A long time coming
The Mrs. and I have always wanted to climb Scafell Pike but the English weather was so patchy every time we went to the Lake District that we just seemed to keep putting it off. Finally, after about 10 visits to the Lakes we had a stretch of sunny weather over Easter weekend 2006.
Normally, we stay at the Royal Oak hotel in Borrowdale after making the long drive to the Lakes but this year they were full up over Easter so we stayed next door at the posher Scafell Hotel. We’ve always liked the Royal Oak but the Scafell sure had its comforts. Most important of which was their excellent food. We felt a bit sheepish eating in their formal dining room in our hiking gear but we soon forgot about that after tucking into their excellent meals and having to contend with the Mrs' morning sickness.
After having a full English breakfast we made the short drive to the farm at Seathwaite and parked behind about 10 other cars. The Mrs. morning sickness was bothering her a bit but after getting kitted up and doing a few stretches she felt good enough to start the hike.
From cow dung to mountain grandeur
The Mrs and Taylorgill Force
We began the hike by walking through the farmyard and then across a stream. There were quite a few people camping in one of the pastures we passed but we were much happier to be in the Scafell hotel as the pasture was mucky and smelly. I've always enjoyed camping in the US but I have yet to come to grips with the English style of camping in pastures full of sheep and cow dung!
The hike continued through some lowland pastures and bogs and then we reached a deep valley cut through by a stream and waterfall. We made our way up the valley walls and even encountered a few sections of scrambling along the way. The valley was quite rugged and the Taylorgill Force waterfall impressively clove the it's upper reaches.
We made our way up past the Taylor Gill Force falls and soon topped out to an awe inspiring site. Styhead Tarn lay ahead of us at the foot of the Scafell range. The tops of the range were enveloped in snow and clouds and were an impressive sight to behold. The Mrs. was getting a bit cold and tired at this point so we took a short break so she could eat and put on another layer. We then walked along the edge of the tarn before picking up the Corridor Route which would lead us to the summit.
Ill Crag, Scafell Pike and Lingmell rising spectaculary above Styhead Tarn
A very foggy summit
At this point we had a long steep slog through rocky paths to the summit. We were supposed to take a left after about 3/4 of a mile past the tarn but I couldn't see any distinct paths that headed that direction. The Mrs. thought she may have seen something but she wasn't 100% sure either. So we carried on the direction that we were heading up some steep rocky terrain before we ran into a broad scree covered gully. After looking at our map it looked like we had ended up between Broad Crag and Scafell Pike. We were a fair bit off course hear so even though the Mrs. hates scree we made our way up the gully to gain the summit ridge. As soon as we hit the ridge we saw hordes off people ascending and descending the final 200 vertical ft to the summit. The ridge itself was snow covered and steep so we carefully picked our way to the top and joined a few other people on top of the large summit cairn.
Typically, what had started as a sunny day had turned very foggy by the time we reached the summit. I'm sure the views from Scafell are impressive but we couldn't pick out many of the neighbouring summits as the fog was so thick. We didn't hang around for too long as we the summit was so damp so after a few minutes we made our descent back along the ridge. We were doing a horseshoe climb so fortunately our descent route did not require us to downclimb the scree gully that we had scrambled up.
Great Gable from Scafell Pike
Once we passed the gully we hiked through a section strewn with boulders and cairns that eventually culminated in a grassy plateau. It doesn't happen all that often but the Mrs. actually had us go the wrong direction once we had hiked along the plateau. We took a right instead of a left at a trail junction and started hiking down a slope into a valley. It looked the wrong direction to me but once we hit the head of the valley we met another gent hiking and he confirmed that we did take a wrong turn. So with me trying not to gloat we turned back around and started slogging back up to the intersection. We met some Polish girls coming down the slope who had also taken the wrong turn so we had them follow us to the trail junction and we made sure we all took the proper turn this time. Our position afforded us some really nice views of Great Gable which was another big mountain on our tick list for the next time we are in the Lakes.
From there on we walked down a ravine called Ruddy Gill. The scenery in Rudy Gill was quintessentially English, with steep grassy slopes and a deep stream that ran through the bottom of the ravine. We took our time descending the steep sided ravine and eventually made it to the base of the valley and worked our way back through the farm to get to the car.
We had waited a long time to climb this mountain and despite our two wrong turns and the Mrs. morning sickness it was a great climb. Scafell Pike was quite a work out and I was much impressed that my pregnant wife was able to scale it. We'll look forward to telling our son he climbed the highest mountain in England before he was even born!
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