At one point, I considered leaving Scafell to the end of my Wainwright round, and making it my last fell. If I had done, then clearly I wouldn’t be writing this post now. But I wanted something more symbolic for my final fell and chose Haystacks, leaving me free to visit Scafell sooner rather than later.
My visit to Scafell came at the climax of my south west Lakes trip in July 2010, a trip I’d wanted to do for ages, as the bottom left corner of my Lake District wall map was right in my line of sight sat at my desk in my study at home. After many hours of staring at the map, I’d managed to crack the problem of accommodation between Silecroft and Eskdale, and even the last minute scare when my B&B near Devoke Water fell through turned out to be a blessing in disguise.
The night before I climbed Scafell, I arrived at YHA Eskdale knackered from a walk over Hesk Fell, Stainton Pike, Yoadcastle et al, loaded down with all my stuff. With two more days of walking – one to cover Scafell and Slight Side, and one over Hard Knott, Harter Fell and Green Crag – I opted for the marginally shorter of the two walks, especially given a forecast of thundery showers.
I headed off the road at Wha House, following the path below Hare Crag, Goat Crag and Bull How, none of these beasts to be seen anywhere. The views then opened up a bit, being mainly Hard Knott and the Cold Pike-Crinkles at this point. Up and around Cat Crag and then the long slog up onto Slight Side, but with the views now including Bowfell, Esk Pike and Scafell Pike.
As well as my target too. A quick trip to Slight Side’s summit and then the ground got stonier as I followed the ridge up onto Scafell itself, pausing briefly at the summit before heading for Symond’s Knott where I stopped for lunch overlooking the steep drops below and watching the hordes on Scafell Pike. My perch here must be one of my favourite lunch stops of all time.
My day on Scafell was memorable for three reasons. Firstly, the view of the mountains around the head of Eskdale – Scafell, Scafell Pike, Ill Crag, Esk Pike, Bowfell, Crinkle Crags and Cold Pike – which was impressive even in the greyness of that day’s conditions and which helped make the long slog more bearable.
Once up on the ridge, the views south west were also impressive, even on this grey and threatening day.
Secondly, after passing over the summit, I walked over to Symond’s Knott for a lunch break overlooking the crags and with especially good views to Scafell Pike and Great Gable. I watched the crowds of people filing up onto the summit of Scafell Pike, giving it the appearance of a teeming anthill. I sat there smugly with my little corner of Scafell to myself, knowing that it wouldn’t have been possible anywhere on Scafell Pike’s summit plateau.
And as I sat there, I watched the clouds roll in and become darker and heard the first distant rumble in the sky. Time to go, so I returned to the main summit and then descended down the path directly down the side of the fell to Burnmoor Tarn, the sky becoming darker as I got lower. I got to the tarn, looked back and saw the first signs of the storm now over the Scafells. I followed the paths back down to Boot and back to the hostel, pleased with myself for getting my bad weather timing right for once.
Scafell is in many ways a more interesting mountain than its slightly bigger brother, with crags and plunging drops to be investigated, and has some challenging routes to the top. I’ve not tried any of those yet, but I know I will return to attempt them. In this respect Scafell’s relationship with Scafell Pike is akin to that of Y Lliwedd to Yr Wyddfa (Snowdon). Snowdon is the taller one that attracts the crowds, whilst those that appreciate more craggy and extreme mountain scenery and the ability to have the summit to themselves would be more likely to enjoy the latter. I know I do.
I only have one slight regret about my day on Scafell, and it’s that I missed out all of the smaller tarns at the Eskdale end of the ridge. This would have made the day even more special. But that’s given me a good excuse to return, not that an excuse is needed.