Cold Pike via Red Tarn

Cold Pike

This is a great walk with some off the path walking and fantastic views from one of the Lakes quieter mountains. Neighboured by the popular Pike of Blisco, Cold Pike is often over looked even though it offers a far more interesting ascent than its neighbour and just as impressive views. The walk starts at a lofty three hundred and ninety three feet above sea level from Three Shire Stone on the Wrynose Pass. The route heads out north on the main path before turning off on to a very faint path on often pathless terrain to ascend the steep south ridge of Cold Pike, passing a few picturesque tarns on the way to Cold Pikes summit from which you will get stunning views over the whole of the south Lakes. The circular route then descends down the Crinkle Crags descent path to Red Tarn before returning to the Three Shire Stone and Wrynose Pass on an easy but often boggy path. This is an ideal first timer walk or a walk for those days when you have little time or don't want too much ascent required.

Route Directions

  1. This walk starts from the top of the Wrynose pass by the Three Shire Stone at grid ref NY 277 027. The Wrynose Pass is one of the highest and steepest road passes in England topping out at 393m above sea level which makes it an ideal starting point for an easier ascent of several mountains accessible from here. It also makes it pretty treacherous in winter conditions so take care.
  2. To find the pass take the A593 road between Coniston and Ambleside and just a mile south and uphill from Skelwith Bridge head off down the road sign posted for Elterwater and Little Langdale. After reaching the bottom of that valley and crossing the river take the steep road off to the left sign posted for Little Langdale.
  3. You should pass the Three Shire Inn on your right then through the beautiful Little Langdale village and eventually see the picturesque Little Langdale Tarn on your left. After crossing a cattle grid keep to the road on the left sign posted to Wrynose and ignore the road to the right to Langdale. Drive slowly and carefully through the idyllically located Fell Foot Farm, a 17th century Grade II listed National Trust property. The road now ascends the steep gradient and eventually reaches the summit where a dozen or so road side parking places can be found.
  4. The Three Shire Stone is an impressive triangular limestone pillar that marks the position where until 1974 the old counties of Lancashire, Cumberland and Westmorland once met. The stone is carved with the name Lancashire on one side and W.F. 1816 on the other which is the initials of the Furness roadmaster William Field for whom the stone was made in 1816.
  5. The stone wasn't erected until 1860 and stood the test of time until 1997 when it was damaged by a motor vehicle, it was soon restored by Gordon Greaves of Troutbeck Bridge a year later. There are several other Three Shire Stones in Britain which were used for the same boundary marking purposes.
  6. From Three Shire Stone take the path that heads north towards Red Tarn. After approximately four hundred and fifty metres, on about the third right bend in the path and below a boulder next to the path, a faint path heads off to the left down towards a stream crossing. From what I remember I think this path leaves the main path at grid reference NY 275 029.
  7. The faint path crosses a stream then heads in the direction of Cold Pikes south side. The path crosses another stream or two then heads directly up hill in a west to north west direction. It passes a huge boulder in the way of the path and then passes by the top of Rough Crags.
  8. The path now starts to get a little steeper as it rounds the south shoulder of Cold Pike and climbs on to the grassy ridge. You will reach a small tarn and then another which gives a cracking view across it to Pike of Blisco.
  9. Looking ahead you sill now see a few false summits, which as you reach them will become clear and as you get higher the real summit at the north end will come into view and soon be reached.
  10. There isn't much of a cairn up there but a small pile of rocks on a natural summit rock. The first obvious view is that across Red Tarn to Pike of Blisco. To the north the view are of the neighbouring Great Knott, Crinkle Crags and Bowfell beyond.
  11. The views stretch for miles from Cold Pike. If you look out to sea from here you will even see the huge Ormonde wind farm beyond the Duddon Estuary. The Coniston Fells lie to the south from here and from left to right you will be able to make out Wetherlam, Swirl How, Great Carrs and Grey Friar.
  12. Looking beyond the neighbouring Pike of Blisco you will see the far eastern fells and to the left of them the mighty Helvellyn range. Down below and to the left of Pike of Blisco you should have a good view down into the Langdale Valley with the Langdale Pikes towering above it.
  13. To descend from Cold Pike head off the top in a north then north east direction to reach the busy Crinkle Crags ascent path that comes up from Red Tarn. Follow the path down to Red Tarn and cross its outflow the Browney Gill.
  14. After crossing the gill turn right and head south east passing Red Tarn with views to the right up to Cold Pike. This path will lead you all the way back to the Three Shire Stone at Wrynose Pass where care should be taken on your drive back down the steep road.
  15. On your way home make sure you head to the Three Shire Inn in Little Langdale for a friendly welcome, cosy surroundings, local real ales and freshly made food. It is a great place in winter with its real fires and a great place in summer to sit out on the tables in awe of the beautiful Little Langdale valley.
  16. Of course if you return via Langdale instead there is the Old Dungeon Ghyll or heading home west there are several options around the Duddon Valley and Eskdale.

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 West 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.

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