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.
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!
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!