Scafell Pike

Map for Scafell PikeThis walk takes us up through some of the most dramatic mountain scenery in the Lake District, visits Sprinkling Tarn in its dramatic isolation below the crags of Great End, before brings us to the summit of the highest mountain in England. On a clear day the views are majestic on every step from Wasdale to the summit of Scafell Pike.

This walk is not really suited to a foggy day - the rocky Scafell ridge is difficult to negotiate in poor visibility.

Ascent: 3,571ft
Length: 9.3 miles
Map: Lakes South West
Last Walked: August 2007

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We start in the car park in front of the Wasdale Head Inn. Pass to the right of the inn, heading towards Mosedale Beck. Just before the beck, turn right and follow the signposted path that runs between the buildings of Wasdale Head and the beck.

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Wasdale Head from Moses TrodWe follow this path until it crosses Fogmire Beck. Turn right onto the path that runs alongside this minor beck to Burnthwaite farm. Just beyond the farm the path leaves the side of this beck and continues along the base of valley, heading towards Lingmell Beck.

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Moses TrodJust under half a mile after passing the farm, this path crosses Gable Beck on a substantial footbridge. Ignore the path that branches off to the left just past this beck (this path leads up to Napes Needle on the slopes of Great Gable). Instead continue along the valley bottom path for another 800 feet. This brings us to another junction, where a minor path continues along the valley bottom while our path turns slightly to the left and begins the climb up towards Sty Head. Take this left hand branch (Moses Trod) and follow it all the way to the top of the pass.

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Sty Head TarnAt the top of the climb we reach Sty Head. Here a ridge of high ground separates Wasdale from Sty Head tarn. Turn right and follow the path that runs along this high ground, heading due east. To our right is the northern flank of Great End, and the start of the corridor route up Scafell Pike, while straight ahead is a major path, complete with Sprinkling Tarn from Great End stone steps, which climbs up alongside the ravine formed by the small beck that runs out of Sprinkling Tarn. Follow this path alongside the stream.

Our path passes to the right of Sprinkling Tarn, dips down into the valley of Ruddy Gill, and then climbs up towards Esk Hause, running to the right of the dramatic gorge of Ruddy Gill.

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Ruddy GillAt the head of the ravine the path splits in two - the original right of way continues on straight ahead, while our route takes the path that climbs up to the right, a short cut that brings us to the path from Esk Hause onto the Scafell Pike ridge.
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View from the Esk Hause short cutAfter climbing steeply for a quarter of a mile our path reaches another path. Turn right onto this path and follow it up onto the ridge between Great End and Scafell Pike.

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Despite the thousands of people who walk across the ridge every year, no clear paths cross the rough rocky surface of this ridge. Our route is marked by a reasonably clear line of cairns, and on clear days by the line of walkers visible ahead and by Scafell Pike itself. On a foggy day it can become very indistinct.

Somewhere on Scafell PikeThe path from Esk Hause reaches the top of this ridge and then turns left, crossing a wilderness of boulders as it passes to the right of a rocky outcropping. This stretch is followed by an easier patch, on the relatively boulder-free top of Ill Crag. Here the path is visible on the ground,

This path eventually drops down into the gap between Ill Crag and Broad Crag. At the bottom of his drop the path turns slightly to the left and heads around the left hand side of Broad Crag, The correct route curves gently around to the right, climbing slightly, and is marked by cairns built precariously on the rocks. In clear weather the best guide is the bulk of Scafell Pike but in heavy fog take care not to head too far up onto Broad Crag.

This path eventually drops down into the gap between Broad Crag and Scafell Pike itself.

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North-East Ridge of Scafell PikeThe path up Scafall Pike from the bottom of this gap is much more obvious. It runs a little to the left of the right of way marked on OS maps (the correct line is shown), climbing steeply up onto the summit of Scafell Pike. Make a note of the point at which you reach this area, for the top of Scafell Pike is almost as rocky as Broad Crag, with equally unclear paths.
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On this walk we return to Wasdale Head by reversing our steps, taking care at the start to return to the point we remembered in the last step. As often happens this gives us a very different series of views, especially of the two tarns.