UK Walks: Scafell Pike North-Face – Lake District

The Lake District National Park
  • Distance – 8.2 Miles
  • Ascent– 2,825 Ft
  • Highest Point – Scafell Pike 978 metres (3,209 ft)
  • Time Taken – Four Hours
  • Difficulty – Easy

If you have walked the Steel Fell and decided you want something more challenging, think about the Scafell Pike. It’s a safe, but very challenging hike up to the summit of 3,281 FT, through some of the best sights and sounds the North of England Countryside has to offer.

Scafell Pike is located on the Central-West side of the Lake District National Park and is one of the best real mountain walks in the UK at present and offer the ability for climbers to climb from several different entrance points.

There are two main routes up Scafell Pike. On the west, there is a route from Wasdale Head, and to the North, there is a route starting from Seathwaite in Borrowdale. Both are great day-walks, and both are equally difficult with the route being around six miles and depending on your fitness levels, around five hours to complete.

For our climb, we are going to spend the day walking up the North-Face of Scafell and experience what it’s really like to get to the top.

The Route

For this hike, we’re starting at the Seathwaite Parking at the foot of the mountain. It’s not the biggest of car parking spaces and does get full quickly. If you’re unlucky and cannot find a space, there is the National Trust car park about a mile further up the road. Parking is free, and there are toilets in the farm building should you need to relieve yourself, before or after.

From the car park, its about a four-mile walk to the summit. The trail starts pleasantly, and you’ll find yourself walking alongside the River Derwent. The route is enjoyable as there are flat parts, and others that are quite steep, but the ground is straightforward to walk across.

StyHead Tarn

After about two miles, you’ll reach Styhead Tarn (or simply Sty Head) which is a meeting place of paths throughout the area. Scafell Pike might be the highest, but it’s not the only serious mountain in the area, and this crossroad of trails allows you to reach areas such as Wasdale, Great Langdale and Eskdale or other peaks such as Great Gable, Great End, Kirk Fell and even further afield such as Bowfell.

From here onwards, the route gets slightly more difficult. The corridor route starts easily, but quickly crosses an area of boggy ground which lasts a few hundred meters, and then the rocky outcrops start which gets progressively worse, the higher you get.

The Boulders

The final section, especially the last few hundred meters, is horrendous. Firstly there is no clear pathway, but secondly, the ground is full of large boulders that you’ll need to scramble across to reach the summit.

If the weather is no crystal clear, this can lead to problems finding the summit, but also if the rain is coming down, those boulders can get really slippery. At the top there is a cairn and if the weather is clear fantastic views. The steep sides of the mountain really add to the depth allowing you to see for miles.

To the west, there are fantastic views of the Irish Sea, to the south you can just about make out Blackpool Tower and Sellafield Nuclear Plant. To the North and West, the views are amazing, especially the lakes.

The Descent

If you’re walking in the summer months, the top can often be quite busy with other hikers having their lunch. If you’re going to do the same, make sure you think about your clothing. After about ten minutes sitting down, you’ll notice the temperature decreasing rapidly.

The descent begins with those boulders which you need to take care with on the decent. Walking uphill over boulders is one thing, but the risk of severely injuring yourself because you’ve slipped on the descent is much higher, especially if it’s wet.

Walking down is much less tiring on the thighs, but can be difficult on your knees and hips. Make sure you use your walking poles correctly to help support your posture. If you run out of water, the river Esk is a great place to get fresh, clean water that does not need any sterilization.

Finally, Equipment

The walk to Scafell Pike is a challenging walk that requires you to have some specialist gear. I would highly recommend that you have a decent pair of walking boots (Not shoes), that provides ankle support. This ankle support will be needed in the boulder section of the walk were the risk of sliding off a boulder and severely twisting your ankle, is huge. Even the best hiking shoes will not help.

To support your body while you’re walking, I would recommend that you walk with a pair of hiking poles. These offer support and are really useful in areas such as the boulder section where balance is a problem.

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