Tuesday, 26 May 2015

Scafell & Slight Side via Lord's Rake and the West Wall Traverse

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Route: Brackenclose, Lingmell Gill, Brown Tongue, Hollow Stones, Lord's Rake, West Wall Traverse, Deep Gill, Symonds Knott, Scafell, Long Green, Slight Side, Green How, Hollow Gill, Corpse Road, Brackenclose

Date: 26/05/2015
From: Wasdale Head

Parking: Wasdale Head
Start Point: Brackenclose
Region: Western Fells

Route length: 6.7 miles (7.8 km)
Time taken: 03:40
Average speed: 1.8 mph
Ascent: 985m
Descent: 990m

Wainwrights on this walk:
Scafell (964m), Slight Side (762m)

Other Summits: Symonds Knott (959m)

Other points of interest: Lord's Rake, West Wall Traverse, Deep Gill

It appears that my previous post on Lord's Rake is far and away the most popular, certainly if the stats are to be believed. Indeed, before I did it the first time I spent may hours trawling over posts and photographs to see what the deal was. We were back to tackle Lord's Rake once again, this time with a much better forecast but also a slightly different agenda - the West Wall Traverse. More about that in detail later.

The chock stone has recently collapsed (August 2016) so caution is advised if you aim to tackle Lord's Rake

At the end of three days of fine fell walking, we decided to top it off by visiting the best of the Scafell range, Scafell itself. Not to be confused with the higher Scafell Pike, Scafell is only marginally smaller but is infinitely more interesting and challenging to climb, largely thanks to the wall of rock that bars the way from Mickledore, that being Broad Stand. In fact, there are only a few routes accessible to regular walkers from Wasdale; one of which is the famous Lord's Rake.

We left the campsite with an improving forecast ahead of us which is always a bonus; fingers crossed we would time our arrival at the summit with the break in the weather than had been promised to us by the men and women of the Met Office. All seemed fine as we made our way past Brackenclose and joined the path following Lingmell Gill, that was until we rounded the corner and saw the hundreds of people who had the same idea as us, most of them bound for Scafell Pike. Despite this it was pleasing to see some many children out making the climb, most of them looking like they were enjoying it as well (though this may be due to the fact that we were near the bottom). We joined the conga line to make the slow trudge up towards Brown Tongue.
Approaching Brackenclose
Looking back to Wast Water
The path at Lingmell Gill
The queue of people heading up Brown Tongue
Back of the line
Being a popular route, the path is sturdy and robust though the National Trust were out in force today, giving it some firming up in places where the stones had started to go awry. After leap frogging a few large groups we reached the foot of Brown Tongue where the path steepens and the booted masses continue on, us included.
Lingmell Gill
A stiffer climb this time up Brown Tongue
Clouds swirl over Scafell
Eventually we reached a parting in the path where it splits at Hollow Stones, forming two routes to the upper echelons of the Pikes, one leading towards Lingmell Col and the other bound for Mickledore and our route to the foot of Lord's Rake. We left the path to the bemused looks of others, scrabbling up the fan of scree which emanates from the dark crags above. It's a tough little climb but nothing in comparison to rake above.
Approaching the towering crags of Scafell
Sun lights up the valley below
Clouds and sun swirl around - Lord's Rake starts at the top of the scree fan to the left
Climbing the scree
Looking down the the crowds from the scree leading to Lord's Rake
We reached the foot of Lord's Rake and, with it being clear, it seemed longer but more welcoming than the last time I stood in this spot. As a brief reminder, there's a memorial carved into the stone wall to a quartet of climbers who lost their lives in 1903. The circumstances of their death is unknown, they were found roped together in scree, three of the group having already perished. The fourth passed away during the descent to Wasdale.
The climbers memorial at the foot of Lord's Rake
Pulpit Rock
The main event; Lord's Rake
Time to enter the rake. I've heard and experienced the fact that keeping to either side of the gully is the best bet, given the fact that you can use good hand holds on the walls. It is steep, around 45 degrees or so, and filled with loose scree and boulders from previous rock falls. We took it slow and steady, making sure every foot placement was firm and each hand hold was secure. Other than the looseness of the scree underfoot, it is a straightforward climb.
Looking up Lord's Rake
The chockstone at the top
Sara negotiates her way up the scree
An example of the angle of the slope
Sara in Lord's Rake
Approaching the chockstone at the top of the first section
The chockstone. The West Wall Traverse disappears between the green rock and the grey rock to the left
We reached the infamous chockstone at the top of the gully, an immense pinnacle of rock that detached itself from the opposing wall in 2001 and came to rest across the top of gully, perching itself in a seemingly precarious position. Lord's Rake continues on past the stone requiring the walker to either climb over or gingerly slide under the fallen rock (which is much easier but a bit disconcerting). Despite appearances, the rock seems to be fairly stable and would take some considerable force to move it - another rock fall perhaps - though there's no saying when that may happen.
The chockstone from the foot of the West Wall Traverse
At the chockstone, it was our time to leave Lord's Rake through a cleft in the wall to the left (if looking up the rake). The cleft passes a briefly exposed section where the rock has fallen away before joining a very pleasant shelf that climbs up the mountainside. This is the West Wall Traverse. It' s superb route and gives you the feeling that you are within the very mountain itself, rather than climbing on or around it. The traverse leads into the upper sections of Deep Gill, inaccessible from Hollow Stones below thanks to a series of vertical pitches but perfectly climbable from the traverse.

Deep Gill is nearly identical to Lord's Rake, the only real differences being a slightly narrower gully and no looming boulder above. Again, slow and steady was the order of the day as a few of the hand holds in the wall threatened to give way.
Looking up the West Wall Traverse
Peering over the edge of the West Wall Traverse
Sara makes a last adjustment before the climb
The West Wall Traverse climbs into Deep Gill
Entering Deep Gill
A final narrow gully leads out of Deep Gill, requiring a slightly awkward thrust past some smoothed rocks to reach the good hand holds again. After that its out of the gloom and onto Scafell. It's an odd sensation emerging from Deep Gill, one that's difficult to describe. The plateau is the exact opposite of Deep Gill; open, green, dry, bright accompanied by the sensation that you've just completed a proper route through the depths of the mountain as opposed to plodding up a path straight to the summit. And what a summit Scafell has.
Looking up Deep Gill
Looking down Deep Gill
Approaching the top of Deep Gill
Looking down Deep Gill at the point it emerges onto the summit
Scafell
Views are fairly uninterrupted in all directions. There's Eskdale far below to the east with the great ring of mountains that encircles it and Scafell Pike to the north with the hundreds of people we'd left now milling around on the summit platform. Did I say that Scafell was largely deserted? It often is, even on the busiest of days. To the west is Wasdale and the great Mosedale Horseshoe the expansive view across to the Irish Sea (Sellafield included).
The summit of Scafell with Scafell Pike in the background
Scafell Pike in the clouds
Long Green and Slight Side
Despite the fine weather, a brisk wind was enough to prompt us to seek shelter for a lunch stop before we started southwards along the high ridge that falls from Scafell's summit. This ridge forms the western wall of Eskdale and has a fine view across the valley to Esk Pike, Bowfell and Crinkle Crags. Long Green, the summit of Cam Spout Crag possible has the best view of the lot. Another 500m south is the small summit of Slight Side.
Esk Pike and Bowfell
Eskdale
Esk Pike, Bowfell and Crinkle Crags over Great Moss
Close up of Scafell Pike
Esk Pike in the sunshine
Long Green
Eskdale from Long Green
Sara looking out from Long Green
Panorama from Long Green; Scafell, Scafell Pike, Ill Crag, Esk Pike, Bowfell and Crinkle Crags
Slight Side, a simple outcrop on the Scafell's ridge, has a separate chapter in the pictorial guides, Wainwright going so far as to recommend it in his top six summits in the whole national park. It's a decision that's difficult to argue with as it really does has the most wonderful, uninterrupted view, as you can see in the photos below. I've said in some posts before that you only really get the best views of the larger fells from the smaller ones that surround it.
Approaching Slight Side's summit
Esk Pike
Slight Side
Eskdale panorama from Slight Side
Eskdale
Bowfell
Turning back on ourselves, we started the trek back to Wasdale by following the contours on the steep, grassy slopes that characterise Scafell's western flanks. This was a bit more challenging that it sounds as the slope was awkward enough to make a lot of the walk uncomfortable and numerous scree fields needed to be negotiated with a bit of care. I t would be a bit embarrassing to complete the West Wall Traverse and then come a cropper on a grassy slope. It took much longer than anticipated to reach the old Victorian tourist route; a small path that climbs the grassy slopes from Wasdale over Green How.
Burnmoor Tarn backed by Whin Rigg and Illgill Head
Middle Fell
The mysterious Dunnerdale Fells
Burnmoor Tarn
Looking back to Slight Side
Illgill Head
Descending towards Wasdale
Yewbarrow
Sellafield
The path peters out after dropping over Green How but the destination is obvious enough. The slope steepens as it passes the head of Groove Gill and falls to a drystone wall above Wasdale Head Hall Farm. At the foot of the slope is the old corpse road that joined Wasdale Head to Boot and provides an easy stroll back to the car at Brackenclose.
Wasdale Head backed by Kirk Fell
The old corpse road
A close-up of Great Gable
This is a tremendous and exciting walk that really has a bit of everything bar and all-out rock climb. Tackling Lord's Rake and the West Wall Traverse is perhaps one of the best hours you can spend in the Lake District, topped off by a visit to one of the finest summits in the the park. If you want to avoid the crowds, delve into the depths of Scafell.