Walking Scafell Pike - What is it really like?
Many walkers prefer to ascend Scafell Pike from the Wasdale valley. And this is a route we recommend as it is more suitable for more people. So this is the route we are going to focus on in this blog post.
How long does the walk take?
This depends on many factors. As a guideline, if starting from Wasdale Head, allowing around 5 hours in total is sufficient for the round trip. If completing a 3 Peaks challenge, you'll be aiming for about 4 hours in total.
Will I find it difficult?
Due to the rocky nature of the mountain, many consider this to be a challenging day even though the actual distance is short at only 5 miles. The ascent is steep and can feel relentless. The terrain is mostly rough, with a lot of loose boulders. However, If you are fit and determined, it is very achievable and highly enjoyable.
Is Scafell Pike suitable for kids?
This is a question we are often asked. It is a tricky one to answer as it's not clear cut. In short, it can be. Many youngsters have a great day on Scafell Pike and love the satisfaction gained from the achievement. If your kids are already used to being outdoors and in the mountains, then they are likely to have a great time on Scafell Pike. But this isn't a great first time option.
Is it a good first mountain?
It isn't the ideal first mountain! Scafell Pike is very rocky and very steep. Walk some of the lower and easier mountains first, this will enable your body to cope better when you do. Walking for 10 miles on undulating terrain or smaller hills is incomparable to even a 5 mile walk on Scafell Pike, this is much tougher. We can arrange guided walks on any Lakeland mountains.
Am I fit enough?
A good level of fitness is required. A day on Scafell Pike will consist of approximately 4 - 6 hours of mountain walking. You need to feel comfortable carrying a small day-sack and walking for extended periods and during adverse weather conditions. Complete some training walks before you arrive. Time invested in training is time well spent.
What is the weather like?
It's no secret the Lake District is quite a damp part of the world. And Scafell Pike is the wettest part of the Lake District. It rains a lot. The western mountains here in Cumbria create their own weather systems and warm air arriving off the Irish Sea will rise, cool, condense and rain. This makes the region stunningly beautiful with an abundance of colour and many water features, including big waterfalls. There are plenty of pleasantly dry days too though.
The temperature on the summit is typically 10C cooler than in the valley. So warm clothing is always needed, even during summer
What to wear / bring
Waterproof jacket - ideally with taped seams. A lightweight cagoule will not be sufficient to keep out heavy rain.
Waterproof over-trousers - as above.
Lightweight / quick drying walking trousers. Not jeans or anything similar to jeans.
Fleece jacket / top.
Wicking / quick drying ‘sports’ t-shirt or similar. As a base layer.
Hat and gloves - at least 1 set per person. During the cooler months, please bring 2 sets per person.
Hiking boots with ankle support - these should be well fitting and in good condition with plenty of tread depth.
Food and water - a minimum of 1 litre per person.
A small / medium sized backpack to carry essentials.
Personal medical supplies - for example, if any participants are prescribed an inhaler for Asthma, this must be carried during the walk.
Why are you climbing the mountain?
For some, choosing Scafell Pike is simply down to it being the biggest in England. We think that's a good enough reason. If you're looking for a peaceful summit and empty footpaths, this isn't the best choice, we can advise on many more Lakeland summits that will fit this better.
If wanting magnificent views throughout the walk and especially from the summit, Scafell Pike is also a good choice. Although a clear summit cannot be guaranteed! When it is cloud free it is a very hard act to follow.
The Route from Wasdale:
From the National Trust car park at Lake Head a footpath follows by Lingmell Gill. Initially this is on a compact surface and not steep. Going through a gate the path crosses a grassy field before returning to a compact surface and soon another gate is encountered as a footpath joins in from the left (coming from The Green at Wasdale Head).
Once through this gate the path becomes engineered and the rocky steps are often at an inconvenient angle and can be slippery when wet. After only a few minutes the river crossing is reached. During normal flow rate it is straightforward to cross the river here and rarely is it necessary to get wet feet. After heavy rainfall this changes and the river can become impassable or dangerous to cross. About 30 minutes to here.
A clear path is reached on the far side of the river, this is the first steep section and follows the feature known as Brown Tongue. Take small steady steps and just keep going, this section is likely to take around 30 minutes at a steady pace.
As the angle of ascent eases there is a split in the path and you have reached the start of the Hollow Stones boulder field.
Most will turn left here and that's what we describe here. Heading left at the fork the path soon becomes very rocky as it ventures into the boulder field. Thankfully the angle is now rather more pleasant even if the route isn't quite as clear. The scenery has now opened up much more, it's pretty epic to be honest.
Alas the easy angled terrain of Hollow Stones will come to an end and another rocky path forges towards Lingmell Col, soon to become a more compact path that zigzags up to the col. Total time through Hollow Stones to this point will be around 30 minutes.
Lingmell Col can be a very windy place, so it's well worth putting on an extra layer prior to reaching this point and have a rest in the lee of the wind. A level section of path awaits, but only for a few minutes before it veers off rightwards for the final assault on the summit. This is the rockiest and steepest section yet, but don't despair, there isn't far to go. The path becomes indistinct as it wiggles skyward around various rocky buttresses.
After about another 30 minutes a huge cairn (pile of stones) is reached and this marks the edge of the summit plateau. From here it's a stones throw to the top and on a clear day the summit is clearly visible. The ground remains very rocky and loose so remain cautious with footing. About a further 25m of ascent gains the very top of this super rocky mountain.
Well Done! About 2 hours up 🙂
Retrace your steps down. Or if with a guide or you have map & compass with you why not explore the various other options for the return journey.
Should I hire a guide?
Whilst having a guide is not a necessity for scaling Scafell Pike, there are plenty of advantages to doing so. Just a few of these benefits include:
- A guide takes care of the route planning
- Will navigate safely through the varied terrain
- Can easily divert to other routes/mountains if needed
- Will always carry safety equipment including a First Aid Kit and Storm Shelter
- Can advise on the best route for you / your group
- Will show points of interest and share knowledge throughout the day
- Can advise on progress, what's coming next, and how much further to go
I hope this has been helpful and of interest. For more about the guided walks we offer please check this link and if during your visit to the Lakes you'd like to try some adventurous activities please check out our multi-activity site Mountain Journeys
Thanks for reading