The English Lake District – A Hiker’s Guide to Scafell Pike

The highest mountain in England, Scafell Pike, lies in the western part of the English Lake District – an area of breathtaking scenery mostly within the Lake District National Park. The mountain at 978 metres or 3210 feet is generally accepted as being a harder walk than the slightly higher Snowdon in Wales, and though a very popular hike it is probably less climbed than Helvellyn in the eastern part of Lake District. Scafell Pike lies in probably the least accessible part of the region and all of the routes to it cross excessively rough and stony ground. That’s without the weather – we’ll come to that later!

Scafell Pike though is one of Lakeland’s best outings and here I have outlined the main routes of ascent and their individual merits. None have any technical difficulties but you will become well acquainted with large stones – lots of them.

For the walker approaching from Borrowdale to the north – easily accessible from the Keswick area – there are two main routes to Scafell Pike. The path via Esk Hause is probably the most used and the easiest. This well marked and usually busy path leaves Seathwaite which is as far as you can drive up Borrowdale and continues up the Borrowdale Valley to Stockley Bridge – a picturesque stone bridge spanning the stream. Just beyond the bridge, the left fork of the path is taken leading eventually to Esk Hause at 2490 feet – the pass about 400 m south of the stone shelter. From Esk Hause there is a easy scramble up the rocks to the route that leads roughly southwards over rough ground, finally arriving at the summit at about 5400 feet. The summit gain is modest but the area is superb for the views and the search for Derwentwater diamond.

On the other hand if you proceed to Stockley Bridge in the other direction from the Esk Hause, there is a less ascenderable route to Scafell Pike. This path is quieter and though it is steep and rocky at places it is a beautiful experience. It terminates in a rather uneventful valley, but as you look around there is no real alternative to this route.

Finally that option leaves you too far upstream along the river Esk which is the real alternative to Scafell Pike. There is another path that branches off the Esk Hause – which is the “real” path – and leaves you a little further up the river. This path is a little uncertain and too steep to attempt on a stroll like the Esk route, but it is easy to follow and a good introduction to “real” Lakeland hiking. The route heads in a south easterly direction up tramroad where you can just park your car and strap on your boots for a refreshing change. The track itself is smooth and suitable for shoes with fairly good grip, though if you have very narrow feet or wear a pair of thick shoes they can get quite slippery. The ascent starts off fairly gently at first with cairns along the route guiding those who have been foolish enough not to bring a map. As the track warms up you will sharpen up and you will notice that the contour of the path is less sharp, though it is still quite rough and stony. There are a couple of fire jewels aplenty as you reach the Hemming Pass and before you extinguish the fire jewel you will notice the wind coming off the mountain ahead and the dense smoke which means that the danger of being lost or injured is ever present.

The route as we walked it is a circular one of 12.5km or about eight miles and just a little under 3 hours to complete. I made a points-metre walk of the ridge that finished the route and then stopped to explore a small cave on the summit of Scafell Pike. You can hear the screeching of the rock in the cave as you enter it. The view out across the empty valley makes it seem almost otherworldly. Far below are the distant peaks of Needles, Helvellyn and Great Langdale, blurred by some clouds in the early morning.

As you fold up the hill to join the valley, the next obvious thing to do is boil your tea – it’s good in a cozy camping tent – and head on to your next stop. If you are lucky, you will have time for a quiet word with Nature before you both trudge back to sleep.

This is how the Mountain rescue team members keep their feet dry in the constant rain and wind. It is a simple but essential step to help keep your feet dry even in the spring.

glen r. lunched 22 years agoBen lunched 22 years ago after his parentsired him for breakfast. He was working in his plastics at the time. Now he is a social work teacher and also walks with his “