A Langdale Round Winter Walk

At the start of any trip, like most people, I’ll use the vast resource of the internet to help plan and decide what I will be doing. There are many weather condition sites and depending on the time of year, The Mountain Weather Information Service or MWIS is a great place to start. As I normally go to the Lake District which is over 100 miles away from home, I can’t just stick my head out the window here and hope it’s the same over there. Knowing what conditions will be like is essential for packing what you are likely to need so the net is the first port of call before any decisions are made. (Weather in Keswick or Ambleside is NOT the same as the weather on the tops of the nearby mountains.)

So I fancied heading to my favourite place in the Lake District, Langdale. There are loads of things to do there from walking, climbing, cycling, gorge walking, camping and there are a few great pubs to warm up and eat or stay in at the end of the day. So I wanted to do a nice winter walk this day so I looked at the MWIS page and a few others to get an overall picture of the weather I’d be facing. Sadly there hadn’t been much snow previously, and worse, very strong winds and the same forecast for that day. I wanted to walk up high on the tops but wanted to avoid being bashed about by the estimated 60-70mph gusts, so had to plan my route carefully.

Well despite the expected high winds, I thought I’d go anyway. The plan was to head along the sheltered valley floor and make height gains on the leeward side at the left end of the valley. Once at the top and level with Angle Tarn, I’d gauge what to do next. I had a good idea of what I could do in either case. Not much wind… head left and on to the tops, this would be the shorter of the two routes. A lot of wind.. then I’d turn right and stay on the flat and walk a few miles then descend down the lee side of Pavey Ark and the protection of the ghyll back to the start.

I started out and walked up the valley having the whole place to myself, I didn’t see another soul, exactly what I selfishly wanted. I crossed streams and enjoyed the relative calm of the high crags and mountains on both sides. Pike O Blisco and Pike Of Stickle, Gimmer Crag, Harrison Stickle, The Band and more iconic places were passed to get to where I was to make my first gain in height.

I hadn’t finished the ascent out of the valley when I discovered what being hit by a 70mph gust was like. Taking a few steps through a narrow gulley towards the top of a well-defined and paved path, the gust hit me. It felt like two heavy, ill-tempered rhinoceroses, who had been lashed with a whip made out of angry wasps, had kicked me simultaneously in the back!! I managed to stay on my feet but had been jostled quite violently and had had to adjust my footing to avoid being knocked over.

This happened a few more times and when I reached the shelter of the dip towards Angle Tarn, I stopped to look at my options.

I knew that the direction of the swirling clouds to the hugely windy summits was not one I’d be taking that day. Had the jostling happened on any worse terrain than the easy path I would have turned back before then. Should I continue or turn back? I decided to head onwards.

As it was, once I turned towards the Langdale Pikes, the wind started to ease and the buffeting stopped. I didn’t feel it any more for the whole day. It felt like I had been badly shaken by the scruff of the neck and then released and patted on the head and helped on my way. I am glad I hadn’t turned back as the rest of the walk was a delight. I had my iPod with me and lovely soothing music accompanied me throughout my walk, rather than howling wind noise. The views over to my left to the mountains where the snow had lain on higher summits were beyond beautiful. I stared at them all the way along the path and wished the whole of the Lakes were covered in snow like they were.

I headed in the same direction for miles and crossed a beautiful stream then a steep ascent to High Raise then over to the back of Pavey Ark.

I skirted down the left hand side path marked by cairns all the way down. I walked around the tarn and looked up at Jack’s Rake which I have been up many times.

I wondered if I had enough time to do it again but the light may have ran out by the time I got to the top and despite having my head torch, I thought better of it and headed towards the edge of the tarn where it tips into the ghyll below.

This was the first time I had seen anyone else for ages and I realised that the walk was all over bar the descent down the ghyll and the walk back to the car. That in itself was fun and full of great scenery.

I just got to the car when the light faded and the drive home beckoned. Another great day at the Lakes was over and I was nearer to the next one. Oh and I found a sandwich I forgot that I had packed, so that was an even better end to a fab day out!