Scafell Pike

Length 14 Kilometres | Highest point 978 metres

Great End 910m, 2985ft, GR 227084
Ill Crag 935m, 3068ft, GR 223073
Broad Crag 930m, 3051ft, GR 219076
Scafell Pike 902m, 2959ft, GR 216072


 

This walk enables the competent hill-walker to roam in the domain of the rock climber. The four summits, one of which is the highest ground in England, each have spectacular views of the extensive crags on either side of the summit ridge. The walk should not be under-estimated as the ground is rough and boulder-strewn in places and in poor weather, accurate use of a map and compass is essential as it is all too easy to stray onto dangerous ground.

Park at Wasdale Head and from the green, follow the stony walled track NE towards the mass of Great Gable ahead, passing a small church. At Burnthwaite Farm, signs guide you through the farmyard towards the open fells. Continue east following the obvious path across pasture-land, through several gates to reach the narrow, wooden bridge spanning Gable Beck. After another 300 metres, the paths splits: the left-hand stone track traverses the scree-covered hillside of Gable to reach Sty Head; the right-hand grass path is an old packhorse route which follows the stream and is a preferable way to arrive at Sty Head.

This grass path follows Lingmell Beck for 1km to its junction with Piers Gill. Cross the beck on stones and continue up a small spur to follow the path as it gains height towards Sty Head. There are magnificent views of Wasdale and, in particular, from the higher reaches of the path a keen eye should be able to pick out the silhouette of Napes Needle among the southern crags of Great Gable. From Sty Head, the view suddenly unfolds to produce a panorama of the northern Lakeland fells with Sty Head Tarn nestling at your feet.

The route to Great End goes east, following the stony track to Langdale via Esk Hause. After 400 metres the path crosses a small stream by a large boulder. Leave the path and go right heading across grass slopes in a southerly direction to follow an intermittent path up the steep ridge known as ‘The Band’. There is no fixed route but height is gained easily by picking your way through various outcrops and boulders to reach the halfway point signified by a slight dip at the head of Skew Gill. Continue steeply upwards through more outcrops, pausing to admire the views of the Langdale Pikes to your left. Eventually the slope eases as you arrive at the NW cairn. The true summit cairn of Great End is 200 metres SE mounted on top of a boulder of huge proportions (5.5km, 830m, 3hrs).

Bowfell from Scafell Pike in winter
Bowfell from Scafell Pike in winter

From the summit, head south down rocky ground which soon leads to a col. Now head SW up easy ground at first, but soon becoming rougher due to large boulders. At the end of the boulders, the summit of Scafell Pike comes into view as the ground again eases. It is worth making a detour at this point to the south to reach the summit of Ill Crag whose extensive views down the Esk valley provide an insight into another hidden area of Lakeland. Head NW from this summit to rejoin the well-worn path and continue across it to take in the summit of Broad Crag. This is reached by a scramble over boulders and scree but the effort is well-rewarded by the spectacular view northwards to the Great Gable massif. Return to the main path again, continue SW down rough ground to the final col before the summit slope. A short distance of steep, uphill ground leads finally to the summit of England (8km, 1020m, 3hrs 45min).

Leave the summit by heading NW again over boulders to reach the col under Lingmell’s summit. Here turn right to follow a well-worn path across the top of the spectacular chasm of Piers Gill. After crossing the head of the gill, stay with this path on fairly level ground passing some small tarns on your left to continue along the ‘Corridor Route’, crossing the head of Greta Gill, then the bottom of Skew Gill to return to Sty Head. The easiest route of descent is SW via the outward zig-zag packhorse route to the valley bottom. Once back in the valley and through Burnthwaite Farm, spare a few moments to visit the beautiful church set amongst yews, with its memorials to former mountaineers.

Great End and Scafell Pike can be climbed from Borrowdale via Sty Head and from Langdale via Esk Hause. A long approach is possible from Brotherilkeld in Eskdale. The shortest and steepest route to the summit is from the Wasdale NT camp site, via Lingmell Gill, Hollow Stones and the rocky col of Mickledore.