Bowscale Fell and Bannerdale Crags

Walk date – 7th December 2022

Distance – 6.5 miles

Weather – very cold, sunny start, cloudy later, moderate northerly breeze with significant wind chill


The strong winds and heavy rain disappeared during the last couple of weeks although the dull grey skies and low light conditions stubbornly persisted. We were all set to do today’s walk last Wednesday but called it off, there seemed little point when everywhere was shrouded in a thick fog which lasted all day. There was one decent day during the week before that but it happened to fall on a Tuesday which, as regular viewers will know, is a no go day because of prior commitments. Anyway, the forecast for today, and the next few days apparently, seemed to indicate extensive sunshine accompanied by a northerly breeze with some wind chill thrown in for good measure.  We had a heavy frost overnight so a bit of time had to be spent on defrosting the car windows this morning, but we eventually got under way and made our way over to Mungrisdale where no-one was around and we had our pick of the available off-road parking.


Mungrisdale (off road parking) – Bullfell Beck path – Bowscale Fell – Bannerdale Crags – The Tongue – Mungrisdale

Raven Crags from the off-road parking area at Mungrisdale. There is a route up to the summit of Bowscale Fell through the crags but we’re taking the path alongside Bullfell Beck today. Both routes start at the gate in the shot, just beyond it the path up through the crags veers off to the right, the beckside path passes behind the houses and continues straight ahead.

A little to the right of the previous shot for this view of the farm buildings of Undercrag. Its a lovely morning but very cold and having just stepped out of a warm car by the time we were ready to go I was down to shivering level.

Temporary low light when a small cloud drifted across the sun as I was taking this shot of The Tongue and Bannderdale Crags from the Bullfell Beck path.

The Tongue gets a splash of sunlight as we carry on up the path. The ground is firm underfoot although in several places the path had longish sections of semi-frozen mud. Up ahead, at the end of the path, is the steep climb out of the valley and then its onwards to the summit of Bowscale Fell.

The old waterworks building is in the shadow of The Tongue but a zoom in should be enough to make it out. We’re not looking forward to the lengthy walk through that all that chilly shade especially as we’ve both warmed up nicely following our shivery start.

A look back down at the route so far as we pass by the old building. Bullfell Beck is making its way down the valley below us to the right of the shot.

Beyond the building the path becomes single file only as it progresses upwards above the beck. I took a quick shot of the old sheepfold as we passed it. I didn’t feel like standing around too long in this deep shade especially as the chilly breeze has found its way through here and its blowing straight at us. Cold, wet noses became the order of the day.

The path steepens as it winds its way through the heather and ever higher above the beck.

The climb out is very steep and the path eventually dissipates but we are finally out of the deep shadow of The Tongue so we took a five minute chocolate bar break to relax and enjoy the warmth of the sun. The absence of a path is mitigated to some extent by the patches of grass which can be used to navigate a way around the swathes of boot trapping/lace tangling heather.

A zoom shot of the distant North Pennines showing Cross Fell and a couple of its neighbours wearing a cap of snow. On the way to Mungrisdale we noticed the same light covering on the Dodds, the Helvellyn group and Blencathra. At this point we didn’t know what conditions would be like on the summit but the spikes are in our packs, just in case.

We eventually reach the gentler gradient beyond the climb out and have a view of The Tongue in whose shadow we walked for quite a while. Its great to be out in the sunshine again.

Looking to our left towards the east top of Bowscale Fell, in the shot it looks deserted but there was a solo walker and his dog over there.

Another view of The Tongue now with Souther Fell behind it. We carry on over the much gentler gradient towards the summit. The ground now has a flurry of snow sprinkled over it.

The pile of stones at the summit of Bowscale Fell flanked by Carrock Fell on the right and High Pike on the left. The position of the sun behind me unavoidably results in my shadow also appearing. The northerly breeze is much stronger and chillier up here so we didn’t linger.

Carrock Fell as we leave the summit area, followed by …..

….. High Pike …..

….. Knott …..

….. Great Calva …..

….. the Skiddaw group …..

….. and on the middle of the distant skyline, thanks to the air clarity, we can see Pillar, Buttermere’s High Stile and Red Pike and below them a zoom in will reveal Hindscarth and Robinson …..

….. and last, but not least, comes Blencathra, also covered with a flurry of snow.

A look back at Bowscale Fell summit as we reach the flatter, and usually soggy, ground below it. No problems with soggy stuff today, everything was crisp and firm underfoot. A few iced over puddles here and there were easily avoided.

Making our way over the frozen paths towards Bannerdale Crags. The place looks deserted but there were walkers dotted around here and there. We’ve just exchanged greetings with one solo walker who was making his way over to Bowscale Fell.

One of the many paths passes very close to one of the gullies of Bannerdale Crags which gives a fine view along the lower slopes of the Crags, over Bannerdale and across to Souther Fell.

The view back towards Bowscale Fell …..

….. and from the view point on Bannerdale Crags a view towards The Tongue and the east top of Bowscale Fell.

We walked up from the viewpoint towards the actual summit for a better view of Blencathra …..

….. and then took this close up shot where the Sharp Edge route can be seen very clearly. They aren’t visible in the shot but we could see a pair of walkers on the summit, another pair making their way across The Saddle, and another pair standing on the path slightly above the Sharp Edge exit route. They may have just been peering down at Sharp Edge or could have just traversed it and were just taking a look back. We didn’t see anyone on Sharp Edge itself, conditions would have been very icy across there today so perhaps walkers used the Scales Tarn path instead. We did notice people walking up that path.

Another pair of walkers had arrived at the viewpoint when we returned to it. They were busy taking photos so we didn’t disturb them and began making our way over to the path just above the rim of the crags. This eventually joins the path along the side of The Tongue which will take us back down to Mungrisdale. There is much more cloud around now than there was to begin with so it looks as though today will follow the usual pattern – a sunny morning followed by a cloudy afternoon.

Heading over the rim of the crags now towards a still sunlit Tongue. Thanks to the sunlight its possible to pick out the path we will be using for our return to Mungrisdale.

Looking straight along the course of Bannerdale Beck which in turn drops down into the Glenderamackin river below Souther Fell and creates a very marshy area as it does so.

Looking back to Bannerdale Crags from the path along the rim.

Still sunny on The Tongue so I decided to take another shot as the path alongside it was showing up so well.

Having reached the path on The Tongue we decided to take a short break and have a mug of hot soup before beginning our descent. A small group of walkers complete with a guide had also reached the junction at the same time. They waited for the last member of the group, who was some distance back down the path, to join them before continuing on up to Bowscale Fell so we were able to have a brief chat with them while they waited. I guess that the one they had waited for would have been relieved to find out that all the heavy lifting work was practically over and done with at the junction and all that was left to do was make the shortish walk over to the summit. The above shot was the view from our soup stop where a couple of lenticular clouds drifted slowly across the distant far eastern fells.

Sunny Souther Fell and Great Mell Fell from the soup stop.

We lost the sunlight as we were packing our things away. The cloud finally reached us about 1.15 pm so we didn’t get much more sunshine after that. All the morning sunshine hitting this hillside had melted the ice and frost on the path so it it was quite a muddy walk down.

A look back up the path and the rim of the crags before we begin rounding the bottom of The Tongue and lose the view. As can be seen there’s not a lot of blue sky around up there.

A very gloomy view across Bannerdale towards Bannerdale Crags from the same spot.

We’re still descending but the white house over towards the left of the shot tells us that we haven’t much further to go, that’s roughly where the car is parked.

Raven Crags to the left of the white house as we make our way back to Mungrisdale.

About to cross the Glenderamackin river where we have to take to the detour path installed a few years ago after the flooding washed away the old riverside path. We used the detour path shortly after it had been installed and it was clear then that the slabs of concrete which had been laid would be likely to not stay the course and they haven’t. They have sunk into the marshy ground or have been pushed up out of it and several are lying at different angles to each other, and water from the surrounding marsh has washed over them resulting in the majority being covered in sheet ice today. Its not a long detour and it wasn’t worth faffing about with putting the spikes on so we took to the marshy grassland instead.

Back on terra firma now and about to enter Mungrisdale village. At the end of the path we have a short stretch of tarmac walking along the lane back to the car below Raven Crags.

Back on the tarmac as we pass by Farm Cottage, Mungrisdale with …..

….. a look back along our starting route as we round the bend in the narrow lane …..

….. and walk past the old chapel of St Kentigern and just a few more paces further on we’ll be back at the car. The cloud cover is not quite complete and there are still blue skies over to the east which is where we’re heading so we may be lucky and catch the last of the afternoon sun when we get back home. Its supposed to stay sunny but very cold for the next few days so we might be able to get another walk out somewhere before the present settled spell comes to an end. We’ll see how it goes.

PS – Quite by chance I discovered some information a couple of days ago about the ruined building in Langstrath marked as ‘Johnny House’ on the OS map. I had searched for information about this building but had never been able to discover anything about it. One of my presents to J last Christmas was a book called ‘The Little Book of Cumbria’ by David Ramshaw published by The History Press.  Its a dip in and out of sort of book because it is full of short articles containing factual information about all manner of things Cumbrian and J keeps it handy on the coffee table. I picked it up the other day and it fell open at page 81 where, to my amazement, was a short article about the Johnny House. It seems that it was once an inn known as ‘Auld Jwonny Hoose’. Johnny ran the inn at about the beginning of the 19th century and caught the trade from the two packhorse routes in the area. One route runs from Stonethwaite up and over Greenup Edge and down into Grasmere. The Langstrath valley packhorse route coming over from Great Langdale joins the Greenup Edge one where Langstrath Beck joins Greenup Gill so the inn sited at the beginning of Langstrath seems to have been a very good location for catching both sets of packhorse drivers. So the information about Johnny House literally fell into my hands without me even looking for it. Serendipity?