Bowfell & Esk Pike via Angle Tarn


This is a fine walk to one of the Lake District's most iconic fells with its unique and fascinating summit. From a distance, Bowfell takes on the shape of a huge craggy bulk topped off with a pointy summit. It is the sixth highest fell in the Lakes, and was highly regarded by one of the most famous of hill walkers, Sir Alfred Wainwright, who confessed he would put it in his top half dozen mountains. This walk takes you through a wide open glacial valley, up to a beautiful hidden glacial tarn, and gives the chance to bag several Wainwright summits giving breathtaking views of the surrounding fells and valleys. The eventual target; the exposed and airy summit of Bowfell is well worth exploring as it has many unique geological features, including the Bowfell Buttress and the Great Slab. The walk starts and finishes at the Old Dungeon Ghyll Hotel in the Landgale Valley, arguably the best walkers pub in the country.

Route Directions

  1. The walk starts at the National Trust owned Old Dungeon Ghyll pay and display car park at the end of the Langdale Valley at grid reference NY 286 061. If this car park is full you could alternatively start the walk from the National Trust owned Stickle Ghyll car park a kilometre back down the road.
  2. From the car park go round the right hand side of the Old Dungeon Ghyll Hotel to reach the bridleway that goes round the back of the hotel and heads west through a gate in to Mickleden.
  3. Continue along the track in a westerly direction for a kilometre then turn right into the wide open Mickleden valley.
  4. The track will take you in a north-westerly direction for two kilometres to the head of the Mickleden Valley.
  5. Just after the track joins the Mickleden Beck it will then cross a wooden bridge over the Stake Gill tributary. Here, a sign points the way of Stake Pass to the right, and Esk Hause to the left. Turn left here to ascend the Esk Hause path.
  6. You will now head uphill towards the huge bulk of Bowfell, then turn right and ascend the newly laid Rossett Gill zigzag alternative path.
  7. Fix The Fells have done a great job here, and the path makes for an easy ascent - a far cry from the old path which was basically a messy scramble route up Rossett Gill itself.
  8. As you reach the top of the zigzag path, Rossett Pike will be in front of you with the gully of Rossett Gill below it.
  9. Carry on along the path and it will top out on the col before starting its short descent to Angle Tarn.
  10. Before you descend to Angle Tarn I highly recommend you drop your rucksack and ascend the short distance to the summit of Rossett Pike. On a clear day the views towards and across Mickleden are breathtaking.
  11. Descend the path down to Angle Tarn and absorb its incredible atmosphere.
  12. The path passes the tarn via stepping stones over its outflow.
  13. Follow the path up the far side of the tarn and up onto open land. The path passes a small tarn on Tongue Head, then makes its way to Esk Hause on the col between Esk Pike on the left, and Allen Crags on the right.
  14. When you reach the col at Esk Hause I would also highly recommend that you take the chance to bag Allen Crags and enjoy its wonderful summit views. It sits in a great location.
  15. On Esk Hause you will see the cross shaped stone shelter, very similar to the one on Helvellyn's summit plateau.
  16. From the cross shelter head south west up the path for less than two hundred metres until you reach the junction with the Esk Pike path, and head south east along it and on to the northern end of Esk Pike.
  17. The Esk Pike path quickly turns from a fairly easy grassy path in to a rocky hands-on affair before heading round the back of the mountain, following some awkwardly flat and slippery ledges.
  18. After the ledges the path heads left and ascends through a wide chimney with loose rock.
  19. The actual summit is then reached, and is easily identified by a cairn of small rocks. It is not too easy to reach, however, as it is surrounded by a small boulder field.
  20. From Esk Pike summit, head in a south east direction over the boulders then down an obvious descent path. After half a kilometre you will reach the col of Ore Gap.
  21. At Ore Gap head straight up the opposite side on the same trajectory. The path is now really well marked by cairns, turns right, and follows a surprisingly easy ascent up the western flank of Bowfell's northern ridge.
  22. You will eventually reach the col between Bowfell Buttress and Bowfell's summit pike. From the col, ascend the boulders up on to the pike to reach the summit of Bowfell. The summit has a cairn of small stones on a unique pyramid-shaped rock.
  23. To descend from the summit go back the way you came over the boulders and after eighty metres you will see a cairn marked path leading off to the right. Head down this path in a south easterly direction.
  24. After descending the path for a hundred and fifty metres you will most likely be staring in awe at the unmistakable Great Slab.
  25. Follow the path round the top of the Great Slab. The path now turns in to a loose rocky affair and descends for half a kilometre before eventually flattening out on the Three Tarns col.
  26. Turn left at Three Tarns and descend the path heading in an easterly direction to the left side of the Buscoe Sike stream.
  27. The path descends steadily, and bends to the left before eventually bending back to the right, starting its two and a half kilometre descent of The Band ridge to Langdale. There are fantastic views to the right all the way down.
  28. Just before the path reaches the bottom end of The Band there are awesome views to the left towards Mickleden and right across the Langdale Valley that will stop anyone in their tracks.
  29. The path eventually passes through a gate into Stool End Farm. Follow the right of way signposted through the farm, and out the other end along the track that crosses Oxendale Beck, then makes its way through fields back to the Old Dungeon Ghyll where you can sit in the beer garden and enjoy a pint of ale and plate of food.

Maps for this walk

Paper maps for this walk

Click to buy OS Explorer OL6 Map Click to buy OS Landranger 90 Map Click to buy Harvey Super Walker Lakeland Central Map Click to buy Harvey Lake District Mountain Map

GPS files for this walk

Route map of this walk

Photos & Trip Reports

Planning for a walk

Check the weather

The weather is a very important part of hill walking. Weather conditions and daylight hours will dictate where you walk, what gear you will need to carry, how far you walk, and may even decide if you go at all. The following links will help you gather information on weather conditions for areas of Britain...

Plan your journey

Planning your journey before you set off for your walk can save you vital hours on the day. You need to make sure you know the area surrounding your starting point as many factors can influence or change the place you park. Don't forget change for parking meters and fees.

Maintenance of your vehicle and being ready for breakdown situations when driving to remote areas is also vital. Pack a full spare petrol can in your boot, and take de-icing tools in winter, including a shovel. The Transport Direct website below is a great resource for anyone wanting to get to the start of their walk using public transport...

Pack the right gear

Carrying and wearing the right gear is essential for walkers to remain comfortable and safe while hill walking in Britain. However, the best gear in the world is of no use to anyone who doesn't know how to use and care for it. Knowing how to use your gear will give you a much more enjoyable experience. The following items are, in my opinion, the essential items to wear and carry for a hill walk in Britain. It would be foolish to head into the hills and mountains of Britain without these essential items and the knowledge of how to use them. Check out the gear section of this site for techniques and gear lists...

  • Footwear
  • Clothing
  • Rucksack
  • Warm Clothes
  • Waterproofs
  • Map & Compass
  • Emergency Kit
  • First Aid Kit
  • Food & Drink
  • Seasonal Gear

Know what to do in emergencies

It is good practise to tell someone where you are going, and when you expect to return. If you don't get in contact when you said you would on your return, and those you told can't get hold of you, at least they will be able to provide the search party with your general location.

Emergency equipment in the check list above means items such as a survival bag, whistle, and emergency food rations. This isn't anything special; any whistle will do, the orange emergency bags only costs a few pounds, and basic food rations can consist of a couple of chocolate bars. Carrying a head lamp is also an important component and a vital piece of kit used for signalling when you require rescuing.

You should always try and get out of a difficult or emergency situation using your own gear, knowledge and energy. If you cannot do this, then you should dial 999 and ask for the police. Use all the gear you have to keep any unwell or injured members of your party or yourself safe and warm, and use your signalling devices to let the rescuers know your whereabouts. To do this blow six good long blasts on your whistle, or flash six flashes of your torch. Stop for one minute. Repeat. Carry on with the whistle blasts until someone reaches you, and don't stop because you've heard a reply.

Never contact mountain rescue unless absolutely necessary, but on the other hand don't ever feel guilty for having to do so, especially if you are a prepared walker. The Mountain Rescue teams are full of fantastic like-minded souls who love nothing more than people who are prepared for being safe in the mountains.