As the days lengthen, we are able to turn our attention to taking slightly longer hikes into the higher mountains. Those extra couple of hours of daylight really do make a difference and there is no better feeling than descending from a good day in the fells as the sun sets in the early evening.
This circular walk follows a route from Cockley Beck, over Crinkle Crags and returns via Moasdale. It’s a beautiful outing, but with plenty of steep, slippery, boggy and rocky terrain. Route finding is necessary, especially in poor visibility, and you must be prepared for every type of weather.
From Cockley Beck Bridge to Ulpha Fell
If you travel over the twists and turns of Wrynose Pass you will enter the lovely valley of Wrynose Bottom, which runs beside the River Duddon. At the western end of the valley the road splits, dropping down to the Duddon Valley and climbing upwards over Hardknott Pass. This is Cockley Beck, where there is a bridge, a few buildings and a telephone box.
The walk begins from here, crossing over the bridge and almost immediately turning onto a footpath, which fords a beck and passes over a fence. The ground is very rough and boggy here and you may need to find a good place to cross the beck if it’s high.
A very boggy path leads uphill towards a wall on the crest of a rise. Follow the path and go through a gate. Here the path becomes virtually invisible and you really just need to pick a route up the steep and rocky flank of Ulpha Fell. This is very sweaty and is a bit of a scramble.
Eventually you will emerge onto the shoulder of Ulpha Fell. From here, drop down to Gaitscale Gill and follow it north. Stay by the gill and keep heading north with the impressive bluffs of Little Stand to your left. Eventually you will intersect with the much more obvious path heading from Cold Pike to Crinkle Crags.
Crinkle Crags to Three Tarns
Crinkle Crags is a series of five tops which form part of the skyline of Great Langdale, with a high point of 859m.
The path is very clear as it approaches the first crinkle. It remains clear as it ascends the rise, but narrows, although there are frequent cairns marking the way. The key on Crinkle Crags is to keep heading north rather than heading too far west downhill toward Lingcove Beck. This is an easy mistake to make but a simple bit of compass work can avoid the issue.
As you drop down from the first crinkle and approach the second you will spot the distinctive feature of the Bad Step. This is a collection of large chockstones in a short gully with an obvious path leading to them. To tackle this feature requires some straightforward, but surprisingly exposed, rock climbing and a fall could have serious consequences. If you don’t fancy tackling the step (sensible if conditions are wet/icy or you’re not much of a scrambler) then it can be easily circumvented by traversing a path around the western edge of the crinkle which then leads over the top.
Carry on heading north and you will pass over the remaining three crinkles. If you’re lucky enough to have a clear day you will be treated to wonderful views into Great Langdale.
From the fifth crinkle the path leads down to Three Tarns which, as the name suggests, is a saddle containing three tarns. This is a great spot to stop for a snack and enjoy the view.
Three Tarns to Lingcove Beck and Moasdale
From three tarns the hillside rises steeply to the summit of Bow Fell to the north, while the land drops away to the west and east. Our route heads west. With the three tarns at your back head downhill, making for Lingcove Beck on the valley floor.
The path is not very obvious until you reach the beckside. However, from here it improves and follows the bank south. This is a beautifully secluded valley. Don’t forget to turn around and enjoy the view back towards Bow Fell.
Just after where Lingcove Beck makes an obvious and sharp turn to the west a path splits off the riverside track to head south. Follow this over undulating and boggy terrain. The path gradually becomes more and more obvious and heads back down towards Cockley Beck by Moasdale Beck.
When the path hits the road, walk back down over the bridge to return to the start.