Esk Pike

Esk Pike is a fell situated in the English Lake District, one of the great cirque of hills which form the head of Eskdale.

The Southern Fells include some of 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, Bow Fell and Crinkle Crags. As its name suggests Esk Pike stands at the head of the valley, although not the highest of these fells.

To the north west of Esk Pike is the depression known as Esk Hause, a broad saddle carrying a number of important paths. Esk Hause is the north-south route from Borrowdale to Eskdale. There is lower path, sometimes referred to as “False Hause” which runs east-west from Langdale to Wasdale, passing a stone wind shelter.

There are also various paths ascending to the summits of Esk Pike and Allen Crags, together with the popular Calf Cove route to Scafell Pike, all contributing to make Esk Hause a confusing place in fog. The source of the main branch of the Esk flows south from the Hause, while to the north the topography is more complicated. Allen Crags stands apart from the main ridge, with the valleys of Langstrath and Grains Gill falling on either side. These eventually combine some miles downstream to form the River Derwent, flowing through Borrowdale to Derwentwater and Keswick.

South east of the summit of Esk Pike is Ore Gap, the col which separates it from Bow Fell. The soil here is red due to haematite and climbing folklore suggests that magnetic compasses cannot be trusted in this locality. North of the gap is Angle Tarn, which is a feeder of the Langstrath. This round tarn occupies a corrie beneath Hanging Knotts, with small trout living in its 50 ft depths.

South from the summit, Esk Pike throws out a long dropping ridge into the uninhabited fastness of Upper Eskdale. This divides the Esk from its primary upper tributary, Lingcove Beck, which has its beginnings at Ore Gap. Two miles long, this ridge drops over a series of craggy steps to the confluence of the two streams at Lingcove Bridge. An old Packhorse Bridge, this is a main focal point for those approaching from the south, particularly if the Esk is in spate.

The south ridge has a number of subsidiary tops which are recognised by various guidebooks, the main summits being Pike de Bield 2,657 ft, Scar Lathing 1,440 ft and Throstlehow Crag 1,325 ft. Scar Lathing is a particularly impressive structure, presenting sheer cliffs above a bend in the Esk. Although of minor significance Pianet Knott on the eastern side of the ridge also has a very striking appearance hen viewed from lower down the valley.

Laminated volcaniclastic claystones and siltstones of the Esk Pike Formation make up the upper reaches, crossed by an intrusion of andesite and hybridized andesite porphyry.

The summit area is exceptionally stony, striking pale rocks being much in evidence. Steps rise up from Ore Gap whilst the approach from Esk Hause is rough and the subject of erosion. A small cairn on the highest craggy outcrop marks the tallest point. Esk Pike’s central position above Eskdale gives it excellent views of the Scafells, with the Eastern and Northern Fells also forming a fine panorama. Derwentwater and a section of Windermere complete this scenic bliss. To the south, Pike de Bield affords an intimate view of the upper Esk.

Being far from any roads, all climbs of Esk Pike involve considerable distance by Cumbrian standards. From Brotherikeld on the Eskdale road the climber can make a choice between Ore Gap, Esk Hause and the south ridge, all of which are around five and a half miles. Borrowdale gives a choice of starting points, either heading for Esk Hause from Seathwaite, or Ore Gap from Stonethwaite. Access can also be made from Great Langdale, ascending Rossett Gill from the Old Hotel. Many walkers will arrive at the summit indirectly having climbed Bow Fell first, or perhaps climbed from Borrowdale over Glaramara and Allen Crags.

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