England’s highest mountain.
What’s not to love?
Sca Fell and Scafell Pike had been calling our names since we climbed Snowdon the previous summer. We love our weekend hikes and walks – especially when Holly comes along for the adventure too. The chance to sink our teeth into something a little bigger was tempting us and so we finally found a weekend that worked, booked a hotel and prepared to attack the peaks.
When climbing or hiking anywhere deciding a route is important. So, we took a while to decide the route. The shortest and most straightforward way up Scafell Pike is to start from the National Trust Lakehead car park in Wasdale and ascend from there. It’s one of the more popular routes – which didn’t appeal to us. So we set ourselves the challenge of an 18 mile trek starting from the Woolpack Inn near Eskdale. We knew it would be tough – but were feeling eager and refreshed.
It has the most stunning beginning – driving from Grasmere over the Hardknott Pass was incredible! The views – and the road – insane but amazing! If you’ve got a car you trust – definitely give it a go. It’s like a tarmac rollercoaster.
We parked up at the Woolpack – it promised pizza and cold beer – so was a welcoming beacon to walk home to. Boots on, bags packed we were off. We started well and found the path up to Eel Tarn easily enough. The weather was muggy and overcast and the path was boggy from all of the rain but it was fairly clear and before long we’d found the tarn. The skies started to clear and we were greeted with glorious sunshine. We couldn’t have been more lucky. Climbing mountains is tough, but its so much easier in good weather. There weren’t many other people out walking, although at one point we were swiftly overtaken by a fell runner and started to feel rather slow!
From Eel Tarn we lost the path. The heavy rain for the previous week had made everything boggy, so every step was sucking our boots into the mud. It was hard to see where we were supposed to ascend so we just kept heading up and up until hoping to see Stony Tarn which would give us our next marker on the map. We found a high point and could see Stony Tarn, so we knew we were on the right path. It was from here we got completely lost trying to find the ascent up to Slight Side – and decided to stop for some lunch. Hungry walkers make for grumpy walkers and we refuelled on home made sandwiches and Grasmere Gingerbread.
By this time we’d been walking for about three hours and were 80% sure we were on the right path – we’d had a million consultations with our map and compass but we were going up, and up and up. I’m not going to lie – I was starting to get tired. Becky plus three hours of uphill wasn’t a good mix. Hence why there are no photos from this part of the walk. I was more focused on putting one foot in front of the other than enjoying what was around us. It was hard going!
We started to worry we’d lost our bearings when we spotted some more walkers ahead and this helped us identify the path up Horn Crag and Slight side which we needed to ascend to get onto Sca Fell.
It is a bloody good job that the views are amazing! The climb up Horn Crag was HARD!!! Talk about legs burning and muscles on fire, I was exhausted! I wouldn’t have rated my fitness as too bad – we’re fairly active, walk most weekends – but my lord! It was tough! I really had to push through the mental block and keep going. It was sheer uphill! Thankfully my walking buddy was there to encourage and laugh at me when needed.
The walk along Slight Side and Long Green to the summit of Sca Fell was excellent! The best part of the walk in my opinion. Plus, we could now see Scafell Pike the whole way so we knew we were getting closer and closer to our goal. We were full of excitement, loved the little bit of snow that was left behind and were now fully enjoying the glorious weather.
At this point I’d already put on three layers of suncream – but as is the ginger curse – I was already roasted! There’s a definite shade of pink going on here. Thankfully, I didn’t know how much I was going to be suffering the next day.
Maybe it was all the excitement of FINALLY being able to see Scafell Pike that threw off our sense of direction – but it was here we made our biggest mistake. We missed the turning onto Foxes Tarn and ended up heading onto Broad Stand. Argh!
Broad Stand is bad news. Bad, bad news. It’s a series of rock steps and slabs which link Scafell to Mickledore onto Scafell Pike. It has been described by some as a scramble but is difficult and should not be under estimated. It has large drops and an unforgiving landing – in the event of a fall. By the time we realised where we were – we’d already started to descend the steps and the snow and ice started to get slippy. We knew we’d made a mistake when we saw that Mickledore below us and some climbers looking up with worried faces.
This was the first time I got really scared about our route and how we were going to get down… or back up. There were a couple of steps we’d dropped down that were too steep to climb back up. It was a frightening scramble – but as I’m sure you’ve worked out – as I’m writing this up – we survived – just. There was some pushing and shoving from Mike and some heaving from me and after some bumps and bruises we managed to get back up onto Sca Fell. By the time we’d found our way to the Foxes Tarn descent it was 5pm. We’d been walking for eight hours and the light was beginning to drop.
The scramble back up to Mickledore did not look appealing. It was rocky, loose and tough. We had to make the devastating decision to head down. With Sca Fell Pike mocking us we had to turn on our heels and descend. We spent half an hour trudging along feeling defeated before we realised that actually, we’d been up Sca Fell, we’d spent the whole day walking in glorious sunshine and we were doing alright really.
We finished off our gingerbread, pushed on for the next two hours past Cam Spout Crag, the lower side of Great Moss, Scale Bridge, through Taw House Farm before we finally sighted the lovely, lovely chimneys of the Woolpack Inn.
What did we learn?
- Maps are useful, but not foolproof
- Boggy weather makes paths hard to find
- A good days walking is something to be celebrated
- Anything that ends with beer and pizza is amazing
- Driving back over Hardknott Pass in the dark – terrifying!
- Will we go back – of course!