Scafell Pike from Dunmail Raise

3rd May 2014

The idea to walk from Dunmail Raise which is just outside Grasmere to Scafell Pike was inspired to me by a section of the route used by fell runners on the notoriously difficult Bob Graham Round. The Bob Graham Round is the challenge of all Lakeland Challenges that covers a staggering 66 miles over a 27,000 ft circuit of 42 of the highest peaks in the English Lake District, all within 24 hours.

The route is split into sections & today we will be using what I consider to be the best section of the route ‘Dunmail Raise to Scafell Pike’ yet instead of running we shall be walking at our own pace, much slower I might add, during the latter of the walk.

Last weekend I had to sit out Lakeland due to a damaged ligament in my right knee, those familiar to the blog may remember this occurred during the descent of the Halls Fell Ridge on the 21st April, so for the last fortnight I’ve been treating the knee to regular ice packs & anti-inflammatory’s to help with the swelling, luckily the damaged ligament took well to the treatment which more or less gave me the green light for today’s walk, although I must state that precaution & gaining confidence back in the knee was precedent, along with anti-inflammatory’s support to the knee came in the form of a five quid Tubi-grip bandage, which was possibly the best five quid I’ve spent in a long while.

This route is a linier route therefore to succeed I would have to leave my car ideally at Dunmail Raise & somehow find my way back from Seathwaite either by Bus or an expensive Taxi, that was until I spoke to David Hall while on our last walk about proposed routes for 2014, you know the ones that stand out, I spoke of my route & David seemed really keen to join me in or around early May as I wanted to coincide the walk with my 40th Birthday so the timing couldn’t have been better as we carried the route out the day before my Birthday celebrations began.



Wainwright Guidebooks Three and Four

The Central and Southern Fells

-Scafell Pike

The ascent of Scafell Pike is the toughest proposition the collector of summits is called upon to attempt, and it is the one above all others that as a patriot, he cannot emit.


Ascent: 5,800 Feet 1,768 Meters
Wainwrights: 10, Steel Fell – Calf Crag – Sergeant Man – Thunacar Knott – Pavey Ark – Harrison Stickle – Pike O’ Stickle – Rossett Pike  – Great End – Scafell Pike
Weather: Dry & Overcast With Some Drizzle Towards The Latter Of The Walk, Highs Of 14°C Lows Of 5°C Feels Like 4.3°C
Parking: Roadside Parking Seathwaite Borrowdale – Roadside Parking, Dunmail Raise
Area: Central – Southern
Miles: 16.8
Walking With: David Hall
Ordnance Survey: OL4 – OL5 – OL6
Time Taken: 11 Hours 55 Minutes
Route: Dunmail Raise – Steel Fell – Steelfell Tarn – Calf Crag – Brownrigg Tarn – Codale Head – Sergeant Man – Thunacar Knott – Pavey Ark – Harrison Stickle – Pike O’Stickle – Martcrag Moor – Stake Pass – Rossett Pike – Angle Tarn (Langstrath) – Esk Hause – Calf Cove – Great End – Broad Crag Col – Scafell Pike – Corridor Route – Styhead – Styhead Gill – Stockley Bridge – Seathwaite

Map and Photo Gallery


Dunmail Raise 07:25am 5°C

The call to do the walk today was purely based upon the weather forecast, of course I wanted to keep the walk as close as possible to early May, therefore the light only turned green the Thursday previous, that gave me just a matter of hours to plan meeting times & logistics with the two cars that we would be using, as usual I like to plan things & maybe yes, I always seem to go overboard hence the extra time taken when really all that was needed was a meeting time, it was agreed that we should meet in Seathwaite at 07:00am & whoever arrived first should  leave the car as high up as possible to the farm which worked out at about five or six car lengths.

I arrived first at roughly around 06:50am, the sun was out as the trees lining the lane flickered in the morning breeze, I figured as I was early I would put my boots on, not before an outrageous stretch that saw the belly exposed, not the best sight to see first thing in a morning.

David arrived shortly afterwards as I was still lacing the boots up, I hadn’t finished but this didn’t stop me reaching for David’s hand the moment he closed the car door.


David suggested we leave my car in Seathwaite as I had already drove the 115 miles to get here, within minutes we were heading out of Seathwaite through Borrowdale where we would pick up the A591 via Keswick.

We chatted the whole journey & spirits were on a natural high, what a great start to the day, driving through Borrowdale the thought of what lay ahead was brisked away with chatty banter.

The thoughts of ‘I only hope my knee holds out’ were never far from my mind.

Seat Sandal & Dunmail Raise from our Steel Fell accent.

I estimated the journey from Seathwaite through to Dunmail Raise at around forty minutes travel time, in fact it only took David half that with hardly any traffic on the road so early in the morning, this was yet another positive to today’s proceedings.

David managed to park quickly & within no time at all we were kitting up at the back of the car, it was notably cooler here at Dunmail Raise so the jackets were the first items of layers to go on.

Throughout the journey from Seathwaite we contemplated which route we should ascend Steel Fell by, a direct route ‘by the fence’ was suggested which is horrendously steep or a more lenient ascent should we zig zag our own way up, we chose the latter given the thought there was no need to knacker ourselves out on the first ascent of the day.

It didn’t work.

I followed David as we mostly side stepped the steep ascent, only switching to a more direct ascent once we arrived at gully in the face of the fell from where the only way was up. Both David & I were using our walking poles, such the steepness of the fellside they almost came up to shoulder length with each forward progression, the ascent was steep but we powered our way up only stopping once or twice to take photos, if any ascent during this walk was going to give my knee trouble it was this one, and thankfully I had passed it.

Thirlmere, Whelp Side & Helvellyn Lower Man looking north.
One of the main things apparent this morning was light, or the lack of it, quite early on during the ascent the sunshine that I had witnessed back at Seathwaite was struggling to show through the thickening cloud above, the poor light stayed with us for the duration of the whole walk, however we were still blessed to have distant views such a this one over Thirlmere towards a distant Blencathra & Lonscale Fell.

Thirlmere once we had gained the main summit shoulder.
Once we had crested the ridge we stood a few moments to gather our strength back after the steep haul, with no false summits & much flatter ground underfoot we took on the slight ascent towards the summit not before I turned around to take this photo looking back along the summit ridge.

Thirlmere from Steel Fell summit cairn.

After realising that my knee was coping well after what I considered to be one of the steepest ascents of the route I could now bury that worrying feeling in that at least the knee is doing fine, now I guess from the top of Steel Fell summit as David & I took one last look at Thirlmere we could now concentrate on the challenge ahead.

It was a good idea to split our route into three sections, we decided on Dunmail Raise to Pike O’ Stickle to complete section I, after that we thought Pike O’ Stickle to Great End would complete section II & finally Great End to Scafell Pike would complete section III, once upon Great End we laughed, that’s the point of no return.

High Raise from Steelfell Tarn.

As always both David & I were knee deep in conversation often walking ourselves into bogs & the wet areas notorious along the ridge, if uttered the words ‘I think were off the path’ once we must of uttered it a thousand times.

Conversation is great to keep up morale & I guess with any group of walkers it works in the same way so early into a walk…the familiarity of quietness will also come but that’s along way off yet.

It’s only normal when one has to dig deep wouldn’t you agree?

Here, looking back along the ridge towards Steel Fell, Nethermost Pike, Fairfield & Great Rigg.
‘I think we’re off the path again!’

High Raise from Calf Crag summit cairn.

After negotiating the bogs Calf Crag summit was soon reached where we stopped to take a few summit shots, we both noted that considering that this was a Bank Holiday Saturday we were quite surprised that we hadn’t seen anyone along the ridge, of course all that will change as the walk progresses but for the now it was just us & a slight wind.

(For now that is)

Broadstone Head taken from Calf Crag summit.

Our route would see us take on Broadstone Head before reaching our third summit of the morning of Sergeant Man (seen as the pointed peak) in the far distance above Broadstone Head, considering that we hadn’t seen anyone up to now what happened next was quite remarkable.

Shortly after leaving Calf Crag we were met by a fell runner who just appeared from nowhere, a very polite guy in his fifties heading for would you believe, Scafell Pike, I think the chances of meeting somebody today tackling the same route as us were one in a million & there we were chatting to a guy doing just that, with exceptions that this guy was not only going to reach Scafell Pike but he was going to run back too!

Calf Crag & a distant Steel Fell from Broadstone Head.

We picked our way up the path & made it to the head quite quickly, here I talk David through the last time I was here escaping a thunderstorm that was happening right above my head, sure enough I ran down Broadstone Head with such pace I think it only took me minutes to reach the bottom all the time witnessing the storm move over my head towards the Helvellyn range as huge hail balls pelted the ground.

Possibly the scariest moment of my whole fell walking career!

We press on.

Windermere from Coledale Head.
A distant afterglow was on the eastern horizon which faded as the morning went on, nevertheless a beautiful spectacle to capture. In the far distance the North Yorkshire fells with a possible a sighting of Ingleborough in the far distance.

Sergeant Man as we round Coledale Head.
Sergeant Man was upon us & much sooner than I had first imagined, it was here we witnessed more & more walkers all taking advantage of the dry holiday weather, it was also here we plotted our route over the next four summits of Sergeant Man, Thunacar Knott, Pavey Ark & Pike O’ Stickle, we had made our summit choices purposely leaving out High Raise (Langstrath) & Loft Crag due to the fact that no matter how close they are summiting both of these summits would only add on valuable time, we got the decision right.

Pavey Ark & Stickle Tarn with the Coniston Fells in the Distance.
From Sergeant Man I took this photo of what would be our fifth summit of the morning of Pavey Ark, but before all that we had to gain some slight ground to reach Thunacar Knott which was only a short distance away.

Thunacar Knott bound.

After leaving Sergeant Man behind we headed for Thunacar Knott over pathless ground until we joined up with the main ridge path that links up with Greenup Edge.

It was while walking this path could we see for the first time Great End & a distant Scafell Pike beyond Ill Crag & Broad Crag, a daunting sight to say the least which we could only joke about.

Our main goal here was to reach Pike O’ Stickle & complete the first leg of the route, from where we could rest a little & concentrate on reaching Rossett Pike & Great End.

Scafell Pike is barley visible beyond a distant Ill Crag & Broad Crag.

This distant southern fells were at times impossible to ignore.
We had a very pleasant traverse since leaving Sergeant Man &  reaching Thunacar Knott only hampered by a cool breeze that swept across the ridge.

Harrison Stickle from Thunacar Knott summit cairn.
We plotted the time that it would take us to reach Pike O’ Stickle via Pavey Ark & Harrison Stickle, we were slightly out by five minutes which wasn’t to bad at all considering it was just guess work, here the summits started to fill with more & more walkers quite rapidly.

Pavey Ark as we leave Thunacar Knott summit behind.

A testing time for the knee was the traverse in-between my next three summits of Pavey Ark, Harrison Stickle & Pike O’ Stickle as the ground underfoot turned from soft grass to volcanic rock common to the Langdale Fells.

I’m sure it was all in my head but here my time was spent over-preparing my descents taking care that I didn’t twist my knee or un-hinge it so to speak. Again I needn’t have worried as my knee coped really well with the un-even ground.

It’s all in the head & gaining confidence comes in its own time.

Best press on.

Great Langdale, Lingmoor Fell together with Stickle Tarn from Pavey Ark summit.
Down below large groups of walkers were gathering at Stickle Dam, no doubt possibly resting before the ascent.

Harrison Stickle from Pavey Ark.
Harrison Stickle was by now only a short distance away, we planned to meet back up with the main approach path all the while trying to keep to higher ground which is just what we did when we re-joined the path just below the outcrop of rock seen in the foreground.

Pavey Ark & Stickle Tarn seen from our Harrison Stickle ascent, beyond, a eastern horizon.
Both David & I paused to watch the walkers head up Jack’s Rake, a route that I used back in March 2011, back then I figured I had more guts as I do now & I’m not entirely sure If I’ll ever ascend Pavey Ark by Jack’s Rake again.

A close up of Jack’s Rake ascent.
If you squint you may be able to spot the five climbers in this photo.

Loft Crag & Pike O’ Stickle from Harrison Stickle.
We followed an elderly gent up to the summit of Harrison Stickle along with his granddaughter, once at the summit we realised we weren’t alone as a small group of women where taking a rest, pleasantries were passed before we headed down to ascend Pike O’ Stickle, all the while a distant Scafell Pike beyond the horizon.

Pike O’ Stickle.
The whole area was getting busier as we took a shortcut to reach Pike O’ Stickle before the crowds that had just left Harrison Stickle the same time as us, in doing this we gained a little ground on them meaning there would be no queues for the summit ascent which worked out great all the while I was still a little conscious of the ascent/descent from the Pike.

There were plenty of people about on Pike O’ Stickle this morning.
My & our ascent went without incident as I was gaining more & more trust in the knee, but never over confident mind. At the summit we decided to take the first real rest of the day were we broke the sandwiches & hydration out…along with a Yorkie Bar that I had been saving, do you want half David? nah I’m good thanks…oh go on then!

Loft Crag together with Harrison Stickle from our lunch spot.

Martcrag Moor.
After lunch we re-shouldered packs & made the steep descent from Pike O’ Stickle, ahead for now was a two half mile trek over soft grassland until we reached Rossett Pike via the top of Stake Pass.

Rossett Pike, Bowfell, Esk Pike & Great End from Martcrag Moor.

With section I of our route behind us we could now concentrate on reaching Great End seen in the far right of the photo, it certainly looks closer than it did an hour ago but there’s still a considerable distance to cover before we reach the end of section II of the walk.

Both David and I agreed that the ridge from the top of Stake Pass to Rossett Pike is always much longer than it seems, not what we wanted to hear which is why we filled that particular part of the walk with non stop conversation.

Bowfell domineers our Rossett Pike ascent.

Despite the even comfort of the grassy ground underfoot it was here my legs realised they were along way from the car & had some considerable ground to cover before reaching it, I tried to take my mind off matters in conversation which worked greatly, especially when asked by David ‘when did all the fells come all together for me?’

That’s one good way of keeping me in conversation I guess!

Esk Pike with Great End seen right.
We took on the ridge as far as possible before an almost direct route which spat us out right at the summit cairn almost, leg burn came & went.

Mickleden & the Langdale Pikes from Rossett Pike summit.
After some re-adjustments at Rossett Pike summit we noticed far below lines of walkers all descending Stake Pass en-route back to their car’s, morale temporally dipped here, but I never spoke of it.

There was always things to keep the mind active…
Such as Bowfell’s Great Slab.

Great End as we make our descent to Angle Tarn (Langstrath)
Angle Tarn was a much welcome site as I & we knew that we were almost upon Great End, more walkers are passed all heading off the fells as we make our arduous trek towards England’s highest ground yet this time morale is back on the up with each step forward.

Hanging Knotts dominates Angle Tarn.

We pass a group of walkers one of whom is sat on the path after what looked like a twisted ankle maybe, on any other occasion I’m sure I would have stopped out of politeness just to see if everything was ok, determined to reach Great End neither of us utter a word.

I take a look back after five minutes later to see that the lady in question was back on her feet & walking within her group which at least eased the conscience.

The Langdales now a distant dark outline over Rossett Pike.
With more ascent underfoot David noted that there maybe ‘rain in the air’ as a thickening darker cloud cover started to creep in from the west, something we knew we had to keep an eye on throughout the rest of the walk.

David pauses before we take on the ascent to lower Esk Hause.
Both David & I noted that it felt much later than it actually was, we put it down to the fact that by the time we had reached Angle Tarn we had been on our feet for almost six half hours even though it was still only mid afternoon.

Great End & the Gables taken from lower Esk Hause.

It seemed normal service by the time we reached Esk Hause, here walkers rested as they cris-crossed to & from Seathwaite & Great Langdale, non however seemed to be heading in the direction of Scafell Pike.

As Esk Hause was left behind & Calf Cove was reached I began thinking that we had only rested the once while at Pike O’ Stickle’s summit, so it was while we took on our ascent on Calf Cove did I suggest we take another five minutes, aye David says, lets just reach that nice grassy bit at the top first.

People watching from the top of Calf Cove as Esk Pike dominates our view.

The rest stop was more than welcome if only to ease the ache not from my knee would you believe but from the top of my left thigh, the rest stop let my legs regenerate not before we uttered those immortal words.

Did you just feel rain?

Broad Crag & Scafell Pike are now within touching distance.

We packed up our things & shouldered packs for the last time before taking on the ascent on Great End, a summit that just had to be included in this walk & a fell that I am especially fond of.

It was such a pity that the rain & heavy drizzle decided to arrive at the same time, another sure dip in morale for us both, not that we spoke about it.

Seathwaite Fell & Sprinkling Tarn seen from Great End summit.
It was such a sad occurrence that time spent on Great End was brief to say the least ‘If it carry’s on raining David says, I’m going to have to put the jacket on’ It beggars believe that David doesn’t feel the cold like the rest of us humans! a chuckle made at an otherwise sombre moment as the rain pelted my jacket.

Broad Crag & Scafell Pike.

By the time we re-traced our steps over Calf Cove the rain was starting to subside leaving a darkness about the air, it didn’t matter, there was nothing standing in between us & Scafell Pike, well maybe a couple of muscle spasms in my calves which painfully came & went after a ‘good long stretch’

It was at this point for the briefest of moments I felt the butterflies in my belly, sod the rain & the drizzle, the aching limbs we were almost on Scafell Pike.

Scafell Pike seen over Broad Crag Col.

Typically the decent on to Broad Crag Col was rough but spirits were still high as we edged our way down passing more walkers all heading away from the summit.

It was time to dig deep & find that second wind for the last push up towards our final tenth & final summit of the day, we stopped ever so briefly to take a few photos over Little Narrowcove with faint views into Upper Eskdale.

Pen, Little Narrowcove seen with Upper Eskdale from Broad Crag Col.

Scafell Pike summit.

We took on the final ascent in good stead, not great but good. Here family’s descended the Pike some of whom are wearing trainers & jogging bottoms, I pay them no notice & neither does David as we make a remarkably quick ascent on the last summit of the day.

I trail David at times as we breach the summit top where half a dozen walkers pose for photos, I spot David as he heads off towards the Victorian stone summit shelter where I suggest we have a look inside as I have never actually stepped foot inside before.

David explains that the shelter was used by the Victorians as a place to eat once they had ascended Scafell Pike on horseback would you believe, the shelter even has the creature comforts of a properly laid out stone floor, we spend a few moments at the shelter before heading out to greet the summit itself. Here only half a dozen more walkers celebrate being on ‘the top of England’ with group photographs & ‘selfies’ David & I touch the summit cairn then fittingly make our descent in the direction of Lingmell Col where it all went a bit murky.

Lingmell, Lingmell Col & Great Gable with Styhead Tarn seen in the far distance.
Our descent was quick as more drizzle came & went, astonishingly we passed more large groups of walkers all heading for the summit.

More large groups heading for the summit as they pass Broad Crag Col.

After descending to Lingmell Col we made a right turn off the path where we would pick up the Corridor Route, the air was still murky mixed with haze after the rain had passed making any long distant views difficult to make out.

Not long after joining the Corridor Route we soon arrived at Piers Gill where we stopped to take a few photos.

Piers Gill.
If you look closely you may see a path to the right of Piers Gill, this I am told is a great way to see Piers Gill at close quarters & one of which I will be looking forward to using over the next few months, so, watch this space!

A distant Styhead Tarn seen across the Corridor Route.
Now that the main goal of the walk had been reached our next target of the day was Styhead Tarn seen in the distance reaching it was by means of the Corridor Route which flanks Broad Crag & Great End, it’s a powerful place to find yourself even after such a long day as ours.

Skew Gill.
Towards the end (or start depending on your direction of travel) Skew Gill is reached, which brought back great memories of my own ascent on Great End via Skew Gill last year, it’s a great scramble for the summer months, just click on the picture to take you to the walk.

Styhead Tarn seen with Base Brown.

While at Sty Head we stopped to finish off the rest of our lunches even though it was approaching the 6 o’clock mark, the air had turned much more milder, close even for our descent back into Seathwaite.

Both David & I shared the thoughts on just how nice it would be to be here on an early evening such as todays, less the heavy legs of course.

Great End seen from Styhead Tarn.

I think that we both under estimated our time out on the fells today, we figured we were running about forty five minutes behind which was why we called home to let both Jennifer & Paula know that we hadn’t been picked up by Mountain Rescue.

Jennifer if you should happen to read this please accept my sincere apologies for making David late, I promise next time I will have him home in time for tea!

After our respective phone calls home both David & I worked out that we had only spent around twenty minutes resting time on a twelve hour walk which answered the question why we both couldn’t feel our feet!

Stockley Bridge.

By the time we reached Stockley Bridge it was fast approaching 7pm, here we walked back into Seathwaite with families that were most probably camped at the campsite which was nice to see, a mother seen walking with her husband & children shouts back at Granddad who was walking with another small child, do you want Sausages almost at the top of her voice…David & I grasped our opportunity & replied yes! we want sausages, & some bacon I think I heard David say!

She didn’t see the funny side but it didn’t stop David & I laughing like schoolboys afterwards.

Seathwaite Farm.

Seathwaite Fell from Seathwaite Farm.

Well we made it back in one piece back to Seathwaite where the last of the fell walkers were arriving back to their cars & families were cooking sausages & bacon for dads & granddads.

Us? we had two packs of Haribo sweets waiting for us back at the car where we had our own jelly eggs & those rings you used to put on your finger as a kid, possibly the best meal to end on what otherwise is a fine contender for one of the finest walks of my fell walking career, to add to this, I had the privilege to share it with one of the finest fell walkers in the country.

What a wonderful way to turn 40


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