Where it it? 12 miles south of Keswick, Cumbria
In which area of outstanding natural beauty? The English Southern Lakes
How high is it?: 3,210′ or 978m
This is the big one, the tallest thing that English countryside can throw at a walker and say “I dare you”!
Once known as the “Pikes of Sca Fell” – the neighbouring and indisputably more rough, rugged and handsome fell (which manages to this day to split walking writers with the dilemma Sca Fell or Scafell), Scafell Pike stands at the head of the glorious Wasdale valley overlooking (distantly!) Wastwater – England’s deepest lake. This could well be the valley of the titans – the highest mountain, deepest lake and arguably the biggest crag – Scafell Crag, as can be expected, a journey up to this loftiest land is by no means a walk in the park.
As with most hills the mountain is accessible from all eight compass points – it has no competition from neighbouring giants – it is the biggest one! However, ascending from the west has the less than minor obstacle of Scafell to bypass via Lord’s Rake (which could double up as a ski run!) or Foxes Tarn. Even after this Scafell Pike still has a little sting in the tail…The rocks of Scafell Pike. This has to be the most difficult peak in England to simply stand upon! A boulder field encircles the entire summit and before that there are minor scree patches that facilitate downwards progress rather more speedily than one might desire – it’s not hard to lose one’s footing within five hundred lateral metres of the summit.
From Wasdale head and via Brown Tongue – the only way that I have thus far ascended, the mountain lies at the culmination of a three miles long pitched path which at times disappears – when at the area dubiously referred to as “Hollowstones”. This route is not noted as the “scenic one” but it has to be said that much of the surrounding scenery tends to stay with one all the way up to the summit. The very well laid out path (the usual National Park cobbled style) twists and turns but tends to head straight up which means it is almost impossible to not keep looking up at the summit, and why shouldn’t you for then you will catch sight of the captivating Pikes Crag to the west of the summit. Elsewhere other summits come into view as they are neared – a trip over to Lingmell – no dwarf in itself at 2,648′ is a possibility for those of us whose feet are not in agony, further afield lies the imposing yet beautiful giant of Great Gable (King of the Western Fells). The super-humans amongst us may feel inclined to hop around the summit and drop down to the outlying peak of Pen on the south western face or visit any one of the mighty crags that adorn the south east and eastern aspects.
The views on a clear day (apparently there are some of those annually) are far reaching and all encompassing, from Snowdonia to Scotland, Morecambe Bay to North Yorkshire and all between are reported to be visible but the star attractions have to be the closer fells of the Lake District itself, Skiddaw and Blencathara dominate the Northern aspect, Helvellyn raises its’ head and shoulders to the east and the lakes of Wastwarter and Windermere are clearly visible from atop the Pike.
The walk up is arduous that cannot be debated, the trip back down is uneasy and tumultuous with a fear of falling present until the last few hundred yards but all this pales into insignificance compared to that one achievement … to have walked to England’s highest ground!