The Route from Cockley Beck
Anyone beginning the drive over Hardknott Pass from Cockley Beck today, may have noticed a blue Citroen parked near the start of the pass, with a sign in the back saying Easy Way Up. Do not believe everything you read. The author did not in fact drive over the pass - nor does he have any intention of doing so, preferring to have 2 feet on the ground in places like this.
Following the road for a couple of hundred yards, I watched the expressions on the faces of motorists seeing the pass ahead for the first time and was reminded of people waiting to get on a particularly scary roller coaster or do a bungy jump. The mixture of excitement, apprehension and pure terror!
I left the road on a track to the right and followed this gradually up the open fellside heading into the lonely side valley of Mosedale, with the river on my right and rugged fellsides rising on both sides. After a short ascent the valley opened out into a wide grassy area with views ahead to the Scafell Range, the jagged peaks looking dramatic under the moving cloud shadows and bright sunlight. This valley progressed towards a low pass which could be seen ahead and was delightful walking country though it became wet underfoot just before the pass was reached. Following the slightly higher path to the left avoided the worst of this and I was soon on the pass, which doesn't appear to have a name, enjoying the view into the Upper Eskdale region. In fact the valley here is that of Lingcove Beck and is a tributary valley to the Esk itself.
The whole region is virtually wilderness and probably the remotest part of the Lake District. True fellwalkers' country this - no roads penetrate here and the buzzards soar above countless crags and outcrops that see few visitors. Needless to say that it's one of my favorite parts of the Lakes. The pass is a grassy saddle with just a fence and stile to indicate man's presence. It doesn't seem to have a name either - how about Mosedale hause? Onwards I went and down a short distance to where Lingcove Beck meandered between the rocks. Here a path crosses the beck and heads off towards the area of Sampson's Stones below Scafell and Mickledore but my way led right to follow the beck upstream.
Heading more or less towards the prominent peak of Bowfell, I followed the path up valley for no more than a mile where it appeared to fork with the right branch heading up towards Three Tarns and the fainter branch continuing along Lingcove Beck. This right branch climbed gradually then more steeply and after a stony ravine-like stream bed was crossed, the ground became steep and bouldery as Three Tarns was approached. The going became harder for a while until the land levelled out all of a sudden and there was Langdale below on the far side of the ridge. Here too were the day's first groups of walkers who had ascended from Langdale. I paused for a while by one of the tarns - only 2 are prominent - the third appears as a damp hollow rather than a Tarn.
From here the route to Bowfell was obvious - a none too pleasant eroded track led up roughly southwards from the col. Once past the steep section it got better though with fine rock scenery in the area of Cambridge Crag and Flat Crags. This side of the mountain provides an impressive vantage point from which to view the Langdale Pikes opposite.
The path led past the peak of Bowfell and up round the back on easier ground. Here were some wonderful views of the peaks around the top of Eskdale, with Scafell Pike presenting its most rugged side across the wilderness of Upper Eskdale. The ridge continued to Esk Pike and Esk Hause while in the other direction was Boot in the valley almost 3000 feet below with the Irish Sea beyond. Unfortunately haze obscured the distant views of the central Lakes to the east.
Returning by the same route found me back at Three Tarns where I again left the groups and the beaten track to thread my lonely way back down the far side of the col towards Eskdale. An option for today was to continue south along the fabulous ridge of Crinkle Crags with its many craggy summits, a way which would have brought me to the mysteriously named Adam a Cove just after reaching the highest peak. From there, I could descend to the grassy col at the head of Mosedale avoiding the crags. Time didn't permit today though so I was soon back on the enjoyable path following Lingcove Beck down towards Eskdale.
Back up the short ascent to Mosedale Hause or the nameless grassy col - whichever it is to be. It's a wonderfully tranquil spot I thought, as I rested and took a last look back towards Bowfell and the Scafell Range. That view will not have changed since the Romans occupied the fort just the far side of Hardknott. There are not many such places in the Lakes in summer.