Bow Fell

Published 20 October 2011

It was my birthday. And what better way to celebrate than by spending a weekend in the Lake District, and by bagging some fells. And what better fells to do than Bow Fell and Crinkle Crags in Langdale? At least, that was the plan…

In his Pictorial Guide to the Southern Fells Wainwright tells his readers to “rank Bow Fell amongst the best half dozen” of Lakeland fells. And with a recommendation like that who wouldn’t want to head straight up there and admire the view?

I was certainly keen and in May 2011 I made my plans to get up there and make the most of it. And if only there hadn’t been horrendously bad weather I might actually have made it…

Instead it took me until 16 September 2011 before I made it as a birthday treat on the day I hit the ripe old age of 34.

I’d gone up to the Lakes with Catherine for a long weekend and with the intent of bagging some more Wainwrights and Bow Fell was naturally high on my hit list. But as we leapt off the bus at the Old Dungeon Ghyll it was clear that, once again, the weather wasn’t going to make things easy. There was rain in the air and low level cloud was hiding every fell in the area.

Still there was going to be no stopping us and even the sight of a Ford Motor Company branded pavilion sat innocuously in a field at Stool End wasn’t enough to distract us from heading up the Band.

Just follow the sign.

Ah, the Band. That old slog that gives Lakeland walkers access to so many fells and which, strangely, I don’t think I’d ever walked up either.

It’s a slow, steep but steady ascent up the Band and it needs to be. Bow Fell (or Bowfell as Wainwright called it) is a whopping 902m above sea level and is the sixth highest peak in the Lake District. The path up the Band does most of that rise, taking you to Three Tarns where you can head off to all manner of high peaks in the area. If you can see anything anyway.

We certainly couldn’t. The already thick cloud had naturally got denser the higher up we’d got and by the time we arrived at Three Tarns visibility was very poor and the path wasn’t particularly clear either.

Still we followed it on, Catherine continually checking compasses, copies of Wainwright and an increasingly soggy Wainwright map throughout to ensure we didn’t get too lost. Every now and then she’d just stride off in some random direction, seemingly knowing she’d find a set of cairns a short way on.

By the time we’d reached the summit it was possible to see less than a metre in front of us. Bow Fell’s beautiful panoramic view, the same one that Wainwright eulogised about, was to remain hidden from us. Standing on the top just revealed clouds. Lots of clouds.

Still we’d made it. Now was just the problem of re-finding the path down. And in those conditions that would be a far more dubious challenge…

Next fell: Esk Pike

Video: The Battle of Bow Fell

A video extravaganza of our trip up Bow Fell.

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