A winter wade up Bowfell

Despite it being a relatively mild winter so far, the last couple of weeks have just been cold enough for all that wet grey precipitation the Lake District gets to fall as snow on higher ground.

And it turns out there’s quite a lot of it up there 🙂

Aiming high as ever, I’d set my alarm for an early morning jaunt to Langdale with a vague plan of heading as far as Scafell Pike and back; almost a full day out in winter but easily manageable and a walk I’ve done several times.

Thinking about it now it’s probably one of my favourites despite involving a bit of backtracking rather than being a circular route.

In the end yesterday, simply doing Bowfell then descending Ore Gap and back down via Angle Tarn was most of a day out.

The general consensus on the weather forecast was to be a bit cloudy early on before hopefully lifting and clearing in the afternoon.

Forecasts are of course just forecasts, and in the hills not necessarily something to rely wholly upon when planning a day out. A bit of flexibility can go a long way towards getting the maximum enjoyment from your day out.

Basically what I’m hinting at is yesterday’s weather was the opposite of what was predicted, with clearish skies around dawn deteriorating to moderate filth by late morning.

Langdale at dawn was an atmospheric winter joy. Patches of hanging mist, fresh overnight snow, and…. quiet. No screaming winds. Unusually flat calm.

There’s something unspeakably lovely about a calm winter day in the mountains. More beauty and less discomfort.

I played around for a while in the pre dawn light with more compositions than you’ll have the appetite to view here, then moved on slightly higher as some weak sun eventually managed to squeeze through the cloud and clip the tops of the pikes.

It wasn’t long before the sunlight was being shuffled out of the valley by incoming snow and the next two shots were the last I managed with any hint of warmth in the light.

The snow soon began to deepen and it was obvious I was going to be trailblazing again, the path (wherever it was) yet to be trampled down at all.

The last I saw of the sun for a while was a weak halo around Pike O Blisco, the ragged line of Browney Gill a deep scar on its flanks.

Head down I pushed on, progress getting tougher and slower and I disappeared up to the tops of my thighs on several occasions, falling over with a giddy chuckle in the process. If I carried on walking I’d probably just about be reaching Scafell Pike now as I type this 😉

After half an hour or so the sun unexpectedly began to breach the cloud layer again, painting the Langdale Pikes in zebra striped light.

Conditions then cleared out completely into brilliant blue and white, and foolish old I thought I was in delicious frolick around the summits with grandstand views.

Lifting cloud on Crinkle Crags

The route ahead towards Bowfell

Walking was easier on this flatter section at the top of the Band with a nice even covering of soft powder, and whilst snapping away I was passed by a couple headed for the Climber’s Traverse.

It swiftly became evident that this clearing of skies wasn’t the long term afternoon one the weather forecast had suggested as the cloud began to mass once again, this time with more permanence.

I made some final photographic gatherings of what remained of the view, from the rapidly disappearing Langdales..

…to patchy light over Buscoe Sike and Pike O’ Blisco….

… and all in between

By the time I reached Three Tarns I was swamped in cloud and persistent snow. But hills are there to be climbed and conditions can occasionally change for the better as swiftly as they change for the worse, so I pushed on to the summit of Bowfell.

On the final ascent, taken because I was enjoying the view and not because I was knackered and needed to sit down…

As I reached the summit the cloud thinned a little just to tease me that it may lift…

… but it didn’t tease for long and there was no sign of the craggy view towards the Scafells from the summit

The wind had whipped itself up along with the cloud and I didn’t hang around getting face fulls of wet sleety snow for too long before heading off towards Ore Gap and the descent to Angle Tarn.

Visibility was very poor by now and I confess I did go slightly astray at one point. Having trudged for a while I realised I was no longer seeing any rocks I recognised, and my confidence in my navigational skills waned.

I managed to convince myself I’d gone too far and missed the descent route, so I veered off to the right and began to descend a snow filled gully before abruptly coming to the top of a craggy drop into a featureless snowy yonder.

Reasoning that as I hadn’t started reascending anything since dropping off Bowfell, I must still be somewhere on Hanging Knotts rather than somewhere off the side of Esk Pike.

I retraced my steps, which thankfully with such deep snow is easily done, and then carried on a bit further along the crag to the next reasonable looking descent option.

This time I was more successful and the glowering grey shape of Angle Tarn eventually appeared through the cloud.

Bearings regained it was then a matter of the routine meander down Rosset Gill and back along Mickleden, with only occasional unexpected disappearances into snow filled streams, not particularly mild swearing, and the promise of a pint in front of the fire at the Old Dungeon Ghyll to amuse me.

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Products tagged: Angle Tarn, Bowfell, Browney Gill, Buscoe Sike, Climber's Traverse, Crinkle Crags, lake district, Langdale, Langdale Pikes, Mickleden, Ore Gap, photographs, photography, photos, Pike O' Blisco, rossett gill, Scafell Pike, Snow, Three Tarns, walking, winter
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7 Responses to A winter wade up Bowfell

  1. Linda says:

    Someone I know re-tweeted this today, and I couldn’t log out without telling you how much your photos moved me. It’s odd to me that I never, actually, lived in the Lake District, although my aunt and uncle lived there from the late 50s so it was like my second home, and feels more like home than the town from which I hail (Blackpool). As I sit here in sub-tropical warmth, I can feel the cold on the fells, looking at your photos, and I had to tell you also that your words match them in feeling too. A great site and I will be reading regularly from now on!

    • Stewart says:

      Hi Linda

      Many thanks for the kind comments. It’s always pleasing to know people can connect with my photos in some emotional way. I hope to bring much more cold to you over the next few months! 🙂

  2. Martin B says:

    Excellent Stewart, you certainly made the best of that day!

  3. PilgrimChris says:

    Great post and as always amazing photographs my friend 🙂
    I have said it before and I will say it again – you take the images my minds eye sees

  4. Carl Mynott (@Locomountaineer) says:

    You have so many pictures of the Langdale Pikes here – but there still aren’t enough.

    Well done and thank you.

    I love snow.

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