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Scafell and Scafell Pike from Seathwaite
Statistics:
Map of the walk
Start:
Seathwaite Farm
Start (OS ref):
NY235122
Map (1:25,000):
OL4 The English Lakes North West
OL6 The English Lakes South West
Parking:
Road verges near the farm
Distance:
11 miles (17.5 km)
Time:
7 - 10 hours
Difficulty:
Very Hard with fairly strenuous scrambling both up and down
Climbing:
1,639 metres
Hazards:
Constant care needed particularly in Lord's Rake and on the Foxes Tarn.
Refreshments:
None
Summary: This is a glorious walk. I find this route to the highest point in England very special. There is so much to enjoy including Stockley Beck, Stockley Bridge, Taylor Gill Force, Styhead Tarn, Lingmell, Pulpit Rock, Lord's Rake, the views to Wast Water, Sca Fell, Foxes Tarn, Mickledore, Broad Stand, Scafell Pike itself, the waterfalls, Broad Crag, Great End, Esk Hause and the walk back to Seathwaite which provides superb views of the Borrowdale valley. The walk is not overly long at 11 miles but it is strenuous. There is over 1,500 metres of climbing to do! The fantastic views are amongst the best England can offer and of course the achievement at the end of it all is particularly satisfying. Just hope for good weather conditions when you do this walk to appreciate it all for there is no doubt that the walk is so much better when you can see the sights this classic has to offer.

Elevation profile of the Scafell Pike walk

Prologue:

I have done this walk three times but never had there been better conditions than the time I did it in the company of Jez, Deke and Spud on 18 October 2003. We were all well fed, refreshed and raring to go on the walk as we had based ourselves in delightful cottage near Seathwaite found through Cumbria Cottages. There wasn't a cloud in the sky and it was unbelievably warm for the time of year. The photographs in this report were taken during this autumn walk when we had the most fantastic days walking. The walk was a tough one as we chose to tackle both Sca Fell and Scafell Pike. The Sca Fell ascent was done by scrambling down from Mickledore to Lord's Rake then back up the Rake to the Sca Fell plateau. Then we had a scramble down Foxes Tarn to contend with and another scramble back up to Mickledore. These challenges ate into the time we had to complete the walk and despite setting off at 10.30am we finished in the dark over eight hours later. Be prepared for a full day out on the fells if you choose to follow this exciting route. And be prepared to get tired for this is the first walk I have ever done with Deke where I have seen him admit to being absolutely knackered at the end of it. The walk had taken its toll on his legs and I'd never witnessed that before. It's tough.


The Story of the Walk:

Styhead Pass
Styhead Gill and Scafell Pike
Superb views of the Scafell range at Styhead
Walking alongside Styhead Gill

There are various ways to tackle the Scafell peaks. My favourite way is from the farmstead at the terminus of the road at Seathwaite in Borrowdale. The start is brilliant in itself, the first mile being a delightful easy stroll to Stockley Bridge. Whilst doing this warm up I am always drawn by the sound to my right and watch the crystal clear water cascading over the rocks of Grains Gill. It is a beautiful sight to behold and the gentle gradient to the bridge eases the legs into the days walking. Relax a moment on the bridge and enjoy the sights and sounds around you because after crossing the bridge and walking straight on through a gate. After Stockley the next half mile is the first exerting climb on the quest to reach the highest point in England. The ascent is from around 150m to 400m in no time at all although it doesn't look too hard when you are doing it. I promise the unwary walker though, you will feel it by now.

Styhead and Lakeland
Scrambling on the Corridor Route to Scafell Pike
Spud looks back to Styhead from Stand Crag
A first taste of scrambling on the Corridor

At 400m you resume a level path to Styhead Tarn, a place that can be tranquil in clement conditions but not a place to dwell if the weather has closed in. Here the walker has the first views of the Scafell peaks, an inspiration to move onwards. Shortly after leaving Styhead Tarn turn 90 degrees to the left and then a couple of hundred yards on turn 90 degrees to the right to tackle the Corridor Route that will lead you to Mickledore. The Corridor Route is rocky in places and at one point there is a steep scramble down a rocky ledge where you are required to use your hands as well as your legs. In wet conditions the going can be a little tricky for the inexperienced walker but with care most people will manage this obstacle with little problem. The advantage to this route is that the extra bonus of a diversion to Lingmell is an easy one and one we took as it provides the best unbroken views of the Wasdale valley.

Having a rest amid great views at Lingmell Col
Lakeland majesty
Having a rest amid great views at Lingmell Col
Lakeland majesty

Adjacent to Lingmell you reach a junction on the Corridor Route where straight on leads to Scafell Pike and the right fork takes a path down to Hollow Stones and then Lingmell Gill which flows into the western end of Wast Water. Take the right fork for a while but when it starts to lose height traverse the contours of Pikes Crag until you reach Pulpit Rock with Mickledore dead ahead just below you. Drop down to the Mickledore ridge that links Scafell with Scafell Pike. You will know when you are there for there is a large rescue box halfway along the ridge. The next challenge is to scramble down the edge of Mickledore where it abuts Broad Stand to the beginning of Lord's Rake.

Wast Water from Pulpit Rock
Scrambling up Lords Rake
Wast Water from Pulpit Rock
"Hold on guys!" on the scramble up Lord's Rake

Lord's Rake is a favourite of mine. It is a steep gully and a tough hurdle to overcome as scree baulks your steps and slows progress. The end result is worth the effort, truly fantastic as you step out of the Rake and by walking a little to your right you will get the most exhilarating birds eye view of Wast Water. Dwell a little here and then go onto Sca Fell itself. Hit the top at a lofty 964 metres and move on, the Pike awaits. Cross to the right of Broadstand and drop down to Foxes Tarn continuing past this small tarn down the gully until you reach a path that takes you back up to Mickledore with Broad Stand to your left. The descent is tough but there is no other way to get back to Mickledore.

On Scafell
Brlad Stand and Mickledore
"We have climbed Lord's Rake, yippee!"
Broad Stand and Mickledore

From Mickledore move straight up to the Pike. Now the deed is done, the highest point in England is reached and weather permitting a good place to take stock of your achievement and enjoy a food break. I always look forward to the treat. There are several ways to get home depending on how you feel at the top. The best route back to Seathwaite is by leaving Scafell Pike in a north easterly direction down to a gully and then directly up to Broad Crag. You can scramble to the rocky top if you like or round the top to your right and continue in the direction of Great End. There iare opportunities galore to peak bag here for Great End stands at a proud 910 metres. Furthermore Ill Crag, the 4th highest of all in England at 935 metres is easily achievable being only 300 metres south west of Broad Crag.

Approaching Scafell Pike
Celebrating on Scafell Pike
The tops of Lakeland peaks from on Scafell Pike
Enjoy the moment on England's highest point

If you choose to bag Great End you will need to backtrack to the path where it forks off due east to Esk Hause. Whatever direction you have taken off Scafell Pike you will need to be here eventually. From Esk Hause where paths cross you must walk north east down to a shelter where another path crosses. Here the walk is continued by heading north west towards Sprinkling Tarn and Sty Head. Leave the path by taking a right turn just before Sprinkling Tarn and head back to Stockley Bridge by following Grains Gill downstream. From the bridge you simply retrace your earlier steps back to the start. And once you finish the walk scream with delight. You have deserved it!

Scrambling on Broad Crag
The Walking Englishman in the Lake District
Jez scrambles up to the top of Broad Crag
I celebrate a job well done, it's all downhill now

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