Scafell & Pike
View Scafell via Fox’s Tarn in a larger map
Another new trip for me, Scafell and from Wasdale. Tim and I were to reccy the link between Scafell Pike and Scafell by driving into Wasdale Head and then taking a route from there to Mickeldore, the col between the two tops.
We set off in foul weather from the head of Wasdale at about 9:00, wet and windy, the forecast looking to be accurate. Climbing steeply, skirting Lingmell Gill the route goes straight towards Mickledore via Brown Tongue, into the thickening cloud and showery rain. It’s warm work and there’s the usual dilemma of ‘overtrousers’ or ‘no-overtrousers’. I adopted the latter dress code.
The path steepens at the head of the cove and the scree underfoot does nothing to help forward / upward progress. When it’s saturated like this it’s more like walking in wet cement. Then suddenly we’re on the col itself, cloud and wind making this spot feel very isolated and dropping the temperature enough for us to add layers. We’re glad the wind is not at the forecast ‘gales’ 50mph level, that would have been too much.
Now the direction is down, the other side of the col towards the bottom of the East Buttress looking for a short cut through the rock and vegetation to a point 1/3rd the way up Fox’s Tarn Gully. We see several possibilities but nothing definite and its very wet and slippery and opt for the safer option of the Gully itself. This is waterfall climbing, but it’s steady and absorbing so the loss of height is quickly regained and without too much time lost. Fox’s Tarn itself is just a peaty pool of water with a huge boulder sat in it but provides a necessary landmark, we bear right up the steep slopes behind to the summit ridge. The well cairned path bearing back around to the left to the summit of Scafell proper.
Time for a refuel, food and coffee in the cloud and wind a photo or two for posterity. Then suddenly the cloud parts and we catch a glimpse of Wasdale below, only a glimpse mind as the cloud rolls back in. This is no place to linger and with no view to keep us there we head off back down the way we have come. Finding the top of the gully easily we drop down the waterfall just as wet going down as up.
At the foot of the gully we have a steep climb back up to Mickledore, this time we hug the base of the gigantic cliffs in a further attempt to find the elusive shortcut. This time we do indeed see where the faint ‘path’ seems to go right into the heart of the craggy moss. Note the word ‘path’ is a very lose term and I am not confident that in a tired state this is the way forward, better the safer option even if we lose that extra 20~30m in height.
From the end of Mickeldore, just below Broad Stand we see our next objective in the clearing cloud and mist, Scafell Pike. The highest point in England is gained in short order, its now familiar bulky cairn covered with people of all shapes and colours. There’s obviously an event on as there’s a marshall with a radio and fell runners appearing every so often, only to disappear at an alarming speed. Our enquiries establish that the event is “The Three County Tops”, Helvellyn, Scafell Pike and Coniston Old Man.
The route down is via Lingmell Col and is fairly straight forward, if long and steep at the end. The weather plays tricks, at one time heavy showers and others bright sunshine. The clear spells allow some good photos of the unusual view of Mickledore and down the Wasdale valley all the way to the West Coast and the Irish Sea.