stickle
Harrison Stickle
Harrison Stickle's impressive view
Pavey Ark
Harrison Stickle is the highest of the Langdale Pikes and perhaps one of the most dramatic. Its dark crags are those encountered from the entrance of Great Langdale and they seem to dominate all around, despite only being 736m high. It's a mountain in miniature and has views to match. Perched at the head of a bend in the valley, the view straight down to Windermere is a real treat.
Great Langdale
A vague route drops down from Harrison Stickle to the jaws of Dungeon Gill, an impressive ravine that separates Harrison Stickle from Loft Crag. Here a prominent path led us to the large gully known as the Stickle Stone Shoot at the base of Pike of Stickle. Some easy scrambling leads to the summit. With the clouds drifting in over Bowfell, the sun rays beaming through were nothing short of magnificent. It's one of the reasons why I think walking in autumn is one of the best times of the year.
Bowfell and Pike of Stickle
Harrison Combe
Pike of Stickle
The Stickle Stone Shoot
After clambering back down to the head of the gully, a short ridge walk leads to Loft Crag, the final peak of the day. The clouds had filled in much of the sky by now but there were still the odd glimpses of sun hanging about.
The full height of Bowfell
Pike of Stickle's summit
Loft Crag
Bowfell
Bowfell and Pike of Stickle
Loft Crag's summit
Harrison Stickle
A long descent lies ahead. It's a route that many use and is easy to follow. It is well-laid meaning you can make swift progress down it. Only a handful of shorter, steeper sections impede progress and it took me around half an hour to get back down. While descending you pass the dark depths of Dungeon Ghyll and its waterfall; Dungeon Ghyll Force.
Harrison Stickle
Harrison Stickle
Descending to Great Langdale
Lingmoor Fell
Dungeon Ghyll Force and Pike Howe
Side Pike
The path at Mark Gate
It was great to back out around Langdale, certainly one of the most impressive and accessible areas of the Lake District. There's nothing quite like the sight of the towering Langdale Pikes as you enter the valley, awe-inspiring to newcomers and familiar friends to regular visitors. The real star of this walk is Jack's Rake which is an excellent scramble. If you have a head for heights and enjoy a bit of hand-on-rock action then you can't go far wrong with Jack's Rake.