england, europe

Climbing Scafell Pike; England’s highest peak

Ten years ago myself, thirty other moody 14 year olds and the legendary Mr Cooper visited Seathwaite farm, near Keswick in the Lake District. It was part of our Geography GCSE course and we sure were thrilled to know that we were visiting the place with the highest rainfall in the UK! Fortunately for us, when we arrived the sun shone down on us all day. Less fortunately, I hadn’t brought sun cream or adequate fluids and returned with some severe heat stroke…

Last week, I returned to Seathwaite farm and was blessed with the same glorious sunshine. This time, instead of spending the day my geography comrades, I was with Conor (and a bottle of factor 30). Rather than spend the day collecting soil samples, this time we had come with a more challenging objective; to climb the highest peak in England.

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Scafell pike is 978m above sea level and sits just beyond the pastures of Seathwaite farm. Although the ascent from Wasdale is the most popular route, some online research prior to our visit convinced us to start our climb in sunny Seathwaite and follow the ‘corridor route’. The climb from here is tough but accessible. We found it to be a quiet route, especially considering the Lakeland fells can be very popular on a sunny half term day. In comparison to the route by which we ascended Snowdon, we found this significantly more peaceful.

From Seathwaite farm, we followed the river upstream until we reached Stockley bridge. Here we crossed the river and started our first steep ascent of the day. We climbed up through the paths until we eventually reached more horizontal ground where we joined Styhead Gill and eventually Styhead Tarn… our first resting stop! With Green Gable on our right and Seathwaite fell on our left, it was a picturesque place to stop.

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We then made our way towards the Styhead Stretcher Box, swung a left and waved goodbye to the flatter terrain that we had been enjoying. From here was to be a lot of ascents and descents and a fair bit of climbing and scrambling over rocks (my bouldering shoes could have been useful!).

The path up to Scafell is pretty clear from here and it would be difficult to get lost. It is steep and tricky in parts, but manageable… even the scree slope which felt almost vertical at the summit! Like many beautiful places, the summit was busy but it was wonderful to see so many young children enjoying the view, some looked as young as 6 or 7. Imagine going back into school on Monday and telling your friends that you climbed the highest mountain in England over the holidays!

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On a clear day like ours, you can see the coast and many of the lakes below, including Keswick and Windermere. At the summit you may also hear lots of (probably more experienced) hikers pointing out Scafell. Please do not panic, like I did, and assume that you have climbed the wrong peak! If you are at the highest point for miles (and also possibly the busiest…) you have climbed Scafell Pike! Sitting just 14m below Scafell Pike is Scafell at 964m and it’s likely that this is what they’re taking about.

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The descent was tricky in places, yet as a lover of bouldering, also a lot of fun! Expect to have to clamber in quite a few places. Online, many webpages claim that the climb can be done in around 6-8 hours. I would advise that it would take 8-10 hours if you’re going to stop to take photographs, have snacks and rest breaks. I would also recommend taking double the amount of water that you expect to drink, especially if the day is as glorious as ours was. We really struggled towards the end of the walk, not cool or clever.

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At the end of the walk, we decided to grab some pub grub in the nearby town of Keswick and attempt not to fall asleep in our food! We then caffeinated ourselves and grabbed some delicious Kendal mintcake ready for the drive home.

Scafell Pike is, thus far, my favourite hike. I will always remember the day that Conor and I climbed it as one of my favourite memories. It feels much more natural than Snowdon and more challenging than other Lakeland peaks. I am desperate to climb Ben Nevis to see how that compares, but as I leave the UK for the foreseeable future next week, it may have to wait!

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Instead I will just look forward to all the hikes that lie ahead of us in the US National Parks this summer… 4 more sleeps!

What’s your favourite hike to do? Let me know in the comments or connect with me on Instagram @thisteachertravels

 

 

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