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Scafell Pike History

At 978m or 3209ft, the summit of Scafell Pike is the highest point in England.

Years ago, presumably simply by looking at it, the nearby peak of ‘Sca Fell’ was thought to be the highest. Including Sca Fell, there were a group of three neighbouring peaks that were together termed the ‘Pikes of Sca Fell’ or ‘Sca Fell pikes’. Due to an error on an Ordnance Survey map, one was listed as Scafell Pike, another as Broad Crag and the third, Ill Crag. The name Scafell Pike has stuck ever since.

To compound the importance of this new ‘Scafell Pike’, it was actually found to be 50ft higher than Sca Fell, so became officially the highest mountain in England.

Possibly the first to climb the mountain was Samuel Taylor Coleridge, the famous poet; he also climbed the nearby Sca Fell in 1802.

The peak is owned by the National Trust, having been donated by Lord Leconfield in 1919. This, in memory of local men who lost their lives in the First World War. A plaque can be seen on the summit today in memory of the soldiers.

 

Scafell Pike Visit

Like the peak of Snowdon, it takes about two and a half hours to get up for someone moderately fit, and about two hours down – this, using the popular route from the car park at Wasdale Head. As with all mountain ranges, there are a number of ways up, with the best route often depending on where you live or start your journey from. The route from Wasdale Head is the shortest, hence its popularity. If you want to go by this route, and are approaching from the main UK north/south M6 motorway, it’s a matter of taking the main A590/A595 road towards Whitehaven.

From the M6, the journey will take around 1 hour 20 minutes until you turn right to Wasdale Head and another 20 minutes or so to get to Wasdale Head. This final road takes in some stunning scenery, running along the shore of Wast Water, a large lake at the base of the mountain range. The road is generally a single lane with care and patience needed as either you or the oncoming car often need to pull over to allow each other to pass. There are a few routes from the A595 to Wasdale Head. One’s at Gosforth and the other’s at Holmrook, a distance of 4 miles away. There are also two minor lanes from the A595 that you could take – these lying between Gosforth and Holmrook.

Once at Wasdale Head, your parking depends on your plan for the day. Past the lake, the first thing you’ll come to is a bridge on your right. If you get there early, you can park free on the side of the road or if you turn right over the bridge you’ll find a National Trust pay and display car park. Instead of turning right, If you drive half a mile on you’ll see the ‘Wasdale Inn’ and a large free parking grass area with toilets. Next to the inn is a shop that sells mountaineering clothing, shoes, guide books, drinks etc. Part of the inn is ‘Kitson’s Bar’ and this serves hot food and drinks. There’s also a small campsite next to the inn.

If you’re a walker, you’ll be in your element – this is prime walking territory! Scafell Pike may be the famous peak, but there are a host of different walks. As with all mountain walks though, utmost care and respect must be given to the weather conditions. What may be a wonderful summer walk to the summit in vest and shorts can be a journey in the winter that few mountaineers would attempt when the Arctic weather moves in. Between these two weather extremes, much judgement has to be made with the most sensible walkers always equipping themselves for the worst weather change.

To walk up to Scafell Pike from Wasdale Head, there are two main routes. I say two main routes, there’s generally one main route, which almost everybody goes up…that’s the one over the bridge and straight up from the National Trust car park or if you park in the free car park near the inn, you can walk across the fields to join the route.

The other route for which much fewer people use to the summit starts next to the free car park near the inn . From here you walk along a farm track that starts by the carpark and walk straight up a valley with the two great peaks of Kirk Fell and Great Gable to your left and you just follow the path. At one point there’s a fork in the path – take the left fork which winds halfway up the mountain on the left and ends up at the ‘Stretcher Box’. This presumably has a stretcher in for emergencies and this point is called Sty Head Pass. It’s the joining point of a number of routes and from here (from the Wasdale Head path that you’ve just come up) you turn right. You then walk on about a mile or so and turn right again and then right again later on so that from Wasdale Head you go clockwise around the mountain of ‘Great End’ and approach Scafell Pike from the rear (looking from Wasdale Head). It’s a longer route, but takes in much more scenery and if you’re fit, will take you about three hours. You can simply then walk back down the quick way to Wasdale Head if you wish. As an alternative on this route, rather than going round Great End, you can turn right a few hundred yards before you get to the Stretcher Box and go straight up what’s known as the ‘Corridor Route’.

The main route from Wasdale Head is a simple walk, but not easy. It’s basically a long walk up a hill and you don’t need to use your hands. People’s fitness levels vary and whilst a fit person would walk up fairly effortlessly, those less so may struggle at times. It’s hard, to the degree that a lot of people would have turned back over the years so it’s always a good idea to check your fitness level before you attempt it and prepare as necessary. That said, those that don’t make it up are relatively few.

The ascent from locations to the north and east (eg Seathwaite) follow the path to Sty Head Pass and then via Broad Crag or along the corridor. If coming via Sty Head, you end up going around Great End before going clockwise up to Broad Crag. This is one peak and from here, unless there’s heavy cloud, you can simply look across and see the peak of Scafell Pike and the people on it. It’s not really a long way off, but between these peaks is what is known as the ‘saddle’ – a sharp decent over large rocks and tricky footing! – and then a steep climb and walk up the other side to the summit.

Eskdale and Langdale provide another two starting points, and the points of Wasdale, Seathwaite, Langdale and Eskdale provide starting points from the four compass directions around the mountain.

Scafell Pike provides a memorable day to many, many thousands every year. But it’s a tough walk up and deserves respect, certainly as it’s so open to the elements. Your day will be enhanced immeasurably by correct equipment and an accurate weather forecast. When the weather’s good, there are many families that go up, some with dogs, and there’s a great sense of friendliness and camaraderie.