Crinkle Crags by name and nature, a rugged jumble of shattered rocky towers on a ridge set across the head of Oxendale at the far end of the Langdale valley. Direct approaches are rebuffed by steep rock buttresses and the horrors of scree. Yet a crossing of this amazing piece of natural architecture is easily within the capabilities of any reasonably fit walker.
A feature known as the "Bad Step" on the highest crinkle is surmountable with care and a little knowledge, or a bypass to the left ascended with ease. It is here that the intimidated turn back with the mission unaccomplished. The only reason should be the weather which can turn quickly and unexpectedly from pleasant spring day back into mid-winter and so catching out the unprepared. A modest walk in distance terms, but one not to be underestimated. Even today the path across the crinkles is intermittent at times, little more than crampon scratches and smoothed rock from the passage of boots over rough edges to give the game away. There is not one route but many options as people fan out to try different lines. Steep drops abound to catch out the unwary. Take a full, unhurried, day at least for the first visit.
Once past Great Knott and until the great col of Three Tarns there is no escape eastwards from the ridge back to Langdale. Attempting an inviting scree gully to descend from bad weather is not recommended. To the west lies a wide expanse of still high boggy ground, Eskdale is a long way from the ridge and even further from Langdale. No, the only sensible thing is to complete the ridge, or retrace your steps.
A note about the Bad Step. As you drop down the first crinkle heading for the second and highest you cannot help but notice the gully containing two chockstones with a path leading directly into it. This is the Bad Step. There are two approaches: tackle it, or bypass. The bypass we describe in the the walk instructions is the recommended route for walkers. Those of a modest climbing persuasion could enter the gully to below the chockstones and look to the right. Hand and footholds should then leap out at you and a plan can be hatched.
Dog walkers should always take the bypass.
This walk takes you to the top of the following hills: White Stones - The Band, Shelter Crags North Top, Shelter Crags, Great Knott, Crinkle Crags South Top, Crinkle Crags - Third Crinkle, Crinkle Crags - Long Top, Crinkle Crags - Gunson Knott, and Crinkle Crags - Fourth Crinkle; and includes 1 Wainwright, 8 Birketts, 5 Nuttalls, 3 Hewitts, and 1 HuMP.
If you need accommodation we have details of 23 properties offering rooms near the start of this walk. Here are some examples:
Walk height profile
note that gradients are usually grossly exaggerated
From the car park return to the road and turn right. In 50m (55 yards) as the road turns 90° left, go straight ahead through the gate on to the tarmac driveway to Stool End Farm. Follow the road along the edge of the fields, and eventually into the farm yard. Wiggle through the yard, firstly right, then left once in the central yard, following the "footpath" signs to the gate. Go through onto the rough track.
Continue along the track, bear left at the bottom of The Band to drop down to a gate. Go through, and follow the rough track across the field to the sheep pens. Here go through the pedestrian gate on the left hand side of the pens - as directed by more signs. Again continue on the track beyond to the footbridge over Oxendale Beck just a little further on.
Cross the footbridge, bear right, and in 50m (55 yards) or so bear left on the initially rough path climbing the fellside. Much of the path is stone pitched and easily followed. Views are a good enough reason to halt for a breather on this steep section.
Climbing alongside Browney Gill the gradient eases a little, and the rock is stained red. Reaching the junction of paths at the top of the pass, turn right.
Cross the outfall from Red Tarn, and continue climbing on the path heading westwards for Great Knott and the mossy boglands between it and the first crinkle. Dont panic: the path is rough stone and gravel the whole way.
Approaching the first crinkle the immediate hurdle is a short gully climb at the top of which turn right and continue climbing. You are now on the ridge and care required at all times.
Continue over the first crinkle and drop to the col with the second. As you do note the Bad Step and spot the bypass on the terrace to the left.
At the cairn at the bottom, bear left and follow the path round. Climb up zigzags to the cairn, and bear right, then right again to the summit cairn - the Wainwright of Crinkle Crags. There is another cairn above the crags of the Bad Step if you wish to visit that too.
From the summit cairn turn round and bear right to head slightly east of north, follow the path down on to the rest of the ridge.
Largely speaking it is now the simple matter of following the path as best as you can over, or to the left of, each of the remaining crinkles. They can all be crossed without much difficulty and eventually you will arrive at the wide col of Three Tarns. In dry conditions this can be more aptly called 'two puddles and a muddy patch'.
The steep and loose zigzag path climbing ahead to Bowfell is an obvious reminder you have reached the end of the crinkles ridge.
At Three Tarns, bear right to locate and drop down the stone pitched path along and down The Band. This is easily followed along the ridge, and then down steeply in places to Stool End Farm again.
Drop into the farmyard and bear right, then left to the tarmac driveway. Follow this all the way back to the Langdale road, and the car park.
If you like this walk then why not try one of our other nearby walks:
|Lingmoor Fell and Side Pike||10m (11 yards) away|
|Bowfell, via Worneyside Force, Hell Gill, and the Great Slab||58m (64 yards) away|
|Rossett Pike, Angle Tarn, Esk Pike and Bowfell||58m (64 yards) away|
|The Langdale Pikes: Pavey Ark, Thunacar Knott, Pike of Stickle, Harrison Stickle||0.8km (0.5 miles) away|
|High Raise, Sergeant Man, and Blea Rigg from Langdale||0.8km (0.5 miles) away|
|Cumbria Way - Dungeon Ghyll to Keswick||0.8km (0.5 miles) away|
|A Journey from Dungeon Ghyll over the Fells to Ambleside||0.8km (0.5 miles) away|
|Blea Tarn above Langdale||2.0km (1.2 miles) away|
|Cold Pike and Pike of Blisco||3.5km (2.1 miles) away|
|Great Carrs and Grey Friar||3.6km (2.2 miles) away|
|Waterfalls and the Cathedral Cavern, from Elterwater||4.3km (2.7 miles) away|
|An Elterwater Stroll||4.3km (2.7 miles) away|
|Allan Bank Woodland Walk||5.0km (3.1 miles) away|
Unless otherwise stated the text in this walk is the copyright of Hug Solutions Ltd trading as The Hug and the photographs are the copyright of Elizabeth Oldham. Hill data is derived from Database of British and Irish hills which is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License. Maps contains Ordnance Survey data © Crown copyright and database right 2011 and paths © OpenStreetMap Contributors,CC-BY-SA, 2011