Friday, 4 November 2016

Camping in the shadow of Sca Fell

So it turns out November can be cold, especially when you're camping at 550 metres above sea level.

I enjoy walking, especially in the mountains and I decided to stretch myself this week with an attempt to climb as many peaks as I could in the Scafell Range of the Lake District, over two days. I planned a route that would take in as many as I thought would be possible in the limited hours of daylight available. I also decided to camp to ensure I could make the most of the time, although this meant carrying extra gear.

I set off from Oxendale, climbing the 904 metres to Bow Fell, from where I could see my route ahead and I remained positive that I could achieve my aim of bagging 5 more peaks before the end of the day. The Scafell range of mountains, however, are arranged something like how a child might draw them - i.e. a lot of up and down - so it wasn't going to be as easy as I thought (and I didn't think it would be easy).
     Dropping off Bow Fell I completed the short hike to Esk Pike relatively quickly and then scrambled down the far side, back to 700m. At this point there is a crossroads of paths and more people were appearing from all sides. A couple stopped me and asked if the mountain I had just come off was Scafell Pike and I told them it wasn't but instead was the really tall one behind them.
     Next I climbed up to Great End, which, as it suggests, is a dead end mountain (unless you have a lot of rope), and is flat on top, but of course the highest point is right at the end of the path, so that took up more time than I anticipated. Still I got there and back and carried on (up) to Broad Crag. This is less of a mountain and more a massive pile of enormous boulders (something to do with 2 glaciers and what they've left behind - there's a joke in there somewhere). I get the impression not many people reach the top of this peak and the path skirts around the edge. Certainly it's a challenge to pick your way across this precarious jumble of rocks, and to get back down.
     With that achieved I then had the task of scrambling up to the top of Scafell Pike, the highest point in the England, and in comparison to Snowdon or Ben Nevis it is significantly harder, it almost becomes more of a climb than a walk.
     As you may imagine all of this was tiring and time consuming and my hopes of also reaching the top of Sca Fell (for which, on my route, you must descend around 300 metres and then climb 290) were fading like the light. I can say that I gave it my best shot, but also that I was unprepared for the enormity of the challenge. Scafell Pike is of course impressive, covered in boulders and steep ascents but it is nothing compared to Sca Fell, which is a wonder of creation. Seen from Scafell Pike it is a huge rock face, leaning outwards. The path up it from the east does not really exist but follows a tight gulley down which a waterfall is flowing. Still carrying my pack it took me 20 minutes to reach the top of this climb, which opens into a bowl shaped valley. The path turns right and continues up, but knowing I still had to find somewhere to camp I had to leave this for another day.

Looking up at Sca Fell


The "path" up Sca Fell from the top and the bottom. A similar gulley can be seen on the other side of the valley.

So it was another 20 minutes sliding back down the gulley and then on down the side of Sca Fell to a flat-ish piece of grass where I pitched my tent in the evening sunshine. It is one of the more dramatic places I have camped, although I'm not sure I'll spend another November night there.

My campsite, with Sca Fell on the left and Scafell Pike on the right.

1 comment:

  1. Great pictures and word summary. Alf Wainwright eat your heart out.