Saturday, 30 May 2015

A Borrowdale Weekend Part 2: A Walk Up England's Highest Mountain. . .

One of the advantages of staying in a hostel over the weekend is getting an early start on the walks.  Normally when we go up to the Lake District on the coach, we don't actually get walking until around 11:30.  As such, it's difficult to plan a walk like Scafell Pike and make it back to the coach by 6pm unless you put on a very quick pace; as a result, only two out of the group of ten who tackled England's highest mountain last Saturday had actually done this climb before, even though many of them had been walking for decades.  This mountain was a first for me too and we couldn't have had a better day for it - brilliant sunshine throughout.

There are many ways up Scafell Pike but I think our leader chose a really scenic one.  Starting at Seathwaite Farm, we took the left hand valley, and followed Grains Gill up towards Great End which you can see in the back of this photo.

It starts out fairly flat on a good path.

Despite what at times can be a very dusty and stony type of walk, we kept encountering lots of streams and tarns full of varying colours - the water is always so clear and beautiful up here.

Waterfalls were everywhere as our path ran alongside various gorges cutting their way through the valley. Great End is getting closer.

You always have to take time on a walk to look back at where you've come from.  From this height, you can just see Derwent Water, a tiny patch of blue popping out in the distance.

On our right you pass the summit of Great Gable.

And here's Great End up close.   The path veers left at this point and you go around and behind Great End.  Still no sight of Scafell Pike.

Once on the other side of Great End, the path becomes stonier but aren't those clouds just fantastic.

As are the views.

The stones then become larger.

And even larger.  I wouldn't have fancied clambering over these in the rain. But once we're on this boulder field, you finally get your first glimpse of Scafell Pike in the distance.  Those are a crowd of people on the top; this is always a very popular climb on a Bank Holiday weekend.

The stones may look gray from a distance, but up close they are actually quite colourful.

Getting closer to Scafell Pike.

But there's one more surprise.  In order to get to the summit,  you have to sharply descend and then go up one last steep bit.

And here's the top.  I really enjoyed the route up as it provided lots of different terrain and views but this way is certainly longer than the route from Wasdale which is how most people make the ascent.  Once past the top, there were hundreds of people on the other side.

And here's the view looking north from the summit.

And the view looking south with Scafell (not to be confused with Scafell Pike) on the left and Wast Water below.

Time to knit a row of my Hap for Harriet so that I'll think of this day whenever I wear it.

But soon it was time for the rocky descent.  We took a route called the Corridor back to our starting point.

It affords a great view of that drop we did before the final push to the summit and you can just make out a line of tiny hikers going up.

But we're going down into this lovely scenery.

Travelling over more streams.

 And passing hidden tarns.

The route also goes past the much larger Styhead Tarn.

 And then follows this stream right through the valley back to Seathwaite Farm.

And back to our hostel for a hot shower, a well deserved dinner and a good night's sleep.

You do get a sense of achievement in climbing Scafell Pike and we were so lucky to get great visibility,  but as far as the walk goes, I'd say the first two thirds of the way up and the last two thirds of the way down are the best bits; the rest is just a bit of a slog.  It's not a mountain that would be high on my list of climbs I'd like to do again, but I'm still really glad to have done it.  In our group there was an amazing woman who had just turned 80; I'd love to be fit enough to make a return trip when I'm that age!

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