From Stonethwaite up the Stonethwaite Valley
To say 2020 hasn’t been the best year’s walking to date would be an understatement. However its been extremely successful when compared to the camping which has been non-existent, all of course due to Covid-19.
In July the rules were relaxed and camping was allowed in the Lake District. I didn’t waste any time breaking my duck as I headed into the fells with my tent on the first possible weekend.
On a previous camping trip on Esk Pike I had looked over Esk Hause to Allen Crags and saw what looked like a decent area to sleep very close to the summit. I made a mental note to plan a night out wild camping on Allen Crags. And with a forecast of a still night I had chance to put the plan into action.
After poring over my maps I decided not to head straight up to Allen Crags from Seathwaite. No, better to make a proper walk of it by taking in the Langstrath Valley too. This would lengthen the walk to a total of 11.5 miles, a decent hike.
With this in mind, I parked at the school in Stonethwaite where there is a small lay-by with space for a small number of cars.
Entering Stonethwaite village
I set off along the road, soon leaving the small hamlet and then past the large campsite at Stonethwaite Farm. It was busy. Very busy! Obviously lots of people were making the most of our new freedom. I prefer a bit more space when out camping though so was happy to continue walking.
Soon enough the sound of the campsite was well behind me and it was back to peace and quiet.
Walled track leading up the Stonethwaite Valley
Langstrath Valley: a true Lakeland wilderness
A bit further along I reached a point where the path splits and there’s a decision to be made. My route up Langstrath was off to the right.
I reckon there are only two valleys in the Lakes that are true wildernesses and Langstrath is one. For the record I consider the upper reaches of Eskdale to be the other. The valley of Langstrath is just miles of empty valley with just a footpath for company, a footpath that isn’t easy to follow as I would find out. At first route finding is straightforward though.
Well marked stretch of footpath in the Langstrath Valley
However within a couple of miles I seem to lose it. I knew I had to get to get to the head of the valley so trudged on anyway. Soon enough the peaks of Esk Pike and Allen Crags could be seen. They were still a bit of a distance away though.
Esk Pike and Allen Crags at the head of the Langstrath Valley
Up to this point the walk had been a gradual uphill walk. Ok, not the easiest of walks but fortunately not steep at all. On finding the valley down which Angletarn Gill flows that all changed. The three-quarters of a mile climb up the gill to Angle Tarn was much steeper and no place to pause for photos. So I didn’t.
Finding somewhere to camp on Allen Crags
As I got closer to Angle Tarn the gradient shallowed and the going got a lot easier. Oh, and plenty of tents popped into view. Lock down had been lifted slightly, the weather was dry and there wasn’t much wind. I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised. Fortunately it was only 8pm so I had more than an hour to find my own little bit of solitude before sunset.
And so without pausing for a natter I turned right and started my climb up to Esk Hause. Part way up the slope I realised I ought to grab a photo should people not believe how many tents were there. Here is the proof.
Wild campers at Angle Tarn
Spot the tents. I counted thirteen! Admittedly its much easier when looking at the full size photo.
While I was taking a break the chap in black who can be seen further down the path in the photo caught up with me and stopped for a chat. It turns out he’d found a pretty good spot to camp on Tongue Head, the small ridge the footpath passes over on the way up to Allen Crags. In fact it was so good I made a mental note of the spot and camped there the following summer. The full tale of that trip is recounted on my Tongue Head wild camping blog entry.
Anyway, time to get going again. I soon reached the shelter at Esk Hause where it was ever so slightly more windy! Oh dear. This wasn’t a good sign.
Allen Crags is a short climb off to the right from here and I soon reached the grassy area under its summit. Despite only seeing this area from a distance the year before I was right: its a great place to pitch a tent … when its not quite so windy. This ridge is very exposed to the north-west which is where the chilly wind was coming from. Time for Plan B.
Contouring round the summit crag I found myself a more sheltered spot on the eastern side of the summit overlooking the Langdale Pikes.
As a side note I do like lists and always have quite a few on the go. However I don’t have one ranking fells for how much sheep shit is on them. If I was to start such a list Allen Crags would be number one though! Jeez … they must lace the grass with laxatives here.
Sunset from Allen Crags
I’d realised that Allen Crags was never going to be a great location for sunset thanks to Great End and Great Gable hogging the western horizon. The sun was therefore hidden well before sunset. I did manage to grab one photo of the light on Langdale Pikes before it dipped too low though.
Sunset over the Langdale Pikes
And then the cloud rolled in and hopes of a spectacular sunset were dashed to be replaced by a big drop in temperature. Big fleece and woolly hat on, I took a couple of photos before bedtime.
View towards the Langdale Pikes and Windermere from my tent
Bow Fell and Esk Pike separated by Ore Gap from Allen Crags
The last photo was taken just after 10pm so it was an early night for me. This was followed by a very early start to make sure I didn’t miss sunrise at 4:50am.
An early start on Allen Crags
As soon as I unzipped the tent the following morning I knew I was in for an interesting time taking photos. The eastern horizon was starting to glow orange as sunrise approached even though it was still half an hour away. There was cloud cover but it was patchy and the clouds were moving quickly in the strong wind.
I’d had a quick reccy the night before to gauge where the best viewpoint was. However now dawn was here the moving clouds made choosing the best view difficult. Eventually I put the long lens on the camera and chose the view of a distant Derwent Water.
Turning to the west I saw clouds billowing out of Wasdale obscuring Great Gable from view. If there was a break in the clouds I thought there could be a good photo there so I repositioned my tripod and waited. Eventually I was rewarded as Green Gable made an appearance.
Green Gable appears from behind the billowing cloud
However Great Gable to its left was still hidden. A few minutes later my patience was rewarded very briefly when the summits of both Great Gable and Green Gable were visible.
Seconds later both fells were hidden from view again.
Fortunately the views over Langdale were still clear so I turned round and took one last photo of Bow Fell basking in the dawn light.
Bow Fell at dawn from Allen Crags
Angle Tarn and its collection on tents are hidden from view in the dip on the left.
Walking back down to Stonethwaite
With the dawn display over I packed away my tent and hit the footpath. The dawn cloud was burning off quickly and the forecast was good so the fells would soon be crawling with walkers. On second thoughts maybe not that soon as it was only 6am.
The most direct route from Allen Crags back down to Stonethwaite is via Grains and Seatoller. It seemed as good a choice as any. And so having retraced my steps back down to Esk Hause I took the turn down the ravine of Ruddy Gill. Despite the early hour it was warming up quickly. However I soon was far enough down the narrow gully to be hidden from the rising sun. While taking a short break I spotted the view back up the ravine.
Great End from the ravine of Ruddy Gill
At the foot of the ravine the valley opens out into the valley of Grains and the descent is less steep.
Heading down Grains towards Stockley Bridge
Walking down this stretch of the valley in the cool shade was very enjoyable so I took my time. On reaching Stockley Bridge it was high time for another break. And a photo looking back up the valley to Allen Crags.
Allen Crags above Grains Gill seen from Stockley Bridge
Its always very satisfying looking up at a fell knowing that I’d just spent the night on it. Its even better knowing I got some sleep too!
Normally at this point I would just have the short distance back to Seathwaite to walk from here. However I’d parked in Stonethwaite so had an extra couple of miles along the Allerdale Ramble path to walk. I can’t deny that at the time I was kicking myself for that decision. However in July the meadows are in flower so it turned out to be an absolute pleasure.
Allerdale Ramble footpath between Seathwaite and Stonethwaite
It wasn’t too long before I got back to the lay-by on the edge of Stonethwaite village and my car. Phew!
What a great way to break my duck for the year: a great wild camp on Allen Crags with some decent photos to add to my Lake District photo gallery. And another location on my list of places to wild camp in The Lakes.
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