The valley of Mickleden

The valley of Mickleden (with embracing fellwalkers…).

Date completed: 30th June 2011.

Weather conditions:  A mixture of sunshine and showers, the latter never that heavy, so I got only a little wet. The best thing about it was good lighting, so I ended up with probably the best photos so far from a summer (June, July, August) walk.

Fells climbed: Pike o’Stickle (2323 feet above sea level, no. 122), Rossett Pike (2106’, no. 123).

Old Dungeon Ghyll hotel

Outside the HIkers’ Bar (and old bikers’, by the looks of it) at the Old Dungeon Ghyll hotel.

Distance: 7.75 miles approximately.

Total ascent: 2800 feet approx.

Start and end points: Started at the New Hotel, Dungeon Ghyll, Langdale and finished at the Old Hotel, further up the same valley.

Pub at end:  I do keep intending to try the New Hotel which appears to have two separate bars, but it’s just that little bit further to walk each time so I never make it. So for the third time in six months (following walk 29 and walk 34) I drank in the Old Hotel.

There was also time for a pint in Windermere, as I had 50 minutes to wait for a train, so I tried the Elleray, near the station (down the hill to the left). It had a reasonable selection of beers, but is clearly more of a town pub than a village one: though in no way a bad place.

Route card: Click here to download a route card which includes an elevation profile (how hilly the walk is), waypoints with grid references, and a summary map. Route card for Walk 38: Mickleden

Route:  This is not a long walk. It took me 3 hours 50 minutes, thus just fitting into the gap between the 1023 bus arrival (service 516) in Dungeon Ghyll (the earliest I can get there in a morning) and the return bus at 1423. To meet the latter I did push it down from Rossett Pike, at a pace faster than some would be comfortable with. Although, it could be pointed out that along the way I took 140 photos. Even at 10 seconds each that is 23 minutes.  Add to that a brief lunch break and a 4-hour schedule may be reasonable.

Esk Pike, from Rossett Pike

Esk Pike, from Rossett Pike

I should also add that the scramble up Pike o’Stickle summit would be beyond any small children or anyone else who had agility problems.

It is not necessarily straightforward to find the way out the back of the New Hotel in Dungeon Ghyll. It doesn’t matter exactly which way is taken up to Harrison Combe but you definitely do not want to be going up to Stickle Tarn, which is the wrong side of Harrison Stickle. The first beck crossed is Stickle Gill, not Dungeon Ghyll, and neither of the first two paths on the right are the one you want. Stick to the wall, then go round, ignore the path on the left heading down to the second beck (this is Dungeon Ghyll), and climb up.  After that all is straightforward until the summit of Pike o’Stickle is approached.  (Basically I followed the route outlined on Wainwright’s page Harrison Stickle 9.)

The crags of Bowfell

The crags of Bowfell. The Great Slab is on the left.

This climb, from the Combe up to Pike o’Stickle’s summit, defeated me in snow and mist back on walk 10, but in clear weather it’s easy enough to plot a route (the snow seemed of less consequence). Coming back down it matters more – definitely do not be tempted by any routes heading south, over the main cliff.

The path over Martcrag Moor to Stake Pass looks obvious enough from the summit but it does come and go, so again, might be difficult in mist.  To continue on to Rossett Pike, it is not quite a crossroads, but nearly.  At this point you cross over from Wainwright’s ‘Central Fells’ (described in volume 3 of the Pictorial Guide) to the ‘Southern Fells’, volume 4. The ridge then climbs slowly, undulating, until it reaches the double rocky summit. of Rossett Pike.

The wide zigzag of Rossett Gill is clearly displayed below so route-finding from this point should not be a problem. This path has clearly been improved – significantly – from Wainwright’s day; page Rossett Pike 4 contains a wealth of details about its 1950s trials and tribulations but in descent, I found it to be a straightforward walk, quite kind on the knees and ankles and capable of being taken at reasonable speed. It took me 35 minutes from Rossett Pike summit to reach the Mickleden valley floor, and another 30 from there to the Old Dungeon Ghyll; but I was rather pushing the pace.

Pike How, Windermere behind

Pike How, an excrescence on the side of Harrison Stickle – Windermere behind. (In the rain.)

Bugger-the-Big-Society commentary: 8 of the last 10 walks have been on a Saturday but this one brings back the a midweek vibe. I took the laptop with me as I did need to do some work on the way up and get this blog sorted on the way back. I think the battery is going, after two years of pretty much continuous use. I wonder if I can get it replaced.

The public sector unions are striking today, with schools, government offices, libraries and so on largely closed down. In the various daily newspapers I catch sight of in Booths in Windermere the most unequivocal headline is that of the Daily Express which shrieks, ‘DEFY STRIKE BULLIES!’. It crosses my mind that the readership of the Daily Express is almost entirely made up of people who are already safely drawing the pension that they have done what they doubtless see as a lifetime of ‘honest days’ work’ to earn. Let us hope that today’s strikers will one day enjoy that privilege. Let me hope that I can, too.

Sergeant's Crag

Sergeant’s Crag, Blencathra in the background

We’ve had the Coalition government for what, 14 months now? It started out as something which probably was necessary to stabilise the economy – if Labour had got in again there would doubtless have been a massive run on the pound and, probably, Greek-style social unrest when the manure finally hit the ventilation equipment. But after those first three months or so it has just become an excuse to foist a series of ideological impositions on a populace that did not vote for any of this crap. From the forest sell-off (beaten for now) to student fee increases to attacks on the environment, the disabled and the foreign, this world first – an active experiment in moronocracy – just ploughs deeper into the trough of its own obnoxiousness.

Meanwhile, shiny Dave says we should all sign up for the ‘Big Society’, which – as noted in a public statement by DC:PM the other day, about today’s school strikes – seems to consist of already-overworked taxpayers volunteering to cover jobs that were previously undertaken by paid public servants, whose salaries – and thus positions – have been cut.

Since the last walk round Loweswater I have finally sorted out the sponsorship arrangements for this project. Yes folks, you can now sponsor me by visiting I’ve finally arranged to raise some money for the Lake District Search and Rescue Associations – an umbrella body that covers the various Mountain Rescue teams across the region (including the dog team). Mountain Rescue teams, like Cave Rescue and the RNLI (Lifeboat crews), have always been volunteers. These people go out in all seasons and all weathers to try to help people who get into trouble on the fells. It’s an utterly selfless task and it’s funded entirely by donations, so I am doing my bit here and hope to raise £2,500 by the end of the project, which will now probably be in early 2013. I hope that if you are either a regular or an occasional visitor to this blog, you would like to help.

Sheep in Mickleden

Sheep in Mickleden: Lingmoor Fell behind

I guess it’s exactly this kind of think that Cameron has in mind when he talks about ‘The Big Society’. Money coming from the private sector rather than the public. People spending their time voluntarily helping others rather than sitting watching the X Factor or claiming benefits. But I can’t see it myself. The Mountain Rescue teams, like the RNLI (named a century ago by Kropotkin as the epitome of anarchism-in-action, by the way), have always been run by volunteers engaging in extraordinary acts of heroism. And while I don’t claim that my own efforts are in the same league, I at least hope that I’m continuing a tradition of sponsored physical activity that has rooted itself fairly deeply, and benevolently, in the British psyche. Nothing has changed since the coup d’etat of May 2010. If I could raise money directly to keep just one disappearing bus service open I would do so.

Martcrag Moor

Looking back over Martcrag Moor from Rossett Pike. Note the strange rumpled nature of the ground.

Sigh…. I wish I didn’t feel like saying all this stuff on this blog and could just talk about the fun I have doing the project, the way it makes me feel at peace with myself and the world, the spectacular scenery and so on. Today was another good walk, and although I got a bit wet for the first time in a while (in fact, with one exception, all my genuinely wet walking experiences have been in the June – August period), there were enough sunny periods and breaks in the cloud to give some great lighting conditions and thus some excellent photographs, as I hope you agree. It was not a long walk, though even then I was rushing a bit to complete it in the four hours I had between the arrival of the 10.23 bus from Ambleside at Dungeon Ghyll – the earliest I can arrive there from Hebden Bridge – and the departure of the 14.23, which gets me home at 7pm. If I miss that I either have to walk back to Ambleside or not get home until 10pm. But I did do it, without too much grief, and with some good photos on the way.

Harrison Stickle and Loft Crag

Harrison Stickle and Loft Crag

(Don’t even start me again on the issue of bus connections and timetables – but I will mention the entertaining and mutual rant on that subject that I and a couple from Somerset engaged in most of the way from Windermere bus station through to Dungeon Ghyll. I didn’t get your names, but should you have taken my advice and visited this site – hello, and I hope you enjoyed your walk up to Stickle Tarn and over to Grasmere.)

Langdale is a spectacular valley, surrounded by a range of excellent peaks ranging from the monumental (like Bowfell) to the aggressive little pimple that is Side Pike (see walk 29), not to mention Pike o’Stickle itself, which dominated the latter part of today’s walk. And the Old Dungeon Ghyll is a fine little pub in which to end a walk: and despite everything it does still have a decent bus service which, I would add, runs all year. So do pay it a visit.

Great End from Rossett Pike

Great End from Rossett Pike

And one more little curiosity before I go – this is the first walk so far to cross the boundary of two Wainwright volumes. Both fells would be more logically bagged as part of other walks: Pike o’Stickle really should have been climbed along with the other Langdales on walk 10, and having done it now, yes, I probably would have given it a go back then had there been clear sight of the route on that day. Rossett Pike was originally slated for the 4th fell on walk 19, just over a year ago. My failure on either walk to bag them meant this additional trip which in some ways breaks a basic Wainwright rule, that no single walk would normally cover fells from more than one volume. But I have to say it doesn’t feel like an artificial or contrived route – it’s basically just a good walk, rounding the head of and then heading down the centre of an excellent valley, Mickleden, which is almost the epitome of a glacial valley (perfectly U-shaped and full of erratics and moraines). Definitely recommended: hopefully under a different government. Alas, that could be a few years off yet.

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