#80 – Sunny day on the Langdale Pikes

The Langdale Pikes, seen from Elterwater

It’s never happened to me before.  I went into the Hiker’s Bar of the Old Dungeon Ghyll Hotel in Langdale on a Sunday afternoon, and it was empty!  Not a case of alien abduction though, as dozens of customers were sat in the garden area enjoying a rarity in Langdale – a hot, sunny afternoon.  The pub, known as “The ODG” to thousands of walkers and climbers, is an institution, and makes a perfect end to a good day in the hills.  Which is why we were there.

The ODG – one of the best known hikers and climbers bars in Britain with the climbers crags of Middlefell Buttress and Raven Crag behind. Middlefell Buttress is one of the most popular beginners climbs in the UK

Langdale was the first part of the Lake District that I got to know well.  In the days when the M6 Motorway finished just north of Lancaster it was possible to get from home near Preston to the ODG in an hour – that is, if it was night and a certain lunatic friend was driving!  Most of my early rock climbing was in the valley, and I got to know it well.

Looking across to the Stickle Ghyll path, the main path to Pavey Ark

On the path to Langdale Pikes via Dungeon Ghyll Waterfall

One route we could have followed in our sleep back then was the Stickle Ghyll path to Pavey Ark.  I once read that in the thirty years following the Second World War, the path was walked more than in all previously recorded human history – I can believe that, as it used to be a real mess, very eroded.  It’s still a busy route but Chris and I were going a different way on this trip.

Chris looking across towards Dungeon Ghyll and its waterfall

Closer view of the falls

In all my wanderings in my youth I had never followed the route to the Langdale Pikes by the ravine of Dungeon Ghyll – that was probably because we had come to rock climb, and the Dungeon Ghyll path doesn’t lead to climbing crags.  It was time to fill in some of the gaps.

Steady height gain ….

…. with occasional rock steps

We had picked the right day, with the heat of the sun tempered by a cooling breeze.  The path gains height steadily with the occasional rock step along the way.  The waterfall (Dungeon Ghyll Force) was pretty without being spectacular, but the views down to the Langdale valley were eye catching.

Looking down towards Blea Tarn and Side Pike

Final part of the ascent to the Langdale Pikes

The flat top of Harrison Stickle, unmistakable from most angles

The path feels like part of the valley until the last 100 metres or so of ascent.  Things get steeper before coming to a plateau above the climbers playground of Gimmer Crag.  The peaks that catch the eye are the ones that can be seen from the M6, about 35 kilometres (22 miles) away.  The flat top of Harrison Stickle is unmistakable as is the dome shape of Pike o’ Stickle.

Pike o’ Stickle

Top of the gully that contains the ‘Stone Axe Factory’

Pike o’ Stickle with the ‘Stone Axe’ gully, seen from the valley bottom

Just before Pike o Stickle, the path crosses above a steep gully that was one of the earliest industrial sites in the UK.  About 5000 years ago, Neolithic people quarried the stone in the gully to make stone axe heads.  The quality of the stone, and the site itself, seems to have made these axe heads very special, and they account for 25% of the total axe finds in Britain.  Finds of the same axe heads have also been made in Ireland and Continental Europe.  The site is now protected by law.

On Martcrag Moor with (L to R) Bowfell, Esk Pike and Great End beyond

Descending the moor, with Pike o’ Stickle to the right

Pike o’ Stickle looming above our return route along Langdale

A gradual descent from Pike o’ Stickle took us to Stake Pass, the ancient by-way linking Langdale and Borrowdale.  The way down is steady, and the views of Langdale are adequate explanation of the name – Langdale (Lang Dalen) comes from the Old Norse language spoken by the Viking invaders over 1000 years ago and means ‘Long Valley’. It’s well named, but the walking is easy and before long we were sat outside the ODG with a pint of cold cider – a good end to a good day!

The route back to the pub – Langdale, the ‘Long Valley’

Text and images © Paul Shorrock

About Paul Shorrock

I've been mucking about in the mountains for longer than I care to mention. I started out by walking my local hills, then went on to rock climbing, mountaineering and skiing. Still doing it, and still getting a buzz. I'm now sharing the fun, through my guided walking business (Hillcraft Guided Walking) and by writing routes for other publishers, mainly Walking World and Discovery Walking Guides. Just to make sure I keep really busy, I am also currently a member of my local mountain rescue team.
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12 Responses to #80 – Sunny day on the Langdale Pikes

  1. antiquityandadventures says:

    very nice write up Paul, looked a fun day out. Ive never been in the ODG only the car park :-).


  2. It’s a pub that has hardly changed over the last 40 years.


  3. Mark Kelly says:

    I’ve never walked that area Paul, will add it to my list. The axe factory sounds fascinating. And the pub a great end to the day 🙂


  4. That’s the exact route me & Richard did on our first trip – same lovely weather as well! I was amused to see I had a map at the time that had ‘Martcrag Moo’ on! I always call it that now 😉


  5. There was a theory that small and unimportant spelling mistakes were a trap by the Ordnance Survey to catch people out if they copied the maps.

    Nowadays they certain contain the odd whimsy, like the cartographer managing to include his name in the squiggles of a mountain crag (I’ve seen one of those, but can’t remember where now) but it’s suposed to be just a bit of fun 🙂


  6. smackedpentax says:

    Just an excellent article and photos too…it is a long time since I was up there (and I also remember several boozy evenings in ‘ODG’). I must get up there soon…my appetite is whetted! Thanks for bringing the memories back Paul!


    • Boozy evenings indeed, SP!

      In the late 60’s early 70’s the ODG could be a “rough ‘ole”, with beer fights a regular feature – Sid Cross, the landlord, was a climber and would tolerate just about anything from other climbers. The local copper, Dick Barron, was a lovely bloke, who would coax compliance out of the drunken throng with, “Ay, come on then lads.” but there was never any bother.

      The Hill Inn at Ingleton used to be the same – the local wags would ask for a pint of “DB” which was ‘Dear Beer’ or “CB” which was ‘Cheap Beer’, but everyone knew that it really meant ‘Drinking Beer’ or ‘Chucking Beer’. On one occasion the juke box was pushed through the window when some ‘tourist’ ( a derogatory term!) insisted in interupting the sing song with his choice of music – Nowt to do with me, Your Worship 😉

      Outdoor blogger ‘mountaincoward’ was recently asked to remove her boots on entering ‘The Hill’ – I suppose change is inevitable (and I wonder what I would say now to a bunch of kids hurling beer about) but I like a pub where I can take my wet Border Collie in with me. As for taking me boots off – you must be joking!! 😀


      • smackedpentax says:

        The Hill Inn indeed…now that was a cavers pub! I remember coming out of Black Shiver Pot (3 of us did it on ladders – and it flooded when we were getting out). Anyway I had parked my mini at the front of the pub and we got to it about 3am. We tried to be quiet but we woke the landlord up and he opened the window and asked what we were doing. We said we had been down Black Shiver and he said ‘you must be wanting a pint then’..so he opened up and not only got us a pint or two but he got his wife out of bed to cook us chicken and chips..all at 3am..Unfortunately I ran his dog over as I (drunkenly) left the pub full of beer and on my way to work…ah, those were the days….


      • Hahaha… Don’t get me going on the Hill Inn, the pub where we were once asked at 2 o’clock in the morning to turn the lights off and be quiet for about 15 minutes “because the police have just rung to tell us they are coming out to check the pub”. Half an hour later it was lights back on and pints being pulled….,

        We were there one time when the barn at the back was a bothy (oh, ok, doss house!). Someone fell from the rafters whilst mucking about, and had to be taken down to Lancaster infirmary. A bunch of the characters in the bar bustled the guy into a nice Jaguar on the car park – my mate John complimented the driver on his nice car to be told, “It’s not mine – the keys were left in it!” The car was brought back intact (amazing considering how p*ss*d everypone was) and parked where it was found.

        Mad times, but I remember no gratuitous violence or mindless vandalism [apart from the juke box through the window incident 😉 ]

        I don’t want to sound patronising, but todays kids don’t know how to have fun 🙂


  7. Hi Paul,

    Oh wow the landscape is very gorgeous. It looks very remote. The weather looks surprising beautiful and warm for Scotland 😀

    By the way, I had a technical question for you. I was wondering where began and where ended the Devil’s ridge of the Ring of Steel. Is it only between Sgurr a Mhaim and Sgur an lubhair? Does the section between Am Bodach and Stobe Coire a Chairn have a name?



    • Hi Orel, and sorry it’s taken so long to reply to your comment – I’ve been moving house, and things are still a bit chaotic!

      The route in post #80 isn’t Scotland – it’s the English Lake District (northwest England) – it is very beautiful, but much smaller in scale than Scotland, and less remote. The weather is often similar to Scottish weather, though 🙂

      Now, your Devil’s Ridge question. Firstly, it’s the ‘Ring of Steall’ – ‘Steall’ translates as ‘water spout’ or ‘torrent’ or similar, and there is a famous and beautiful waterfall (The Falls of Steall) that can be seen when walking the Ring.

      The Devil’s Ridge is the bit between Sgurr a Mhaim and Stob Choire a Mhail – don’t be put off by the name, it’s nothing like as serious an the Aonach Eagach!

      I don’t know of a name for the ‘Am Bodach’ – ‘Stob Coire a Chairn’ section. Possibly the ‘North-East Ridge of Am Bodach’ or the ‘South-West Ridge of Stob Coire a Chairn’ – not very imaginative, but having two Devil’s Ridges on one walk might be a devill too far 😀

      The Ring of Steall is very highly regarded as an outing – get that under your belt and you have added another classic Scottish route to your already impressive tally 🙂


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