Hell Gill, Busco Syke, The Climbers Traverse, Great Slab
Early on a fair June morning, the big black dog, the Teesdale Viking and I found ourselves heading out of the NT Great Langdale campsite towards Oxendale. Ahead, the top of Bowfell and the Crinkles ducked in and out of wreaths of cloud and patchy sun lit up the fellsides. The morning mist cleared the valley floor, the weather forecast was encouraging and a fine day was in prospect.We pottered up Oxendale to the second footbridge then forsook the track up to Hell Gill for a fainter path sticking close beside the gill. This leads to the splash-pool of Worneyside Force, a delightful spot below one of the prettiest waterfalls in the Langdale area. The big black dog, off the lead at last, plunged joyfully into the water. The Viking and I contemplated beauty in a sort of Wordsworthian way.We paused below Hell Gill to gaze admiringly up the tree-lined ravine then plodded up the steep pitched path onto the wide expanse of grass that slopes gently up towards Crinkle Crags. No sheep in sight - freed again, the dog bounded off to find a stick. After few hundred yards over grass, we veered north, forded Busco Syke then crossed the wide well-worn path up The Band from Stool End to Three Tarns.A few yards north of the main track to Three Tarns, we found the less distinct path which leads more directly towards the summit of Bowfell. Disappointingly, the cloud wasn't lifting but the path is very easy to follow. As we ascended above the cloud base, the clag began to thicken; we took a compass bearing just in case but the path is very clear on the ground. In fact, rather unexpectedly, a short section of it has been pitched.
To our chagrin, the views below vanished into mist as we plodded on. Where the path begins to swing towards the northwest we passed the bouldery rough track on the left leading up towards Bowfell's summit. The Climbers Traverse path, still very distinct on the ground, carries on straight ahead.
The Climbers Traverse is easy to follow on a good narrow undulating path. The ground falls away sharply to the northeast and there are a couple of small rock steps to negotiate. The big black dog took it all in its stride.Usually, there is plenty of visual interest - wide views to the right down into Mickleden, impressive rock scenery ahead and to the left. But by this time visibility was down to a hundred feet or so. The path passes Flat Crags (with its interesting stratifications in the rock) and reaches the base of Cambridge Crag with its famous spring. Here we paused and had a ceremonial slurp of the splashing water. Well, if it's good enough for the Sainted Julia B ... Besides, as Wainwright observes, "...nothing better ever came out of a barrel or bottle."Immediate before the spring, there is an obvious rock-strewn slope heading up to the left (actually nearer three-quarters left). This is Wainwright's "river of boulders" and the Great Slab is just to its left. The traverse path continues ahead to the foot of Bowfell Buttress from where a gully leads up towards Ore Gap. However, with so little to see, we decided to scrabble up the boulders beside the Great Slab.Having not passed a soul all morning, we unexpectedly passed two separate parties descending at this point. Once we emerged by the tiny tarn at the top of the Great Slab, it was obvious that the cloud wasn't going to clear so we didn't bother going up to the summit of Bowfell. Instead, we headed back down to Three Tarns on the well-used cairned path - this section is very eroded and nasty underfoot and, usually, crowded.Having rather lost heart because of the poor visibility, we trudged down The Band and got nearly halfway to Stool End before we walked out of the cloud. We paused to eat our sarnies then ambled down to the campsite.If you're going up Bowfell and want to avoid the dull crowded trudge up The Band you could do a lot worse than follow the route through Oxendale then up beside Hell Gill and Busco Syke before heading off to the Climbers Traverse and ascending beside the Great Slab. Its much quieter, much prettier and, arguably, a bit easier. Try it.
Absolutely right with the route suggestion, could not think of a better way up on a hot summer day than via Hell Gill, refreshment aplenty! Did that route a couple of weeks ago, most enjoyable.
Great report, as usual, Skip.
I love that traverse and especially the spring.
I first did this on an extremely hot day, takin gin Pike O'Blisco and Crinke Crags first. The spring was a Godsend and my suddenly full and cold water bottle was the envy of the those on the summit.
By the way, another alternative to ascending up the eroded path from Three tarns, is to get onto the rocky ridge immediately to the right of the path. This gives a pathless but easy ascent underfoot with only some very mild scrambling.
Very poetic, Skip. Can you tidy the post up a bit by justifying the text on both sides and inserting a pen-and-ink drawing at the bottom.
PS, I'll take up the recommendation next time I'm there.
A photo to add to the TR. The Teesdale Viking's shot of Worneyside Force, one of the prettiest waterfalls in the Langdale area.
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