All the Fells: Esk Pike

Esk Pike – The Southern Fells 2,903′ (210)

Date: 16 September 1994

From: Bowfell

Esk Pike was the last part of a long and glorious day, a sunny day set aside for the Big Walk at the end of a week’s holiday. Crinkle Crags, Bowfell and Esk Pike, starting from Oxendale and finishing by Esk Hause, Rossett Gill and Mickleden. And without a watch, which I’d left behind in Manchester, two nights before, breaking my holiday to head home to watch United playing in the Champions League, monitoring the time via Radio 4 on my Test Match Special cap radio. It had already been a long day by the time I descended to Ore Gap, and I was aware that I was getting tired and that every step from hereon would take me further away from my car and make the return journey all the longer, but I was damned if I was giving up here and going to drop down to the Angle Tarn path. The way forward was an uphill climb, following a path in a groove between higher bluffs on each side. It didn’t go to the summit, for that I had to make a 50′ diversion to the right, and by then I was glad I’d done for the day. But my refusal to retreat over trodden ground meant a descent onwards, towards Esk Hause, the path twice following remarkably flat rock ledges, until I was back at the Head of Upper Eskdale, where I’d stood about two months previously, coming down off Scafell Pike on an even better day from Seathwaite. I completed my walk by going to the cairn, by walking down to the wallshelter and, after a look westward towards the splendid skyline of the two Gables, turning down to the right and beginning the long walk to Angle Tarn. Three downhill stints and two flat sections between and I was crossing the outflow of the Tarn. This left the cruellest part of the day, three hundred feet of late, leg- and thigh-weary ascending to reach the top of the Pass. It was all downhill from here, thankfully. That day, the uppermost fifty feet or more of Rossett Gill was still steep, straight and torn to pieces, but I kept my eyes peeled and spotted the junction with the top of the re-made zig-zags and turned aside thankfully. Then I had a choice. I could follow the remade path down to the head of Mickleden, the easy, untroubled way, or I could finish in style by tracing the old pony route. They tell me that all traces of this have now disappeared and there weren’t that many left back then. There were none at the head of the route: I had to maintain the same angle of descent as the uppermost zigzag but over trackless fellside. I feel justified in boasting that I did it perfectly, arriving spot on for the miniature natural weir, then downhill using Wainwright’s page as a completely accurate guide, until everything petered out among the damp moraines. I made the driest beeline possible for the Mickleden path, then a nasty brown strip, landrover wheelbase wide, and even then I ended up with one boot plunged to the ankle and a rhythmic step-squelch all the way back to my car.

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