|Bowfell, Crinkle Crags and The Band|
Bowfell is a pyramid-shaped mountain and stands at 2,960 feet/902 metres. The pretty name does not give a clue to the sheer scale of crags and boulders that surround and adorn it. It is often cited as a favourite by fell walkers in the Lake District as it has superb views. Sadly, until my latest visit I could not vouch for the views as my only ascent of it was on a day where I do not think I saw anything other than my feet owing to the thick cloud. I have been meaning to go back for a long time and now I live so close I ventured forth early one relatively sunny morning in September with my mission being the Climbers’ Traverse.
|Crinkle Crags from The Band|
The Climbers’ Traverse features in Wainwright’s Pictorial Guide to the Southern Fells and the drawings he includes of the Great Slab and Bowfell Buttress really inspire the imagination so I was determined to see them for myself. I started at Old Dungeon Ghyll in Langdale, taking advantage of the National Trust car-park and headed along the long track to a route called “The Band”, which although long, is a gentle ascent with nothing of any difficulty. The views were amazing. The Langdale Pikes could be seen in their full glory with the shattered screes of Pike O’Stickle and its large craggy summit in view most of the way, along with Crinkle Crags and Pike O’Blisco. The views down the Langdale Valley became increasingly extensive and even a Herdy sheep was stopping to soak up the atmosphere.
I made great progress to the where the path splits (why is no one around when I manage to keep up a good pace?) and headed off to the Climbers’ Traverse. Now I have done some scary (I think) routes up fells including Sharp Edge, Jack’s Rake and Striding Edge and Climbers’ Traverse is nothing like those. However, the path is narrow on the edge of the fell and therefore on the right heads straight down into the Mickleden Valley so you do feel quite exposed. Each time I took a photo I had to hold onto a rock otherwise I felt I was falling, particularly when I was trying to capture the rocks above. I have never had vertigo but I think I may have experienced a very mild form of it along that path.
|Crags & blue sky - hurrah!|
Before long, the imposing and aptly named Flat Crags come into view and you start to really get the feeling that this is going to be a great route. Around the corner, Cambridge Crags and Bowfell Buttress also appear – large vertical jagged crags that appear as though they are defending the summit and from the path, it is hard to imagine there is actually a route up.
|The Great Slab with Pike O'Stickle in the background|
My main purpose in doing this route was to see the Great Slab. This is exactly how it sounds – the most enormous sheet of flat rock stretching across the side of the mountain just below the summit. I was a little concerned I had missed it as I could not see it above me anywhere so I wandered a bit further down and was just peering over the edge at the foot of Cambridge Crag to see if it was below me (sometimes I should not be let loose) when I turned around and there, right above me was simply one of the most amazing sights I have ever seen in the Lake District fells. A vast expanse of rock pebbled with mosses and cracks at an angle on the fell. It was as though a giant had come along and created a dining table that had tilted over time. Mesmerising.
The path takes you up next to Cambridge Crag amongst and over large rocks and boulders and I bravely climbed to the other side to take some photos. The Great Slab with Pike O’Stickle in the background is my favourite. Reaching the top of the Great Slab, I wandered off the path to stand at the top of it and look down into the valley. It really is a unique feature and so different from the rest of Bowfell, which is large crags and many boulders.
|The top of the Great Slab & rolling mountains ahead|
Heady with the sight I had seen, I reached the summit of Bowfell and had the strange but frequent Lake District view of beautiful sunshine and rolling mountains in one direction and grey cloud and rain in the other! Which way to sit whilst having a coffee was therefore not a difficult decision and I can absolutely see why so many people love Bowfell. Even whilst the weather was far from perfect, the views were spectacular.
Admiring the sunshine in front of me, it was rather a shock when a few minutes later hailstones started pelting me from above! The heavens had opened on Bowfell so I hot-footed it (or rather cold-footed it as it was rather chilly even with a woolly hat, gloves and ski jacket) down to Three Tarns and then back along The Band to Old Dungeon Ghyll again.
|Strange grassy hillocks towards Martcrag Moor|
Climbers’ Traverse rates as one of my favourite routes up a mountain now. It was everything I hoped it would be. However, one of the strangest sights of the day was unexpected - looking from the Climbers' Traverse towards Martcrag Moor you can see little bumpy grassy hillocks that are a result of the last Ice Age. A sight like this along with the rock formations, views, sense of exhilaration and sheer adventure of it make Bowfell everything I love about the mountains of the Lake District.