Sunday, 13 May 2012

Scafell Pike & Lord's Rake Part 2

So, at the end of part I we were perched at the end of Mickledore looking for a route up onto Sca Fell.  From this starting point you have 2 options available to you; neither of them are easy, but both of them are fun.  We opted to start by dropping down underneath Broad Stand and then picking up the “path” to Foxes Tarn.  I’m making this sound an awful lot easier than it actually is.

The route down underneath Broad Stand is a very unstable scree slope which, just to make things interesting, is littered with tiny waterfalls which drip down onto you from the rocks of Sca Fell above.  As you slip and slither your way down this route you realise just how big and imposing Sca Fell is; all that scree has to come from somewhere so be sure to take things steady and keep your eyes and ears open the whole time. To be honest I did most of this on my backside and that turned into a bit of a theme for the rest of the afternoon and evening.  I have a pretty awful sense of balance so find it best to opt for as many points of contact as possible whenever the going gets slippy.  Unfortunately it means I get through a lot of walking trousers, which is expensive, but at least I remain intact.

At the end of Broad Stand the “path” up Sca Fell leads away to your right.  I say “path” because it’s actually a rock strewn gill with no real discernible path.  If you’re up for a scramble though it’s tremendous fun and there are plenty of hand and footholds along the way.  Of course being a gill means it’s slippy so don’t try anything heroic, this is about getting to the top in one piece and not setting any speed records.  At the top you’ll be rewarded with the tiny but perfectly proportioned Foxes Tarn; a perfectly peaceful sheltered little spot, ideal for the final flask of tea and a spot more chocolate.

Another scree scramble brings you to the summit ridge of Sca Fell.  We took a detour to the summit but sadly as we’d headed up the mist had come down, so there was nothing to see apart from showdy crags as the mist blew across.  So we braced ourselves and headed for Lord’s Rake.  Now, how do you tackle a challenging route if you’ve never done it before?  You keep your sensible head on, take your time and use all the experience you’ve gained from elsewhere to get you through safely.  If the Corridor Route had been easier than expected then this was definitely harder.

We dropped down off the summit via Symonds Knott and along Scafell Crag.  The entrance to Lord’s Rake is easy to spot but intimidating from the off.  If you are at all unsure of your ability to complete this route then stop now, return to the summit and head back via an alternate route.  The route drops very steeply down a muddy scree strewn slope, along a narrow path, up a heavily screed gully before the biggest drop which will return you to the main path down from the fell.  The route has been closed on regular occasions in the past due to land slips and it’s easy to see why.

We made our way very slowly and carefully down the first drop, keeping close to the edge and using the solid crags for balance.  The short narrow path at the bottom gives you a little breathing time before the final “up and over”.  I find it a lot easier climbing this stuff than I do descending it and we were soon at the top of the final, gut wrenching, descent.  It’s at moments like this that I question my sanity.  By now it was 7:30pm on a Saturday night and across the breadth of the land millions of people were curled up in front of the TV with a pizza and a glass of wine.  What on earth possessed me to be stood at the top of one of the trickiest descents in the Lake District with a dirty great grin on my face?  Clearly I need help!

It’s not the sort of drop you should stand staring at for too long, you’ll just scare yourself silly, so we set off, slowly and carefully making our way down the gully.  It is a genuinely dangerous route with the very real possibility of getting injured either from slipping on the scree or being knocked by rocks dislodged by the person above you.  Away down below us we could see the clear and stable route down off the fell, all we had to do was keep our heads long enough to reach it.  As we inched our way down it was apparent that there were some very recent rock falls, which didn’t do a lot for our nerves, but we persevered, keeping our wits about us at all times.  As we emerged from the main gully the ground became a lot firmer as we made our way back to the main path.  As I stood and looked back at it I couldn’t quite believe what I’d just done.

After all of that the rest of the descent was very straightforward and uneventful, the path is very clear and mainly paved and we were finally back at the car by 10pm.  Would I do Lord’s Rake again?  I very much doubt it, but I can’t wait to get back to Sca Fell, most definitely my new favourite fell to play on.

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