This second summit camp on Pike o’ Stickle includes a popular round that includes three of the Langdale Pikes. While our first camp (Route 5) was a long, and a little unorthodox, walk from Stonethwaite in Borrowdale, this route is a much shorter and direct route to Pike o’ Stickle. On this website we will include six of our favourite Wainwright fells to camp on, which are: High Stile, Scafell, Pillar, Great End, Grasmoor, and Pike o’ Stickle. All have their own special qualities, but it’s High Stile and Pike o’ Stickle that provide the most rewards.
Please note that the wild camping ‘code of conduct’ should be followed at all times. This, a short but common sense list, includes: arrive late, no groups or fires, leave early and leave no trace. Sadly in recent years, common sense wasn’t part of the ‘check list’ for many, and even though wild camping is “tolerated” in England, there will soon be a total ban because of the way some individuals are treating our countryside.
The Langdale Pikes from Chapel Stile
When driving along the Langdale road from Ambleside, the towering peaks of the Langdale Pikes dominate the backdrop. It is a lovely approach leaving a long-lasting memory of the valley.
“No mountain profile in Lakeland arrests and excites the attention more than that of the Langdale Pikes, and no mountain group better illustrates the dramatic appeal of a sudden rising of the vertical from the horizontal; the full height from valley to summit is revealed at a glance in one simple abrupt upsurge to all travellers on the distant shore of Windermere and, more intimately, on the beautiful approach along Great Langdale.” Harrison Stickle 2
Once part of the complex of buildings connected with Millbeck Farm, Sticklebarn is now a popular base camp for the Langdale Pikes. Nearby are two car parks: the National Trust car park, who also own Sticklebarn, and the LDNP car park across the road. Please note: if you wish to do a wild camp up on the fells, you can pay to leave your car overnight at the NT car park. There is also a great bus service (516) from Ambleside; the bus stop is located near the New Dungeon Ghyll Hotel.
The remains of Millbeck fulling mill
Just after leaving Sticklebarn, and through the gate on the Stickle Ghyll path, note what looks to be the remains and foundations of a barn. In fact, it was once a fulling mill, which was built here in 1453 to clean and felt wool, and was formerly part of the Millbeck Farm complex; hence the name “Mill Beck”. The mill was powered by a water wheel, using water diverted from Mill Gill (now Stickle Ghyll). A well defined rock-cut and channels can still be seen to the left of the Stickle Ghyll path. It is also believed that there was a corn mill located at what remains of Millbeck Farm today.
Pike Howe and Miller Crag from the Stickle Ghyll path
The name “Mill Gill” was eventually replaced by Stickle Ghyll, probably around the early 1800s, but the former is still preferred by some people. “Miller Crag”, however, still survives on the maps of today, and reminds us of the connection with the mills and the history of this area in Great Langdale. On a personal note I find it quite sad and confusing as a result of the name changes; for example, where does this walk start from? Sticklebarn, or New Dungeon Ghyll Hotel? Neither seems appropriate do they? The whole area at the foot of the gill was called “Millbeck”, but sadly this name is lost to time.
An enormous amount of work has been carried out over the years repairing the Stickle Ghyll path, with a majority of the route constructed by stone pitching….
Tarn Crag over the footbridge in Stickle Ghyll
….At the footbridge you will see the Stickle Ghyll hydro-electric scheme, which is part of the National Trust’s plan to become a greener organisation.
Waterfall climbing in Stickle Ghyll
Stickle Ghyll is a very popular destination for gill scrambling, roped waterfall climbs, and deep pool jumping. Groups of school children are often seen being guided along the many obstacles and delights in this wonderful ravine.
Harrison Stickle appears over the upper waterfall of Stickle Ghyll
Lingmoor Fell from above the upper waterfall
A great place to stop and sit for some lunch. It’s worth noting that the whole length of the ravine is a notorious suntrap, and as a result progress can be slow in the summer months, especially when carrying a heavy pack like I am on this visit.
Crossing Stickle Beck (or Mill Beck if you like)
We’ve now arrived at the base of Tarn Crag, and where we cross to the western side of the ravine. Light scrambling is required on the last section before reaching Stickle Tarn.
Pavey Ark over Stickle Tarn
The mighty cliff and gullies of Pavey Ark dominate the scene on the arrival at Stickle Tarn.
“The highlight of this route is the impressive view of Pavey Ark, one of the finest scenes in Lakeland” Harrison Stickle 10
Harrison Stickle from Stickle Tarn
The connecting col between Harrison Stickle and Pavey Ark, seen here in the centre, is our next objective; on the left you can see the beginning of the path below Harrison Stickle, which then traverses the base of its eastern shoulder.
“The ridged summit is liberally buttressed by crags, as is a curious shoulder running down to the hanging valley occupied by Stickle Tarn, a considerable sheet of water no less attractive for being partly artificial.” Harrison Stickle 3
(fox-and-cubs, orange hawkweed, devil’s paintbrush, grim-the-collier)
Orange hawkweed is a hardy perennial herb which was first brought over to Britain from Europe in the 17th century. It is commonly seen invading neglected lawns throughout the British Isles, so it’s nice to see this one at home in an alpine setting.
Pavey Ark and Stickle Tarn
“Pavey Ark is Langdale’s biggest cliff. In an area where crags and precipices abound, here is the giant of them all, and, scenically, it is the best.” Pavey Ark 2
Young walkers heading for a swim
Stickle Tarn is a very popular destination for bathers and wild campers, especially in the summer months.
The path traversing below Harrison Stickle’s eastern shoulder
Stickle Tarn from below Harrison Stickle’s eastern shoulder
“Stickle Tarn was converted into a reservoir for the former gunpowder works at Elterwater.” Harrison Stickle 10
Looking across to Pavey Ark and its gullies
The last section of path leading to the col
Looking back to Stickle Tarn, with Great Langdale and Windermere in the distance
Looking back to Pavey Ark from the col
Before the top of the col is reached, a large cairn marks where the path divides….
The path leading to the summit crag of Harrison Stickle
….Here we turn left and head more direct towards the summit crag of Harrison Stickle.
Thunacar Knott and High Raise from the summit of Harrison Stickle
“The uninitiated climber who scales Harrison Stickle from Langdale expecting to find the northerly slopes descending as steeply as those he has just ascended will be surprised to see, on reaching the main cairn, that higher ground continues beyond a very shallow depression. The Pikes are, in fact, no more than the abrupt termination of a wide ridge coming down from High Raise, and on this side their aspect, in contrast, is one of almost comical insignificance.” Harrison Stickle 3
Pavey Ark and Stickle Tarn from the summit of Harrison Stickle
Windermere and Great Langdale from the summit of Harrison Stickle
The Coniston Fells and Pike o’ Blisco from Harrison Stickle
Loft Crag and Pike o’ Stickle from Harrison Stickle
Loft Crag and Pike o’ Stickle over Harrison Combe
“To Pike o’ Stickle…..An easy walk, ending with an enjoyable scramble. The objective is clearly in view and its distinctive outline is unmistakable.” Harrison Stickle 17
There are two paths leaving the summit of Harrison Stickle to connect with Loft Crag or Pike o’ Stickle. The easiest is to first head north from the summit to a small grassy depression, and then turn west and follow a stony path down to the hanging valley of Harrison Combe. The other path is followed south over much of the craggy summit, and then west and more steeply down rock steps to the marshy basin.
Looking back to Harrison Stickle
The two paths mentioned previously that leave the summit can be clearly seen on the left.
Pike o’ Stickle from the top of ‘south gully’
Looking down Pike o’ Stickle’s grand ‘south gully’
The scramble on Pike o’ Stickle
“Access to the cairn is gained by an easy scramble on the more broken northern slope, this being the only side ‘open’ to walkers.” Pike o’ Stickle 7
A couple of options are available to reach the top from the northern side, however, in wet conditions, or with a heavy pack like mine on this day, care is needed.
High Raise and Thunacar Knott from the summit of Pike o’ Stickle
Harrison Stickle and Loft Crag from the summit of Pike o’ Stickle
Loft Crag and the upper valley of Great Langdale, from Pike o’ Stickle
Blea Tarn is seen nestled in the hollow between Lingmoor Fell and Wrynose Fell.
Pike of Blisco from Pike o’ Stickle
Frankie relaxing after his afternoon walk
Our pitch above the ‘south gully’
While Frankie was relaxing, I pitched at my usual location, just below the summit and above the ‘south gully’. There’s only room for one tent, and sleepwalking isn’t an option!
Loft Crag and the pitch above the ‘south gully’
The farms of Wall End and Stool End seen from the pitch
The grandest views from Pike o’ Stickle are not just of the distant fells, but also down in the valleys of upper Great Langdale and Mickleden. These views are even more rewarding in the evening.
HM Coastguard helicopter from Pike o’ Stickle
While relaxing and getting ready to settle down for the night, we witnessed a spectacular rescue over the valley. The casualty was halfway down The Band; this given away by flares set off by rescuers who were on foot. Initially, Air Ambulance tried for around 20 minutes to land on the ridge, but had no success and then landed in a field at Stool End Farm. Shortly after a HM Coastguard helicopter came and the team were able to rescue the casualty, who was then transferred to Air Ambulance on the ground at the farm. After chatting with team members at a later date, I was informed that the rescue was a “success”, and that it began at 17:30 that evening and continued for 5 hours until sunset.
Langdale/Ambleside Mountain Rescue Team
Incident Report #44 2022
Wednesday, 22 June, 2022 – 17:29
“A man was unable to continue his walk complaining of hip and knee pain. Examination also revealed a concerning cardiac issue so he was evacuated by air ambulance.”
Man Hours: 15 team members for 5 hours
Incident Type: Fellwalking
Location: The Band
OS Grid Reference: NY263058
The shadow of Pike o’ Stickle on Loft Crag
Crinkle Crags, Bowfell, and sleeping dog
High Raise and Thunacar Knott at sunset
Harrison Stickle and Loft Crag at sunset
The pitch at sunset
The Coniston fells and Pike of Blisco at sunset
Bowfell at sunset, and some company for the night
Sunset over Glaramara from the summit of Pike o’ Stickle
Early morning from Pike o’ Stickle
Frankie wanting a lie-in!
The Coniston Fells over Pike of Blisco
Wonderful clusters of rising valley fog dominate the morning views.
Frankie coming round, a little!
Joking aside, sadly Frankie is showing signs of ‘slowing down’. He’s now eleven years old, but I truly hope there’s a few more mountain years left in him yet. The best walking buddy anyone could ever wish for.
Crinkle Crags over The Band
Bowfell hidden by rising valley fog over the head of Mickleden
Brocken spectre from Pike o’ Stickle
Pike o’ Stickle can be the perfect location for witnessing Brocken spectres, fog bows or temperature inversions. The conditions have to be right of course, and sadly on this occasion, this was my best attempt at a Brocken spectre. As soon as the cold air below meets the thin layer of warm air above, the rising fog burns away.
Breakfast time on Pike o’ Stickle
This morning’s menu is chicken, chorizo and pasta served in chicken and leek soup.
The route down to the top of ‘south gully’
Bellies full and everything packed away, it’s time to head back to Sticklebarn in Great Langdale; we strictly follow the wild camping ‘code of conduct’, by leaving early and leaving no trace.
You can see ahead, just beyond the top of ‘south gully’, that the path divides. We are to follow the ridge path on the right that leads to Loft Crag.
Looking back to Pike o’ Stickle over ‘south gully’ from the ridge to Loft Crag
Pike o’ Stickle with Great End and Rossett Pike behind
The approach to Loft Crag
Mickleden and Pike o’ Stickle from the approach to Loft Crag
I make no apology for the amount of photos of Pike o’ Stickle. The constant turning around to view this wonder, makes progress slow, but very worthwhile. Not to do so, would be criminal!
“Simple lines are often the most affective, and the smoothly-soaring pyramid of Pike o’ Stickle, rising to a tapering thimble of rock without interruption or halt between valley and summit, is an imposing and impressive feature that contributes much to the grandeur of the head of Great Langdale.” Pike o’ Stickle 2
Pike o’ Stickle from the summit of Loft Crag
Thorn Crag from the ‘east end’ of Loft Crag
“Care is needed in getting off the east end of Loft Crag; at the first depression use a little scree-run on the left.” Loft Crag 8
On this occasion, rather than following the main path down a small scree-run, we continued east to the very end of the ridge where light scrambling is required. This way is not recommended in wet conditions. Our next objective is the path heading right that leaves Thorn Crag col, which is our route down into Great Langdale.
The farms of Wall End and Stool End from the Thorn Crag col path
Looking back to Loft Crag, Thorn Crag and Harrison Stickle
A grand view is witnessed when turning around at the ‘grassy plateau’. It never disappoints.
Looking down to the farms of Middle Fell and Wall End
New Dungeon Ghyll Hotel seen from the Mark Gate path
Our next objective is a visit to Dungeon Ghyll Force. It’s worth noting that in descent this iconic waterfall can be a little tricky to find, especially in the summer months when bracken covers the path that leads to the entrance. Knowing that the waterfall is at a section where trees are growing out of the ravine, these birch, seen in the photo above, lead you to a false promise. The entrance is in fact at a corner of the intake wall, much further down the Mark Gate ridge.
Dungeon Ghyll Force
To reach the base of the waterfall requires scrambling over large slimy boulders, and getting your feet wet. Please take care.
The bathing pool at the base of Dungeon Ghyll Force
This waterfall is always worth a visit during the autumn months, when the ravine is full of leaves providing a fine colourful display.
The two large boulders wedged in the ravine above the waterfall
Looking out of the ravine from Dungeon Ghyll Force
Pike Howe, Pavey Ark and Tarn Crag from the foot of Dungeon Ghyll
A nice pint of lemonade to finish a grand adventure.
Thank you for visiting.
Thanks, sources and further reading:
‘Book Three – The Central Fells’ by Alfred Wainwright
Langdale/Ambleside Mountain Rescue Team
National Library of Scotland