Fell Guide: Crinkle Crags


Crinkle Crags from ScafellCrinkle Crags is one of my favourite fells, partly because of its fascinating western slopes, which offer a number of pathless ways to the top but mainly because of its famous summit ridge, with a series of five rocky 'crinkles' to explore, each offering slightly different views.

The fell's basic form is quite simple - it is a long ridge of high ground that runs south from Three Tarns to Wrynose Bottom in the Duddon Valley, with footings in several valleys. What gives the fell its charm is the nature of the summit ridge - instead of rising to a single highest point here the ridge is made up of a whole series of 'crinkles'. Each has roughly the same layout, with dramatic crags to their east and more gentle slopes to the west. A big surprise on the first visit is that the main path actually bypasses a number of the crinkles, all of which should be visited.

Along Crinkle CragsCrinkle Crags faces an unusually large number of valleys. To the west is the valley of Lingcove Beck, a major side-valley of Eskdale. To the east is Oxendale, a side valley of Great Langdale. To the south-west is Moasdale and to the east the valley of Gaitscale Gill, both of which run into the Duddon Valley. The southern end of the Crinkle Crags ridge sits above Wrynose Bottom in the Duddon Valley, although Little Stand, at the southern end of the ridge, is sometimes treated as a separate fell (the valley of Stonesty Gill does form a clear dividing line, but the drop between the top of Little Stand and the start of the main fell is only around 50ft.


Grid Reference of Summit: NY 248 048
Height: 859m/ 2,826ft


Routes of Ascent

Crinkle Crags can be climbed from Great Langdale, Eskdale or the Duddon Valley.

There are two routes from Great Langdale - either up the Band to Three Tarns then turn left or up Oxendale almost as far as Red Tarn and then turn right.

Adam-a-CoveFrom Eskdale the main footpath runs up to Lingcove Bridge, then up Lingcove Beck before heading up and across the side of the fell to Three Tarns, then turn right for Crinkle Crags. It is also possible to climb up the slopes to the south of Swinstey Gill to reach Adam-a-Cove, from where the main path can easily be reached.

You could also use this route from the Duddon after heading up Moasdale to reach Swinsty Gill. The Red Tarn route can be joined from the top of Wrynose Pass using a footpath that starts just to the west of the top. Wainwright includes a route up Little Stand, although I have yet to test that, while the valley of Gaitscale Gill offers a fairly easy (if steep in places) route to the Red Tarn path.


We have an ascent of Crinkle Crags from Eskdale, going up via Adam-a-Cove and returning from Three Tarns.

The Summit

Summit of Crinkle CragsThere are five main 'crinkles' on the ridge. The summit is the second crinkle from the right, and is both higher and larger than the other crinkles. The southern crinkle takes up the longest section of the ridge, while the three northern crinkles are each quite small, but the highest crinkle runs west-east, with the highest point towards the eastern end. The summit itself is rocky but fairly level, and has its own little tarn.

Streams and Tarns

The north-western boundary of the fell is formed by Lingcove Beck, which flows south past the fell before turning west to reach the River Esk. The south-west boundary is formed by Moasdale Beck if one includes Little Stand, or by Stonesty Gill if you don't.

Swinsty GillThe western flank also has two named becks - Swinsty Gill almost in the centre of the western face and Rest Gill nearer the northern end.

The eastern boundary of the fell is formed by Browney Gill (regardless of ones attitude to Cold Pike), which flows north from Red Tarn into Oxendale Beck. Buscoe Sike forms the north-eastern border, flowing south-east into Oxendale Beck.

The eastern crags give birth to several streams, of which Isaac Gill and Crinkle Gill had earned names.

Crinkle Crags is covered with little tarns, almost all of which are nameless. The only named tarns are at Three Tarns, where they are shared with Bow Fell (and rarely number three) and Red Tarn, which could better be claimed by Cold Pike (as with Little Stand, Cold Pike could be seen as a fell in its own right or as an outcropping of Crinkle Crags).

Other Features

The ridge walk along Crinkle Crags only includes one difficult moment, but this is an impressive one - the 'Bad Step', where chock stones block a gully and walker is forced to climb a 10ft cliff. Many walkers do just this, but thankfully there is an easy way around it - head west to find an alternative path that bypasses the Bad Step, and approaches the summit from the west.

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