Up Close and Personal with Scafell Pike
England’s highest point at 978 metres may not seem too impressive on paper when compared to its parent peaks, but Scarfell Pike offers some truly wonderful hill walking experiences. Various start points from the surrounding villages exist but for a truly up close and personal experience, its best to set up camp at the foot of the mountain in the remote Wasdale valley.
Scarfell Pike lies in the wonderfully scenic Lake District national park close to the M6 motorway, making it a great weekend adventure. Routes to the summit start from all around the mountain. Ideally you’d want to be accommodated near a starting point (Seathwaite, Eskdale and Longdale). One of the most popular routes starts at Wasdale Head. Not the longest or the most strenuous route, it’s a very practical location to start from, easily accessible by car with free parking, a pub and a hotel (stays from £59 pppn), shop and best of all a tiny campsite. This campsite offers a truly “back to basics” experience with the added advantage of being close to the pub! I’d recommend arriving on a Friday after sunset and pitching up quietly in the dark. That way, after a peaceful night in the wilderness listening to the eerie gusts of wind and nothing but the sound of the odd sheep barring to disturb you, one can crawl out of their sleeping bag to a fresh sight of the stunning mountains of the Southern Fells which surround you.
After your morning constitution, you can simply leave your tent and head up to the Fells. The official trail starts at the car park, where you’ll go though some fields and eventually crossing a wooden bridge over a dried rocky stream. Shortly after, the route starts to steepen. Whilst no technical experience is needed, note that the route can be quite steep in places as it meanders up to the summit. As you gain altitude and weather permitting the picturesque view behind you will start to fully develop. Look back to see the valley with Wast Water surrounded by rounded mountain tops with the Irish Sea in the background. The trail will become more gradual midway through and you’ll see the path snake back on the opposite hillside divided by a small brook which you’ll need to cross. Eventually you’ll notice the green surroundings give way to rocky surfaces and probably some snow patches.
The final push to the top will be over the barren rocky surface so good shoes should be worn. The wind chill factor can really make the temperature feel a lot lower then it actually is. The summit resembles a plateau; no spectacular peak or final scramble here, but a cairn and a trig point marks England’s highest point. More impressive then the summit itself is the view. All the surrounding Fells are visible and on a clear day even the Isle of Man is just about in sight. Once you’ve had your fill of the stunning scenery, you can make your way back down again the same route, or if you have a map, it’s possible to deviate from the trail and still end up back at your tent at Wasdale Head.
Scarfell Pike is a great experience for a novice hill walker as well as a camper; the entire area lends itself well for exploring the English countryside. Other peaks are just as exhilarating to climb with the added advantage that you’ll actually be able to see Scarfell Pike from other peaks. A couple of days to explore all of the lake district is simply not enough but if that’s all you can spare, I’d suggest a quick visit to the Castlerigg Stone Circles, where unlike Stonehenge you can walk right up to them. From here, Keswick is only a short drive away for a great traditional pub lunch to fuel you for your return journey home.