Saturday, 8 September 2012

2 - Scafell Pike - 20-22nd Aug 2012

The Camp
Scafell Pike is the highest mountain in Cumbria, it also happens to be the highest point in England, I was to start this challenge with a nice memorable mountain to climb. Cumbria is a 6 hour drive from my home town of Portsmouth so it meant going for a few days rather than trying to get it done in one day. A camp site was booked and joining me were my friends Chris and Amy.

Chris and Amy

The drive up was uneventful, Chris and Amy were doing the driving for this trip and after a few pit stops along the way we arrived at our camp site in the Lake District ready to pitch our tents. The camp site was rather nice, the owners seemed very relaxed about everything and didn't seem to care when we pitched or what we did however it was a beautiful place to pitch out tents, just a short walk to the banks of Buttermere and surrounded by dramatic scenery, the perfect spot for a couple of nights.

The following day was the day of the climb and after a breakfast of bacon butties (thanks Chris) we headed off to Wasdale Head. Now the reason I chose the camp site at Buttermere was because it was a nice easy 9 miles away from the Summit of Scafell Pike, however due to the nature of the Lake District I did not realise that the 9 miles as the crow flies actually ended up as a 35 miles drive taking us well over an hour, oh well.


We arrived at Wasdale Head and first popped into the shop to get some supplies for the climb (mainly chocolate, drinks and fruit pastels for me) then we headed out of the village, down a road, across a field, finally over a river and we started our ascent, the path was ok, rough and covered in boulders but easy enough to follow. During previous climbs of Snowdon I remember it being pretty busy, especially when the weather was good there were a lot of people making the climb up Snowdon, however it was much quieter here, a few other people and a few families making the climb but not too many which was nice.

The Cloud
Eventually the path flattened out and curved around the hill where it followed a river and joined up with another path, after a section of rough path it was time to cross the river, there were no steps across, it was a case of finding the best place to cross on the assortment of rocks in the river bed.

After crossing the river the path changed from a path and into steps, they seemed to go on for ages, we climbed and climbed getting higher and higher, the view from here was spectacular, looking down towards Wastwater and beyond.

The Summit ( I am happy I promise)
After climbing steps for what seemed like ages it soon turned into climbing over rocks and boulders for a while, this area was apparently called Hollow Stones, there were plenty of stones to be found but I am not sure how many were hollow. Eventually the boulders turned into a pretty good path, probably the best path we had seem during the ascent, it was along this path we also met the cloud and a few more people. 

The Decent
The nice path did not last too long, it went back to a mixture of steps, boulders, rocks and gravel weaving its way up and up between and around larger boulders, the landscape made me think of the surface of another planet, strewn with an assortment of different sized rocks as far as you could see in the cloud. Finally ahead of us the shape of a summit appeared  through the clouds and we made our final ascent up to the stone structure on the top of Scafel Pike. 

Lone Traveller
At the top of Scafel Pike I have to be honest and say it was cold, really cold, having been climbing for the last 3 hours wearing t-shirt and we were were pretty warm but now we had stopped it got very chilly so out came the extra layers along with some lunch, it was quite cool to think that for the while we stood on the stone structure on top of the mountain we were the three highest people in England. 

We did not stay long at the summit, there were no views because of the cloud and no ice cream van 
either so there was no reason to stay and we started our descent of the mountain, as expected we were much faster going down. Re-tracing our steps we passed back down the rocky slopes of the mountain, along the winding path, past the Hollow Stones, down the steps, across the river again, around the hill and back town towards Wasdale Head.
Company along the way

I often have trouble with my knees when I do big climbs, I remember the first time I climbed Snowdon I suffered with bad aching legs during the last part of the descent and my knees suffered for many days after. So far this adventure had not affected my knees at all so I considered myself lucky with this one, the knee problems were to come a few days later but that is all part of the experience.

Back at Wasdale Head we headed into the village pub for a nice meal and a drink and Chris drove us back to the camp site, apparently he nearly fell asleep at the wheel several times but we got back in one piece VERY tired but a happy trio of climbers. 

The following morning we had a lovely breakfast, it was some kind of home made omelette (can you call it home made if we made it in a tent?) and headed out for a walk along the banks of Buttermere. After our walk we packed up camp and loaded the car up and headed off to the town of Keswick for a bite to eat at a tea room. 

After purchasing a Hedgehog (not a real one) and some things to eat it was up to Chris and Amy to drive us back home, I seem to remember sleeping for most of the journey (sorry).

The 3 day trip to the Lake District was amazing and to climb the highest peak in England was a brilliant way to start my new adventure.

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