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.
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.
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.
The route ahead towards Bowfell
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..
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…
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.