Scafell Pike

My son and I took a crack at Scafell Pike yesterday. This is the story, with photos!

Wast Water from the hills leading to Scafell Pike

Wast Water from the hills leading to Scafell Pike

We set off on Friday at about half four, taking the M6 from Walsall and heading North. Between traffic and accidents, I wasn’t expecting to be there before nine, but in the end we rolled up about ten o’clock. Google Navigation decided the fastest and shortest way to Wasdale was via Ambleside, round the top of Windemere and over the two hairiest passes in the country – Wrynose and Hardknott. Thanks Google.

We pitched the tent, loaded in the gear and settled down for the night. It was a pleasant and quiet night’s sleep, and at about seven we breakfasted and prepared to set out.

The weather wasn’t with us. Cloud was covering the hills and rain was forecast. About three hundred metres up, Wast Water began to disappear in the mist.

You can just about see the water, but there's no definition, and we're only a third of the way up.

You can just about see the water, but there’s no definition, and we’re only a third of the way up.

We pressed on, taking the shortest and most direct route up, and the rain began. To begin with it was just a few droplets, but with the wind blowing up the valley pretty soon it was cold and horizontal. The wind chill was demonstrated very well by the difference in temperature between two bottles of water – one in my rucksack and the other in the mesh pocket on the side. The outside one was remarkably chilled!

As we reached the first nearly flat section and the cloud closed in a bit, we were beginning to rely on other climbers descending to clearly identify the path. Without a clear field of view, my usual map skills weren’t going to be much help if we lost the path except to help us find a reasonably safe bearing, and I began to worry about the amount of time it would take to get up and down.

With a bit of ready reckoning, we must have been about 700 metres above sea level, and about an hour from the summit. Knowing we could expect heavier rain later and not wanting to drag my son three hours down a mountain into the teeth of very cold horizontal precipitation, I decided to turn us around and begin the long walk back.

Immediately that we began our return journey, the weather eased a little, and by the time we were halfway down the cloud was lifting and the sun beginning to shine. Certainly enough for us to grab a couple of photos on the way down and salvage a bit of the day.

Crossing the Gill. Getting your feet wet is part of the journey.

Crossing the Gill. Getting your feet wet is part of the journey.

We got back to the tent and decided to cook lunch while the rain held off. The flies we’d seen teeming under the damp trees in the evening were still around in the day, and quite interested in swimming in my coffee. In fact, they were beginning to seriously inconvenience any attempts at food. We were back early, and we’d have enough time left in the day, so we struck camp instead of spending a second night, and headed home.

So we didn’t get to the top of the hill, but my son loved his trip, and actually we did and saw all sorts of things. For example:

  • We saw two huge wind turbines from the motorway. He’d never seen those before in real life.
  • We saw a train on the West Coast mainline travelling faster than us, so it overtook us in the course of a minute or so. I was watching the road, but it was exciting for him.
  • We camped in the Lakes, with all the accompanying scenery and bracing fresh air.
  • We saw the sea! Coming back via the coast road instead of the passes has its own benefits.
  • I drove over Hardknott and Wrynose passes. Not many people do that in a year, and frankly I wouldn’t recommend it unless you’re confident as a driver and driving a suitable vehicle. My car coped rather well, and nobody got hurt.
  • We climbed about two thousand feet, and saw some remarkable views from that high.

… and as the boy said on the way home, the mountain’s not going anywhere. We’ll be back.


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