Scafell

Sca Fell, also spelled Scafell, and traditionally pronounced Scawfle, is a mountain in the English Lake District. Its height of 964 metres (3,162 ft) makes it the second-tallest mountain in England behind Scafell Pike, from which it is separated by the pass of Mickledore.

Originally the name Sca Fell referred to the whole of the massif from Great End south to Slight Side; only more recently has the general term become applied only to the part of the fell south of Mickledore.

In the past it was believed that Sca Fell was the highest mountain in this part of the Lake District, it is much more prominent in views from many directions than its higher neighbour, with the three apparently inferior peaks to the north, those now known as Scafell Pike, Ill Crag and Broad Crag recognised collectively as the “Pikes of Sca Fell”.

Sca Fell rises between Wasdale in the west and upper Eskdale to the east. The tallest part of the fell is a ridge running south from Mickledore to Slight Side, which is counted as a separate fell by most guidebooks. Despite regarding Slight Side as a separate entity, Wainwright included the wide upland area beyond it towards the south west as a part of Sca Fell.

The opposite flanks of Sca Fell are entirely different in character. Smooth slopes, lacking vegetation at higher levels and not of particular interest, run down toward the head of Wast Water. On the east and north all is rock, walls of crag which loom impressively over Eskdale.

From the narrow ridge of Mickledore the northern face of Sca Fell rises steeply, an unusually complete barrier to progress along a Lakeland ridge. At the summit of the rise is Symonds Knott (3,146 ft), the northern top. The wall of crags, Scafell Crag to the west and the East Butress above the Eskdale side of Mickledore, has two primary weaknesses. Running laterally across Scafell Crag is Lord’s Rake, a scree filled chute with several medium cols.

It has two upper entrances onto the saddle separating Symonds Knott from the main peak. Formerly passable as a scramble, it suffered from a serious rock fall in 2002, with subsequent further falls, and recent guidebooks do not recommend it as a viable route, although it is gradually becoming more stable.

The second breach in the crags is Broad Stand, a series of sloping steps which fall from Symonds Knott almost to Mickledore; however, these steepen immediately above Mickledore and cannot be negotiated safely except by experienced climbers.The main peak stands a little to the south of the saddle, all around being a sea of stones. An easy ridge then steps southward over Long Green to Slight Side. On the east are Cam Spout Crag and the spectacular high waterfall after which it is named.

Going beyond Slight Side is a rough upland with many craggy peaks and a number of tarns, before the southward descent finally ends in Lower Eskdale. South West of Sca Fell, below the scarp of Great How, is Burnmoor Tarn, which is one of the largest in Lakeland. About 40 ft deep it holds trout, perch and pike, to name a few.

The tarn is prevented from following what would appear the natural line of drainage into Miterdale by moraines, and empties southward, arriving at the Esk at Beckfoot. Near the southern shore stands Burnmoor Lodge, formerly a keeper’s cottage and a dwelling two miles from the closest road.

The main summit stands a large cairn on a short rocky ridge. Northward is a saddle, marked by a large cross of stones and then the bouldery climb to Symonds Knott, the north peak. This gives views straight down over Mickledore.

Scafell gives a completely different view to that from its higher neighbour with Wastwater and the coastal plain provides great prominence. There is a fine view of the Western Fells, together with Bowfell and the Coniston Fells.

Now known to lack some of its neighbour’s height, Sca Fell is still the harder peak to climb, especially from the precipitous northern and eastern sides. The traverse of the ridge between Scafell Pike and Sca Fell is particularly difficult because steep cliffs prevent a direct walking route, entailing a considerable loss of height to get round the obstacle.

The direct route up the crags, known as Broad Stand, is a dangerous and exposed scramble that has caused numerous accidents and injuries; it is normally treated as a rock climb, with appropriate protection. The Broad Stand route can be seen directly across the connecting ridge of Mickledore.The classic climb via Lord’s Rake path from Wastwater is now threatened by unstable rocks following a rock fall in 2001.

A pleasant but longer alternative begins from Boot in Eskdale, following the River Esk upstream, and scrambling up to the summit by way of Foxes Tarn. An easier return can be made across moorland, by way of the Burnmoor Tarn. Also starting in Eskdale, the Terrace route can be followed from Wha House, first climbing Slight Side.

Scafell Crag, the huge north buttress of Sca Fell, is one of England’s largest cliffs and has numerous famous rock climbs.

Reference: Wikipedia – under the GNU Free Doc Licence