Scafell Pike in the Lake District National Park, Cumbria, is the highest peak in England at 3,209 feet (978 metres). It got it’s name due to a typographical error so rumour has it, but it is the highest ground for over 90 miles so you can imagine the views to be had on a sunny day.
I hiked up it for the first time in autumn 2012, finally completing the 3 peaks which I started by climbing Ben Nevis way back in about 1996. I was prepared for it to be a hard slog and I was not disappointed!
Me and a friend decided to take the route from Wast water as we were parked in Wasdale head. The pub has it’s own little camp site which is nothing more than a field, but you can use their facilities in the pub. The route is flat as you navigate around the base of Lingmell, to get to the starting point proper. From then it’s almost non-stop steep climbing all the way to the top. The first half is pretty and there are some fantastic views, but as you gain height you’re cut off somewhat apart from south of Lingmell across Wast water. In fact a large part of the early climb is on Lingmell and not Scafell Pike itself.
We were both quite apprehensive about this hike as we’ve been told many times how difficult it is and how easy to lose your way. We’d therefore taken a map and compass, despite it being a beautiful day. However we found the track fairly easy to find and navigate until we got onto Scafell Pike proper, at a place called Hollow Stones. From this point it is all stones and boulders and you have to look out for worn rocks and small cairns along the way to discern the route.
Views were tremendous at the top, and as there is a large stone built structure there was plenty of lee from the wind. Coming down we did initially take the wrong direction, and were headed to Lord’s Rake. Using the map put us back on track but it shows how easy it is to lose your way when the ground is rock strewn and featureless. I have some down from Snowdon in blinding snow storms and not lost my way, but I would be very unsure about finding my way off Scafell Pike in bad weather.
It took us some 5.5 hours to hike up and down, partly because we’re not fit and strong and partly because for me, climbing mountains is as much about the journey up and down and not just reaching the summit. The views to be had are magnificent and I like to stop and take them in, instead of striving to achieve some kind of standard time. For those interested though, I reckon that normal walking speed is around 3 mph, but climbing might be as little as 2mph if you’re not used to it. Scafell Pike is about 4.5 miles, so that’s over 2 hours. You add on a little for the climb, some say 1 minute for every 10 metres of ascent and descent. So, 978 metres high is 97 minutes or 1.5 hours roughly for the ascent and the same for the descent, added to just over 2 hours for the distance which makes 5 hours, then add in some break time.
Whichever way you work it out the important thing is to enjoy it, and I hope you enjoy the photos, and the hike if you do it.