Tuesday 24 March 2009

Scafell Pike August 2006

I started this walk from the free car park at Wasdale Head after a long journey though the lake district via the Hardknott Pass. The weather was overcast and cloudy, but early on in the walk it was above the tops of the fells. My route to Scafell Pike started up the Moses Trod path that took me up the side of Great Gable toward Sty Head. Looking up I could see Napes Needle with wisps of cloud blowing across as I ascended the rock strewn path.

At Sty Head I took the path between the cliffs of Great End and Sprinkling Tarn to reach Esk Hause. When I looked back towards Styhead from higher up the path, Great Gable was now covered in cloud. When I reached Esk Hause I stopped for some lunch and watched the cloud pour over the ridge between Great End and Ill Crag. The top of this ridge was obscured in cloud, which then blew across the valley of upper Eskdale to my left.

I set off along the path which took me onto the cloud covered ridge, where visibility was severely limited by the mist. Towards the top of the ridge, the path disappeared as I crossed the boulder strewn plateau, relying on the stone cairns for navigation. The terrain here was extremely tough to cross.

The ground dropped to a col before rising again to traversing the boulders of Broad Crag. The path bypassed the summit of this crag by a relatively short distance, but the terrain and conditions did not make this additional ascent seem very appealing at that time. The ground then fell away steeply to another col where it then made the final ascent to Scafell Pike summit.

The ground here climbed steeply over loose rocks and stones before leveling out. The summit cairn came into view, and I headed over. I had eventually made it to Scafell Pike. Although I had passed many people along the ridge and through the cols, the summit itself was almost deserted. I climbed the steps of the cairn structure to reflect on what it was like being on the highest ground in England. For a short time I had the Cairn all to myself. Cloud and mist was all around. Just then it seemed to brighten up slightly, and I hoped it was going to clear. But unfortunately it didn't, and I could not see anything further than the plateau of the summit around me.

Reluctantly I left this amazing area, and head down towards Mickledore. The weather had been more or less dry up to this point, but just then started to pour down heavily. This was possibly the heaviest rain that I have ever experienced in my life. Despite this, it seemed to just make the walk more special. When I reached Mickledore, the rain seemed to ease off, and I stood talking to a walker watching the clouds swirl around the rocks of Broad Stand. I will always remember looking up at those towering cliffs in the middle of this wild weather.

As I climbed down the scree slopes below Mickledore I caught a glimpse of Waste Water through a tunnel like opening in the clouds. Eventually I dropped out of the cloud altogether around Hallow Stones, and the day had turned rather sunny. I looked back towards Mickledore but could not tell whether the Stormy weather was still going on, or had completely passed across Upper Eskdale. There was certainly some cloud about, but it was difficult to believe that I had experienced such stormy condition no more than half an hour before.

I followed the path down to Brown Tongue where I crossed Lingmell Gill. Shortly after I turned off the main path, and headed north across the lower slopes of Lingmell back down to Wasdale Head where I had started this 'tour' of Scafell Pike. It was the last lakeland walk that I did that year, and it seemed particularly special, like all the other walks had led up to it. The walk was an amazing experience, and I hope to return there again.

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