The Langdale Pikes

THREE Wainwright circular walk: Pike o'Stickle, Harrison Stickle and Loft Crag

Walk Rating:⭐⭐⭐

Time: 3 - 4 hours 

Parking: At either Old or New Dungeon Ghyll car parks or, if you arrive early enough, there are some free roadside places by Rossett Bridge. Alternatively, take the 516 bus from Ambleside.

The Langdale Pikes from the road to Blea Tarn

The distinctive outline of the Langdale Pikes is well-known to anyone who likes to walk in the Lake District. The popular routes to their peaks are also well-known too, and require little detailed explanation in this post.

However, the path up from Mickleden to the high ground between Martcrag Moor and Pike O'Stickle, which allows the circular route described below, is not as well-worn and, hopefully, the description below is therefore of interest.

The Pikes from from above Chapel Stile

Strava estimates a walking distance of around 10km

The circular route via Mickelden (seen from 'The Band')

1. The route, as described, starts at Old Dungeon Ghyll. Take the short path between Middle Fell Farm and the Hotel to join the main track heading west towards the valley of Mickleden.

Middle Fell Farm, under Langdale Fell

2. Walk along the track as it continues up the wide valley at the foot of the Langdale Fell. The peaks of the Langdale Pikes will be above you, to the right.

Starting out along the track into Mickleden

3. Continue along the valley beyond the cone of Pike O'Stickle. Look out for the  prominent 'south scree' that runs down the steep slope to the right of the peak. Hundreds of ancient stone axes have been found amongst its rocks.

The 'south scree' coming down from the side of Pike o'Stickle

4. Beyond this prominent peak, the Troughton Beck has carved out a valley as it flows down the fellside. The route up from Mickleden climbs the fellside on the far side of the beck.

The path can be seen in the closest snow on the right

5. When the main track crosses the beck, head right to find the faint path through the bracken. If in doubt, just follow the far bank of the stream up the fellside until the path becomes clearer.

Cross the beck and then head up the fellside

6. As you go higher up the fellside, the grooved zig-zags of the path become more distinct. The route is straightforward to follow.

Follow the path up the fellside to the west of the beck

7. At the path reaches the top of the fellside, there are fine views over to Bowfell and back down into Mickleden. 

Bowfell and Rossett Pike (from the path in December 2019)

Looking down into Mickleden (from the path in July 2020)

8. The route now starts to level out but, at the same time, the path also becomes indistinct amongst the grassy moorland at the top of the fell. From experience, I would not immediately try to cross the streambed and aim directly towards Pike o'Stickle. The ground can be very marshy here. Instead, it's better to keep to the left side of the beck until you reach the main path coming up from Stake Pass from your left.

Make your way across the moorland until you meet the main path

9. Once safely on the path from Stake Pass, continue onwards to the foot of Pike o'Stickle.

Continue to the foot of Pike o'Stickle

10. Unless the weather is foul (and then you were best advised to stay indoors!), once you have successfully reached the well-worn paths that go the short distances between the three main peaks of the Langdale Pikes, you won't need much in the way of detailed directions. But the paths are well-worn for a reason - the views are wonderful!

The shadow of Pike o'Stickle over the path you have walked

11. First, climb to the top of Pike o'Stickle. Head a little beyond the dome to find the clear route slanting back up to the summit (2323').

Harrison Stickle and Loft Crag from Pike o'Stickle

12. Now head down into the grassy hollow between the peaks and take the obvious path which rises up the side of Harrison Stickle. Take in the views from its rocky summit (2415').

Pavey Ark and Stickle Tarn from Harrison Stickle

13. Now head back down into the hollow, cross the ghyll, and then walk up the ridge to the col between Thorn Crag and Loft Crag.  

Harrison Stickle as you cross Dungeon Ghyll

14. From the col, walk up to the right to the summit cairn of Loft Crag (2270'). 

The summit cairn of Loft Crag

15. Walk back down to the col in front of Thorn Crag and head right to find the clear path heading back down to New Dungeon Ghyll. The path winds down above Langdale, to your right, with the valley carved out by Dungeon Ghyll to your left.

Looking back into Langdale as you descend

16. The path eventually crosses the ghyll which is crossed using the stones in the streambed. Climb the bank on the other side and then turn right over a stile and follow the wall downhill. Turn right and follow the track back to Old Dungeon Ghyll.

The Langdale Pikes reflected in Blea Tarn

Worth knowing: As you walk around the Langdale Pikes, it's hard to imagine that, around 4000 B.C., these peaks were the source of around a quarter of the stone axes being used, not just locally, but right across Britain and Ireland. These would have been essential items for clearing forests and creating areas for settlement, but may also have had some religious significance as well. 

Neolithic peoples not only located the thin vein of fine grained tuff that runs across the top of the Langdale Pikes but were able to use it to produce axe heads in great numbers, as well as then distributing them over hundreds of miles. The greenish rock was not only strong but could also be highly polished. As well as complete axes, widespread evidence of the flakes produced when the axes were being manufactured has been found right across the top of these fells. Other sites have been located nearby, including on Scafell Pike.

Looking down from the top of the south scree "axe factory"

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