Bowfell is a pyramid-shaped mountain lying at the
heart of the English Lake District, in the Southern Fells area.
It is the sixth highest mountain in the lakes, is one
of the most popular of the Lake District fells and has several routes to
The Southern Fells include the
highest ground in England, a horseshoe which begins with Scafell and
Scafell Pike in the west and then curves around the north of Upper
Eskdale to take in Great End, Esk Pike, Bowfell and Crinkle Crags.
In addition to Eskdale, Bowfell has a footing in two
other well known valleys. It stands at the head of Great Langdale, its
east ridge dividing the two branches of Mickleden and Oxendale, while
to the north is the Langstrath branch of Borrowdale. From all of these
valleys Bowfell presents a striking profile with a conical top resting
upon a wider summit plateau.
To the north west of Bowfell the
main ridge drops to the depression of Ore Gap, named after its reddish
soil, rich in haematite. Below the col on the northern side is Angle
Tarn. This round waterbody occupies a corrie beneath Hanging Knotts,
small trout lurking in its 50 ft depths. Its outflow is a tributary of
the Langstrath Beck, making for Stonethwaite.
To the south of Ore Gap runs Yeastyrigg Gill, the main
headwater of Lingcove Beck, flowing into the fastness of upper Eskdale.
Beyond the Gap the ridge makes the stoney three tiered climb to the
white rocked summit of Esk Pike.
Southward of Bowfell the ridge falls steeply to Three
Tarns, the col separating it from Crinkle Crags. The depression takes
its name from a number of small pools, often two, but sometimes more
after rain. Busco Sike flowing to the east is the longest feeder of
Oxendale Beck in Great Langdale.
Bowfell sends out two subsidiary ridges to the east.
The Band is a descending rigg starting from the southern end of the
summit plateau. It is this ridge which divides Oxendale from Mickleden,
making straight for Stool End Farm on the valley floor. The Band has a
minor top about halfway down named White Stones, although most
guidebooks do not consider it notable. The second ridge begins at the
northern end of the summit plateau and crosses a sharp depression at the
head of Rossett Gill to make for Rossett Pike. The continuation of this
ridge provides the connection to the Central Fells, forming the northern
wall of Great Langdale as it crosses Martcrag Moor, bound for the
The summit area is a ridge
running north-south with the final pyramid near the southwest corner and
crags on three sides. The southern face is formed by Bowfell Links, an
impressive wall of crag scarred by nine vertical gullies and with
corresponding tongues of scree at its foot.
A climb up these is neither
pleasurable nor safe as they are extremely active loose rock channels.
The eastern face carries a wealth of features including Flat Crag,
Cambridge Crag and the Bowfell Buttress, the latter two providing good
climbing. Flat Crag includes the Great Slab, a remarkable tilted sheet
of rock which looks exactly how it sounds. Below these faces runs the
Climber's Traverse, a narrow path providing an excellent high-level
walking route to the summit from the highest point of The Band. This
largely horizontal line contours around beneath many of Bowfell's most
dramatic crags, finally reaching the summit via a rocky route known as
the River of Boulders, running parallel to the Great Slab. Finally on
the north east corner of the summit ridge is Hanging Knotts, a complex
series of faces and outcrops looking down upon Angle Tarn.
The highest point carries not so much a cairn as a
rearrangement of some loose rock at the apex of the pyramid. The
panorama is excellent, improved immeasurably by the steep final slope
and lack of foreground. Every major group of fells in Lakeland is seen
well from this superb vantage point, the Helvellyn range from
end-to-end and the Langdale Pikes across Langdale, but the piece of the
view is Scafell Pike towering above Eskdale.
The Band provides the most popular means of ascent, Bowfell's majestic
position at the head of Great Langdale acting as an irresistible magnet
to many. Other routes from Langdale climb via Rossett Gill and Three
Bowfell can be reached from Stonethwaite via Angle Tarn although the way
is long. Equally time consuming although perhaps more picturesque is the
long march up Eskdale from Brotherikeld, gaining the ridge at either Ore
Gap or Three Tarns. Indirect climbs can also be made via
Crinkle Crags, Esk Pike or Rossett Pike.