Whilst it has been allowed to access the high mountains for a while now, it is only recently that Mountain Rescue teams have adopted this stance, and they are still quite rightly asking people to exercise caution when on the fells. To be absolutely clear before I write any more, on each occasion we have ventured out into the mountains, we have been taking additional steps to reduce risks, even more than we usually do. We would suggest that anyone heading into the mountains also take extra care. Consider your route carefully, who you are going with, how long the route will likely take, pack a torch and batteries just in case, have a first aid kit, extra food, plenty of water (some streams are low/dry), carry a Buff, spare warm clothing.
Many many calls to Mountain Rescue are due to walkers becoming lost. This is almost always avoidable by having a map and compass with you and knowing how to use them effectively. Please do not rely solely on a mobile device for navigation. If unsure of your map and compass skills and if you would like to learn more or have a refresher course. We can help, our navigation skills courses are designed to help walkers become confident and independent navigators. Check out the courses here.
Sorry if this all sounds like a bit of a lecture, it isn't meant to be! What I'm really writing about today is a fantastic day had on Scafell Pike on Thursday.
Over the years we have walked up Scafell Pike from all the valleys and with 1000's of lovely customers, we have enjoyed each and every walk, yes even the middle of the night 3 Peaks challenges. And we are currently missing this and you all greatly.
We have also rock climbed on the mighty crags of Scafell. But until Thursday, we had not done any rock climbing on Scafell Pike. There is not nearly as much climbing on Scafell Pike as on the neighbouring Scafell. But Pikes crag, perched high above Wasdale and just next to the dramatic Mickledore, is home to a good selection of climbs. For many years we've had in mind to climb on this lump of rock so it has been very satisfying to finally make it happen.
As it is possible to approach Scafell Pike from Langdale, I decided to do that as it is only 7 miles from home to Langdale. And would meet my friend Anna at the base of the crags, she would approach from Wasdale as that is the nearest access valley for her. A bit of carbon footprint reduction going on, in a small way. The walk in from Langdale is long (about 11km) and includes about 900m of ascent, the weather was hot and sunny, so it wasn't my quickest effort to get to the Pike!
Still, I arrived at the crags only a few minutes behind schedule and Anna was already waiting, enjoying a coffee in the sun I think. We noticed climbers already on Scafell crag, still in the shade it looked cold. I was very happy to be on the sunny crag for a change. It was straightforward to find the start of the climb and with a bit of guidebook reading we could clearly identify the first 2 pitches, it looked good.
Grooved Arete - HVD - 3 stars. Or if you're a Rockfax person it gets a Top 50 rating!
Pitch 1 - Grassy ledges and a bit of rock led us into a prominent V groove at the base of a steeper wall. This was easy, more of a scramble than a climb. This pitch is best done in trainers.
Pitch 2 - This looked more like it. The corner crack gave brilliant climbing, in my opinion it was the best climbing on the whole route. A traverse left to the arete afforded some exposure before delicate moves led to a large belay stance.
Pitch 3 - A chimney - this never sells a route to me - with a bulge to be negotiated, hmmm. Especially so when climbing with a pack on, chimneys are always really challenging. Thankfully this one was fairly gentle on us, allowing relatively easy passage before more scrambling terrain reached a belay in a niche.
Pitch 4 - The description suggested some difficult hand-jamming to get started up this pitch. I'd agree with that. The climbing was satisfying and challenging enough to keep us focused. Blocky ground above took us rightwards towards a delightful stance on the arete.
Pitch 5 - A short pitch following slabs gave more good sport. This too led to a fine stance in an open corner. By now the views were magical.
Pitch 6 - A bridging move to get through the corner before we climbed up a huge open chimney, this was far easier than it looked. Whilst belaying here on an exposed ledge, I was trying hard to figure out where the route would take us next. I had in mind to simply make a bee-line for the top, but then had a look at the guidebook which suggested we go left.
Pitch 7 - We did as instructed by the guidebook and followed ledges leftwards to an arete. Easy slabs led to the summit of Pulpit rock. My idea of a straight up from the belay would have worked well too, although we may have missed out some of the great exposure on the arete.
About 115m of actual rock climbing to reach this mini summit. The climb was of sustained difficulty and kept us interested the whole way. From Pulpit rock it is best to set up a short abseil to descend to a neck of land connecting with the Scafell Pike massif. This abseil is about 10m and from a huge boulder. There we slings in-situ, but this shouldn't be relied upon and we had spare slings and rope with us in case nothing was in place. We also thoroughly checked the in-situ equipment before using it. This is vitally important and must be done anytime in-situ equipment is being used. If in doubt, replace it.
It was time to say goodbye to Anna as she headed back to Wasdale. For me, it would be a sunny stroll across Scafell Pike, Broad crag, and Ill crag back to Esk Hause then descending into the Langdale valley. This walk was pure bliss, even though tiredness was starting to say hello!
There were walkers out all day, I passed quite a few and saw plenty more as distant figures on the fells. But it wasn't busy. Same goes for the crags. There were teams of climbers on the East Buttress of Scafell and Scafell crag. But far from busy. From what I could tell people were simply out enjoying the mountains on a warm sunny day. Social distancing was evident, but people were still being nice and friendly. The vibe was good.
So to reiterate, for those of you that wish to venture into the mountains and have the skills to be self sufficient whilst doing so, go for it. But do take extra care.
For those wanting to experience the mountains and are less sure of their navigation skills or general mountain craft skills, please consider hiring a guide to help keep you safe. We'd be delighted to help and can tailor skills courses or guided walks to suit you. We also offer rock climbing, scrambling, gorge walking, and abseiling.
Details of all these and more can be found on our Mountain Journeys website.
From Monday 1st June, in line with government guidance, we can cater for groups of up to 5 participants.
Thanks for reading