Sunday, 13 May 2012

Scafell Pike & Lord's Rake Part 1

Question:  What do you do when work and family commitments have kept you away from the fells for a few weeks?  Answer: you cram your newly received Berghaus rucksack with as many warm clothes, food stuffs and flasks as it can handle and head for the hills.  We decided it was about time we tackled some of the big name routes that we hadn’t gotten around to yet, so we whizzed off to Wast Water, nabbed a parking spot near Wasdale Head and headed for the big lumpy stuff.

Our plan was to head up Scafell Pike but this time via the Corridor Route; after that we would drop down Mickledore to Sca Fell then down underneath Broad Stand and up onto Sca Fell via Foxes Tarn before finally descending via Lord’s Rake.  An ambitious plan but exactly what was needed to put the new rucksack through its paces.

If you’re not familiar with our hiking habits then you need to know that this time of year we are very late starters and it was 12:15pm before we left the car.  This routine usually works really well for us as we still have daylight until 10pm but most people have headed home long before then, thus giving us the peace and quiet we crave on the fells. 

The first part of the route was very easy, winding past St Olaf’s church, along Lingmell Beck and up to Sty Head tarn.  90 minutes later we were enjoying lunch in the sun overlooking the tarn and admiring the perfectly framed view of Blencathra away in the distance.  There was a cool breeze so we didn’t hang around long, plus we were keen to get stuck into the Corridor Route.  We were both under the impression that this was a tough and challenging route but the reality is that these days it’s a very straightforward and largely paved route up past Lingmell to Scafell Pike.  Don’t get me wrong, it’s very pretty, but if you’re after a challenging hike then this isn’t it.  It’s also far from quiet and we were passed by dozens of people as they made their way back down towards the tarn.

As we came up onto Lingmell Col we couldn't resist quickly nipping up to the top of Lingmell and enjoying the wonderful views of Great Gable – by far my favourite fell to look at.  It just looks like a “proper” fell; when you’re a kid and you draw a picture of a mountain, it looks like Great Gable.  Well mine did anyway.  That’s not to say my favourite cars are the ones that look like the ones I drew as a kid, for a start that would mean they’d all have very oddly shaped wheels… Anyway, back to the hike!

The final haul up to the summit of Scafell Pike is a bit of a scramble in places but still very straightforward and clearly marked.  Each time I ascend Scafell Pike I wonder how the height of the mountain is measured as it appears to be nothing but scree on the top; I wonder where the solid ground begins?  After the obligatory photos we huddled down beside the war memorial for a spot of drink and some chocolate before making our way over towards Mickledore.  (Incidentally, did you know that this whole area was gifted to the Lake District National Park following the death of its owner, Lord Leconfield, in World War I?)

The route down to Mickledore is well marked but you do need to watch your footing on the lose screes.  At the foot of the screes is a short col linking Scafell Pike with Sca Fell, this was easily passed in the good weather we had on Saturday but it’s not a route I’d fancy tackling in torrential rain.  Mind you there aren’t many routes that I think could be improved upon if only there were an apocalyptic downpour. 

As you cross the col towards Sca Fell you become immediately aware that you are now dealing with an entirely different type of fell.  Scafell Pike is the famous, sanitised fell that everybody wants to climb; Sca Fell on the other hand is big and brash and makes no concessions for anyone.  It reminded me in an odd way of Princes William and Harry.  Prince William (Scafell Pike) is the public face, the one that has to behave and be accessible to the public; Prince Harry (Sca Fell) on the other hand, can get away with being rather more mischievous and badly behaved.  I immediately warmed to Sca Fell…

Join me in part II when we scramble up a gill, successfully navigate through the mist and finally descend the infamous Lord’s Rake.

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