A foggy night on Scafell Pike


Scafell Pike circa 9pm on a June evening

Last weekend I was back up on Scafell Pike, this time working for Highpoint Mountain Guides.
As me & Joe enjoyed a brew down in the Wasdale valley, the evening was pleasant, with a light breeze, no rain, and mostly clear skies. By the time our 3 Peaks Challenge group arrived, the cloud had lowered, but only a little, looking towards Scafell Pike we thought this might be a nice straightforward night.

This view soon changed as the cloud descended to shroud the Hollow Stones boulder field and everything above. By the time we were at Lingmell Col it was commented on that we were in 'Pea soup' - meaning we could see almost nothing! In these conditions a torch is best carried at waist level in order to reduce reflection back into the eyes, thus giving slight increased visibility. Conditions remained like this for much of our ascent and descent, until we were back on the Wasdale side of Hollow Stones.
The team had experienced some difficulties on Ben Nevis, so were behind schedule, but they managed a 4 hour time for Scafell Pike, so made back some time and were feeling much more on track as they headed off to Snowdon. Hope they did good.

A few notes about ascending Scafell Pike during a 3 Peaks Challenge:

  • Spending as much time as we do in the mountains and on Scafell Pike in particular, we see plenty of strange behaviour from fellow walkers, last Saturday night highlighted a few of the more dangerous things we see. One of our group commented to me they had noticed someone without a torch (this was circa 1am). I thought this must be a mistake, but no, they really didn't have a torch, and neither did a number of their friends! To navigate over the boulder fields of Scafell Pike, at night, without a torch is crazy, please don't attempt this. There is a very high chance of injury (minor and major)
  • 1 torch per person isn't enough. At the very least have a spare set of batteries, but better still is to carry a spare torch
  • A relevant map & compass per group as an absolute minimum. Plus the ability to navigate effectively in poor visibility using these tools. Navigating on Scafell Pike can be extremely difficult during the hours of darkness
  • Do not solely rely on GPS systems
  • The weather can, and does, change very quickly in the mountains. Whilst the valleys may be warm, dry, and clear. The mountains can become very cold, windy, cloudy, and dis-orientating within minutes!
  • If in doubt, hire a guide. This will take away the stress of navigating yourself. There are lots of guiding companies out there, us being one of them whom specialise in Scafell Pike. We are available to discuss your plans and can offer advice regardless of whether or not you use our guiding services

This short info panel has been inspired by the Grough article regarding last Saturday night: www.grough.co.uk/magazine/2016/06/27/mountain-leader-i-felt-like-pied-piper-as-numerous-walkers-get-lost-in-dark-on-scafell-pike
Well done Dave, Andy, Rob and the Wasdale rescue team for helping these people out. For all those attempting the 3 Peaks Challenge as a charity fundraiser, have you considered donating a little to the local mountain rescue team: www.wmrt.org.uk  --  all rescue teams in the UK are voluntary so rely on donations.

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