Saturday, 15 June 2013

Scafell via Lord's Rake

GPS Track
Date: 15/06/2013
From: Wasdale National Trust Campsite

Parking: Wasdale National Trust Campsite
Start Point: Wasdale National Trust Campsite
Region: Southern Fells

Route length: 7.0 miles (11.2km)
Time taken: 3:46
Average speed: 1.9mph
Ascent: 1061m
Descent: 1061m

Wainwrights on this walk:
Scafell (964m)

Additional summits: None

Other points of interest: Lord's Rake, Burnmoor Tarn

Route: Wasdale NT Campsite, Brackenclose, Hollow Stones, Mickledore, Lord's Rake, Scafell, Hard Rigg, Burnmoor Tarn, Maiden Castle

For a more up to date post regarding Lord's Rake with better photos, please head on over here.

The chockstone has recently collapsed (August 2106) so caution is advised if you aim to tackle Lord's Rake

Another weekend in Wasdale, another Scafell to climb. This time, the actual Scafell, as opposed to it's bigger brother, Scafell Pike. The challenge here would be tackling Lord's Rake, a gully that climbs to the summit of Scafell. I'd read up about this with some trepidation and the variety of comments seemed to suggest it's steep. VERY steep. With lots of loose scree and rocks. And a precariously balanced rock at the top. What's not to like and what better way to reach the summit of the number two mountain in England? I must point out that some of these pics are courtesy of one of the other walkers in our group as my camera has decided it doesn't really like being bashed about any more.
Scafell from Scafell Pike. Lord's Rake is the vertical line of scree to the right of the picture
Unlike the previous two weekends in the Lakes, my luck with the weather final came to an end. Low clouds shrouded the higher summits for both days and rain lashed down during the evenings. Luckily, the rain held off while we were in the hills which was a welcome relief as the forecast had been terrible but improved slightly as the weekend approached.

To ascend Scafell via Lord's Rake, we first had to climb up to get there. Starting from the campsite, we headed up the main path next to Lingmell Beck which takes most of the walking traffic up to Scafell Pike. The climbing is steady and the view of Wasdale behind improves as you gain altitude. The path itself, however, is fairly uninteresting, thanks to it's location within the valley of Lingmell Beck. Not before long, we had reached the point where we needed to leave the main route and head towards Lord's Rake.

The well laid path the leads up towards Scafell from Wasdale
The cairn pinpoints the location where the paths split
As we climbed further, we reached the cloud base and ventured in. So much for any views today. We continued upwards still, until we reached the base of Mickledore and Broad Stand, the narrow pass that connects Scafell to Scafell Pike (though it's difficult to cross without the aid of equipment). As there is no marked path on the map to the foot of Lord's Rake, we spent the next half hour or so slowly traversing the steep sides following some careful navigation aided by the GPS.
The steep, slippery slopes we crossed
Oblivion awaits below
A rare picture of me in action
We eventually reached the more substantial Rakes Progress route that leads to the foot of Lord's Rake. Appearing out of the gloom, it certainly looked menacing, particularly as the top was still hidden within the cloud. Despite initial appearances, I don't believe it is any more difficult than many routes you can encounter across the region. Taking a few minutes to let a pair of other walkers climb before us, we surveyed it one last time and strode out into the gloom.
The foot of Lord's Rake shrouded in the low clouds
It was impossible to see the top through the clouds
Starting the climb, we kept to the right of the gully as it's suggested that there are more handholds there and the going is generally easier. Once you're on the scree, it's apparent that, though it is steep, it's not as steep as it appears from afar. The stones are loose and are easily dislodged but a firm grip on the rocks to the right helped with any sense that the ground was about to slip away without notice. After a few minutes climbing, it was now possible to see the ominous chock stone at the top.
A view up the rake from a safe haven
Our gang discuss the next move
The chock stone emerges at the top
The stone (about the size of a white van) you can see leaning against the top of the gully in the picture above was originally a pinnacle of rock that broke off and wedged itself in 2001, forcing the National Trust to issue a warning that the rake was unsafe. It's estimated that an area of rock no larger than an A4 piece of paper is what is stopping the stone tumbling to the bottom. Since the original fall, it appears to be reasonable stable but I imagine a few more harsh winters might eventually loosen its grip.
Climbing up towards the chockstone
After crossing underneath (or around) the chockstone, you can see the small area where the two rocks touch
After the exhilarating climb up the initial scree and passing the chockstone, it was a surprise to find that this was only the halfway point of Lord's Rake. So much is written about the steep scree section that the rest seems to be ignored. The path continues to traverse the mountain side before a short climb leads you to the top of another scree fall. This time, a short descent is required and is fairly easy going, being less steep than the original climb up. A final climb brings you out at the foot of Symonds Knott, above Scafell Crag.
Lord's Rake continues into the distance after the chock stone
The top of Lord's Rake above Scafell Crag
After the thrill of the rake, a short climb is required to reach the summit where a pair of cold looking fell race marshals were there to greet us. As you can see from the weather, there are no views to describe but I'm sure they're particularly good, especially as you'd get to peer across the busy summit of Scafell Pike from the quiet isolation of it's overlooked neighbour. Here's the standard summit pose.....
The second highest man in England (maybe)
To descend, we headed west off the rocky summit towards the gradually sloping western flanks of Scafell. The first 150m of descent is fairly rocky and care is required not to slip or take a wrong step on the jumbled stones. After that, the path becomes less steep as you descend to the head of Hardrigg Gill at 510m. By now we had dropped out of the clouds and could see our next destination, Burnmoor Tarn, in the distance.
The rocky section at the start of the descent
'It's over there'. Burnmoor Tarn is the next objective
Following the valley of Hardrigg Gill leads you to Burnmoor Tarn, not before giving your boots a good soaking in the boggy ground. A walk in the Lakes isn't complete without a bog crossing. Burnmoor Tarn's name actually means Burial Mound Tarn, I assume this is a result of it being on an old corpse road between Wasdale Head and Boot. It is thought to be the third largest tarn in the Lake District.
The shores of Burnmoor Tarn
After leaving the peaceful shores of Burnmoor Tarn, we headed north to finish the descent into Wasdale Head. The path here is easy to follow and has several cairns to mark its location. Passing a large stone circle called Maiden Castle on the OS map the path leads you to Straighthead Gill where it passes a wood copse and some abandoned stone buildings on its route into Wasdale Head and back to the campsite.
Maiden Castle with Scafell in the background
The old corpse road as it descends back to Wasdale Head
Some abandoned buildings line the route back to Wasdale Head
Despite my initial apprehension of climbing Lord's Rake I'm glad I did it. It's a fantastic climb, made all the more atmospheric in our case by the low cloud (I'm sure this also shielded it's precarious position on the side of Scafell). In some ways it almost overshadows reaching the actual summit of Scafell which is a testament to it's level of excitement. I'd highly recommend it to anyone who is looking to add a bit of adventure to their walks. In my opinion it's not as steep or as difficult as many reports make out and your confidence certainly grows as you climb higher.

It's arguably one of best ways for regular walkers to reach the second highest summit in England.