Climbing Scafell Pike

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Scafell Pike is the highest peak not just in the Lake District but in England too. It is eternally popular with walkers. Some people set foot on the mountain having never walked up a mountain before in their life. The desire to tick off the highest peaks in the UK can be compellingly strong. The popularity of this challenge has grown immensely in recent years and has become something of an official event known as the Three Peaks Challenge, generally completed by people raising money for charity. During the warmer months you will find ‘three peakers’ on Scafell Pike practically every day of the week.

We get regular enquiries about self catering cottages close to Scafell Pike so here is our guide to all the different routes you can take and the different places you can stay.

Wainwright details 6 different routes for ascending Scafell Pike, none of which should be under estimated. The summit of Scafell Pike is a complex place, a boulder field where ‘paths’ are barely visible. In fact, his description of an 'uneasy pavement' is more accurate than anything I could ever write. A map, compass and the knowledge to use them are key. As with any walk, the top of the mountain is only the halfway point on the walk. If it was a 5 mile hike to the top, you can be fairly certain it will be a five mile hike on the way back . . . . .

Gate towards Langdale
Great Langdale
Wainwright thought this walk was for ‘strong walkers and supermen only’. I have previously walked one of his routes earmarked ‘for strong walkers only’ and feel that this one might just be beyond me. It is 5.5 miles from the Old Dungeon Ghyll with no real option of varying your return route. The appeal of this route lies in the variety of Lakeland scenery. It is split into 4 distinct sections – the initial valley walk through Mickleden, then climbing the side of Rossett Gill, walking between Rossett Pass and Esk Hause and then the final stony climb to the summit passing Great End, Broad Crag and Ill Crag. Interestingly, on this route, you do not actually see Scafell Pike until the latter part of your walk.

Borrowdale river
Borrowdale
The approach from Borrowdale is one of the prettiest. It begins from a traditional Lakeland farm and makes it’s way through ever changing scenery from lush green waterfalls to stunning rock faces. Most people start their walk from from Seatoller or Seathwaite Farm. Free parking is snapped up at Seathwaite so arrive early to get a spot. This route is 6 miles from Seatoller (5 from Seathwaite) and takes in some of the most beautiful scenery that the Scafells have to offer.

The advantage of walking from Borrowdale means Scafell Pike is an easily attained walk for practically all our guests staying in cottages north of the Borrowdale Valley. There are two rewarding routes to the top of Scafell Pike from Borrowdale meaning you can ascend by one and return by the other.

The first option is to climb to Styhead Tarn taking in the beautiful and hidden waterfall of Taylorgil Force. At Sty Head you can choose to take the Corridor Route or to walk under the mammoth face of Great End to Esk Hause.  The Corridor Route is the most direct approach to the summit as it takes advantage of a shelf on the side of Broad Crag, avoiding the boulder fields till the very end. The Corridor Route passes the top of the dramatic ravine of Piers Gill on its way to the Lingmell col where the path turns to the left for the final climb to the summit.

The other route from Borrowdale is via Grains Gill and Ruddy Gill. This is a dramatic climb alongside the rushing water of the gill. As you arrive at the upper reaches of the Ruddy Gill ravine, the soil turns brilliant red; hence the name.
Great End is a formidable sight from this point in the walk, completely dominating the view. However don’t forget to take time to look back on your climb for the view to Derwentwater and Skiddaw. The next stage of the walk takes you to Esk Hause and onwards to the summit via the slopes of Great End, Broad Crag and Ill Crag.

Wasdale and Wastwater
Wasdale
Wasdale offers the quickest way to the top, being just 3.5 miles from the Wasdale Head Inn.  It is also the steepest way to the top, a relentless walk through unforgiving scenery with little of the charm and beauty of the Borrowdale routes. However the appeal here lies in the magnificence of the mountain scenery, the feeling that the summit is practically unattainable amidst the towering crags. You certainly won’t be lonely on this route. It is well sign posted from the valley and popular with day trippers and 3 peakers. Pick up a map from the Barn Door shop before you set off.

There is a second Wasdale route of 3.75 miles that takes a rough path along Piers Gill. Clear weather, a head for heights and keen eye for navigation are all absolutely ESSENTIAL for this walk, particularly if you are going to descend this way too. This route leaves from the very head of the valley, passing Burnthwaite Farm and climbing uphill along Lingmell Beck to the stunning ravine of Piers Gill. This is not a well used route and the climbing is tough in places but hugely rewarding.

Eskdale
Eskdale
Undoubtedly the most scenic and interesting route to the top, the summit of Scafell Pike is a considerable walk from Eskdale. When it comes to bagging the highest summit it is important to note that Scafell is geographically closer to Eskdale, although Scafell is actually 14 metres lower than Scafell Pike. It might only be 14 metres, but the gulf between the two peaks represents some of the trickiest ground in the entire Lake District.

Plan your route carefully if you intend just to climb Scafell Pike. If you find yourself on the summit of Scafell, you would need to allow at least an hour to traverse Mickledore onto Scafell Pike. Be wary too of Broad Stand. This is most certainly not a route for walkers and effectively bars your progress between the two peaks. Unless you are a climber and are suitably equipped, the only way to descend Scafell is via Lords Rake or Foxes Tarn, similarly when walking from Scafell Pike to Scafell you must take these detours to avoid becoming a mountain rescue statistic!

The most popular route to Scafell Pike from Eskdale begins at Brotherilkeld at the foot of Hardknott Pass. It is around 5 miles from here, taking you through Upper Eskdale into Great Moss, a great hanging valley surrounded by an impressive amphitheatre of the tallest mountains in the Lake District. The summit can be attained by three different routes from Great Moss; Cam Spout, Little Narrowcove and by Esk Hause, the latter joining with the Borrowdale routes described previously.

We have a variety of self catering Lake District cottages near Scafell Pike, enabling you to walk from the door of your cottage. You can click on the highlighted link to find your perfect cottage as a base for climbing the Lake District’s highest mountain.