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Cold Pike from Wrynose Pass via Red Tarn

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Discovering a new fell in the Lake District

While pouring over my Lake District maps, observing how many fells I had been up via how many different routes, I was amazed to see one that I had not done at all. This isn’t because I have done every single fell as I haven’t. More the fact that the fell in question is in Langdale: a valley I know so well. Or thought I did. In my defence, Cold Pike is tucked away at the very back of the Langdale fells, out of view. Plus it overlooks Wrynose Pass as it winds its way between Little Langdale and the Duddon valley. Cold Pike can’t be seen from Great Langdale at all.

Anyway, once I had noticed it it needed to be climbed!

Dawn at Blea Tarn in autumn (again)

As my chosen route started from Wrynose Pass I decided to drive down there via Blea Tarn in the col between the Great and Little Langdale Valleys. I have been there many times before. And have written in my blog about it before. And I have told myself to stop going there to take photos as I have so many in my collection already. But one more trip wouldn’t hurt and it was on my route so why not? I’m so glad I did too as the tarn was like a sheet of glass when I turned up just before dawn.

Below is the first photo I published from this day out: the classic view of some of the Langdale Pikes (Pike of Stickle, Loft Crag, Thorn Crag and Harrison Stickle) seen from the shores of Blea Tarn. Rakerigg to the left and Side Pike on the right do a great job of framing the picture.

When I took this I had just set up my tripod and was trying a few things out before sunrise. I love the subtle monochrome tones. The mist rising up from the glass-like tarn surface just finished the photo off.

Once the sun had risen there was more light on the landscape and it was time for many more photos. Next up, this little Scots Pine has been perched on the end of this promontory of land for many years. From this angle it looks to me as if it is being pushed by its bigger neighbours, poor thing.

I was there for around two hours as once the sun rose it just got better and better as the early morning mist gradually burnt away. The only thing I would have changed was the clear blue sky. I think a few clouds would have been useful to break up the monotone sky. Having said that there is something very wrong about complaining about the weather being so clear when out in the Lake District!

I have been at Blea Tarn for much worse dawns than this before and had plenty of company as it is such a popular spot for photography. But on this morning there was only one other bloke. That made it very easy to wander round getting the photos I was after without someone else being in the way. As a side note, I had entirely the opposite experience the day after this when at Ashness Jetty for dawn – it was ridiculously crowded there!

Anyway, below is the final photograph I managed to take:

This is actually six single photos stitched together to create a massive photograph: very impressive when printed out!

After taking this the rising sun warmed up the land enough to cause a slight breeze that broke the perfect reflections. Good job really as this was supposed to be a day out hiking and it was high time to do some.

Climbing from Three Shire Stone up to Great Knott

A short journey in the car lead me to Three Shire Stone in Wrynose Pass, so called as it marks the meeting point of three old counties: Westmorland, Cumberland and Lancashire. I paused to try to take a photo of it but sadly, thanks to the early hour, the only side of it in the light was the one inscribed ‘Lancashire’. The ‘Westmorland’ and ‘Cumberland’ sides were both in shade. Being a Yorkshireman I wasn’t going to waste pixels on that so I just set off uphill towards Cold Pike.

The first summit I was aiming for was actually Great Knott, part of the classic Langdale Horseshoe walk. Great Knott itself might be familiar but not this route up it. Starting from Wrynose Pass certainly make it easier as its a much higher starting point.

I would have been there much quicker too if the breeze hadn’t stopped when I was passing by Red Tarn. I had never seen this exposed tarn quite so calm so I took a break here. A good thirty minutes was spent taking even more photographs, my favourite being below.

The climb from Red Tarn up to Great Knott followed the main Crinkle Crags path and was a straightforward affair. As I find is often the case, the views behind me were better than those in front so I was often looking over my shoulder as the views opened out.

Pike of Blisco from Great Knott on a clear day
Pike of Blisco from Great Knott with a misty Langdale valley beyond

Red Tarn can just be seen to the bottom right of the photo.

At a later date I would wild camp on Great Knott and very good it was too. The dawn view of Crinkle Crags that dominate the western horizon from here is very impressive.

From Great Knott to Cold Pike

Anyway, back to the present day. The route from Great Knott to Cold Pike is straightforward enough. Even if the path isn’t always obvious, the summit crags of Cold Pike are clearly visible all the time.

Eventually I reached the top of Cold Pike and, to be honest, the views from the top aren’t the best. Its an interesting viewpoint though as the familiar surrounding fells are seen from a different angle. Cold Pike also has some good summit crags to clamber over and explore so I spent some time larking around on them.

Descending (quickly) from Cold Pike to Wrynose Pass

All that was left was a simple wander back to Wrynose Pass, down the grassy slope to where I had parked the car. There was no real path, it was more of a wet, grassy track (wet as the morning dew hadn’t dried off yet). Content with my morning’s photography I casually strode down the slope, swinging my arms as I did so … until I slipped.

Its funny how things happen slowly in these situations. As my legs flew out in front of me I thought to myself ‘Phew! My camera is safely in front of me and as I’m falling backwards I won’t land on it. Plus I’m on a soft, grassy slope so will have a nice landing.’

The one thing I had forgotten about was my metal tripod which was strapped across my back. And I landed on it. In the brief moment between landing and the pain hitting home I started laughing at my oversight which only made things worse. It took a few minutes before I could start to breathe again and somehow get back to my feet. After checking that I was still in one piece and realising I wasn’t, the remaining half mile walk back to my car took an age as the last thing I wanted was to repeat the stunt.

Postscript on a rib tickling experience

The following day’s dawn was also promising so, ignoring the growing pain from my ribs, I had another successful day’s photography in the fells. After that though the pain got too much so I relented and went to see a doctor. Apparently I had cracked a rib. Super! That’s another one ticked off the bucket list as I’d never broken anything before. I don’t intend doing it again either but at least I had more than that to show for my day out.

All the above photos have now been added to my collection of landscape photos of Great Langdale.

Cold Pike from Wrynose Pass via Red Tarn was last modified: December 22nd, 2019 by Gavin Dronfield

Further reading:

  • Climbing Loughrigg Fell
    January 2018 : A choice of routes up Loughrigg from Great Langdale and from Grasmere

  • Stanley Ghyll Force walk
    November 2016 : A walk through autumnal Eskdale woodland to Stanley Ghyll Force

  • Great Gable and Green Gable from Borrowdale
    May 2015 : A day that started out very unpromisingly in Borrowdale turned out to be one of my best days out in the Lake District fells.

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