Saturday, 8 June 2013

Scafell Pike & Lingmell

GPS Track
Date: 08/06/2013
From: Wasdale NT Campsite

Parking: Wasdale NT Campsite
Start Point: Wasdale NT Campsite
Region: Southern Fells

Route length: 8.2 miles (13.2km)
Time taken: 4:29
Average speed: 1.8mph
Ascent: 1091m
Descent: 1106m

Wainwrights on this walk:
Scafell Pike (978m), Lingmell (807m)

Additional summits: None

Other points of interest: Sty Head, Corridor Route, Lingmell Crag

Route: Wasdale NT Campsite, Wasdale Head, Bursting Knott, Sty Head, Spout Head, Corridor Route, Dropping Crag, Scafell Pike, Lingmell Col, Lingmell, Lingmell Gill, Brackenclose

This was it, after a number of years walking it was time to take on the highest point in England, Scafell Pike. I walked this with a group of friends for the WaterAid200 Challenge, an annual mountain climbing event that raises money for water projects in Nepal. It's a great charity and gives me the excuse to climb a mountain in the name of a good cause. Once again, we were blessed with splendid hill walking weather, albeit it being a bit hazy. The forecast for the day was to stay clear and warm all day. Ideal.

Staying at the National Trust campsite at Wasdale meant we arrived the evening before to the glorious view of Yewbarrow, Great Gable and Lingmell just after the sun had set. Even though not part of the walk, I thought I'd add the picture anyway.
The legendary view down Wastwater that forms the image on the National Park's logo
The walk began with a stroll along to Wasdale Head and then beyond to Wasdale Fell and Moses' Trod, a path that leads into the valley of Lingmell Beck. Lingmell Beck is the result of a number of hillside streams joining at the head of the valley and feeds into Wast Water before flowing out the other side as a full blown river, the River Irt. We'd be crossing many of the upland streams on the route that I'd chosen that takes you along the Corridor Route underneath Great End and Broad Crag. More about that later.
A warm, hazy Great Gable greets us at Wasdale Head
Moses' Trod leads you into the valley
As we entered the valley, the sheltering effect of the high valley sides lead to a noticeable increase in temperature and exertion as we climbed up towards Bursting Knott. The path here is easy to follow and climbs steadily up the very lower flanks of Great Gable, underneath The Napes. There is an additional path along the valley floor that we avoided as it would mean a steeper climb at the end. Slow and steady wins the race, or so they say. Climbing past Bursting Knott, Scafell Pike appears for the first time, across the valley. It still looks an awfully long way up.
Sara leads the way up Bursting Knott, Wasdale Head and Yewbarrow can be seen in the distance
Scafell Pike can be seen poking it's head up across the valley
Passing Bursting Knott, we continued the climb up past Toad How to Sty Head. The tarn here certainly looked appealing for a quick dip but we had to small matter of the Corridor Route and Scafell Pike to tend to. Sty Head is a mountain pass that is a real cross roads of the Lakes. Paths from Wasdale, Eskdale, Borrowdale and Great Langdale all meet at Sty Head and there is a real variety of routes you can take from it. It is also a relative safety point between Great Gable and Scafell Pike, hence it being home to a Wasdale Mountain Rescue stretcher box. It's here we made a right turn to head towards Spout Head and the start of the Corridor Route.
The tarn at Sty Head
The point at Sty Head where the path splits right at the cairn to join the Corridor Route
The Corridor Route, similar in some ways to the Climbers Traverse on Bowfell, is a path cut into the side of the northern slopes of the range. Wainwright describes it as 'the easiest of all routes to the Pike' as well as being 'interesting throughout'. He was certainly not wrong. The path takes you from Sty Head to the foot of Broad Crag, while climbing some 250m along its length. It also includes a couple of gill crossings while keeping you entertained with stunning views of Lingmell, Lingmell Crags, Piers Gill and Wasdale. It is also noticeably quieter than many of the so-called tourists routes, as we'd find out a bit later.
The Corridor Route can be seen snaking up through the centre of the picture
The path crosses one of a number of streams including Greta Gill and Piers Gill
The scramble down into Greta Gill
Crossing Greta Gill
The view of Lingmell and Great Gable from the Corridor Route
The scenery explodes into view as you climb out underneath Broad Crag
I had been a bit concerned about the Corridor Route and it's suitability for non-walkers and, in my opinion, it offers no real challenge to any able bodied person or anyone with a fear of exposure and steep drops. There are some scrambly parts but I think they enhance the excitement of the route. If you are reading this considering the Corridor Route, I urge you to do it.

The final part of the ascent involves the first really steep bit of climbing up the scree between Broad Crag and Scafell Pike. It's here that we start to encounter the large number of walkers ascending and descending from the summit.
The path leads to the head of Greta Gill. We took the path to the left, up the scree.
Climbing out to meet the path from Broad Crag
It becomes obvious how popular Scafell Pike is
Turning right at the top of the scree leads you to another brief climb that takes you onto the plateau of the summit of Scafell Pike. The summit is actually owned by the National Trust after it was donated to them in 1919 by Lord Leaconfield as a memorial to the men of the Lakes District "who fell for God and King, for freedom, peace and right in the Great War". After a few hours of climbing from Wasdale, we'd reached the top of England and what a great feeling that is. We took our turn to be photographed on the summit platform before finding a quieter spot for lunch.
Sara and I atop Scafell Pike, sporting matching WaterAid branding
The busy summit of Scafell Pike
The views from Scafell are extensive but do suffer a bit due to it's relative lack of prominence. A quick excursion to the south eastern edge of the plateau reveals a panorama including Eskdale, Bowfell, Crinkle Crags and the Southern Fells. A trip to the north reveals LingmellGreat Gable and the high Northern Fells of Skiddaw and Blencathra in the distance. It was surprising to find no one venturing over the the extremities of the summit and I'd recommend heading in these directions to leave the crowds and improve the views.
Bowfell, Crinkle Crags and the Southern Fells from Scafell Pike
The impressive lump that is Scafell including Broad Stand, Mickledore and Lord's Rake
After refreshing ourselves with a variety of sandwiches and snacks, we continued our route towards Lingmell by dropping down onto the very busy path adjacent to Dropping Crag that leads directly up from Wasdale. We passed several groups asking how far the summit was, it seemed that despite its popularity, this route was more taxing on the legs than ours from Sty Head. The warmth of the afternoon was also starting to creep up.
The view across Lingmell Col to Lingmell and Great Gable
I'd been recommended a visit Lingmell on our way down and so we did. Crossing Lingmell Col and then climbing 60 or so metres gets you to the summit of Lingmell and I assure you, the additional effort was definitely worth it. The views are spectacular. Uninterrupted views of Great Gable to the north, the entire Scafell massif to the southeast and the sheers crags of Piers Gill to the northeast. The summit was also devoid of any other hikers as many are attracted instead to Scafell and Scafell Pike. It's a shame we didn't wait half an hour or so and stop for lunch here.
Posing with the view from Lingmell across Sty Head, all the way down Borrowdale
Lingmell Crag and Piers Gill
The Scafells from Lingmell
From Lingmell, the return route to the campsite is very straightforward, if not a little taxing on the knees. The path that leads to the summit continues west down the grassy sloping banks of Lingmell to arguable one of the finest views of Wasdale.
Wasdale including Illgill Head, Whin Rigg, Yewbarrow, the Mosedale valley and Kirk Fell
'I've been there'. Sara points out the Mosedale horseshoe
Despite the relative lack of height, the steep slopes create a feeling of standing right on top of everything that you can see in the valley below and also gives a great view of the classic Mosedale horseshoe, a walk I completed in 2012 with Sara and my folks (and dog). After a few minutes spent soaking in the views and making some running repairs, we marched down the rest of the hill to reach Lingmell Beck and return to the campsite. We could still see a number of people beginning their ascent up the path next to Lingmell Beck late into the afternoon, a testimony to the popularity of Scafell Pike (if that was to be their destination).
A line of walkers on the path up Lingmell Beck
Being my first trip up Scafell Pike, I got a great sense of achievement reaching the very top of our small country. Modest by most mountain standards, the climb still requires a great deal of effort which is easily outweighed by the satisfaction of knowing that, for one brief moment, you are the highest person in England (I made sure I stood on what looked like the highest part of the platform on the summit). It was also heartening to hear that the group I was climbing with (most of whom don't do a great deal of walking) enjoyed their day out while raising several hundred pounds for WaterAid.