Sunday, 22 July 2012

Scafell Pike Take Two

Did you know that if you start at Wasdale Head to get to the top of Scafell Pike, which is around 3200ft, then you climb 2950 feet(ish). If you start at Pen-y-pass to get to the top of the bigger mountain, Snowdon, which is about 3600ft, you climb 2400 feet? Work that one out!

Today we had to leave Langdale, so we packed up our lovely little tent, filled the car and set off over the rollercoaster, past our starting point yesterday and on to Wasdale Head for another go at Scafell Pike. At the car park, a quick assessment of the weather meant that we donned our wetproof trousers, thicker fleeces and our warm coats. The clouds were covering the tops of the mountains; we couldn’t see the heights of any of them. This was going to be interesting.

Wasdale at the start of our walk
We set off up the well trodden tourist path. Apart from the fact that it’s uphill, (and I’m slow remember), it’s a dead easy path. Clearly marked, with paved steps most of the way up. As I said, the weather wasn’t brilliant, but we got a few pictures of Wasdale and of the route ahead.
The river alongside the tourist path
Looking down towards Wasdale
Effectively, Peter had chosen a not too touristy route, i.e. Route 2 from Routes up Scafell from Wasdale. What this meant is that we took the right fork at Hollow Stones and headed up towards a narrow ridge which connects Scafell with Scafell Pike. As we got higher, we moved into the cloud base and the visibility suddenly reduced dramatically, but this was at exactly the wrong point!
The bottom of the cloud base about 1700ft up
This part of the route is described; “the route climbs one of the scree-filled gullies which drop steeply down from the crest of Mickledore.” Not joking it’s steep! And it is scree..... Small loose scree. And we couldn’t work out which path we should be following, if there was a path at all. With the visibility reduced as it was, we couldn’t see a lot.
OK, we didn't actually climb this scree slope, but ours looked about the same, what we could see through the cloud that covered it anyway. 
We did faff about there for a while, moving from side to side until we worked out which way we were supposed to get up. It was steep, with scree and loose rocks making it difficult underfoot until we reached the crags.  Now we had to select the safest looking gulley to scramble up. Peter did the man stuff and worked out the best way, then suddenly, Hey Presto! We were on top. Thing is, we didn’t know that really, because we couldn't see over the edges. (I think we’ll have to go back, when the suns out.)
Then it was a trudge over all the loose rocks and stones. How good are those people who build all those cairns? True, it was difficult to see them sometimes, but we just followed them, past the MRT storage container, onwards and upwards.
Conditions by now had got quite bad, the wind had picked up, with strong gusts that stopped us in our tracks. Not only that, the mists of the cloud kept fuzzing up my glasses, I couldn’t see through them. We kept going and finally reached the trig point. No views of course, but I knew I was there. Yippee. 
 It was a bit tough staying on our feet though. The gusts of wind were so strong; there was a good risk being pushed over into the rocky ground.. We decided we’d better go down quick.
You are allowed to laugh at this picture, just not in my presence.
I took my glasses off in the end, I had less blur without them, and followed Peter who followed the cairns.  We took the Brown tongue route down, but to be honest, we could have been anywhere, trudging along the well defined path – fortunately, to Hollow Stones, where we followed cairns.  Down, down, down we kept going.  Would we ever get out of this cloud?  We did eventually, at around 1600ft I think.  And suddenly we could see the world again.
But it was still a long way down.  The path is good, but my knees really started to complain as we got to the final few hundred feet.  We could see the car, but it wasn’t getting closer fast enough.  Finally, exhausted, we fell into it, and Peter started on the 2 ½ hour drive home.

I’ve just been to the top of Scafell Pike, the highest point in England.  How cool is that!


  1. Well done!! I am so pleased that you made it to the top of Scafell in such bad weather conditions. You should be really proud of that photograph of you at the trig point!

  2. Thanks Al and Sylvia. I didn't really worry about the weather conditions. I knew where we were - on top of Scafell somewhere. I enjoyed it, wierdly. :-)