So this was a quick late May bank holiday outing before driving back to London after lunch. It was another stunning day but since we (stupidly) hadn’t packed any sun cream for the weekend, we both donned as many long sleeve layers we could find. Walking out of the campsite, Raven Crag looked even more enticing for climbing today, especially in the still relative cool of the morning.
We walked along the country lane to the New Dungeon Ghyll Hotel car park. This is where most start this walk. By the time we started up the stone staircase towards Stickle Tarn, it was warming up and we stopped by one of the lower pools of Stickle Ghyll (Mill Gill) to soak our tops in the cool water. Dad also soaked the lower sections of his convertible trousers before zipping them back on over his bright red calves, the product of yesterday’s hike. I was stuck in my thick long black leggings.
The last time I had walked on this path had been a few years back. A group of us had tried to trek across the lakes in a week of spectacularly bad weather during our Easter holidays. With weather warnings in place across the whole area and torrential rain later followed by heavy snow, we had gotten as far as the Great Langdale Campsite and hunkered down for a few days as the storms passed. We had cheap gear, everything got wet and we had spent the coldest night of our trip in the utility room of the campsite playing cards and periodically putting change into the drier, taking turns to sit on it to warm up. Today was much more pleasant.
At a main crossing of the Ghyll, we kept to the left hand path. I felt guilty about this as we got higher up since the right hand path was clearly much better maintained and protected against erosion. It was, however, certainly much quieter and more enjoyable than the last few minutes to the tarn where the two paths converged again and the path got quite busy.
Stickle Tarn itself is dammed at the Stickle Ghyll outflow to provide water to inhabitants of the Langdale valley and this creates a nice windbreak, or, as today, a viewpoint from which to look out across the water towards the cliffs of Pavey Ark and Harrison Stickle to the left.
Jack’s Rake is a Grade 1 scramble and follows a natural right-to-left groove in the rock of Pavey Ark. The starting point is to the left of Easy Gully, a distinct scree-filled gulley on the eastern side of the Ark. Picking out the line of the scramble we could see some fell runners and their dog, who had overtaken us earlier, traversing and threading their way up the middle of the cliff. We walked past a small beach on the edge of the dam and followed a small path along the western side of the lake towards the scramble.
Our clothes had dried on us during our ascent to the tarn so before we started the scramble we ran to the tarn’s edge and soaked our long sleeve tops again. As we scrambled up the first section of the Rake, we could see ripples expanding across the perfect blue tarn below as someone waded in to the water. A fierce sun beat down on all.
The scramble was good fun and the route follows a natural groove in the rock, which meant that none of the moves felt as exposed as they had looked from across the tarn, despite the significant drops below to the water. Of course, it would be a much tougher proposition in wet weather and indeed, fatalities have been recorded on the route in the past few years, even in dry conditions. It is therefore only recommended for experienced walkers with a head for heights. The scramble can be easily bypassed on either side of the ark by following the much gentler walking paths.
We topped out 15-20 minutes later on a series of bone dry rock terraces near the top of Pavey Ark, which is actually an outcrop of Thunacar Knott. From here we walked across to Harrison Stickle. The summit seemed to be suffering from a localised midge infestation and therefore we quit the top almost immediately and start to descend back to the valley via Dungeon Ghyll and Pike Howe. The start of this descent is badly eroded but significant effort has been made to introduce steps on the lower section to the Dungeon Ghyll waterfalls.
Back to London. Thinking of the next Anna Escape.
UK Hill Walking has a good description and map of a slightly extended version of this route, including the summits of Pike O’ Stickle and Loft Crag. These would add on another 45 mins or so to the walk I describe above.