The Scafell Pike Challenge

Base Camp for Scafell Pike

A long while ago I decided upon a challenge that took several years to realise. The plan was a simple one, hike to the most remote area in the Cumbrian Mountains known as Great Moss, wild-camp out overnight, then in the morning have an attempt at the summit of England’s highest mountain Scafell Pike!

The theory was that by hiking in the day before and setting up camp at the foot of the mountain I would have dispensed with the long and tiring walk-in of around 7 miles and as an added bonus I would have spent a night camping in the wild in one of the most remote corners of England. Also to my advantage I figured would be the front row seat afforded me from my tent porch where I would be able to monitor the weather patterns swirling around the summit of Scafell Pike thus enabling me to make an informed decision whether or not to make  a dash for the summit on the day or cut my losses and head for home.

All-in all I was really looking forward to this little adventure. If I could combine the climb with a nice circular route back via the impossibly beautiful valley of Wasdale and a slight detour to the famous Wasdale Head Inn I’d be a very happy man. The only fly in the ointment by attempting this approach to the peak was that I would  be carrying a 65L rucksack on my back loaded down with three days worth of food and water, all of which of course would have to be carried up and down Scafell Pike on my back, a small price to pay I figured.

Early morning view down over Great Moss while scrambling up Cam Spout

The Wild Camp
Scafell Pike and my rucksack dwarfed

So when the weather Gods smiled on me this August Bank Holiday off I went. The weather was amazing with three days of nothing but sunshine. Great Moss proved to be everything I had imagined and the view I had looking up to Scafell Pike was one that will last in the memory for years to come.

I wild-camped at Sampson’s Stones next to the impossibly beautiful Cam Spout Waterfall in readiness for an early morning assault on the Pike!

Cam Spout Waterfall

When dawn came it brought with it a mild cloud inversion but luckily this soon burn’t off in the early morning summer sunshine . At 8.20 a.m I had broken camp and was making my way up the lesser known Eskdale side route to the summit. I scrambled up the rocky waterfalls of Cam Spout and then made for the famous Mickledore col separating Scafell and Scafell Pike.

Early morning cloud inversion over Great Moss
Looking back down Cam Spout towards Great Moss

A rocky boulder and scree strewn ascent ensued until I reached the Mountain Rescue stretcher box clinging precariously to the mountain side separating the two mighty peaks. After that an ankle breaking slap over the shattered volcanic surface in a north easterly direction eventually brought me to the summit. At 9.56 a.m I made my way onto the fabled summit shelter for the first time and for a very brief instance I became the highest man in England! Okay there were two other chaps already there but they were sitting and I was standing so technically I was the highest individual!

Mickledore Mountain Rescue Stretcher Box

I was above the cloud line now. The clouds drifted in and off out all morning as I proceeded to make my way along the great Scafell ridge bagging Broad Crag, Ill Crag and Great End along the way. Often neglected these subsidiary summits are definitely worth the detours for the different views they offer if nothing else.

Scafell Summit
Me on the summit

By the late afternoon I had descended via Sty Head down into Wasdale and had pitched my tent on the beautiful National Trust campsite with a perfect view back up towards the Scafells which looked resplendent in the glow of late afternoon sunshine.

Wasdale Head Valley
Scafell Pike seen in the distance when approaching Wasdale Head Campsite

I congratulated myself with a pint in the famous Wasdale Head Inn before taking a sobering wander around St Olaf’s – the smallest church in England’s – graveyard taking time to read  the obituaries of the many fallen climbers killed in the surrounding mountains in the early days of mountaineering and climbing.

St. Olaf's Church

Then after a pleasant night and a not so pleasant cold shower I decamped once more and hiked my way back across the bleak and boggy Eskdale Moor, back over towards the Eskdale Valley and my transport home (my car). I had started this little adventure from over there three days previously parking in the shadows of Hardknott Fort once a far flung outpost of the Roman Empire and approximately 30km later I was back right where I had started.

Eskdale Moor

During my adventure  I had camped in the wildest area left in the Lakes, ascended the highest mountain in England, drunk beer from England’s smallest brewery (Wasdale Head Inn), passed by England;s deepest Lake Wastwater and visited this kingdom’s smallest church! All-in all a cracking adventure!

The wait had definitely been worth it and I had one of the best mountain weekends I can remember, and will remember for years to come. Thoroughly recommended!

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5 thoughts on “The Scafell Pike Challenge

  1. A man with a plan! We had a go at Scafell Pike a few years back (to celebrate our first wedding anniversary with the 3 Peak Challenge :)) but having done Snowdon on the first day we had to abandon our mission half way up Scafell Pike due to an injured paw on one of the dogs. I joked at the time that we’d have to come back one of these days and try with a fresh batch of dogs; little did I know then that my beautiful boy was not going to life for very much longer so how guilty do I feel now then…… 😉 Anyway, we are about to welcome home our *fresh batch* [border twin boys] on Sunday and seeing your beautiful pics & reading your words has definitely re-ignited the Scafell fever 🙂
    I am not surprised you won’t forget your adventure in a hurry, looks & sounds amazing!!
    Greetings from North Wales,
    Babs B

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    • Thanks for the kind comments and yes make sure you get back to the Scafell Pike area, the scenery really is spectacular. The summit is very rocky and not too dog friendly mind, but then again man’s best friend never ceases to amaze me with the dexterity they show in the mountains, usually putting their owners to shame it must be said! 😉

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  2. Ah, my favourite area of the Scafells. The Great Moss ascent of the Pike, that whole area is without a doubt the most wonderful mountain scenery in all of England. A place to linger and savour. I shall be going there myself soon James. I’m pleased to see the grass is still green as I need some summer scenes on video.

    Rather envious of the weather you had. Hope you left some behind for me! 🙂

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    • Struck it lucky with three days of glorious sunshine when I was there! I totally agree with you it was without doubt the best mountain scenery I’ve ever seen in England. Remote, rugged and beautiful. Lovely and green and also lovely and wet! Very boggy underfoot all around Great Moss as you can see as I camped I tad higher around Sampson’s Stones. I’ve never been to that area before on the Eskdale side and didn’t know what to expect but is surpassed all expectations. Love the Lakes even more now I’ve seen this part of them.

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