Bowfell has many admirers – and for good reason. It’s great. This is the first of a run of favourite fells whose main virtue is that there is an interesting way up. Bowfell is a proper mountain, by Lake District standards, but it wouldn’t quite win top prizes for beauty from me when up against many others. But it’s a good climb and a great viewpoint – at least assuming the weather is playing ball.
My first glimpse of Bowfell was in 2006 when I visited Langdale to climb the Langdale Pikes. On that day, visibility high up wasn’t that great and what really struck me was The Band – the long ridge sweeping eastwards down into Langdale. It’s still, to me, the best part of the view of Bowfell from Langdale.
The next year I returned to Langdale and after camping at the National Trust campsite overnight, and having been woken early by my neighbours, set off on an early excursion around the head of Langdale, starting with Pike o’Blisco, moving onto Cold Pike and Crinkle Crags. The intention was to conquer Bowfell as well, but my early start soon caught up with me and by early afternoon I was flagging badly. I got to Three Tarns, took one look up at Bowfell and decided to call it a day. That day The Band afforded an easy escape back to my tent. And ironically, I found a bit of energy as I descended and actually ran parts of the path.
So now I’d been to Langdale twice, seen Bowfell from two sides, and still not set foot on the upper part of the mountain. So when I returned in August 2007 for a week of family camping in Langdale, Bowfell was my principal target. That day I returned up The Band and veered to the right taking the Climbers Traverse to the bottom of Flat Crags, pausing briefly to marvel at the stream appearing seemingly out of the rock. Up to my left rose the Great Slab and alongside it a slope of looser rock. Up I went, principally on the looser rock, but at points venturing a short way onto the Slab itself, from which some great views down to Langdale were to be had. I reached the top, slightly disappointed that no one saw me emerge, and headed for the summit which was shrouded in cloud.
Bowfell was my first slightly daring ascent of any mountain, and that day I discovered the adrenalin rush that gaining the summit in that manner brings. For the rest of the day I was buzzing, knocking off the north summit and Esk Pike remarkably quickly and then extending the walk to Great End and Scafell Pike before the long slog back past Angle Tarn and through Mickleden to the camp site. And my descent let me see the third side of Bowfell, as it rises above the tarn, with a handful of wild campers setting up as I passed. That day was one of the few times that I have ever extended a walk (usually I cut them short, if anything), and Bowfell is memorable for that.
In 2010 I saw the final side of Bowfell – the face it presents to Eskdale – on my walk to Slight Side and Scafell. And I think from that viewpoint you can really put it into context as it sits in line across the skyline. Bowfell may have a foot in both Langdale and Eskdale, but to me seems most at home as part of Eskdale. I don;t know when I will next go back to Bowfell, but I hope it’s soon.