The walk up to the summit of Scafell Pike on Saturday June 1st, 2013
My thighs feel like there’s a small scale explosion going off in them, my throat feels like I’ve been trying to gargle with nitric acid, I lost a car mat and my walking trousers are history. Would I do it again? Oh yeah!
With regret I only took a very small number of photographs on both my mobile phone camera and my digital one, yesterday’s walk was about me achieving an objective, the ascent of Scafell Pike and that was all that mattered. Of course just for proof’s sake I did need a photo of two, just so that the meta data could back up my claim and they are featured below. We (Karl and me) arrived at the lay-by / car park at Wasdale Head practically by the side of Wasdale National Trust Campsite: here at roughly 10:10 a.m. and set off roughly five minutes later. The route which we followed was the most straight forward and direct one which would afford us great views of Lords Rake, Hard Rigg, Illgill Head, Lingmell…almost too many to mention or recollect.
The walk up was hard, no two ways about it! I had read on the Mountain Rescue main website the guideline of take regular breaks – well who was I too argue with that? I would estimate that we took twenty on the way up, poor Karl’s camera must have been stuffed to brim with photos taken whilst I had to catch my breath! I had expected to see a lot of people en route as the weather for the day just could not have been more ideal – nice and sunny but not flag-cracking hot and with a breeze that at road level was just enough to keep the air fresh without being stifling, there were lots of people but the horrible image that I had dreaded – hoards of walkers queued up like at a supermarket aisle on a Thursday night, fortunately never materialised. The slog was hard in places but the sheer drama of the surrounding countryside was easily enough (for the most part) to take one’s mind of the burning thighs. Of course on the way up I did fall over – those darned Brasher Hillmasters are simply only good for walking on snow around urban routes! At times I jokingly cursed myself for looking up…at the summit (or where the summit would be) which brought a wry (knowing) smile from Karl! Eventually Karl encouraged “You can look up now! as the summit cairn, trig point and big standy thing, all came into view. I had to do a double take, even though it had taken us just short of four hours to get up to the top I could hardly believe that we had made it!
Scafell Pike summit is surrounded by boulders, on absolutely all sides! These are hard to walk on, at various times I couldn’t be sure whether I had two ankles, none or four! We spent a few seconds admiring the all round view from the summit standy thing then made our way across a short boulder field to a much more nice and secluded sheltered roofless hut made out of stone (essentially not an hut at all!) but this was a good place to be away from jubilant fellow ascendees, take in some fluids and have a sandwich (or Southern fried chicken wrap in my case). Although I had previously toyed with the idea with taking in another fell top or perhaps even two, by now I knew that I just wasn’t up to it. We headed across the boulder field to return to the front of the big standy thing and the dreaded white stones!
Oh my word did I soon come to loathe those little white stones that slide from underneath one’s feet as soon as they are stood upon. In recollection now I do wish that I had brought one home with me! At the time however within the next half an hour I was to fall over another three times and even retorted to Karl that upon a lotto win I was going to fund a project to have the entire summit top covered in tarmac – although not quite so eloquently. In all honesty though the minor indignity of falling over in front of complete strangers that one is hardly likely to ever re-encounter (and is more than likely going to have a very similar experience, or has already had one) is a tiny price to pay for the privilege of walking up a fine rugged mountain – the highest in England, in glorious conditions with great company.
The trip (pardon the pun) back down to the car was long, really long, I slowed us down terribly because my nerve just doesn’t hold out when walking down any hill (I take my time coming down Stang Top Moor and that’s on grass!) this does not bode well for any future Striding Edge walking ambitions that I might have had, but all the while I knew two things: 1 – I had walked up to Scafell Pike and 2 There was a pint of Shandy awaiting me at the Wasdale Head Inn. We reached the car at roughly 17:30 – about seven and a quarter hours there and back was more than I could have hoped to attain as the Mountain Rescue Website had advised seven hours for fit walkers (and I am in no way a fit walker!). We drove over to the pub and had our shandy and it did taste all the better for our day’s experience! On the way home we called in at a chip shop – the name of which currently escapes me where I had a jumbo sausage and chips with gravy – a treat I thought I thoroughly deserved.
I’ve resolved to walk the top ten English Mountains and have effectively started at the top, although for four years I have wanted to walk the mighty Cross Fell – king of the Pennines in that time I have always rued the chance that I had to walk the gentle giant that is Skiddaw, as such I would want this to be the next mountain for me to ascend…so watch this space!
Time taken 7.25 hours
Distance 5.30 Miles
Altitude 3,50 feet
The difference in height between my last mountain walk – Whernside in 2009 and this one is a staggering 795 feet – over half a Winter Hill’s worth 🙂 I know of people whom have climbed Ben Nevis and consider their walking career(?) over – well they are not going to get higher in the U.K. now are they? I am not of this mindset! For me Scafell Pike marks a beginning not an end to my walking explorations. Admittedly it might be some time before my visa is accepted by the Lake District Climate Control – it rains a lot there…and Yorkshire is no dry zone neither. We got incredibly lucky with the weather and that has not been overlooked. I would love to tackle Helvellyn – especially the airiness of Striding Edge but before killing myself in attempting to do this I have to retire my Brashers! They had me over at least four times on this route, probably even more times when I first started to wear them at Whernside in 09 (funny how that keeps cropping up today). I already have some other boots and would want to try these out on a safer – but still relatively demanding Lake District route – Skiddaw springs to mind.
In summing these are my remaining achievable walking goals ‘though not necessarily for this year:
Scafell Pike from Seathwaite Farm via Grains Gill
Helvellyn via Striding Edge
Skiddaw and Skiddaw Little Man
Rest of England
Pendle from the Nick O’ Pendle
Clougha – Grit Fell – Ward’s Stone-Wolfhole Crag
And many others…