Scafell Pike

Scaling 978 metres (3,209 feet), Scafell Pike is the highest mountain in England, situated in the Lake District National Park in Cumbria.

It is quite often confused with neighbouring Sca Fell, to which it is connected by the col of Mickledore. The name Pikes of Sca Fell was originally applied to all the peaks now known as Scafell Pike, Ill Crag and Broad Crag, which were considered subsidiary tops of Sca Fell. The contraction Scafell Pike originated as a mistake on an Ordnance Survey map, but is now standard.

Scafell Pike is one of a horseshoe of high fells, open to the south, surrounding the head of Eskdale. It stands on the west side of the cirque with Sca Fell to the south and Great End to the north. This ridge forms the watershed between Eskdale and Wasdale, lying to the west.

Scafell Pike also has outliers on both sides of the ridge. Lingmell, to the north west is invariably regarded as a separate fell, whilst Pen (760 m / 2,500 ft), a shapely summit above the Esk, is normally regarded as a satellite of the Pike. The splendidly un-anatomical Middleboot Knotts is a further top lying on the Wasdale slopes of Broad Crag, which is listed as a Nuttall.

The rocky summit plateau is fringed by crag on all sides with Pikes Crag and Dropping Crag above Wasdale and Rough Crag to the east. Below Rough Crag and Pen is a further level, named Dow Crag and Central Pillar on Ordnance Survey maps, although also known as Esk Buttress among climbers. Esk Buttress and Pikes Crag are notable rock climbing venues.

Broad Crag Col is the source of Little Narrowcove Beck in the east and of Piers Gill to the west. The latter winds its way around Lingmell to Wast Water through a spectacular ravine, which is one of the most impressive in the District. Broad Crag is a small top with its main face on the west and the smaller Green Crag looking down on Little Narrowcove. From Broad Crag the ridge turns briefly east across Ill Crag Col and onto the shapel pyrimidal summit of Ill Crag. Here the main crags are on the Eskdale side, Ill Crag having little footing in Wasdale.

Scafell Pike has a claim to the highest standing water anywhere in England, although Foxes Tarn on Sca Fell is of similar height. The waterbody in question is Broad Crag Tarn, which rather confusingly is on Scafell Pike proper rather than on Broad Crag. It lies about 820 m (2,700 ft), roughly a quarter of a mile south of the summit.

The summit ridge from Ill Crag to Mickledore is notoriously stony, the surface being composed in numerous places of fields of boulders. Paths are not marked by normal soil erosion, but by coloured marks on the rock following the passage of many thousands of booted feet.

The summits of Ill and Broad Crags are bypassed by the ridge path, but it does lead unerring to the highest point. This bears an Ordnance Survey triangulation column next to a massive cairn. This is not now in the best of repair, but is unmistakable from any distance, still six feet high and considerably greater in diameter. A small distance away is the lower south peak, a place to escape the crowds and marvel at the views over Eskdale.

Scafell Pike comprises of igneous rock dating from the Ordovician geologically part of the Borrowdale Volcanics. The summit plateau of Scafell pike, and that of other neighbouring peaks, is covered with shattered rock debris which provide the highest altitude example of a summit boulder field in England.

North of the summit are a quantityof high altitude gills which flow into Lingmell Beck. These are good examples in Cumbria for this type of gill and are also biologically important due to their richness of species.

Climbing of the Pike is most often attempted from Wasdale Head at the north end of Wastwater to the west of the Pike. On summer weekends, many, many people can be found attempting this steep but straightforward walk. An alternative climb from Wasdale approaches up a hanging valley whose head is at Mickledore, which is itself ascended, before following the path from Sca Fell to the Pike.

A more difficult, but scenically far superior, approach begins at Seathwaite Farm at the end of Borrowdale, proceeding via Styhead Tarn, then taking the Corridor Route, formerly known as the Guides Route, a delightful walk along the western flank of the Sca Fell massif with intimate views of the mountain, before joining the route from Wasdale close to the peak.

The return journey can then be made along a high ridge, which takes in any or all of the neighbouring summits of Broad Crag, Ill Crag, Great End, Allen Crags and Glaramara. Another route from Borrowdale, longer but perhaps less exhausting than that via the Corridor Route, runs from Seathwaite via Grains Gill and the high pass of Esk Hause.

A further ascent can be made from Langdale. From the Old Dungeon Ghyll hotel, the route winds up alongside Rossett Gill, which perhaps has a more fearsome reputation than it deserves, past Angle Tarn and then onto Esk Hause before joining a rocky path to the top.

Energetic and enthusiastic walkers can vary the return route by climbing Esk Pike and Bowfell from Esk Hause and then come down the Bowfell Band. Another variant which avoids simply returning down Rossett Gill is to head north at the Angle Tarn, over Rossett Pike to join The Cumbrian Way, and descend via Stake Pass which adds about a mile to the walk. The full distance is about 21 kilometres. Esk Hause is also accessible from Styhead Tarn, which makes it another possible route from Seathwaite.

A further ascent can be made from Eskdale, the longest and most arduous way up but it has some very spectacular scenery. The route follows the River Esk as far as the Great Moss boggy plateau, where you then have a choice of ascending steeply up to Mickledore, the low ridge between Sca Fell and Scafell Pike, or following the Esk to its source at Esk Hause.

Reference: Wikipedia – under the GNU Free Doc Licence