Langdale Pikes Route

Recommended Maps Ordnance Survey Maps:

Outdoor Leisure Map 6 - South Western Area (1:25,000)

Land Ranger Map 90 - Penrith and Keswick (1:50,000)

Total Distance:

7.61 kilometres (4.73 miles)

Duration:

3 Hours

Maximum Height Achieved :

736 metres (2415 feet)

Total Ascent :

715 metres (2345 feet)

Background

The Langdale Pikes are the most photographed and walked of Lakeland’s mountains. This is because of their accessibility - towering above Langdale - and they also have a distinctive profile which invites exploration. Our first peak, Pavey Ark, holds the famous Jacks Rake. This is a grade 1 scramble (grade 3 being the highest) which gives walkers with a head for heights the chance to enter the preserve of the rock climber. There are no parts which can be said to be harder than many other bits of rock which you will meet on walks in the district but the whole rake is 250 yards long and rises at an average angle of 30 degrees with a maximum angle of 50 degrees. By the time you reach the top you will have ascended a 400 feet cliff and the "exposure" is noticeable at times. If you have a head for heights, are an experienced walker and are confident and competent - make your attempt in dry, still conditions and you should have a day to remember.

Start Point - NT Car Park at New Dungeon Ghyll Hotel

Start at the National Trust Stickle Ghyll car park, just past the New Dungeon Ghyll Hotel & Stickle Barn, 2 ˝ miles west of the Langdale Estate on the main Great Langdale Valley Road.

Section 1 - National Trust Car Park to Stickle Tarn

Distance: 1.25 miles (2 km)

Height Gain: 1640 ft (500m)

Turn left at the bus shelter and information boards in the car park to follow a path that doglegs through stone walls, and heads uphill, past a National Trust “Stickle Ghyll” plaque on a boulder. Follow the pitched path up the left bank of Stickle Ghyll, passing a waterfall, and the birches and oaks lining this initial stretch of the river.

Bear right over the footbridge and then follow the path up the right side of the Ghyll. It soon crosses a stile and a stream, passes through a gap in a wall and forks; continue to follow the path up the right bank of the Ghyll, heading towards a small stand of young pines, and ignoring the paths re-crossing the Ghyll to the left, and climbing steeply up the hillside to the right. Pass the pines and continue uphill.

The path eventually becomes steeper, more broken, and bounded closely by the river on the left and a band of short crags to the right; these crags encroach increasingly onto the line of the path until they meet the river and bar the way, just after an awkward rocky step in the path. Cross the river by a line of stepping stone boulders and continue up the final, rocky path on the left side of the ghyll to Stickle Tarn.

Pause here to view the great cliff of Pavey Ark at the far side of the tarn and consider your options for ascent.

Section 2 - Stickle Tarn to Pavey Ark Summit

Distance: 0.62 miles (1km)

Height Gain: 328ft (100m)

The three options for the ascent of Pavey Ark are all reached by following the path anticlockwise round the tarn and are as follows:

  1. NORTH RAKE - A long "nose" of rock extends for some way to the right (east) of the cliff. A path round the nose leads to North Rake which starts its climb to the summit at GR288081. This is a boulder strewn path which reaches the top of Pavey Ark without difficulty.

  2. EASY GULLY - A wide grass, mud and scree filled gully ascends the cliff to the right of centre and trends slightly right to join North Rake about half way up. A tricky boulder move (easier for long legged walkers) near the top makes this harder than North Rake. Reach the gully by a 100 foot climb on scree from the path round the tarn.

  3. JACK’S RAKE - Jacks Rake is a distinct groove ascending to the left across the cliff from the foot of Easy Gully . There is usually some wetness in the groove even in dry weather. Remember to test hand and footholds before you put weight on them and look carefully for signs of polished rock which indicate the route and you should have few problems. The first 75 yards (to an ash tree visible from the bottom) are the hardest part of the climb. Awkward chimney and bridging moves may be avoided by moving left and climbing the ribs which form a sort of parapet. This is often easier but much more exposed. After the ash tree the grooves become intermittent and are connected by a series of ledges which pose no difficulties. After the half way point the route makes a short climb up a gully before further ledges lead left to the final blocks and slabs. These are easier than the grooves below but feel more exposed. Fortunately, the rock here is excellent with good friction and good handholds. The route finishes up a slight gully leading up to a small plateau a short way down from the actual summit which lies to the east (right).

Section 3 - Pavey Ark to Harrison Stickle Summit

Distance: 0.5 miles (0.81km)

Height Gain: 151ft (46m)

The next peak of Harrison Stickle is clearly visible to the south west and is reached by a path which contours the steep slope above Stickle Tarn. (Note: Wainwright "baggers" may wish to take a diversion north from Pavey Ark to include Thuncar Knott which will add a mile to the walk).

Leave the summit on a small path that contours south-southwest across stretches of rock, and small boulder fields. Once clear of the cliffs of Pavey Ark, it veers south and then south-southeast, heading more directly towards Harrison Stickle. Follow the path as it steepens and winds up the east side of Harrison Stickle to gain the top. The views are even more extensive than on Pavey, and the sea to the west can be seen on a clear day.

Section 4 - Harrison Stickle to Pike O’Stickle Summit

Distance: 0.58 miles (0.93km)

Height Gain: 226ft (69m)

On leaving Harrison Stickle, take a rocky path southwest for 40 or 50 paces before turning sharply right down to a col. Turn left here, at the cairn, heading west-southwest down a steep slope. As it begins to level off, there is an intersection of paths. Down to and across the stream at the bottom of the slope, following the path that heads west, after a short meander, towards Pike O’Stickle.

As you near the summit cone itself, a stepped path winds steeply up and around the northern side of the Pike. As this path arrives at the northwest edge of the summit cone, the only way further up is a short scramble up to your left, which brings you out on the summit. If you decide to leave the scramble for another day, you will still be rewarded by magnificent views across a sweep of fells to the north.

Section 5 - Pike O’Stickle to National Trust Car Park

Distance: 1.78 miles (2.86km)

Height Gain: -1998ft (-609m)

Departing Pike O’Stickle, retrace your steps down the stepped path. Back at the foot of the summit cone and the pitched path, take a right fork leads along the south-western edge of the Langdale Pikes massif and to the summit of Loft Crag. On descending Loft Crag, follow the path as it winds down to the left before contouring back rightwards, again following the southwestern edge of the Pikes.

By a large cairn, the path swings further right and steeply downwards, into the uninviting descent route. Don’t worry: the angle and footing soon improves as the path swings round to the south west, before levelling off entirely for a while as it follows the crest of a gentle spur.

Before reaching the rocky knoll that blocks the spur, the path begins to veer down to the right past several small cairns. Follow this route as it encircles the obstacles on the ridge itself. Where the path moves back left, further down, there are magnificent views down to the gorge and waterfalls of Dungeon Ghyll. As the valley rises to meet you, the path crosses the ghyll where it emerges from its defile. Cross a stile and, a little further downslope, take a gate on the left. A few hundred yards further downhill brings you back to the path on which you started the walk. Turn right and regain the car park.